Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Getting to know pit bulls

Insightful comments from a UK reader on her own pit bull experience:

Here in the UK, we have enjoyed a Dangerous Dogs Act with several breeds of dog that are not permitted to be kept at ALL, Pit Bulls and Pit Types being one of them. We had a Pit Bull in our family, her name was Bully. My brother and father picked her up from a building site, straying. She was friendly. They tried to find out who she belonged to but no-one claimed her. The Police said they could bring her home. When I first met her, my daughter was very small. I took a long long time just looking at that dog. I like to look at things, weigh them up, wait for the tumblers to fall into place. Bully moved like no other dog. She had an aura and a presence that I didn't recognise. She was so still, so quiet, so placid; a gingery ghost with cool cool eyes. Her body, her head, that chest - you could feel the power beneath the skin. I didn't dislike her, but I didn't love her. I set some rules out straight away to my family that Bully was never EVER to be around my little girl alone or without strict supervision. I didn't know what a Pit Bull was, I didn't know their history, but something about that dog rattled me. Something primeval. I knew that dog. She didn't do a thing to set my teeth on edge but they set all the same. 

Some of my family were upset about the Dangerous Dogs and Banned Breeds Act; they knew what Bully WAS, but they didn't want her to be called a Pit Bull. They took her to our Vet. Our Vet wasn't having ANY of it. She said 'that is a Pit Bull'. My family tried to say that she was a Rhodesian Ridgeback Mix, but the Vet said no. Bully had to comply with the Law, or be exterminated. She was duly sterilised, chipped, logged at the Police station, had to be muzzled and short-leashed in public at all times. She was given an Exemption Certificate to stop her being PTS. Several years passed; Bully remained as she had always been; quiet, unruffled, never barked, never growled, just quietly moving among us, the gingery ghost. 

She finally went 'Pit Bull' when my family had left her for a simple short shopping trip. A normal day, no catalyst, no reason for it. Something snapped. The family kitchen paid the price. It looked like a Tiger had tore it up. Massive worktops pulled to the floor; a freezer door completely removed (food intact); a solid hardwood teak door eaten and clawed through as though it was cardboard; another interior door broken through; large heavy ceramic floor tiles torn up; a UPVC double glazed window smashed through. Bully was covered in blood. Some nails were torn out. Her lips and gums had splinters in them. The cool cool eyes had gone, replaced with red-lit, darting, nervous glancing. She panted as though a thousand demons had settled in her skin. 

The Vet said she was done for. She never recovered. She would not settle, agitated and skittish, fear and aggression in her eyes. Bully was put to sleep and buried in a bank full of flowers, along with out other pets. I tried to feel sad but I couldn't. She never harmed anyone in our family, but I couldn't love her. Years later, and recently too, I was having a 'gruesome' session on the computer. I Googled 'dog bite' Images. A horrific Page came up, people with torn faces and worse. I truly believed that Google had mixed up Shark attacks with Dog bites. They were Pit Bull victims. All the tumblers fell into place again. I've spent 6 months now, studying the subject, drawn irresistibly to it all. My daughter has now grown up and moved into a cottage with her partner. Cruel fate has placed a Pit Bull and what looks like a very overweight Staffordshire next door to her. She is concerned about them. The dividing fence is rotten and low. :( 

Our Dangerous Dogs Act and Banned Breeds Acts worked when it first came out, but it is not enforced. Pits are appearing back in our communities. They are posing as little British Staffordshires, but they are not. They are Pit crosses. Attacks are on the increase. Two child deaths since January. John-Paul Massey was killed by family Pit Bulls. Jade Anderson was killed by a variety of savage dogs, including one that was passed off as a Mastiff but which looks very much like an American Bulldog which is not a banned breed. Two 'Staffies' were amongst the dogs that killed her. Neighbours described the 'Staffies' as being being very big and very fierce. Almost certainly Pit Bulls. 

Some people have said that my being British means that I have no voice when it comes to American Pit Bull problems. My reply is simple; I am not so inhuman, nor has the world become so large and cold, that I cannot hurt for the dead and the maimed in ANY country in this world. With our own failing BSL, we have much in common. You are us, and we are you. A Bull breed that kills and maims is ever present in both our Countries. Innocent children have died. That's reason enough for me. :)


  1. Dear UK reader,
    Your remarkable story aside, you write like a dream, I didn't want the article to end! I hope to read much more commentary from you, your elegance of language and imagery is fantastic, but without any loss of power or impact.
    Thanks for a great read...


  2. ditto . i dont doubt a word of it .

    i too, knew a female pitbull , very friendly and people oriented but she also had a dangerous side that i caught a glimpse of a couple of times . none of my dogs were the kind that would fight like real fighting dogs do and i assume that dogs bred for fighting are different than most dogs . its pretty elementary really , pits are fighting dogs. it should be no surprise when turn pitbull.

  3. Thanks for finding all these personal stories, Jake. You have a talent for finding or attracting them, whatever the case maybe.

    I wish more former pit bull owners that had to put their dog down or give it to someone else would be forthcoming with their stories. Given the 1,000s of pit bulls that attack a human or animal each year, it is amazing that more stories like this do not surface.

  4. Excellent, well written article! I wish I could write half as well. 15 yrs ago when I worked at a vet clinic I bought into the meme that pits were only animal aggressive, but sweet with people. The vet I worked for used to claim that. When I heard the story about Diane Whipple being killed I started to pay closer attention, that a single dog could and would kill a healthy adult was shocking to me. I'm so glad for sites such as this for all the info they provide... Though just reading the news is enough to give you a clue that something is not right with that particular type of dog.

  5. I can't wait for a vet to say that same thing to me, Dayna. I think you can predict my response.

    My mother recently took her boxer and chi mix to the vet. There was a very large male pit bull in the waiting room. The pit nutter spent the whole time evangelizing about the bad rap and its all how you raise them. My mother is a sharp cookie, and has listened to me on this issue.

    She then did something I was quite proud of her for.

    There was an old, dog-eared copy of a dog breed group.

    She flipped to the pit bull breed description, which was only partially white washed, that mentioned their aggression toward other dogs and that they may not be suitable for homes with children and small animals. It also mentioned the increased need for socialization, etc compared to other breeds.

    My mom, after skimming this and knowing it would drive home a point, acted as if she was naively interested in the breed (oh, here's something about your dog, I'll read it so we can learn more). She then read it aloud to the entire waiting room. I was proud of her for doing something kinda ballsy like that.

    She said it became awkward afterward.


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