Pit Bulls Get A Bad Rap

Photo Credit: Doug Beghtel – The Oregonian

What we all think of when we hear the words Pit Bull, which includes the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and other dogs that resemble them is either really loving pets or the nastiest dogs on the planet.  “The range of emotions they evoke is wide and varied,” acknowledges Stephanie Collingsworth, animal care technician at Multnomah County Animal Services.

“People always know something about the pit bull, whether it’s correct or not,” says Katie Williams, a culinary student who recently started a pit bull advocacy group called the Portland Pit Bull Project. To help combat the stereotypical perception that all Pit Bulls are “evil child killers”, Williams organized monthly “bully walks” for the dogs and their owners. “The dogs are loving, loyal and sweet”, she says.

Dog trainer Alysse Kinane, owner of two pit mixes and foster mom to two more, says “the dogs are goofy and great with kids. They do little things to make you laugh, like fall off the couch, and they’re very loyal,” she says.

But not everyone agrees that these dogs are sweet. Portland resident, Elissa Szymanczyk doesn’t buy it and in fact had her cat viciously attacked and killed by a neighbor’s Pit Bull while a toddler was petting the cat on her porch. “It was incredibly vicious and violent, and I absolutely feel it could have just as easily been that child,” she says.

Szymanczyk actually doesn’t blame the dog for her cat’s death. “It’s our fault for allowing this breed’s population numbers and breeding practices to spiral out of control,” she says. “It’s so easy to get them,” says Amy Sacks, executive director of the Pixie Project. “Breeding is unregulated, and people sell them in parking lots.”

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Pit Bulls are a very energetic dog breed and they need lots of exercise to be happy. Unfortunately, too many Pit Bull owners either don’t care or don’t want to take the time, so they chain them to the back yard.  “They don’t do well like that,” says Angela Adams, founder and director of Born Again Pit Bull Rescue. Their bad behavior can often be traced to the fact that they often are neglected. “We live in a fast-food society — nobody wants to work hard for anything, and they want everything now,” she says.

The good news is that these dogs have had several advocacy groups rally behind them to help change the way people perceive these dogs. PetSmart Charities recently awarded a $240,000 grant to the Best Friends Animal Society to fund a one-year pilot program in five cities to foster good ownership of pit bull type dogs. “They are really, really good dogs, wonderful dogs,” says Danielle Black, executive director and president of Good Fellas Rescue in Mill City, “if people would just give them a chance.”


  1. Here are 7 people (out of 11 total, 64% or 2/3rds) who “just gave pit bulls a chance” so far in 2011.

    It cost them their lives.


    11. April 26, 2011- AFE 48 – (4) PIT BULLS (neighbors)
    Margaret Salcedo, Truth or Consequences, NM
    10. April 22, 2011–AGE: 50-PIT BULL (non owner).
    Virgil A. Cantrell, Ardmore, OK
    9. April 13, 2011–AGE: 7 months-ROTTWEILER (owner’s).
    Annabelle Mitchell, Frankfort, Maine.
    8. March 6, 2011–AGE: 47-PIT BULL (owner’s).
    Jennie Erquiaga, San Bernardino, Ca.
    7. March 5, 2011–AGE: 3-ROTTWEILERS (2) (grandparent’s).
    Vanessa Husmann, Hopkinton, Iowa
    6. February 19, 2011–AGE: 10 day-old-PIT BULL (owner’s).
    Unknown Baby, Kalamazoo, Mich.
    5. Febuary 17, 2011–AGE: 66-ROTTWEILERS (2) (neighbor’s).
    Sirlinda Hayes, Dillon County, SC.
    4. January 26, 2011–AGE: 51-PIT BULLS (2) (neighbor’s).
    Ronnie Waldo, Randolph, Miss.
    3. January 24, 2011–AGE: 9-AKITA (owner’s).
    Kristen Dutton, Modoc Shores, SC.
    2. January 12, 2011–AGE: 5-PIT BULLS (2) (neighbor’s).
    McKayla Woodard, Waxhaw, NC.
    1. January 4, 2011–AGE: 51-PIT BULL (owner’s).
    Linda Leal Castillo, Colusa, CA.

    It has been a very similar average (about 59%) each year the since 2005.

    Once again, another year is upon us, where just 4 months into the year, the total for pit bull fatal attacks exceeds the entire 10 year total for fatal attacks by Dobermans (6) – when they had their worst decade and calls for bans on Dobermans were in the news.

    Back then, Dobermans were killing fewer than 1 person per year. Pit bulls just killed 2 people in the past week.

    • You should look into how the owners are with those dogs… whether they were responsible or not. And whether those young children where pulling the dogs ears or tail.
      Any dog can kill if someone misstreated or missused it, the reason its these breeds is because the irresponsible owners like the macho, hard look about them. Its irresponsible people not certain breeds of dogs which cause fatalities.

      • It does not matter to the dead people, dead pets, or even those who have survived a mauling, who the dog’s owner was or whether the dog was mistreated. What matters to them is how much damage the dog did to them. It was not “irresponsible people” who did the biting, it was their dogs.

        It also does the victims no good to know that the majority of pit bulls may be very submissive and affectionate to their owners and children. It is the ones who are not who do the damage. Maybe a child who pulls any dog’s ears or tail should learn not to do that, but do you think the lesson should be so harsh? It does not justify their being bitten, let alone being traumatized, disfigured, or killed.

        It is true that “any dog can kill”, but your chances of defending yourself against, or surviving an attack by, 10 Chihuahuas is better than 1 pit bull. This is because of the characteristics of the breeds. The humans responsible for the problem are not just the “bad” owners, but also the people who have created breeds of dogs with the physical and temperamental characteristics that allow them to take on animals much larger than themselves, and to not back out of a fight despite mortal injuries. Most human victims are no match. It may not be the dogs’ “fault”, but it is the dogs who do the damage, and that is what counts.

      • “Any dog can kill”

        —Pits cause well over 50% of the dog attack deaths despite being a small slice of the overall dog population. Meaning they account more deaths THAN ALL OTHER BREEDS COMBINED.. Other breeds kill no one.
        “Its irresponsible people not certain breeds of dogs which cause fatalities.”

        —Wrong. It happens in good loving homes as well. Even in THIS case. No one was pulling on tails or anything.

        Your comments are worthless.

    • Oh, and think of ALL the pit bulls and rottweilers in the whole of the US… and only those few killed? Think how many people there are in the US… and how many of those killed this year so far. You wouldnt say all people are killers

      • The response by cgr58 does not say that “all” pit bulls “are killers.” It says that a disproportionate number of fatal attacks by dogs involve pit bulls compared to other breeds. That is different. (If that does not make sense to you then you might benefit from taking a class on logic.)

        Imagine that one of “only those few killed” were someone you cared for. Would the fact that only a small percentage of the breed commit such attacks make the victim any less dead? Wouldn’t you wish that irresponsible people could not own dogs that could do that much damage so easily?

        Statisitically, humans are definitely more dangerous than ALL breeds of dogs, but we’re stuck with each other. In civilized societies we set limits on behavior through laws, and punish violations of those laws. Those limits include the types of animals we can posess in certain areas. The quesion is which animals should be allowed, and which should not. I don’t have to worry about a neighbor having a pet alligator or grizzly bear that gets loose and kills me or my dog while I’m walking him. I DO have to worry about their dogs doing that.

        One of my neighbors has been permanently disfigured by a pit bull that attacked her and her infant son in her own garage. Another’s small dog was killed while she walked it in a residential area. Even if both of them did something “wrong” in the eyes of the attacking dogs, neither should have to suffer that much for it. In both cases the power of the attacking dog’s bite and its perseverence in its attack were significant to the amount of damage done. Both are characteristics of their breed.

        I love dogs, especially my own. I understand that most people who own pit bulls (etc.) love them, too. I do NOT understand why they couldn’t be just as happy owning another breed that is less capable of killing innocent victims when it is owned by the wrong people. I can’t even tell what breed(s) my dog is, and I don’t care. I do know that even if he went crazy he would not be able to do as much damage as quickly as the average pit bull. He is just not as physically capable of maiming or killing anyone.

        We got along fine back when hardly anyone owned pit bulls. It’s not like they are the only breed that can be “… goofy and great with kids. They do little things to make you laugh, like fall off the couch, and they’re very loyal”. Why can’t people be happy owning any other breed with those characteristics, but without the ones intended to make them so lethal in a fight? They were made that way by humans through breeding.

        If there’s a better way of being sure the “wrong” people don’t end up owning them, I’d like to hear it. Search for [“Darla Napora”, pregnant] if you think it’s just a matter of who owns them.

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