Stigma plays an important role in the way pit bulls are viewed today. Self Care Club founder, Dani Ashley has felt the effects of stigma first-hand, which is why she has a passion for breaking it down, especially when it's unwarranted. You can hear more about what Dani had to say while presenting a gift to the Missouri Pit Bull Rescue (MPR) at their Gala this year. To understand stigma and how it impacts pit bulls, it's important to learn the history on how it developed.
Hunting, sheep herding, and guarding are a few examples of tasks that dogs were originally trained to perform based on breed. However, today, many dog breeds perform very different tasks than what they initially had. Golden Retrievers, for example, often act as service dogs now, when they were originally bred to retrieve downed birds. The difference between then and today can be attributed to behavioral variation and training. The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) points out that "while a dog’s genetics may predispose it to perform certain behaviors, tremendous behavioral variation exists among individuals of the same breed or breed type."
Unfortunately, pit bulls have been stigmatized by the mass media, being portrayed as an overall aggressive breed. This contributes to restrictions on pit bulls to not allow them as pets in certain cities, neighborhoods, or rental properties. The reasoning behind this seems rather outdated when you look into the development of the pit bull breed. Originally, it was the English bulldog that was trained to bite and hold large animals, such as bulls. Baiting was eventually outlawed in the 1800's, when people then switched to dog fighting and began breeding pit bulls with terriers to increase athleticism. Only some went on to fight, while others went on to work and serve as companions. The role these dogs served in was based on behavioral tendency. Even if they were aggressive and went on to fight, aggression toward humans was not tolerated and resulted in euthanasia, which prevented this undesirable trait from passing on to following pit bull generations.
Fast forward to today, where many pit bulls are fun-loving and exhibit characteristics of loyalty, gentleness, and affection, it's no surprise they've been coined the "nanny dog". Of course, each dog should be treated as an individual and handled responsibly with proper socializing and training. Because pit bulls are so eager to please, positive training works wonders with these dogs. "Show them great enthusiasm when they do something good and they will repeat it just to see that look on your face, again and again (MO Pit Bull Rescue)."
The problem posed by stigma associated with pit bulls is the difficulty in getting these animals adopted. Even when a good family wants to adopt a pit bull, they must comply with policies in the area where they reside. With so many restrictions, many pit bulls are without a home. When it wasn't pit bulls being stigmatized and restricted, another breed was targeted, including Great Danes and Siberian Huskies (Psychology Today).
To help end pit bull stigma, Dani Ashley supports Missouri Pit Bull Rescue so it can continue providing education and advocacy, help change laws that unfairly discriminate against pit bulls, and ultimately make it possible for these amazing animals to find their way into loving homes. If you live in the KC area and would like to help MPR, you can volunteer with Self Care Club on Sunday, March 10th at noon, volunteer on your own, sign up to foster, or apply more specific skills for areas such as grant writing. Donations are also appreciated. Peanut butter, high-efficiency laundry detergent, and bleach are always needed, along with other items on the MPR wishlist. Please email email@example.com for more information on ways to get involved.
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Sending love, healing, and self-care,
The Self Care Club Team