Breed specific legislation has become a worldwide phenomenon, targeting for the most part the American Pit Bull terrier and any dog that resembles a Pit Bull or what is sometimes called a Bully breed. Many shelters will not adopt dogs that fit this description and often people who are interested in adopting a dog will avoid dogs that are labeled a Bully breed or look like one.
This is sad because the behavior of an individual dog cannot be completely determined by its breed. Ironically, the Pit Bull Terrier and other breeds such as the Staffordshire Terrier were bred not to bite their handlers in a situation where redirected aggression would likely occur.
Because of breed specific legislation dogs that are labeled as Bully breeds often are killed, misused, and their owners penalized when trying to get home owners insurance or rent a place to live. The real tragedy is that dogs are often judged by how they look. A recent study has shown that veterinarians and shelter workers are often asked to identify what breed(s) a dog is and the dog is labeled accordingly. DNA tests on the dogs classified as Bully breeds have shown that they were mislabeled up to 48% of the time. The study also showed that dogs labeled as a Bully breed often dramatically decreased their chances of being adopted.
This is very sad because most of the assessments were done by merely looking at the dog. It is often very difficult to determine what a dog is just by looking at it. For example, what would a Boxer/Labrador mix look like? Or a Boxer mixed with two or three other breeds. Consider what a Bull Terrier or even a Boston terrier mix would look like or a Bulldog mix. Even consider what a Rottweiler mix could look like.
The chances of a dog being a mix of something other than a Pit Bull is not as unlikely as one would think because of the fad of creating “designer” dogs. Keep in mind that designer dogs are a fancy name for mixed breed dogs that are usually a cross breed.
Why then does it seem that the Bully breeds or Pit bulls have more attacks and sometimes fatal attacks on people? The answer lies in the way the dog was raised. Often the dog is purchased for protection, dog fighting, or as a status symbol. In many cases the dog’s owner does not know how, or care to properly train and socialize the dog. Just like any other breed, poor breeding and improper breeding can create a litter of dogs that are more aggressive than the breed standard dictates. If you add a lack of proper socialization to that, there is a high risk that the puppies from that litter will have behavior problems, aggression being one of them.
Another consideration is that many small dog bites are not reported because they do not do the damage that a larger dog bite does. If a small dog bites and it is reported, the media does not sensationalize it the way they do if it is a Pit Bull or Bully breed attack.
Throughout history various dogs had the reputation of attacking people. There was a time that people feared the Doberman Pinscher, the German Shepherd and the Rottweiler. Today it is the Pit Bull and Bully breeds.
It is interesting that in a day when we have become politically correct to the point of adnauseam, we treat our dogs the complete opposite.
In conclusion it would seem that until we hold owners more accountable for the behavior of their dogs, and until we properly identify what a breed(s) a dog is, Pit bull and Bully breeds will continue to be a target and suffer as a result.