Truth be told, the night I brought Romeo home I felt an uneasiness in the pit of my stomach, as if I was in over my head fostering this guy. Here I was with this strong, big-headed American Pit Bull Terrier who didn’t know me from Adam, and I was nervous. Before we called it a night he gently rested his head on my lap and looked up at me peacefully with those gorgeous, soulful eyes.
The only thought I had was, please don’t bite my head off.
I sit here, 7 months later, ashamed to admit that. For he has not only become someone I love dearly but a reason to fight for something I didn’t know I would believe so much in: Pit Bulls.
And what I’ve learned is they need as many people fighting for them as possible.
Sadly, pit bulls and pit bull mixes are the most euthanized dog breed among shelters in America. In Franklin county alone, where Romeo was surrendered, more than half of the 2,462 pit bulls that were impounded in 2014 got euthanized. Of the 1,288 that were euthanized, only 69 were by the owner’s request.
That means 1,219 were killed because there was not enough room for them or because they were simply considered pit bulls. Imagine what those numbers would be if we took all shelters in the United States into account. Maybe that’s why it comes at no surprise that approximately 1 million pit bulls are euthanized annually.
One of America’s most popular breed has the hardest time finding a place to call home.
This dilemma is something advocates, rescue organizations and pit bull lovers have been fighting day in and day out for years now. Undoing stereotypes and judgments that have cost these creatures their lives can feel incredibly challenging when we have a society conditioning us to believe these animals should be feared, just like I was.
But there are ways to help that can make a real difference. A difference that can not only save many of these wonderful dogs’ lives but help shift the common belief that pit bulls are innately dangerous dogs and should be banned.
Here are a few ways you can help.
- Be a responsible owner. The problem is not the breed. The problem is who’s hands these dogs land in. Be responsible! Get to know and understand your pit bull’s strengths and weaknesses and then provide the right environment to work on them. Offer them daily exercise and have boundaries and rules in place.
- Educate. A great way to off balance the fear people have of pit bulls is by education. Slowly but surely the stigma is being lifted and there are many resources online that offer a new perspective of these dogs. Here are a few of my favorite posts from Buzzfeed that will be easy to share to friends and family.
- Share your story. As important and an intrinsic part of the uphill battle we face to end pit bull discrimination, educating people with facts and statistics is not going to be enough. “Facts tell, stories sell.” When I got Romeo I had a good handful of people on my Facebook page tell me how uneasy pit bulls made them feel yet by seeing Romeo’s new life with me, it has slowly made them question their own beliefs about this breed. It’s beyond gratifying to know my dog can make a small difference in this and so can yours, so share your story!
I think it’s safe to say we all know what it’s like to walk around being judged and discriminated against, in one way or another. What I can’t imagine is losing my life over it but sadly these amazing, loyal, playful, protective, goofy, happy little creatures face that every single day.
Let’s come together and help change the world’s view of pit bulls. After everything this breed has been through – dog fighting, neglect, abuse, abandonment – I can’t find a more deserving breed who needs an army of people to be their voice.
Will you use yours for them?