By Sari Reis
Recently while out horseback riding with a new friend, I was asked the question, “So how do you feel about pit bulls?” He knows I am a professional dog walker and pet sitter and wanted to know my personal perception of this particular breed.I smiled when he asked, as I have been asked this same question numerous times when people learn of my occupation. My answer to him was much the same as the answer I have given to others. I think pit bulls have gotten a bad rap. Personally, I have found them to be as friendly, loyal, affectionate and smart as many of the other breeds I have cared for over the years. I think every dog is a product of its breeding, environment, training, and the care it has received over its lifetime.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a column to promote National Dog Bite Prevention Week. While preparing for this article, I did some research on statistics of dog bites in America. I was quite surprised to see the numbers of biters among cocker spaniels, Saint Bernards and Labrador retrievers. Still, these numbers were significantly less than those of pit bulls. Is that because pit bulls bite people more frequently? No! It is because the statistics are based on reported incidents. Because of the size and musculature of pit bulls, they are very strong and have extremely powerful jaws. As a result, their bite usually requires serious medical attention. On the other hand, if the Yorkie next door bites the neighbor’s child, chances are it isn’t too serious and it is never reported. So although there are all kinds of other breeds that can be provoked into biting humans, due to the lack of seriousness of the injury, it is never medically treated or reported. There are also many mixed breeds that look like pit bulls and as a result of the resemblance; the biter is labeled a pit bull when it may indeed be something else.
Pit bulls are not bad dogs. I have walked them, trained them and slept with them when I have done overnight stays at client’s homes. I have no more fear of them than other breeds. That being said, because of their strength and their capacity to do serious damage if they bite, it is crucial that they be well bred, well trained and treated with love and kindness.
Due to their large litters and the fact that many owners do not understand their responsibilities as caretakers, the San Diego Humane Society and other local shelters are filled with pit bulls that are waiting for their forever homes. Because of the bad press they have received, they are continually passed over by potential adopters. It is very sad. Most of these dogs would make wonderful family pets if they were just given the chance.
—Sari Reis is a Certified Humane Education Specialist and the owner of Mission Valley Pet Sitting Services. For more information please contact her at 760-644-0289 or visit www.missionvalleypetsitting.com.