by Jean Weber, Director of Animal Protection, MSPCA-Angell
A dog to consider when searching for the new family pet
Each year the MSPCA-Angell takes in more pit bulls than any other breed of dog. In 2010 alone there were 723 pit bulls surrendered to our four animal care and adoption centers. Pit bulls are surrendered for a variety of reasons; from owners moving into new homes that aren't pet friendly to the loss of a job, which makes taking care of a pet impossible. There is a lot of misleading media coverage that paints a less-than-rosy picture of pit bulls, which makes it challenging to place them into new homes, even when they rival Lassie as a pet prospect!
The pit bull's reputation for fierceness, however, is largely undeserved and has shown repeatedly to not withstand any kind of scrutiny. The MSPCA-Angell has taken in (and adopted out) thousands of pit bulls over the years and can say with certainty that pit bulls are as stable and safe as any other breed of dog. Media reports of vicious pit bull attacks abound, and these reports have caused many would-be adopters to back away from the breed. This is such a shame, especially since the vast majority of pit bulls never exhibit any kind of aggressive behavior toward their owners, their families or other dogs.
In fact, the following personality traits are far more common in pit bulls than the negative characteristics that typically associated with the breed:
Highly energetic - Pit bulls love to run, play and exercise. They are the perfect dog for the active individual or family who wants to enjoy time in the park or on the running trail with their family dog.
Family oriented - Pit bulls are known to be extremely loyal and protective of their families.
Easily trained - Pit bulls are smart. Very smart. They are easy to train and are as obedient as any other breed of dog.
Highly social - Most pit bulls greet strangers as if they are long lost friends . This easy, friendly disposition is singularly the most over-looked personality trait of pit bulls and one that we would ask all potential adopters to take to heart when considering adding a new dog to their family.
Saying "yes" to pit bull adoption
The MSPCA-Angell has several programs in place especially designed to dispel the many untruths surrounding pit bulls, and to ensure that would-be adopters consider the breed when they are in the market for a new family pet. Our Pit Pals program, for instance, was created expressly to address the high rates of pit bull homelessness and euthanasia of pit bull and pit bull mixes in Massachusetts. The Pit Pals program offers a reasonable solution to reducing the population of pit bulls (and the high levels of pit bull homelessness that results) by ensuring owners enjoy a successful adoption. For instance, our "nose work" training works especially well with pit bulls, given the intelligence of the breed. Based on the work that police and bomb-sniffing dogs have performed successfully for decades, our trainers pair food with a particular scent and then train the dogs to search for it. The dogs love the exercise, and the end result is an incredibly well-trained dog that makes the perfect pet.
Moreover, we will soon be gearing up for Pitbull Awareness Month in October, which is an opportunity for would-be adopters to meet many of our adoptable pit bulls and to hear first-hand from pit bull owners just how special these dogs really are.
We encourage dog lovers to take another look at pit bulls when they gear up to adopt a new pet. I write from firsthand experience about just how special these dogs are and how they are continually overlooked because of the many misperceptions surrounding the breed. We see many more wonderful pit bulls in loving homes than we see uncontrollable or aggressive animals. If you're thinking of adding a new dog member to your family, please don't forget that there are many wonderful pit bulls waiting for new homes.
Jean Weber is the Director of Animal Protection at the MSPCA-Angell. She oversees the organization's four Adoption Centers, Law Enforcement and Animal Advocacy departments.