Updated: December 5, 2012 6:23AM
D ear Ollie, Last Sunday, I was a four-legged walker at the Coast-to-Coast Bully Walk at Coffee Creek Watershed Conservancy Preserve in Chesterton. You probably know this was part of a national program to promote a positive image of pit bulls.
I am a small guy and those pit bulls look very big to me.
Kate Vanderlin, Porter County Animal Shelter’s community outreach coordinator, is a believer in the pit bulls breed and brought her pit bull Skya to the walk.
Veterinarian Brooke McAfee set the day’s tone by welcoming the participants with encouraging words about breed awareness and owner responsibility.
Local shelters house more than their share of rejected pit bulls. However, the Porter County Shelter is pit bull friendly and many of the shelter staffers own pits, said Vanderlin.
Betty Clayton, the executive director of the Humane Society of Northwest Indiana, is also a pit bull owner. One of the pit walkers was Piper, a female 3-year-old pit bull that does therapy with her owner Laura Bruccoleri of Valparaiso.
While I was taking my Sunday stroll, the pits were very well-behaved despite the fact that I felt the need to taunt one and run. So, I’m wondering why they have such a bad rap.
“Scruffy,” not a pit bull
Dear Scruffy, The purpose of the walk was to highlight the breed’s overwhelmingly positive traits. I was there, too, and that mission was accomplished.
The pit bulls have a bad reputation for biting and mauling humans. Right there is a huge public relations nightmare. There are also statistics that show pits and rottweilers as the top biters in the United States.
I know anyone can lie with statistics, but the numbers are out there. Also, certain ghoulish breeders are in-breeding these dogs for use in fighting rings and working hard to create the perfect warrior. While doing so, they can breed out the characteristics that humans find attractive in animals and that make a dog “vulnerable” in the fighting ring.
Vanderlin is concerned that there is a local backyard breeder who is breeding “pocket pits,” which are smaller versions of the standard pit bull. With all the inbreeding, these “designer dogs” may have many anatomical flaws. And those poor females that have been “bred to death” are finding their way into the shelters.
The pit bull is a terrier breed and the result of a cross between terriers and bull dogs.
Its most notorious use came to be pit fighting, for which it is named.
In contrast, at the beginning of the 20th century, Nipper, the RCA brand dog became the most famous dog on Earth and was a cross between a bull terrier and a fox terrier. He was showcased on the RCA record ads as the all-American dog — family oriented and social.
The pit bull breed is part of that terrier family, too, but its breeders had a different purpose in mind. And now, despite its many advocates, the breed has a big problem.