daily californian logo

BERKELEY'S NEWS • FEBRUARY 01, 2023

Ring in the New Year with our 2023 New Year's Special Issue!

A back-and-forth fight

article image

BETSY SIEGAL | FILE

SUPPORT OUR NONPROFIT NEWSROOM

We're an independent student-run newspaper, and need your support to maintain our coverage.

JULY 22, 2022

As a mother of six, having conflicting feelings about pit bulls while living with children is incredibly difficult. Owning a pit bull with children has numerous advantages, but the combination comes with risks. 

In recent years, 249 children were killed by the breed. Pit bulls are responsible for roughly half of all severe injuries to children. Meanwhile, there are approximately 4.5 million pit bull dogs in the United States, accounting for approximately 5.8% of its canine population. The discrepancies in these statistics alone make parents hesitant to have children around pit bulls or pit bull mixes. 

However, parents are not alone, as the rest of the world also gives pit bulls a bad reputation. By saying pit bull alone, what is the first thing you can think of when you say it?  Pit bulls were given the label “dangerous” as early as the 1980s. Their bodies and wide jaws can potentially make people intimidated or wary. 

In the United States, pit bulls have become the first-choice breed in dogfighting. Dogfighting is a bloody sport — and also a felony offense in all 50 states — in which dogs that have been bred, conditioned and trained to attack are pitted against each other for the amusement and profit of spectators. 

While it can be challenging to estimate the size of a dogfighting industry, several animal rescue organizations suspect at least 16,000 dogs are killed in the industry annually. Pit bulls are typically associated with dogfighting, but there are numerous other dog breeds that fall under the “pit bull” designation such as the American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, and American bulldog. 

Dogfighting is a secretive industry; they don’t just have or watch these dogfights. Instead, dogfights can often be associated with organized crime, particularly illegal gambling and money laundering. 

Dog bets frequently range from $100 to several thousand dollars. However, it might be much higher than that, roughly $100,000 depending on circumstances. Dogfighting in a criminal context is characterized by animal cruelty, violence and illegality.

As an adult with children, I initially assumed that pit bulls were “dangerous” as labeled in the 1980s with their strong bodies and heavy muscular build, and because of this, were not suitable as pets. However, according to my modest amount of research, pit bulls are not as bad as they are often made out to be. 

Stubby is a pit bull who earned the highest rank as a sergeant during World War I after participating in 17 battles. After learning that a pit bull can be loyal enough to become a sergeant during the first World War, I wondered why they are often stereotyped as attacking or killing children. 

That is a valid question; pit bulls are loyal and patient with all humans when trained correctly, rather than be trained for violence. Given a chance, pit bulls are suitable therapy dogs, especially for children

Therapy dogs are accompanied by their owners to volunteer in schools, hospitals and nursing homes. Pit bulls — serving as therapy dogs — and their owners work as a team to improve the lives of others, whether they are working with a child learning to read or visiting a senior in assisted living. 

Despite their bad reputation, pit bulls make excellent family dogs due to their intelligence, trainability and strong desire to please. They have all these significant assets that attract many different kinds of owners.

There still are numerous other instances of pit bull terrier-type dogs working as therapy dogs. Jeffrey is an example of a successful therapy dog; he visited Sandy Hook Elementary School following the school shooting that occurred there in 2012. Pit bulls’ significant assets may attract owners with questionable intentions, but, in instances like this one, they can also attract those with positive intentions as well. Having the right owner can impact the behavioral patterns of pit bulls and their reputation.  

With so many different situations worldwide, mixed feelings about pit bulls are understandable. If you have children, they are the center of your universe; though it is important to recognize having children around pit bulls depends on the owner and how they were trained. 

Any breed of dog can develop a bad reputation. Pit bulls have a more extended history of stigmas than other breeds; standing out by their reputation is a given. Genuinely, many pit bulls are not given a chance because of their owners. 

Having a terrible reputation is not suitable for anyone. If pit bulls were given the opposite reputation as therapy dogs, the outcome of having a pit bull as a pet would be different. This is why the breed evokes such mixed feelings. 

Pit bulls are incredible dogs but have a terrible reputation because of who raised them and their labels. When you think about it, it’s the same as teaching our children certain behaviors, which can be beneficial or detrimental. By correcting our misconceptions and opening ourselves up to the ownership of pit bulls, we can rescue this breed from dogfighting and reset the stigma. 

Lydia Lopez is a student at El Camino College.
LAST UPDATED

JULY 22, 2022