By Annette McLean
When I first started volunteering at Winnebago County Animal Services, I was a little afraid of the pit bull terriers. They were big, muscular and carried such a bad reputation. So untrue. So unfair.
Our shelter, like many other shelters throughout this country, gets a disproportionate number of pit bulls and pit bull mixes, which are mostly strays. They have been over-bred and oftentimes bred for the wrong reasons.
Contrary to popular myth, their jaws do not lock, their brain does not keep growing; and yes, it is safe to get a pit bull from a rescue or shelter. A rescued pit bull will likely be a wonderful pet. Shelters will not place for adoption any animal that displays any level of aggression toward humans.
In the early 20th century, pit bulls were the most popular family dog. Helen Keller owned one. “Petey,” from the famous old show The Little Rascals, was also a pit bull.
According to the American Temperament Testing Society, 84.3 percent of pit bull terriers pass all temperament tests. This is a better passing percentage than many of our most beloved breeds of dogs. It is a pretty amazing testament to a breed that has been over-bred and often the victims of cruel and abusive owners that almost 85 percent of them still pass with flying colors. Any breed can be vicious. Oftentimes, an aggressive dog is the result of being unsocialized, mistreated or neglected.
How is distinguishing a particular breed as violent and bad any different than discriminating against humans who are a different race or ethnicity? Abusive owners are the only demographic that should be punished.
So, seriously, if you are ready for the commitment of a family pet, remember: spay, neuter, rescue and consider a pit bull. They deserve a second chance, and you can give it to them. I think you’ll be glad you did.
Annette McLean is a Rockford resident.
From the July 28-Aug 3, 2010 issue