The Dangers of Dog Breed Labeling

pitbull-story sweet faceWhile this isn’t about “our” breed, we feel it is important to think about.

For generations, the pit bull’s affectionate nickname was the “nanny dog.” Today, the pit bull is the dog most likely to be shot by the police. For generations, families wanting a loving, dependable and protective babysitter for their children chose a pit bull. Today, the pit bull is considered by many to be the most dangerous and ferocious of dogs. For generations, the pit bull was known for its gentleness, loyalty and reliability. Today, the pit bull is the prime target of so-called Breed Specific Legislation.

What has changed yesterday’s beloved family pet into today’s object of hatred and fear? Perception.

While “pit-bull type” dogs are the ones most commonly labeled “dangerous,” many other breeds have been labeled dangerous as well, including the Alaskan Malamute, American Bulldog, Boxer, Cane Corso, Chow Chow, Dalmatian, Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Great Dane, Rottweiler, Saint Bernard and Siberian Husky.

Why then, is the pit bull being so strategically targeted? Is it because their ancestral roots lay in fighting, when breeding for aggression was considered essential? Is it because some of today’s unscrupulous breeders have selectively perpetuated these aggressive traits for their own nefarious purposes? Is it because they have become the stereotypical “poster pets” for fighting dogs, mistreated dogs, abandoned dogs? Is it because too many mixed-breed dogs look like, and are, all too often, mistaken for actual pit bulls?

Sadly, choose any or all of the above, and you would be right.

What about the responsible breeders who breed pit bulls with good temperaments? What about the mixed-breed dog with that “certain look” which has absolutely no bearing on its real personality? Once again: perception. The foundation of which is built on half-truths, anecdotal accounts, word-of-mouth and hastily, if faultily, drawn conclusions.

Perhaps the most telling of all is the assumption that “pit bull type” dogs are, in fact, actual pit bulls. Studies have shown that people who report either witnessing a dog attack or having been attacked themselves could NOT positively identify the dog as an actual pit bull. The truth is that any breed or mixed breed of dog can be aggressive. Labeling a breed as dangerous can be just as dangerous as the label itself. All too often, it gives people a false sense of security around other, supposedly, safe breeds. Everyone should, instead, be educated about responsible dog ownership and proper bite prevention measures.

In most shelters across North America, the majority of dogs are mixed breeds of unknown parentage. Nonetheless, it’s commonplace for the staff to GUESS at a dog’s breed based solely on appearance. Guessing at a breed is — again — as dangerous as labeling a breed dangerous. Why? Because of its serious implications. Because it impacts the welfare of hundreds of thousands of dogs in regards to the law, landlords, insurance companies, and service providers. It even affects the policies and adoption practices of humane societies and the animal shelters themselves.                   

Animal experts and behaviorists have cautioned for years that neither visual identification nor DNA test results can accurately predict a dog’s future behavior. For that, they conclude, “we must look at the individual dog.”

Author: Nomi Berger

A Year of Rescue Resolutions For You

Cute havanese puppy dog is wearing a Happy New Year top hatHave you thought of adding some new and different resolutions to your traditional New Year’s list?

Have you ever thought of getting involved in the world of the rescue, but didn’t quite know how?

Here then, are twelve different ways – one for each month of the year – for you to resolve to make a difference in the lives of rescue animals this year. Even if you choose only one, that choice will make all the difference in the world. 

  1. Contact your local humane society or animal shelter and volunteer your services to them: from office work, to cleaning cages and kennels, to being a dog walker once a week. 
  1. Donate a basket or bag containing such items as food, treats, toys and pee pads, together with either new or your own dog’s gently used collars and leashes, clothes and blankets to that same humane society or shelter. 
  1. Contact a local rescue organization and ask to volunteer for them. Volunteers form the backbone of every non-profit group, and no group can function without them. Areas always in need of extra hands include web site assistance, updating email lists, attending adoption events, planning and attending fundraisers, distributing flyers, pamphlets and brochures, and transporting animals to and from vet appointments. 
  1. Select one particular rescue online that “speaks to you” and make a monetary contribution to them – either as a onetime payment or as recurring monthly payments. 
  1. Read about the other ways you can donate to them – from wish lists to links to various online stores’ web sites – and purchase items both for yourself and them that way. 
  1. Follow that particular rescue’s Face Book page, and both “like” them and “share” their postings on social media on an ongoing basis. 
  1. Instead of accepting birthday gifts this year, ask your friends and family to make contributions to that rescue in your name. 
  1. Host a small fundraiser (bake sales, garage sales and yard sales are among the most popular) and donate the proceeds to that rescue. You will receive not only their gratitude, but a tax receipt as well. 
  1. At your place of work, keep a container on your desk with the name of that rescue on it, and encourage your co-workers to deposit their spare change in it. Once the container is full, bring the change to the bank (already rolled, please), mail a check to the rescue, and begin again. 
  1. Sign petitions, both online and in person: one calling for legislation to ban puppy mills, and one calling on pet stores to stop selling dogs and cats. 
  1. Foster a dog from a shelter or rescue. Learn precisely what’s required of you, then welcome one very needy and deserving animal into your home temporarily, until he or she can be placed in a permanent home. 
  1. Adopt a rescue dog and save two lives – the life of the one you are adopting, and the life of the one who will immediately take his or her place. 

As for next year? Either continue working your way down this list, or resolve to draw up one of you own.

Author: Nomi Berger