Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Why not trust a pit bull?

This is an account from about 20 years ago. At the time, the pit bull problem was not as serious as it is now, but the problem's trajectory, so to speak, was visible to those who were paying attention even then. Developments of recent years have underscored the problem, but as this account shows, the nature of the pit bull, formed over hundreds of years of deliberate breeding for merciless violence, was exactly the same then as it is now.

A dog, a pit bull terrier, allegedly killed his female master on September 3, 1992, in Cleveland. There were 180 bite marks on the dead woman's body, according to the Cuyahoga County coroner. I read that news story and revisited the horror my family experienced on Christmas Eve, 1989.

We had a pit bull. He was all white. I named him Chester, after Chester Avenue in Cleveland, where I found him in the middle of the busy street, trapped amid traffic. I could not just drive by. I stopped to shoo him off the roadway. Instead of running off, he got to the tree lawn and rolled over by a belly-rub. He had me by the heartstrings. I took him to a veterinarian for a checkup and neutering that very day.

Chester was not yet one year old, but he was big and well-muscled. He was friendly even with strangers. He spent most of his time in a fenced area with another dog I had taken in, and things went smoothly throughout that fall. When the temperatures turned cold, I brought the two dogs into the heated, finished basement of our country home.

On many occasions I let Chester sleep with my youngest daughter. (She was only three.) Chester was also allowed to mingle with my assorted formerly stray cats, and a rabbit who ran loose in the house. He never paid any attention to the other animals, but he loved the attention he got from my three daughters.

My husband always had reservations about Chester because of his breed. I, on the other hand, got used to the idea of having a pit bull, and I trusted that nothing bad would happen. After all, we were not encouraging aggressiveness. We never roughhoused with Chester. We didn't want a guard dog, and we kept a close eye on him when he was with the children.

I, an animal health technician, former zookeeper, and animal activist, believed that Chester would not be one of those vicious dogs you read about in newspaper headlines. I was wrong.

On Christmas Eve, after a family gift-opening get-together, we returned to our home. My husband was the first to enter the house. I was sleeping in the car when he shook me into reality. "Donna," he said, "it's awful. I wish I could hide this from you. I can't. Come in."

What awaited me in the house was a scene from a horror movie. Chester, greeting me in the kitchen, had long red scratches all over his face. There were streaks of blood here and there on the carpeting throughout the house. The French doors between the basement steps and the living room had been forced open. and there were dead bodies everywhere.

My rabbit was dead on my bed. One cat lay dead in the basement, another under my dresser. Two cats, locked safely in a bedroom, were unscathed. One cat survived atop the refrigerator, but a claw had been ripped from his paw. The fourth survivor was huddled on the top bunk in my daughter's bedroom, wild-eyed and quivering. It took him weeks to return to normal behavior.

My husband reluctantly shot Chester. We then went about placing presents under the tree and stuffing stockings. It was a grim Christmas morning as I watched the sun rise through tears, and I hugged my daughters a little harder that day.

Donna Robb

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 1993

[Donna Robb, now a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, is a vet tech who was formerly an elephant keeper at the Cleveland MetroPark Zoo.]


  1. Yes, that's what all the nutters think. MY dog will never hurt anyone. MY dog hasn't been 'trained to attack'. This is why these people MUST have NO voice in public discourse over dangerous dog breeds.

  2. i've read this twice. tried to leave a comment three times but each time i am overcome with anger and frustration and delete it. the only positive thing i can say about this nutter and her epiphany, there is at least ONE vet tech out there that openly acknowledges the truth about pit bulls.

    thanks for blogging this 17 barks.

    1. You cannot love or train the BREEDING out of a dog.

  3. Many dogs have prey drive,they are still domestic wolves not lambs. My childhood Malamute mix killed a stray cat,my hamster and many rodents in the yard,my Newfie also killed a bird. The only real difference i notice is that usually even high prey drive dogs can get along with your pets(that you owned before it) if raised with them,something I did see in my Malamute mix and Newfie.

    Pit bulls are well known for dog aggression and high prey drive,something all owners should be aware of,and being a good owner wont delete those behaviors. Just because you owned a Pit bull that loved all living things in the past doesn't mean your next dog is gonna be the same way,and doesn't mean you can rant about how you know better then everyone else online.

    I do love cats so this does sounds like a nightmare to me,hearing from Pit bull owners how bad these dogs tend to be with cats was one of the reasons I decided not to own one.

    1. Pit bulls have another trait which makes them more dangerous than just prey drive- GAMENESS. The urge to kill, so strongly that they will or die trying. Most dogs will back off with pain, pits won't.


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