Michael Vick gets second chance; Pit Bulls deserve one too

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Tito is a friendly young Pit waiting for his own second chance at the Pennsylvania SPCA in Philadelphia

As you may have heard, convicted dogfighter Michael Vick has signed a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Vick served 23 months in federal prison on charges of conspiracy and running a dogfighting operation. Announcing the deal, Eagles coach Andy Reid told reporters: “I’m a believer that as long as people go through the right process, they deserve a second chance.”

While the dogs killed by Vick’s dogfighting associates and Vick himself, as several commenters have pointed out will never get their own second chance, many of the Pit Bulls rescued from Bad Newz Kennels have. For some of their stories, check out
the incredible work done by BAD RAP
in Oakland, CA.

But they’re not the only Pits in need. There are at this moment 11,751 Pit Bull Terriers and 3,851 American Staffordshire Terriers available for adoption on Petfinder.

How can you help?

  • Adopt a Pit Bull. I am a proud rescued-Pit parent, as are my mother, several coworkers and many of my neighbors. They are devoted, affectionate and joy-inducing pets with as great a range in personality as any other breed. As with dogs of any breed, not every Pit is perfect for every family. Read more about things to think about if you’re thinking of adopting a Pit Bull after the jump.
  • Volunteer with Pit Bulls. At many city shelters, Pits and Pit mixes make up the overwhelming majority of the canine residents, and because Pits have been bred to bond closely with humans, the isolation of shelter life is particularly hard for them. You can visit the shelter to help exercise and socialize the dogs; open your home to a foster dog; photograph and write bios for local adoptable dogs’ Petfinder profiles; start a bedding drive at your office to collect old blankets and towels to donate … the possibilities are endless. For more ideas, read our article on volunteering or visit BAD RAP’s How You Can Help page.
  • Educate others about Pit Bulls. Once you’ve fallen in love with a Pit (and to know one is to love one), you’ll start to notice how many offhand Pit-Bull stereotypes people throw around in everyday conversation (and I’m not just talking about Sarah Palin). Learn the facts about Pits and you’ll be able to shoot down the myths (no, they do not have locking jaws). Some great resources include Petfinder’s book The Adopted Dog Bible (you’ll find an excerpt, Pit Bulls: The Myths, the Legends, the Reality, after the jump), as well as BAD RAP’s Monster Myths page, Pit Bull Rescue Central’s breed info page and Animal Farm Foundation’s Fear vs. Fact document. (All three sites are excellent, and I’d encourage you to click around on them.)

A Pit Bull’s best friend is the responsible dog owner who allows the well-socialized, happy Pit to be an ambassador for the breed. Unlike Michael Vick, Pit Bulls don’t need a multi-million-dollar contract. A loving home, a warm dog bed and plenty of pets are the second chance they need — and deserve.

The following is excerpted from the article “Pit Bulls” by Certified Pet Dog Trainer Jacque Lynn Schultz. Read the full article in the Petfinder library.

If you’re thinking about adopting a Pit Bull …

  • Dog-to-dog aggression is a serious issue with this breed.
    While early socialization is important for all puppies, it is
    essential for Pit puppies. But your best efforts cannot
    override a dog’s genetics. Some Pits will become dog-aggressive
    when they reach social maturity (two to three years of age)
    regardless of early experience. A Pit Bull that doesn’t like
    other dogs cannot be let loose to exercise in dog runs or other
    public areas. Unless fenced in, they must always be on lead and
    under the control of a responsible adult. If engaged in a
    fight, they are capable of severely injuring or killing another
    dog. Some are also dangerous around cats. Choose carefully if
    you have other pets at home.
  • Many Pit Bulls are extremely social dogs with humans and
    especially delight in children. However, due to strength and
    exuberance, in most circumstances they are generally best
    placed with older children.
  • Pit Bulls are enthusiastic learners. They enjoy trick
    training and many graduate at the head of their obedience
  • As a Pit Bull owner, you are likely to experience breed
    discrimination. Legislation may prohibit you from living in
    certain communities. Landlords may bar you from their
    buildings; neighbors will shoot you disdainful looks, and
    homeowners insurance will be harder to find. Before you adopt,
    call your local City Hall, Bureau of Animal Affairs or animal
    shelter to find out about laws pertaining to your neighborhood.
    If Pit Bulls are forbidden, you will be forced to either move
    or relinquish your pet. However, if you are prepared, you know
    your local laws, and if a Pit Bull is a good fit for your
    family, don’t let this discourage you from adopting the dog
    described by more than one owner as “eager to please, loves to
    work and only wants to make us happy.”
  • Hardy, tenacious dogs, Pit Bulls are moderately active
    indoors and extremely energetic when outdoors. Be prepared to
    spend a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes twice a day engaged in
    aerobic level activities such as Frisbee tossing, bicycle
    road-working or agility coursework with your dog. Without
    suitable exercise, they are more likely to be destructive.

The following is excerpted from The Adopted Dog Bible by our own Kim Saunders. Learn more about this excellent book, including where to buy it, here.

Pit Bulls: The Myths, the Legends, the Reality

Mention the
words “Pit Bull” and
an intense debate
will almost inevitably
follow. Unscrupulous
by less-than-upstanding citizens,
negatively sensationalized (and often
false) media
accounts, and longstanding
surrounding these
types of dogs have
led to their vilification.

Some people,
in response to misperceptions
the breed, believe
that all Pit Bull-type
dogs are to be
feared and promote
banning these
breeds. Pit Bull advocates,
deeply dedicated to protecting dogs they know to be friendly,
loyal, loving family companions, can be as tenacious as the dogs to whom
they are dedicated.

The general term “Pit Bull” refers to a number of breeds and mixes,
including American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers,
Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Bull Terriers, American Bulldogs, and any dogs
made up of or resembling these breeds. Pit Bulls are physically powerful,
strong, agile, and energetic dogs with an unrivaled joie de vivre. They are
also known for the determination they bring to any task. These traits can sometimes combine to make the Pit Bull “too much dog” for an inexperienced
pet parent or a family with small children, but that certainly
doesn’t mean that they can’t be loving, wonderful dogs in the right

Let’s take a look at some common Pit Bull myths and the corresponding

Myth: Pit Bulls have locking jaws and a higher biting power than other

Reality: There are no unique mechanisms in the jaws of Pit Bulls, and
these dogs cannot lock their jaws. Additionally, in a test of biting pressure
that included a German Shepherd Dog, a Rottweiler, and an American Pit
Bull Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier had the least amount of bite

Myth: Pit Bulls are vicious to people or more dangerous than other

Reality: There is no room for human aggression in a behaviorally
sound Pit Bull, and the reality is that most Pit Bulls are not aggressive
toward people; many are extremely sociable and adore children. A Pit
Bull who passes a behavioral evaluation poses no more of a threat to
people than any other large dog. The American Temperament Test (see
The American Temperament Society at www.atts.org) shows that Pit
Bulls consistently score above the average for all breeds tested over
the years. As of December 2007, American Pit Bull Terriers had a pass
rate of 84.3 percent compared to a pass rate for all breeds tested of
81.6 percent.

Myth: Adopting a Pit Bull is the same as adding any other type of dog to
your family.
Reality: While behaviorally sound Pit Bulls make excellent family companions,
the reality is that adopting a Pit Bull does require some special

  • Dog-to-dog aggression can be an issue with these dogs, and
    despite your best socialization efforts, a Pit Bull may become dog
    aggressive upon reaching maturity (roughly two years old). This will
    affect your ability to have other pets in your home as well as your
    responsibility for ensuring that your dog never has the opportunity
    to injure someone else’s beloved pet.
  • Pit Bulls face misunderstanding and prejudice from many people
    who do not know much about them, so adopting one requires a
    willingness to consider your friends’ and neighbors’ concerns and
    to educate them about Pit Bulls in general and your dog in particular.

Prejudice and discrimination can extend beyond individuals, and in
some places can include local legislation banning Pit Bulls from the community.
Be sure to check local laws before adopting and before moving
with your Pit Bull. Securing homeowners’ insurance can also be more of a
challenge if you live with a Pit Bull, but there are insurance companies that
do not discriminate based on the breed of dog.

The reality is that, as with all breeds, there are great Pit Bulls and Pit
Bulls who — due to poor breeding, handling, or socialization — are not suitable
as pets. While we urge shelters and rescue groups to perform a
behavioral assessment on all dogs who enter their programs, it is particularly
important to be sure that this has been done with the Pit Bull you are
going to adopt. While a mistake in judgment with even a small dog can
have serious consequences, a similar mistake with a large, strong breed
such as a Pit Bull (or Akita, Rottweiler, Mastiff, Labrador Retriever, etc.) can
be deadly.

If you are prepared, know your local laws, and have decided that a Pit
Bull is a good fit for your family, do consider adopting one from a shelter or
rescue group who carefully evaluates their dogs. My adopted dog Mojo
possesses the characteristic Pit Bull enthusiasm, determination, energy,
love of life, and smile that the breed is known for. His stubbornness is
sometimes a challenge for my other dogs and me. At times they have difficulty convincing him that they really don’t want to play tug again. Likewise,
I often cannot convince him that having him sit on my lap and lick my
face is not my favorite thing in the whole world (but, truth be told, it’s not
far from it!).

The Adopted Dog Bible