By Brooke Wrisley
While Mickey is away on vacation Animal Shelter Assistant Brooke Wrisley will be covering the pet column.
I know I’m not the only one who has a soft spot for the beefy bully breeds – the countless rescue groups, Facebook pages and other breed clubs prove it. In a world where more people are understanding the harmful stigmas that Pitbulls face and re-educating themselves, there’s a new question: how do we as dog-lovers approach the huge population of adoptable Pitbulls in a way which both acknowledges the effects of these stigmas on the dogs themselves and also seeks to protect well-intentioned would-be owners? The answer, as simple as it may sound, lies in a very common solution: owner education.
While it may be true that the overwhelming majority of Pitbull puppies are not necessarily born aggressive, the myths surrounding Pitbull’s as mindless monsters comes from and contributes to their very real popularity as fighting dogs and private protection dogs. At the same time, regardless of any individual Pitbull’s potential history, pitties are generally large dogs and are prone to neurosis in the same way that other working large breeds are (such as German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, etc.). As such, even a Pitbull raised only with love and kindness requires a specific knowledge with respect to exercise and acceptable behavior for a dog of their size.
One unfortunate side effect of a community trying to change the breed’s image by circulating videos and photos of very well adjusted Pitbulls in calm and happy environments is that these photos and videos can be very misleading about the amount of experience, knowledge and time needed to form a rescued Pitbull, who may have previously been mistreated due to harmful stigmas, into the happy and healthy dog seen on social media. What’s worse is that oftentimes very well intentioned and loving prospective owners then find themselves adopting a pittie or other bully breed without understanding the potential problems they’re likely to run into with a breed which so commonly comes with a particular set of past experiences. They are subsequently totally unprepared to provide for the dog’s needs and eventually admit defeat and return the dog – sometimes only after someone has been hurt.
This is where we reach the catch twenty-two, or at the very least, we arrive at a series of truths which may seem contradictory and yet exist at the same time: while it is true that Pitbulls are not inherently ‘evil’ or more unpredictable than other breeds of similar size and energy levels, the functioning belief that they are those things has led to a common history of aggression and violence for many Pitbulls and this presents unique challenges as an owner. Even without any history of violence or aggression, Pitbulls themselves as a working breed are just as susceptible as any other working breed to any number of negative side effects (including aggression!) if their basic needs for exercise, mental stimulation and socialization aren’t met. Pair this with the stress of being freshly transplanted into a new home by a pair of rookie dog owners and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
It is always okay to return a dog that is more dog than you can handle, but the best way to avoid this situation is to know in advance exactly how much and what you can handle! It is only ever stressful for a dog to be adopted by a family who doesn’t understand what he needs. Do yourself and pitties everywhere a favor: be honest about what you know and what you can provide before you take one of these big beauties home.
“Get Them Back Home” Campaign – Every lost pet should have a way to get back home. FREE pet ID tag and a back-up microchip are available to all residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. No appointment necessary, just come by the shelter during our regular open hours: Wed. 1-6:30 p.m., Thur.-Fri.-Sat. 1-5:30 p.m. and Sun. 1-4:30 p.m.
Fix-it Clinics – Free spay and neuters for cats; and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 lbs.) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.