Public Statements and Positions

Atlanta pit bull owners address breed-specific legislation

(See bottom of the page for an expanded explanation of our mission statement)

Atlanta, Georgia – July 10, 2010 – I am the founder of the Atlanta Pit Bull Parents, owners of pit bull type dogs in the metro area. The Atlanta Pit Bull Parents group encourages spay/neuter of ALL pit bulls, containment inside secure runs or crates when outdoors and humans cannot supervise, obedience training, and educated, responsible owners. You won't find any “thugs,” dog-fighters, or people neglecting their dogs in this group.

We chose this breed because we feel compassion towards these dogs that are so scorned and hated despite the vast majority never committing any violent act. For every "pit bull" that hurts a person or another dog, we can show you far more than 1000 who have not. It is unfortunate that PEOPLE chose to breed a dog for the purposes of aggression, and now many individual dogs, through no fault of their own, live out the curse put upon them. Note however, that these dogs were bred for the purpose of dog aggression, which for dogs is quite different than human aggression. Pit bulls are not guardian breeds like German Shepherds, Doberman Pinchers, Akitas, and Mastiffs. Human aggression should never be tolerated in a pit bull and any reputable rescue or educated dog owner will agree that euthanization is a reasonable course of action.

As responsible dog owners and breed enthusiasts, we also want to see the population of pit bulls decrease. There are far too many being killed in shelters, hit by cars, or dying of neglect. We agree with stronger penalties against irresponsible owners, not just after a tragedy occurs, but if they are already not keeping their dog securely contained. We want people who fight dogs to be severely punished, for they are the ones encouraging aggression and breeding of more aggressive, bigger dogs. In short, we have many of the same goals as those who want to “ban” pit bulls, but we do not want our innocent pets punished and killed. We believe we can make our communities safer without targeting and killing innocent dogs.

Breed-specific legislation, or BSL, has been enacted in several municipalities in this country. The vast majority have not been able to show an improvement in public safety since passing the laws. In fact, the Platte Institute has stated, “A Pit Bull ban will most likely have no effect on dog bites in the city and cost hundreds of thousands of tax payer dollars”. One of the reasons that the laws are so ineffective is the difficulty in determining exactly which dogs are included in the law. Among knowledgeable dog people, a “pit bull” is a term commonly used to refer to several breeds of dogs, including the Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier (also called the American Pit Bull Terrier) and Staffordshire Bull Terrier. However, for the general public, the term “pit bull” has come to mean any medium or large dog that seems scary. Canines from Labrador Retrievers to Australian Cattle Dogs are labeled as pit bulls by unknowing observers. This leads to errors in data collection and inaccurate statistics regarding dog bites. Conventional wisdom says that pit bulls bite more often than any other dog and kill more people than any other dog. However, scientific research shows that this belief is not supported by facts. In short, banning a breed of dog does very little to improve public safety.

Moreover irresponsible media coverage of dog bites and dog-bite related fatalities has created the perception that we are in the midst of a “pit bull attack epidemic.” Recent research in to media practices proves that events involving pit bulls (or dogs thought to be pit bulls) are far more reported than events involving other dogs. The ASPCA has been told by media outlets that they have no interest in reporting on dog bites unless it involves a pit bull . A study by the National Canine Research Council of dog-bite reporting in a four-day period proves that anti-pit bull bias in the media is more than just a theory, but a fact.

  • August 18, 2007 — A Labrador mix attacked a 70-year-old man, sending him to the hospital in critical condition. Police officers arrived at the scene and the dog was shot after charging the officers. This incident was reported in one article in the local paper.
  • August 19, 2007 — A 16-month-old child received fatal head and neck injuries after being attacked by a mixed-breed dog. This attack was reported on twice by the local paper.
  • August 20, 2007 — A six-year-old boy was hospitalized after having his ear torn off and receiving a severe bite to the head by a medium-sized, mixed-breed dog. This incident was reported in one article in the local paper.
  • August 21, 2007 — A 59-year-old woman was attacked in her home by two pit bulls and was hospitalized with severe, but not fatal, injuries. This attack was reported in over 230 articles in national and international newspapers, as well as major television news networks including CNN, MSNBC and Fox.

In a Fox 5 Atlanta on-air debate on July 6, 2010, Dr. Mark Wulkan of Scottish Rite stated that he had several children in his intensive care unit at that time for dog bites. However, the news station and other local media outlets were only reporting on a case of pit bulls attacking an adult woman. Karen Delise, in her book The Pit Bull Placebo: The Media, Myths and Politics of Canine Aggression states, "We have come to be in the midst of a social hysteria about pit bulls because we have abandoned centuries-old common sense and reasoning and have been duped by inaccurate reporting from a media that thrives on sensationalism […] There is a disturbing scarcity of accurate information and investigation done on the real causes and reasons for these incidents." 

As facts gleaned from data reveal, there are specific measures that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of a dog attack. The National Canine Research Council investigation of over 40 years (1965-2006), of fatal dog attacks in the U.S. has conclusively identified the ownership/management practices that are at the root of these rare, and mostly preventable, incidents:

  • Function of Dog – In 2006, 78% of the owners of dogs involved in fatal attacks maintained the dogs not as household pets, but as guard dogs, fighting dogs, intimidation dogs, breeding dogs, or yard dogs.
  • Owner Management & Control – In 2006, 84% of the owners of dogs involved in fatal attacks either maintained their dogs on chains or in pens (cages open at the top), allowed the dogs to run loose, neglected or abused their dogs, and/or allowed children to interact with unfamiliar dogs.
  • Reproductive Status of Dog – In 2006, 97% of the owners of dogs involved in fatal attacks failed to spay or neuter their animals.
Further studies have shown, not just a correlation, but a causal relationship between a dog's position in a household, the measures taken to confine a dog, and the spay/neuter status of a dog and the likelihood of that dog being involved in an attack on a human (http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/dog-bites/types-of-dog-bites/).

Therefore, we believe that it is in the community's best interest to pursue legislation and social pressures to change and influence these factors. We can work together to effect positive change or we can fight each other and get nowhere. Based on shelter and veterinarian statistics, pit bull-type dogs are one of, if not THE, most common type of pet dog in Georgia. Previous attempts in Georgia to ban these dogs have failed because the owners of these dogs and the people who know them will protect them. Instead of acting with fear and hysteria, we should act with common sense and a common goal to make our communities safer for all people and all dogs.

Contact:
Liz Henderson 
liz@atlantapitbullparents.com

Additional information:

We do not support or advocate any breed-specific legislation, whether it is for spay/neuter of pit bulls, licensing of pit bulls, banning of pit bulls, etc. We do not support any legislation that treats pit bulls as if they are different from other dogs. However, as a breed advocacy group, we must identify and encourage the practices that will best serve the dogs of our chosen breed.

We advocate spay or neuter of ALL pit bulls because unfortunately many pit bull owners do not understand the full gravity of the pit bull overpopulation problem in our state and the U.S. in general. Metro Atlanta is killing about 150 pit bulls each week. That doesn’t even include the dogs that die of neglect, are hit by cars, are killed in fights, etc. And it doesn’t include the rest of the state. Our situation could only get worse if we had Denver or Toronto-style breed-specific legislation.

It is discouraging how many times people involved in pit bull rescue are talking to a pit bull owner who seems knowledgeable and responsible, but then who says they just want to breed their dog once, or their dog is a “rare blue pit” so they want to breed them, or their dog “has papers.” It truly is amazing how many people think THEY are the exception when it comes to owners who want to breed their dogs and while they are in favor of everyone else spaying or neutering their dogs, they don’t think the same reasons apply to them. So we have to make bold statements and encourage EVERYONE to do something about this problem. We have to be clear that we are referring to all owners and that no one should be breeding their pet pit bull while our shelters are killing hundreds of them.

We understand that there are some good, responsible breeders of American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. These breeders understand where we are coming from and know that we are not targeting them. We do not seek them out and harass them. In fact, I invited a responsible AmStaff breeder to join our group. They can look at our mission and know that we are only trying to make things better for the dogs, and ultimately for them. However, the majority of "breeders" are not responsible, are not breeding to defined standards, are not providing proper veterinary care, food, or shelter, and they are the ones we are targeting. We do not have any illusions that by encouraging everyone to spay and neuter their pit bulls that we are going to get full compliance, so we don’t feel that we are at risk of breed extinction. If we do turn out to be so successful with our message that this becomes a reality, it’s a much nicer problem to have than the one we have now. It’s also a problem that is much easier to correct than the one we face now.

Regarding our statement that we encourage, “containment inside secure runs or crates when humans cannot supervise,”  this specifically means when outdoors. We have no interest in how your pit bull is contained when they are in your home, as long as it’s done humanely. However, our statement is not to imply that pit bulls are too aggressive to be left alone inside a fenced yard, but it is to protect the pit bull from others who would do it harm. When I adopted my first pit bull from Second Chance Dogs, I had to sign a contract stating that I would never leave my pit bull outside, even in a fenced yard, without human supervision. This was for her safety, not because they feared that she would hurt someone else. Pit bulls are frequently stolen out of fenced yards. The friendly, trusting dogs go along with a person who gains access to their yard and they are never seen again. Since pit bulls are not in short supply, we can only assume they are stolen for nefarious purposes.

Besides being stolen, pit bulls are frequently the targets of malicious neighbors. There have been at least two cases of pit bulls being poisoned! They both believe a neighbor threw poisoned food in to the yard. These incidents were completely unrelated, on opposite sides of the city. This has happened to pit bulls all over the country. In Smyrna, a pit bull was intentionally shot in her own backyard by a neighbor. Clearly, pit bulls are not the vicious animal in these situations, so we have to protect them. Having human supervision in a fenced yard might not prevent all violence against our dogs, but it will help. And pit bulls, just like any other dog, can escape a yard with an 8-foot fence. Some can climb them and some might dig a hole under them. In North Carolina, a pit bull got out of her yard and was shot and killed by an animal control officer just because she was a pit bull at large. This was a well-loved family pet, known to others in her neighborhood as a friendly dog, and she was gunned down just because of her breed. So these are the reasons that we encourage owners to supervise their dogs when they are outside and if that is not possible, to provide them with a humane, spacious run or crate or reinforce an existing fence with an electronic wire perimeter.