WASHINGTON – News reporters are supposed to be neutral when covering a story. The late Peter Jennings would wholeheartedly agree. But I must give you a full disclaimer before I get into the story I’m covering: I’m biased.
That’s because I know what I’m talking about.
The story concerns pit bulls and the latest ruling from the Maryland appellate court that says “pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls are inherently dangerous.”
I own a pit bull, and for the past 12 years have owned and operated a boarding facility for dogs. I have boarded over a thousand dogs, so I think I have a little experience when it comes to them, their breeds and their behavior.
Pit bulls get a bad rap, and it’s not just me saying this. I went to Frederick County’s animal control division to speak with a couple of animal control officers recently. After all, they see their fair share of dogs, good and bad. One of the officers I spoke with, Mike Douglas, owns a pit bull himself. He says it’s the owners, not the dogs, who are at fault when it comes to the behavior of their dogs. I spoke to four control officers, and without fail no one bad-mouthed the breed.
I am not discounting the tragedies with dogs that we hear and read about in the press — the child who was killed by the family dog, or a renegade dog who got loose from his yard and attacked a bystander. These are sensational stories and they get our attention. But what doesn’t get our attention is what’s behind them.
Did we know that the owner of this dog kept him in an enclosure for 12 hours a day? Did we know that the dog was disciplined with a belt or was beaten when he did something wrong? No, we didn’t hear that. We just heard about the attack.
When you only hear one side of a story, you can come up with the wrong conclusion. A poodle bit my child, so all poodles are bad. This is how it starts. This is how reputations are made.
My pit bull’s name is Diesel. He’s 7 years old. I met Diesel as a client. He was owned at the time by a young lady who boarded Diesel with me for about 10 days. Diesel was the sweetest dog I had ever boarded. He had personality, and he was loving. When the young lady came to pick up Diesel, I told her that if she ever had the insane thought of getting rid of him, she should please call me first.
Two weeks later, she did. She was breaking up with a boyfriend and moving back home with her father, who lived in a condo where Diesel couldn’t live. I took him in, and I’ve never been sorry about it.
One day after Diesel came to live with me, I had a handyman working on the house. He came up the back to where my deck is — which is where Diesel hangs out (he can see the squirrels better there). All of a sudden, Diesel saw the handyman and went crazy. I called the young lady who gave me Diesel and told her about what happened.
“Was your handyman wearing a baseball hat?” she asked.
When I told her he was, she explained that Diesel’s owner before her had abused him, burned his ears with cigars and had even tried to shoot him. He also wore a baseball hat. She had intervened and took Diesel away.
There is a reason for a dog’s behavior, and nine out of nine times, it’s because of how they’ve been treated and trained.
Pit bulls are the bad dog flavor of the decade. In the 70s, it was German shepherds; in the 80s, it was Dobermans; 90s, Rottweilers; and now, it’s pit bulls.
The truly sad aspect of the appellate court’s decision is that because of it, hundreds, if not thousands, of homeless pit bulls will never get a loving home. They’ve been smeared, and needlessly so.
In the days to come, a lot of organizations that understand pit bulls will rally to try and educate the court about the breed and its behavior. There are bad people in our world and there are bad dogs, but don’t label every person or dog bad because of a few.
In conclusion, with all the dogs that I’ve boarded over years — including Great Danes, Rhodesian ridgebacks, pit bulls, Dobermans, etc. — I have only been bitten four times. All by Chihuahuas.