Friday, February 11, 2011

"Why are There So Many Pit Bulls . . . ?"

At one time or another, most of us have been asked, either by prospective adopters or friends who know about the work we do, why our shelter (and those in most California jurisdictions) are filled with pit bulls. Here is my perspective on the issue:
Pit bull puppies are cute. Not just average cute, but cute-as-cute-can-be cute. Adorable. Irresistable. And therein lies the answer: irresistable is easy to sell. Given the downturn in the economy, backyard breeders have sprung up in the hardest hit areas of our State: the Bay Area, the Central Valley, and southern California. One puppy on the street can garner anywhere between $25 to $500, depending upon the supply and demand quotient, with blues (gray or dilute black) bringing in money closer to the higher end of the spectrum.

In addition, with foreclosures continuing unabated, at the highest rate in the nation, many families have had to not only give up their homes, but their beloved pit bulls, as well, as they move into apartments with strict rental guidelines on pets.

But back to my first explanation of the high numbers: those adorable pups with the doe eyes grow up. In order to become well-adjusted pit bull adults, they need to have lots of opportunities to play . . .

. . . and to run.

They need training . . .

and lots and lots of t-l-c.

If a lucky puppy gets all of this, then there is a good chance he or she will turn out like this:

Unfortunately, the reality is that many puppies do not get the attention they need, the mental stimulation they crave, the exercise their growing bodies demand. The result is a 45-lb adolescent who is undersocialized, highly intelligent, brimming with energy, and incredibly frustrated. This state of affairs leaves the often well-meaning owner incredibly frustrated, too, if not exasperated.

What happens next can be this:

or this:

That's where we come in. Most of the pit bulls in our shelter are between the ages of 1 and 3 years old, the span of time when living with an untrained pit bull becomes extremely difficult. But because of pit bulls' huge capacity for loyalty, and their unrelenting eagerness-to-please, our shelter residents can become wonderful, well-trained members of families, even without having had the most ideal beginnings. Well, they are already wonderful; for many, their potential just has not yet been tapped into. Yet.

It is because of the volunteers that many of these dogs leave and go into good, solid homes that provide what the pit bull has wanted all along: structure, security, continuity and love. With many dogs getting out for walks at least four times a week, and several attending BadRap training on Sundays, the pit bulls at the shelter are becoming socialized, learning what behaviors are acceptable, and which are not. In essence, without the volunteers, many of these dogs would not find homes.

The absolute best way to prevent this cycle of unwanted pit bulls begetting more unwanted pit bulls is to spay and neuter. Most of you reading this article already know that. But, we need to spread the message. So, the next time you have the opportunity to do so, try to let people know about the shelters busting with unwanted, extremely lovable pit bulls.

Do it so we don't end up with this:

and more of this:


Nancy E said...

This is a wonderful article, thoughtful and non-judgmental. The photos of these beautiful dogs we know and love make it really special.

anne said...

Well said, Pam. Thank you. I hope people are listening.