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5 Myths About Bull Breeds You Need to Know

Copy: Serena Faber Nelson

Last week, in Victoria, Australia, the Laffan family said goodbye to two beloved members named Kooda and Bear. The two pups, little more than a year old were hugged and kissed, patted and stroked, before their owners placed them on the veterinarian’s table where they were euthanised.

Kooda and Bear were not homeless. They did not have a painful, life altering disease or injury. They had never hurt another man, woman, child, or dog – or even displayed any signs of anti-social behaviour. No, Bear and Kooda, were killed because of how they looked. These much loved, gentle, healthy dogs with their whole lives ahead of them were put to sleep because a local council declared them a ‘Dangerous and Restricted Breed’ based on their looks alone. There was no DNA testing, just one council’s decision that the dogs ‘looked’ like Pit Bulls and therefore were to be killed. Their owners were given five minutes with them to say goodbye.

For those that don’t know, the restricted breed dog legislation came into effect in Victoria last September, stating any Pit Bull Terrier type dogs not registered before the 29 September 2011 would be seized and destroyed. This law has left countless dog owners across the state fighting for their pets’ lives as councils implement the law on any dogs resembling Pit Bulls across the state. This law, and others like them, have attracted criticism from the Australian Veterinary Association, renown dog trainers, such as Cesar Milan and Victoria Stilwell, and the RSPCA, for their ineffectiveness and ambiguous nature.

To put it simply, Breed Specific Legislation is little more than a band aid solution and will do little to reduce the number of dog attacks in Australian communities. Problem being, Pit Bulls have been so vilified in the press and court of public opinion that few people are left to demand a better solution. Bull breeds are routinely feared by the majority of Australians. It’s not our fault, we’ve been fed so many ‘facts’ and sensationalised news grabs that it’s hard to make head or tail (get it?) of the situation. So, for the Bull Breeds out there – and for anyone wanting to work towards a real solution preventing dog attacks in Australia – here are the 5 myths you need to know:

1. Pit Bulls & Bull Breeds are the most dangerous breed of dog. Ummm, no I’m sorry to say, Pit Bulls are more what you would call a ‘flavour of the month’ or a current ‘darling of the media’. Remember a few decades back when every dog attack reported was by a German Shepherd? Or in the 80s where every guard dog featured on TV and in the movies was a Doberman? (Magnum PI has a lot to answer for!) I’m pretty sure Rottweilers had their time in the spotlight too, and Staffies were a recent hot favourite – but just like Paris Hilton, they were eclipsed by their lesser known, larger bottomed friends as we made our way into a new decade. Jokes aside, the point I’m trying to make is every decade, we try to pin point dog attacks on one breed thinking this will ‘solve the problem’. It doesn’t.

2. Bull Breeds have lock jaws. I used the think this one was true. I don’t know why, I heard it once and just went with it. But no, we’re busting myths today and I can reveal it’s not true. Bull breeds have jaws just like every other dog. And yes – just like every other dog those jaws can be dangerous. But you know what else can be dangerous? Jack Russells. I have a scar on my left ring finger to prove it. Cats can be dangerous too. One swipe and there goes your eyesight. A Border Collie has enough jaw power to crush every bone in your hand. A Golden Retriever’s teeth are sharp enough to rip through every layer of your skin. And don’t get me started on the emotional abuse Teacup Chihuahua’s are capable of! But really, every dog is as dangerous or as loving and gentle as their owner allows them to be.

3. They were bred to fight. I assume you mean just like chickens were as well right? Because in true fact Pit Bulls were first bred to become farm dogs for hunting, driving livestock and companionship. Yes, they were bred for their strength, and courage – but also for their gentleness with loved ones. A well cared for Bull Breed in a comfy home has as much interest in dog fighting as my Border Collie has in getting off the couch to go round up some sheep.

4. Banning Bull Breeds will reduce dog attacks. Believe me, I can tell you every dog owner worth their salt would do anything to decrease dog attacks. It makes me sick to my stomach to think of anyone being hurt by a dog, especially when the case involves children. Problem is, banning a breed is not going to fix the problem. The answer lies with education and strict regulation. Across Australia, governments need to work on creating laws restricting the sale of dogs to certified breeders and rescue organisations who can screen and educate prospective owners on their responsibilities as a dog owner. Children and adults alike need to be taught basic safety measures around dogs, such as the correct ways to approach a dog, to reduce the likelihood of preventable accidents. Education and prevention are the key. Targeting just one breed of dog is like trying to save the Titanic armed with a coffee cup and a sieve – no matter whether you have Leonardo DiCaprio on your side or not, you’re doomed to fail.

5. Without fighting, Bull Breeds have nothing to offer. Tell that to the dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s fighting ring who now spend their days working in educational school programs or as much loved family pets. Or Petey, of “The Little Rascals” fame, who to this day is said to have been one of the most intelligent dogs in Hollywood. Yep, he was a Pit Bull. Or Stubby, the Pit Bull Cross that served in WWI and went on to inspire the United States Military K-9 Corp. And you can’t forget Sir Thomas, Helen Keller’s Pit Bull who served as her loving companion and therapy dog. To date, Pit Bulls have proven to been excellent dogs of agility, therapy pets, heroes and loving companions.

It just goes to show, any dog presented with kindness and compassion has much to offer this world.

Do you agree with Victoria’s Breed Specific Legislation?
What experience have you had with Pit Bull type breeds in your life?

IMAGES: (From Top Left)
Frodo – one of the Pit Bulls rescued from Michael Vick, now lives happily with his new family.
Sergeant Stubby – the most decorated war dog of WWI. He saved his regiment from surprise mustard gas attacks, located and comforted the wounded, and reportedly once saved a young girl in Paris from being hit by a car.
Petey – one of the most celebrated dogs in Hollywood history.
Daddy – Cesar Milan’s right hand pooch who was also his partner in rehabilitating other dogs.
Sir Thomas – Helen Keller’s much loved therapy dog and companion.

HELP BULL BREEDS IN NEED

Bull breeds need us. You can help by supporting Bull Breeds in Need. Founder Ruth O’Leary devotes her time to photographing shelter bull breeds and owns four rescued bull breeds of her own. Each year she releases  her Rescued Bull Breeds and Bruno calendar to raise funds for bull breeds in need. Our featured cover photo for this very post is from the 2013 calendar. Stay tuned to the Bull Breed in Need facebook page for this year’s release.

Copy: Serena Faber Nelson

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Comments (24)

24 responses to “5 Myths About Bull Breeds You Need to Know”

  1. Laura says:

    Really great post, Serena. Breed-specific legislation in general, and Kooda and Bear’s tragic story in particular, is unjust and heartbreaking. I also blogged about it this week.

    I don’t feel I can just stand by and watch this happen. I’d be really interested in your thoughts on what dog owners can do to fight BSL!

    • Thanks Laura. Your post was brilliant too!

      Honestly, I believe the main thing that needs to change is public perception regarding certain breeds. For the all petitions, support groups etc, the underlying issue is so many Australians are scared of dog attacks. For me, this is the true issue that needs to be addressed. Pit Bulls are just the current scapegoat.

      I feel we all need to ask for stricter regulations on where dogs can be sold (i.e. only from registered breeders and rescue organisations), better education for dogs owners on how to train and socialise their dogs at the point of sale (i.e. mandatory puppy school etc), better education for the public on dog/human interaction (i.e. school programs) and harsher penalties for dog OWNERS found mistreating or failing to adequately train and restrain their dogs.

      But it all needs to start with the public demanding a change.

      Thanks for the comment x

  2. LPP says:

    Would Ayen Chol be dead if the dog who entered her home been a Jack Russell instead of a pit bull?

    • Thanks for the comment LPP! It highlights the main point of my post.

      The death of Ayen Chol was one of the most heartbreaking stories I have ever read. However by the logic above, we would be looking at banning all breeds in Australia weighing over 10 kilos, because any dog of that size does has the capability to cause fatal damage. This would include such breeds as Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, Labradors and German Shepherds. Also it must be noted, that without training or supervision, a Jack Russell could attack a child causing severe physical and emotional pain. I think both scenarios are terribly disturbing.

      The problem in this situation lied squarely on the dog owner. Mrs Ancaito (Ayen’s mother) said herself it was the owners of the dog who let her down.

      Had more focus been placed on strict regulation of dog ownership in Australia, this untrained and unrestrained dog would have not been left to wander the streets. Had we, as a nation, focused more time and energy on the regulation of dog sales, and the education of dog owners, people such as the owner of this dog wouldn’t be deemed fit to care for a dog or provide the adequate training and supervision required.

      In the end Breed Specific Legislation against Pit Bulls will result in less Pit Bulls in Australia. Unfortunately it won’t result in less irresponsible owners. It won’t stop people such as the owner above moving on to a new breed. And unfortunately that means, it won’t result in less dog attacks.

      I hope this helped answer your question.

    • KAT says:

      LPP – The responsibility falls back to the owners of dog and not the dog itself. This was a tragic incident and my heart still goes out to the family. Jack Russells are capable of biting and causing physical damage as any dog is and banning any breed of dog is not the answer.

  3. Maggie says:

    I’m just so glad you wrote this.
    I think you also really gave a great answer to the reader above. Here in the UK staffies bear a lot of this stigma, but it is absolutely just a symptom of general social and educational issues (e.g. the shelters are brimming with staffies – what kind of people abandon dogs in the city anyway?) . It is heartbreaking when the state instead invests its money into euthanising them, just because it looks like they are doing something about the problem.

    • Thanks Maggie. Staffies went through the exact same thing a few years ago here. Not to the extent of BSL but a lot of media and social vilification went on.
      I completely agree with your point – if the money spent on BSL went on social and educational programs you could address the real problem not just the symptom.

  4. Chasely says:

    I saw this on the news and I think it is BS! I understand what the Council is trying to do, but this is not the solution! Not only do the dogs not look like Pits, they couldnt be proved to be Pits, and Pits are not the problem! The owners are the problem! I can’t see how after so long, and after sawpping the blame from breed to breed – how can they not see this!

    So incredibly frustrating!

  5. Daniela says:

    B S L unbelievable wat r they gonna think of next we r supposed to be a free country (pfft) laws telling us which breed of dog we can have where we can smoke dictating how old our vehicles are where does it end I personally have a Belgium shepherd a staffy and a foxy n never have they attacked anyone n I’ve only ever been bitten by the little foxy if we r looking for reasons y certain breeds bite look at the offenders owners maybe crime n cruelty would be reduced aswell

  6. Sam says:

    Nicely written, BSL is an ineffective and flawed piece of legislation that has actually been withdrawn in some states of the US and possibly European countries. It is a poorly applied bandaid that buys the vote of the general public when the government should be focusing on education, compulsory desexing, registration and the shutting down of backyard breeders and puppy mills. The attacks on children are abhorrent but we need to put the blame back on the owners responsible for the dogs, they must be made accountable!

    The American Pit Bull has actually passed temperament tests with flying colours, they are the flavour of the month for the media – sensationalist reporting always sells more papers and magazines and you never see the retraction when they discover that the breed of dog involved in the attack was not a pit bull. It is frustrating and heartbreaking.

    • Thanks Sam. Such a thoughtful, insightful comment. I agree 100%. The blame needs to go back onto the owners and more education to the general public is needed to stop further heartbreak. Thanks for such a well thought out response x

  7. amber baxley says:

    My sister has a pit bull and he is the BIGGEST teddy bear you’ve ever seen! I believe that any dog can be mean and dangerous, not matter what the breed, and it is all in how they are raised.

    have you ever read the book “Oogy”? SO GOOD!

    • I haven’t read Oogy but I saw his story on Oprah and have been meaning to read his book for years! He is such a sweetheart. You’re right, it’s all about how a dog is raised and cared for.

  8. […] encourage everyone to read  5 myths about Pit Bulls and then share it!  And then remember: BSL (breed specific legislation) is a really bad […]

  9. Alice says:

    Many cities in the USA are also adopting this horrific policy. It blows my mind that people can be so easily swayed into very bad ideas. Shameful! I appreciate your efforts to educate!

    • Thanks Alice! Hopefully the more people that find out the realities behind BSL will stop supporting it, and instead throw their voices behind cleaning up dog ownership and education laws. thanks again for reading! x

  10. Kym F says:

    Thank you!! I just stumbled on your blog and just LOVE it and LOVE this post even more. For all the blogs out there about kiddos, house DIY’ing etc..which are all great…I love there is one dedicated to what I kindly refer to as furkids.

    This post couldn’t be more true and I wish people would educate themselves better. If I could save every dog I would but in the meantime I work on loving my Blakely and Cam (Aussie/Lab mixes) as much as my heart can possibly hold.

  11. […] loved rescue dogs, busted myths about Pit Bulls, launched The 13 Project and featured hundreds of homeless dogs here and one our social media […]

  12. Judy Unnone says:

    I just read this because it was linked from your post today – first off I love your site and your slogan (you are listed as one of my favs on my site!!) – secondly thx for writing this – awesome! I have three pitbulls and they are my everything! Yes I have kids too and they are awesome w my kids. My two oldest pitbulls actually literally saved me from a stroke and kept me alive and alerted my husband I was down on the ground when he got home. My third – given to me by my husband as a puppy after the stroke to help rehabilitate me and get me out of depression for all I could not do or be anymore – brought me back to life so to say. They are a wonderful breed and it is all in how they are raised. Thank you for doing this story. :-).

  13. […] know pitbulls get a really bad rap, but honestly, Bane and Raven, both named after the Harry Potter characters, were super sweet and […]

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