For Their Guardians, Pit Bull Awareness Is A Year-Round Battle

By Alexandra Beane — October 26, 2012

A recent offhand remark by daytime TV host Kelly Ripa about pit bulls caused a Twittersphere and online frenzy from pit bull guardians who found their oft-maligned dogs once again insulted (and during National Pit Bull Awareness Month, no less). In an interview with actor Christopher Walken about his new film, Seven Psychopaths, in which a dog is kidnapped, Ripa said, “But the gangster’s dog is uh, I mean if it’s a gangster, it would have to be a dangerous, uh, pit bull kind of dog, right?” (The dog is actually a Shih Tzu.)

However, such comments are the least of the problems for people who share their lives and homes with their beloved pit bulls. Over 700 U.S. cities, 38 states, and 37 countries have breed-specific laws that cover pit bulls and other breeds such as dobermans and rottweilers. Many cities ban pit bulls completely, some have mandatory sterilization laws, and others have declared them “vicious” or “dangerous.”  Just this August, Miami-Dade County Florida citizens voted by nearly a 2-to-1 margin to retain a ban on owning pit bulls after local legislators voted overwhelmingly to repeal the ban.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), citing a study by the American Veterinary Medical Association, asserts that these breed-specific laws do not work. “Restrictions placed on a specific breed fail to address the larger problems of abuse, aggression training, and irresponsible dog ownership….[B]reed alone is not an adequate indicator of a dog’s propensity to bite.” The HSUS points to the importance of early socialization, training, and the importance of raising a dog as part of “a loving human family.”

Bias against pit bulls and other breeds deemed “dangerous” can also impact a dog guardian’s ability to get homeowners insurance. According to, “Some home insurance companies have lists of breeds and crossbreeds they will not insure; other insurers consider such breeds on a case-by-case basis, or charge more for certain ‘biting’ breeds such as pit bulls. Some home insurers require dog owners to sign liability waivers for dog bites.” According to the Animal Law Coalition, the American Kennel Club (AKC) has programs where a dog can earn a Canine Good Citizen certificate that will allow the guardian to get homeowners insurance. “Other dog training programs may work as well. You just have to talk to your insurance agent.”

Reacting to a headline that a presidential candidate was “taking a pit bull approach, “Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan, whose pit bulls Daddy and Junior have helped him over the years in his mission to rehabilitate dogs and train people, “Maybe the next time you hear about someone ‘going pit bull’ they’ll mean being kind, loving, and protective.”


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