Five myths about pitbulls

Delta Airlines recently ruled that they will not allow pitbulls on their flights, even as registered and trained service animals.

 

AnimalRightsChannel.com is certainly not the first, nor will it be the last, to point out the abuse inherent in this policy. So it seems like a good time to look at the five top myths about pitbulls.

Myth one: Pitbulls are the worst biters.

Actually, there are two metrics here: the number of bites and the damage typically done by the bite. Luckily, Canine Journal has compiled lists of the top biter in both categories.

At the top of the list of most frequent biters is the adorable chihuahua.

And, surprisingly, the pitbull is ninth on the list of biters who can really do a lot of damage for their size. The doberman, the German shepherd, and the seemingly harmless English mastiff are all more likely to require a hospital visit.

Myth two: Pitbulls were all bred by dog fighters and drug lords to be aggressive.

Unfortunately, there is some of that DNA in the mix of many, though not all, pitbulls. The breed was not originally cultivated for either fighting or guarding, however. The pitbull terrier was designed as a hunting dog. Specifically, hunters needed someone to latch onto their kills and hold them in one place until the hunter could get to the site and bag the prey.

In fact, NO pitbulls were ever bred to be hostile to people. Even a drug lord needs to control his dog, so he needs an obedient dog. We can assume that any drug lord or dog fighter who got bitten immediately discontinued the line of that dog.

Myth three: Any amateur can easily tell whether a dog is a pitbull.

Okay, you might think you know a pitbull when you see one, but, in fact, that dog is more likely to be a mix of different dog breeds. And the only way to really, really know the ancestry of that pooch is with a DNA test.

That’s why cities with anti-pitbull laws are so infuriating. They empower police men, with no veterinary qualifications, to make snap judgments about whether a dog is a pit.

That’s why you read, from time to time, about a registered dog being sent to the gas chamber, even though his owners have blue chip documents to prove that he’s not a pitbull. What the vet or a dog expert says your dog is will not save your dog. An unqualified police officer will decide whether your dog is a pit or another dog.

It is also worth noting that the Staffordshire terrier, a separate breed of dog, according to the American Kennel Club, looks identical to the pitbull.

Myth four: Pitbulls have become cool enough

It’s true that pitbulls have more advocates and saviors than ever before. That said, they are also about the only abandoned dogs that routinely get gassed in animal control facilities. About the only other dogs that still get euthanized, for no good reason, are old, sick, and disabled animals. Pitbulls are still the most unpopular pooch at the prom.

Myth five: Pitbulls don’t have the temperament to be good service dogs.

A quick search for “pitbull service dogs” on Google images yields literally thousands of pictures of pitbulls in service vests.

Pitbulls are particularly good at soothing and providing skilled companionship to disabled veterans and veterans suffering from PTSD.

“Pits for patriots” is but one of the many organizations that matches pitbulls to the veterans who need them. The pitbull is the undisputed champion in this arena of service.

In discriminating against pitbull service dogs, Delta is introducing one more hardship into the lives of veterans.

It is true that service animals are carefully chosen, raised, and screened for service. Only a small percentage of puppies evaluated meet the criteria for service dogs.

Even so, many of those puppies do not pass the rigorous training that requires them to demonstrate, definitively, that they will sacrifice their own lives to save humans.

Many beagles, Labrador retrievers, and poodles will fail to become service dogs. And many pitbulls will fail also. But, at the end of the day, all dogs are individuals. And their individual character, not their breed, predicts whether they have the loyalty and bravery to be service dogs.

Ace your rescue dog application with these tips

You don’t just go to PetSmart and pick out your next dog from a local rescue. You fill out a rescue dog application first. Then, if you fill it out just right, you get your dog. These applications are online, but you may have to save them as pdfs and email them.

How do you find the rescue dog application? Good question.

Tip one: Start at Petfinder.com to find your rescue dog

If you start at Petfinder, and you find a cute dog with a good personality, find out which rescue is caring for it. Go to their website, and find the “adoption application.”

Tip two: Type your answers and email the application for your rescue dog

If, in your dog search, you are confronted with a pdf rescue dog application that you can’t type on, create an account at drive.google.com, upload the rescue dog application there, then fill it out and re-save it as a pdf.  Keep your google drive account handy. You will probably have to do this again.

It may take days or weeks before the rescue organization processes your application. In my limited experience of rescues, they have lost two applications.

Tip three: If you don’t have a fenced in yard, you won’t pass the test.

The rescue dog application may give you the impression that a fenced yard would be a nice thing to have.

Wrong. It is an absolute requirement.

The rescue dog application will ask how tall your fence is. If you are looking at any dog bigger than a mini, you need a fence of at least six feet in height.

Tip four: You must have your other animal(s) up to date on shots.

While evaluating your rescue dog application, the rescue agency will call your vet and ask how many pets you have and whether they are up to date on all vaccines. If they are not, you will not get the pet, and you may never get a call or email explaining why not.

It doesn’t matter if your indoor-only, twenty year old cat has not gone outside for eighteen years. If you want to adopt a rescue dog, you will have to take your cat to the vet and get her shots.

Note: Animal Care Society will insist on veterinary records for the past ten years. If you do not have a vet who keeps good records, or if you have had multiple vets because you move from place to place, do not bother trying to adopt an animal from ACS.

Tip five: Pets are not disposable.

If you have ever given away an animal or taken one to the shelter or dumped it on an interstate, you are not eligible for another pet.

On your rescue dog application, you will be asked to provide two or three personal references, and these people will out you as a former pet owner, unless you coach them not to.

The rest of this section is just my opinion. If you don’t like dramatic flourishes, skip ahead to the next bold subhead.

In general, I am with the pet rescues on this point.

Think about what you would do to protect a child. If you won’t do almost as much to protect your pet, don’t get a pet.

  1. This means, for instance, if you have to evacuate for a storm, take ALL YOUR PETS.
  2. If you are moving from New York to California, TAKE YOUR PETS. Don’t give me this, “He’ll be happier with ….” bullshit. No he won’t. Just figure it out, people.
  3. If your fiance says, “me or the dog,” choose the dog. This is a no-brainer, and you should know it, if you’re out of your teens. Talk about a bad trade.
  4. When you have a baby, keep the dog. If the dog ends up liking your four year old more than he likes you, keep the dog.
  5. Don’t be a jerk. Keep your dog!

All that said, if you gave up an animal in your early twenties, like, your parents agreed to take it while you traveled or ran with the wrong boyfriend, but since then, you have learned that a bond with an animal is a sacred thing, you have my tentative blessing to lie on your rescue dog application and get another dog.

But if you ever deliberately opened your car side door and let your dog or cat run out into the wilderness, never to be seen again, don’t you EVER get another animal. You should really be in jail. I can’t believe people make jokes about dumping animals. Okay, I’m ranting.

Tip six: The retractable leash question.

The correct answer is “No, I don’t believe in retractable leashes. I do not own and will never use a retractable leash.”

Yes, your rescue dog application will contain some items that are trick questions, designed to trap the unwary.

Truth: If you get a forty pound dog or a bigger one, you will quickly learn not to use a retractable leash. Especially after your dog has circled your legs three times with the leash and left you unable to walk.

I see people using retractable leashes and not breaking a hip. It’s always a tiny dog. It’s still a dumb idea, but not as dumb as walking a malamute on a retractable leash.

Tip seven: The crate question

The correct answer is: “Yes, I am familiar with crate training, and I will crate my dog for short periods of time in conjunction with house training. I will place treats and toys in the crate to make sure it is a positive experience for my dog, and I will never use a crate as a punishment.”

Truth: Not everyone believes in crates. I don’t believe in crates, but then I have a dog who is very well behaved in the house. Would rather cross her legs and wait it out for a day or two than soil the house. I swear that dog has a cast iron bladder. Okay, I’m ranting again.

If the rescue dog application specifically asks you how many hours a day you plan to crate your dog, waffle madly. “In general, not for long. I would appreciate your guidance on this matter,” might be the only safe answer.

Tip eight: The “How will you discipline your dog?” question.

The correct answer is: “I subscribe to positive dog training methodology. Dogs should be rewarded for good behaviors, but never hit or yelled at.”

Note: If you plan to beat up your dog, don’t get a dog.

Unlike a child, your dog will not understand why you are punching or kicking. Don’t get a dog as a punching bag. And, if you need a punching bag, don’t have children either.

Be aware that not all dog rescuers like Cesar Milan, so invoking him is not the best idea.

Tip eight: The “Do you plan to move any time within the next six months?” question

The correct answer is no. Just no, not maybe or “I don’t know.”

Truth: You can safely move with a dog or cat, so long as you use some common sense and advance planning. My dog has changed houses with me four times in the past eight years. She doesn’t like it, but she didn’t get lost or have a psychotic episode.

I would also note that dogs are often more resilient than people, and they don’t hold grudges like people. “I can’t believe you moved me to a place that doesn’t have a Forever 21!” is something you will never hear from your dog.

Tip nine: the “who is this animal for?” question

The correct answer is “me.”

If you are getting an animal primarily because you know that your husband will be devastated when your current dog dies, the correct answer is still “me.”

Your rescue dog application will be declined if you disclose that you are getting this animal as a gift or for your children or for your grandmother or for your other dog or cat who is lonely during the day while you are at work.

Tip ten: the “Where will this dog be during the day?” and “Where will this dog sleep?” questions.

The correct answers: Your dog will be in your house during the day, and not in a crate and not in your back yard or front yard. Your dog will sleep in a dog bed. If you are applying for a puppy, your puppy will sleep in a dog bed which has been placed inside your bedroom.

Truth: If you actually get a puppy, he may cry all night long, allowing no one to sleep, unless you put him on your bed or in a crate with another dog.

Truth: A lot of us sleep with our dogs. I was honest about this, and some of my applications were approved. Probably the person reviewing the application also sleeps with dogs.

Tip eleven: “How much does it cost to own and care for a dog?”

The correct answer is: “Between $500 and $1000 a year, depending on the size of the dog. However, I have also set up an emergency fund of $2000 to cover teeth cleaning, emergency care, and treatment for any chronic health issues that might come up.”

Truth: If you don’t have enough money to feed your dog, don’t get a dog.

Tip twelve: “In the past ten years, have you owned any pets that are not on your list of current pets? What happened to them?”

The correct answer is “Princess died in the vet’s office after a heroic struggle with cancer.” It is also okay to have euthanized your animal, if he or she had a fatal illness.

If you reveal, on your rescue dog application, that you ever lost a pet, you will not get another animal from a rescue. Even breeders have a problem with lost pets.

Truth: If you plan to lose your dog or let your dog run wild in the neighborhood, don’t get a dog.  The good people on Nextdoor.com will crucify you if they have to go looking for your dog more than once.

Similarly, if you disclose that any animal of yours was killed in traffic, you will probably be disqualified by the rescue organization.

Tip thirteen: “How old are you?”

The correct answer is: Under sixty.

Age discrimination continues unchecked at rescue organizations. Their reasoning is that your adopted dog may live to be twelve and your adopted cat may live to be twenty. If you are over sixty, they think the animal will outlive you.

In the not too distant future, I will be blogging about this fragrant discrimination. For now, though, just lie on your application.

Truth: If you are over sixty or even over eighty, I trust you not to adopt a kitten or puppy for whom you have no care plan in place, should your animal outlive you. And rescue organizations should trust you too.

That said, older dogs and cats need homes also. Maybe you could empathize?

Tip fourteen: “Under what circumstances would you surrender this animal?”

The correct answer is something like, “Only death will part us” or, if you can’t bear to be that dramatic, “If I am diagnosed with a terminal illness.” Shit, this question really demands some kind of drama.

The main thing is not to say that you would dump your dog at a shelter if he pees the rug or if you get married or have a baby or get a new job or move to California.

See tip five, and don’t make me get on my soapbox, again.