We are writing in response to Anna M. Howard's articles "Is Pitbull the Problem?" and "Bite Statistics to Sink Your Teeth Into", which seems to be yet another attempt to vilify the "pit bull".
First, any responsible journalist should recognize the importance of reliable, factual sources. Ms. Howard appears to base her article and opinions on pit bulls and bite statistics entirely upon a website run by a woman allegedly attacked by a pit bull, and a highly criticized article written by a Time Magazine reporter who also used that same inaccurate source. Here is a link to why information from Dogsbite.org should be discarded http://legal.pblnn.com/pro-bsl-experts/dogbiteorg/109-collen-lynn-seattle-animal-control-records. For reliable sources on the subject of why breed bans don't work in minimizing dog bites, we offer the following website http://stopbsl.org./fortherecord/journalistresources
For "pit bull" advocates, Ms. Howard's apparent laziness in writing this story is infuriating not only because of the inaccuracies she reports, and the stereotypes she perpetuates, but because, to the average reader, the story and pictures accompanying it are likely to lead them to walk away from the story thinking that "Yes, pit bulls are dangerous dogs and only drug dealers or dog fighters want them". In our opinion, the media's lazy reporting on this subject is in large part responsible for much of the battle pit bull advocates are forced to fight every day.
"Pit bull" is not even a "breed", but a catchall term used by many local dog control officers and municipalities to describe muscular dogs, with big, blocky heads.
The American Pit Bull Terrier is the only American Kennel Club recognized "purebred pit bull". The dogs filling animal shelters across the country, the dogs most often being characterized as too dangerous to live in communities where breed bans have been put in places, are actually more likely "mixes" of any number of terrier type dogs, that may or may not have any "American Pit Bull Terrier", "American Staffordshire Terrier" or "Bull Staffordshire Terrier" (the two other recognized purebred breeds) in their bloodline.
This catchall manner of identifying dogs is dangerous and deadly because of the stereotypes that surround the term. Stereotypes that in many places across the country get a dog killed when it enters an Animal Shelter, simply because of what it looks like without ever considering what is known about the individual dog's behavior and temperament.
Any legitimate expert on dog behavior, bite statistics, etc. will tell you behavior and temperament are the only characteristics that should be used to judge any dog. More important than focusing on any one breed is preventing dog bites before they happen.
The National Canine Research Council has a wealth of information on the subject of dog bites, and dog bite prevention (most bites are completely preventable if the humans involved with the dog knew what signs of distress in the dog to look out for). Their website (http://www.nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/) In addition, Animal Farm Foundation (http://www.animalfarmfoundation.org/) and Bad Rap Rescue (http://www.badrap.org/) are two rescue organizations that specialize in rescuing pit bull type dogs in particular. Each has a plethora of data and information available for the asking. Pit bulls are their specialty. They invest their lives in knowing them, living with them and saving them.
Ms. Howard quotes Mayor Paul Dyster as saying "When you see guys sitting around on a porch with pit bulls we know what we have, a drug house, right?" However, the photo chosen by Ms. Howard to accompany her article is not of a porch full of pit bulls belonging to Niagara Falls drug dealers. The picture isn't even of a porch in Niagara Falls but of the family dogs belonging to a woman who runs a blog called "Enlightened by A Dog: A Dog's Blog". A simple Google photo search on the origin of her picture reference, would have led her to countless stories of the love for these particular family dogs. Did the origin of the dogs in the picture not matter because the only point she wanted to get across was: "porch full of pit bulls = drug dealers?" (editor's note: the photo in question was chosen to show that all pit bulls are not drug dealers dogs and consequently the editor chose a picture of some clearly friendly pit bull type dogs).
We are not drug dealers. We are dog lovers, contributing members of our communities, volunteers at our local animal shelter and willing and loving advocates of not only our own personal dogs, but the countless pit bull type dogs being abused, neglected, or waiting for a loving home of their own. For anyone to insinuate only criminals have "pit bulls" is a slap in the face to most pit bull owners.
Another valuable resource on the history of the demonization of pit bulls and other breeds throughout history is "The Pit Bull Placebo" by Karen Delise. The book can be downloaded for free online by going to this link: http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/publications/ncrc-publications/
There is much to be learned from history, and the fact that each generation had its own larger than life, dangerous dog, but, when you get over the hysteria and just look at the facts, most bites could be prevented if the humans involved were more knowledgeable, more caring and more careful.
Finally, we would like to leave you with a suggestion. The Niagara County SPCA and its Director, Amy Lewis, are right in your backyard. Go visit and spend some time talking to Ms. Lewis and her staff, and most important, spend some time with the dogs in their care. The article that could come of that experience is one that would prove genuinely helpful to your readers, and the dogs you are writing about.