Monday, February 26, 2007

Speaking for Our Dogs

It's no secret that people in the animal welfare field disagree on topics related to training, favorite breeds, preferred collars. As 'pit bull people,' we're used to having frank discussions about our breed, and we welcome respectful disagreement, intelligent debate and solution-based brainstorming. After all, the media has set a dire tone, so we recognize that we're working within a very fearful belief system. We wear thick skins and stay loaded with facts, statistics and years of experience. We've become accustomed to dissecting breed myths (Locked jaws? No. Born to turn on you? Please). We work daily to share our experiences, present our dogs, offer our perspectives. We remind ourselves: Stay patient, stay calm ... Educate by example.

Recently, I received a troubling email from someone we know and respect. She explained that she was aiming to highlight the "dark side" of pit bulls and, as a non-advocate, felt that she was in the unique position to do so. As part of her goal, she is sharing a training hand out that describes pit bulls as "undesirable" and "anti-social." Strong language; stronger opinions. Because the author is a reputable leader in her field, the statements sent shock waves in our group and out in broader circles.

Link to: The Hand Out

We had lengthy internal discussions in BAD RAP about a best response. The stated opinions have the potential to be misunderstood and to bring very negative consequences to our dogs, and at a time when they're most vulnerable to those who would wish them harm.

We made a decision to go forward with an online response, and we're opening this discussion up to the public discourse in order to educate, enlighten, and create a larger dialogue on the very important subject of pit bull behaviors and temperament. The author has been alerted and if desired, can use this blog as a place to defend, discuss, dissect the opinions offered.

Viva Public Discourse!



Anonymous said...

It's saddening to me that someone who you know and respect is turning out to be a dissapointment. Shows how sometimes that respect is earned - when really there's no need for it.

Keep doing what you do - we have to keep fighting to show the truth <3

Tricia Breen said...

It's a shame that someone who is trying to fight BSL and media hysteria is being assaulted. This will not do much to help the breed and the dilemma with the public perception. To encourage responsible ownership of a dog is wrong? Should everyone own a Pit Bull or a Presa or a Border Collie or a Bloodhound? To educate people about the unscrupulous breeding is wrong? To educate people that dog parks are not for all breeds is wrong? The more we deny the need for responsible dog ownership, the more we head toward increasing BSL and restrictions on dogs.

BAD RAP Ground Crew said...


I regret that you see the response to this hand out as an assault. That was certainly not our intention.
Our goal was to outline two very different viewpoints regarding pit bull norms and standard temperament. We welcome your feedback as it relates to the hand out and our comments.


Annabelle's Second Chance Pit Bull Rescue said...

Way to go Badrap! We posted our own rebuttal to the handout as well. We applaud the Marin HS's efforts but do believe their information regarding the American Pit Bull Terrier could be more accurate.

Anonymous said...

I don't see this handout as doing anything but creating negative impressions and it's good to bring it up before people in the animal welfare community take it seriously. It's a shame that this handout is being given out on behalf of a "humane" organization. It's also too bad that someone like Trish King, who has a pit bull group like Bad Rap locally, doesn't work with them to benefit from the knowledge that anyone who works with a specific breed for so long would most surely have. Wouldn't it be more helpful for everyone to work together?

Anonymous said...

I don't see this handout as doing anything but creating negative impressions and it's good to bring it up before people in the animal welfare community take it seriously. It's a shame that this handout is being given out on behalf of a "humane" organization. It's also too bad that someone like Trish King, who has a pit bull group like Bad Rap locally, doesn't work with them to benefit from the knowledge that anyone who works with a specific breed for so long would most surely have. Wouldn't it be more helpful for everyone to work together?

BAD RAP Ground Crew said...

Thank you Anonymous

We should make it clear that BAD RAP is not at odds with the Marin Humane Society. MHS has been very welcoming and hosted our group & dogs at public workshops in their auditorium and at public outreach events on their grounds.

Our only difference is in some key beliefs regarding breed traits. We're offering this Blog so that our differences can be reviewed and discussed in an open forum.

Again, our goal is to present both viewpoints and to allow others to add their views.


Mary Harwelik said...

I was also concerned about the generalizations and inaccuracies in this handout by Trish King.

You can read the rebuttal from The Real Pit Bull Foundation by visiting the following website:

Shanda Drawdy said...

I appreciate the time and effort that went into this point by point rebuttal. It's even tone and calm manner was refreshing, as in the rescue world many "discussions" end up looking like political campaigns.

Ms. Breen, I disagree with you. The MHS handout didn't do anything to put the responsibility on the owner or attempt to weed out the sort of owners that just aren't suitable for bully breeds. What it did do was show these dogs in the most unfavorable light possible, a tactic that I can only see hurting the rates of positive interest and adoption.

I appreciate what I perceive as Ms. King's attempts to protect the breed from "unsavories" by making them seem less desirable, but this handout is just antithetical to that goal. All it can do is scare away the responsible people that could be great owners, while attracting the very people that we wish did NOT choose this breed (or any other).

Dina said...

I'm a BADRAP supporter from the East who used to be one of those hysterical pitbull haters, even though I had never met a pitbull in my life!

That was then....this is now. I have my own two rescued pitbulldogs and can't imagine ever owning another breed. I've flown out to CA and watched a Saturday morning class in Berkeley and it is more than awesome.

The BADRAP Ground Crew is very, very conscientious about matching dogs and people, understanding that there are some dogs that cannot be adopted out, because of poor breeding, or outright training for aggression, most of it the fault of humans. I am sure that responsible pitbulldog rescue would agree that those dogs need to move on to their next life in dog heaven.

I'm wondering if Marin HS might spend a little time with a Saturday morning class. There is something to be learned there.

It's very obvious that Marin County is a very different place than Berkeley or Oakland. Perhaps Marin County folks have a need to take their dog to a play-group; most responsible pitbull owners (or Jack Russell Terriers, or any of the terrier people) wouldn't dream of doing that.

I believe that your pros and cons address most of the reasons why some people should not own pitbulldogs....and if Marin County folks would like a pitbulldog, they should contact BADRAP. I'm sure that after they are thoroughly vetted, they might be allowed to adopt one of their fabulous dogs.


Mellissa said...

In response to the post above about Marin contacting BadRAP to adopt Pit Bulls

I called Marins' adoption center a few weeks ago looking for a pit bull for a friend to adopt and was told that they didn't have any at that time. They said they do adopt them out (although I have never seen any listed on their site any of the times I have looked) and the same adotion counselor told me that they send most of their pits to the Sacramento SPCA for adoption

Anonymous said...

I am deeply concerned that there is no differentiation made between human aggression and animal aggression in the Pit Bull in Trish King's handout. The media has already caused a false/negative impression of this breed in the public eye by not making this distinction. As professionals we need to work together with the knowledge we have to help the Pit Bull, not publicize confusing and unproven information causing more prejudice and neglect of this breed.

Mary Campbell said...

I have read and re-read the handout and the response and I am saddened that just as we seem to make some progress with education about this breed a person of stature presents this information as fact. I would first like to say I do not own a pit bull, but that is because my life style doesn't support a breed who requires the socialization and energy that they need and deserve. I don't own a lab or retriever or any other large breed for the same reason. I do however spend many hours a week as a dog socializer at a local shelter with many many pitbulls and pit mixes and have helped many of them find good loving homes. I have never in the 3 years I have been doing this had even one problem with one of them. I am proud that I have even worked with some of those who needed extra help to become the loving pets they are now. I came into this with just as many fears as the next person, but when I got my first up close and personal interaction with one of these big scary dogs and was promptly covered with kisses my fears were erased and I haven't looked back. I will not elaborate on some of my negative experiences with other breeds..that is neither here nor there. Sadly not all dogs that come into the shelter or rescues are adoptable, no matter what the breed, does that mean that an entire breed should be banned from rescue?? I think not. Thank you Bad Rap for all that you do to help educate and promote this breed in an honest forthright manner.

kevinr said...

If this is an open dialog with Trish King I would like to ask her about these statements made; "the tendency to chase things that move (...people)", and "the tendency to try and dominate other animals or people by body slamming, mounting,..physically controlling them"
Trish, do you have supporting evidence to these claims? Where did you get this information from?
I have been a volunteer at a South Bay Shelter for almost 4 years, putting in over 1000 hours of dog handling/dog socialization. A majority of the dogs I take out are pit bulls. Not ONCE has a pit bull tried to mount me. Not ONCE has a pit bull tried to body slam or physically control me. This includes unaltered males, and pit bulls in groups up to 4 (with 2 people present).
Trish, I'll be looking forward to the answers to the questions above. Thank You.

Anonymous said...

I have two pit-bulls and have been friends with several more. My dogs love children, have truly amazing self-control, have never shown any aggression towards people or other dogs and exhibit all of the positive bully traits like dovotion to me, desire to please, focus, enthusiasm, energy, and intelligence. I adopted both from the Oakland Animal Shelter. It makes me really sad to know that Trish King, someone with a respected voice in this community and who has an influence on others, would write something so irresponsible and biased. It makes it sound like pit-bulls just aren't welcome in Marin.

Anonymous said...

The Handout states:
--the tendency to chase things that move (animals, people, etc.)
--the ability and tendency to bite and hold on
--the tendency to try and dominate other animals or people by body slamming, mounting and otherwise physically controlling them.
--Uncontrollable arousal or excitement

I see Sue Sternberg here BIG TIME! Does anybody agrees with it? I wonder if they have attended her seminars? It is great that BadRad caught it and gave out the right information to them. I am not a fan of Ms. SS as you can see and I believe she's promoting a bad image and destruction of the bully breeds. This is a FYI for the ones who haven't heard of her.

Paul said...

Two years ago I knew nothing of pit bulls at all. While still in college I got one b/c we wanted a dog that didn't shed. Although thats mostly true I never fell for a dog the way I did with my Pit. People should know and respect their strength and power, but also they should learn to respect the fact they are great dogs for a family a single person, I even read stories of them being rehab dogs in nursing homes as well as working dogs. It's pure raceisim. If we are to believe the over hyped perception of a pit bull then we might as well say all black people are from the hood and have guns,white people in a trailer parks are all trash, and every mexican is in the U.S. illegally.

Anonymous said...

I never had any feelings one way or the other as far as American Pit Bull Terriers were concerned until I got mine 3 years ago. I got him when he was 7 weeks old and absolutely fell in love with him. I have had dogs my entire life- all types of dogs, and loved every one of them like part of the family. Out of all of the different breeds I have had, I have never had such a loving, mild-tempered dog. He goes to my mom's (his gamma's) house during the day while I am working and is around all 5 of her small dogs. He loves to go to her house and play with them and he comes home with scratches on HIM from the smaller dogs. He is very much aware that they are smaller than him and allows them to bully him around. My youngest brother is usually there (he is 7 and has been around him since age 4) and he loves to play with him. For goodness sakes, my brother literally rides my 65 pound pit down the hallway. They love to play like this together, I have so many pictures of Simba (my dog) sleeping with me, my mom, my brothers, smaller dogs, even my and my mother's kittens!! I absolutely love my baby and literally treat him like he is my child, because to me he is. I will never own any other breed of dog. It's a shame that people are so stereotypically judging this amazing breed. It's all in the way the OWNERS RAISE THE DOG---- it's in no way, shape, or form the entire breeds fault.

Jesse said...


I'm glad you have a level head about this. For me, the Marin County handout is very troubling to me. I have been actively involved with abused pitbull rescue for over a decade now and the Marin County handout sounds just like a little less negative than a standard BS local media report. I mean no disrespect to Trish King and I'm sure she is great with all breeds, but there in lies the issue, jack of all trades, master of none. Yes, there could be some of the traits she is referring to in the bully breed, but often is in the vast minority. In addition, those traits can also be found in any breed in minority. She is essentially engaging in a profiling tactic, whether she thinks she is writing an unbiased article or not. It is sad that we as Bully lovers constantly have to face this widespread onslaught. I thought the Vick news would finally put our breed in a glowing light, but the positive press is still lacking compared to the negative. I live in fear that one day BSL will win and then the proponents of BSL will finally realize this is the best breed on earth. On another note, thank you for what you do. Often, when I engage in a "discussion" with someone who is anti-Pit and I cannot get through to them with words, I tell them to go your website. I then say to talk to me when the get educated properly as opposed to every fear-mongering media outlet site that they read. Thanks, Jesse

Anonymous said...

A year ago, I rescued a 4 month old blue nosed pit, and he is absolutely adorable. He friendly, fun and get along with the other 3 dogs. To this day I have never experienced any aggression, he just wants to play and have fun!He is the sweetest dog and I love him to death. I just wish that more people would realize what a wonderful breed they are and how loving and loyal they can be. It is sad to see how some people avoid us when we go for a walk, and I try to tell as many people as I can about how great these dogs are and how misinformed the public is. I do not believe there are bad breeds of dogs, just bad owners.