PICTURE IT: YOU’RE at an outing with friends and meet the sweetest girl. You’re pretty sure that she’s interested because she keeps looking at you and wants to be near you. You talk to the people with her, and they tell you she’s looking for someone like you who likes to have a good time and spend lots of time outdoors. Then you tell them where you live, and the conversation comes screeching to an abrupt and awkward halt.
It turns out that the people you are talking to are the foster parents of the pit bull who just stole your heart, and you live in a municipality with Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL) prohibiting pits.
Breed-Specific Legislation? BSL represents a range of legislation, usually at the local level, varying from
restrictions on pet ownership to outright bans. Against pits? Sure, you’ve heard that pits have a reputation for aggression, but not this sweet girl with the sad eyes and floppy ears. How could she possibly be aggressive? She’s not, but some are, so your town has put legislation in place to outlaw pits altogether rather than promote responsible dog ownership or accountability for individual owners.
This topic is a hot button issue with many, and there are plenty of statistically-driven arguments out there. Instead, this column is a personal appeal as my partner and I adopted a pit bull named Sadie about seven months ago, and it was one of the best decisions we’ve made.
Sadie is mostly American Staffordshire Terrier (AmStaff) according to the DNA test we did on her. This breed is one of four, or five, depending on who you ask, breeds considered to be pit bulls. Some people claim that there are as many as 25 breeds considered to be pits. How can we possibly legislate against a breed of dog when we can’t even agree on what constitutes the specific breed?
The sad reality is that most dogs are judged based solely on appearance. If they have a square head and exceptional muscle tone, people assume they are pits whether they are or not. The only way to know a dog’s breed with certainty is to DNA test them.
Even if a DNA test is run, what does that prove? For us, it proved that Sadie is a highly intelligent, loyal, graceful dog that is eager to please. The test showed us that she is indeed a terrier, so stubborn streaks may show themselves from time to time, but it did not show us anything about her propensity to bite or attack unprovoked. Many studies actually indicate that AmStaffs are some of the most even tempered dogs and the least likely to attack unprovoked.
Simply put, dogs bite. Fights happen. Injuries are received. This has very little to do with a breed profile, but much to do with an individual dog’s temperament and the pack their alpha makes for them.
The moment I laid eyes on Captain Sadie Barkington, I knew I was done for. I knew in that moment that I would do whatever it took to make sure that she had the life she deserves, including speaking out against BSL and attempting to educate those who don’t understand pits. She’s a beautiful creature, and I understand what it’s like for someone to assume they know the content of my character just because of one little detail. Before we even knew it, Sadie and I already had something in common.