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November 29, 2005 > The Biggest Battle

The Biggest Battle

The epidemic that's killing the pit bulls

by Nancy Lyon

Last August, Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law Senate Bill 861, the first canine breed-specific legislation (BSL) in California's history. This law will allow municipalities to create ordinances regulating the breeding and sterilization of pit bulls. San Francisco is in the process of drafting such an ordinance and other cities will predictably follow suit.

What has contributed to the passage of this controversial legislation? Bad Rap is a highly reputable nonprofit pit bull organization that works to promote better understanding of pit bull guardianship - rescuing stable pit bulls and offering support and guidance to pit bull owners. In the following article, reprinted with their permission, they address the serious issues involved.

'Pit Puppies for Sale!'

Pit bulls today are fighting a very tough battle, and they're losing.

Twenty-five years ago they were a rare sight on our city streets and few people owned them. But things sure have changed. Today, their popularity is - quite literally - killing them. This one breed is being produced by thousands of people across the country at a time when very few homes will keep them beyond two years of age. The Internet is exploding with ads boasting new puppies, and everywhere you turn someone is building a new website to promote their brand new breeding venture.

The easiest way to see the casualties of this epidemic is at our local shelters where so many young adult pit bulls spend their final days. Every single day, abandoned, lost, and unwanted pit bulls pour into shelter doors; some shelters get as many as 10 a day. Most will never find homes. Bad Rap estimates that up to 20,000 pit bulls are destroyed in SF Bay Area shelters every year. The number of pit bulls BR is able to save each year is 40-50.

Why is this happening?

The problem is simple arithmetic combined with human nature. Pit bull puppies are popular, desirable and easy to sell. But pit bulls are a tough breed to own and not every home is really prepared to keep its dog for life. That once-cute pup becomes much more work as it matures into its adult size and strength, and homes give up on pit bulls all the time. It may get into its first accidental fight, landlords may evict it, it might become hard to control due to lack of training, and it may escape its yard. Many of the cute pit bull puppies sold today will end up in shelters before their second birthday. But before they go, chances are great that these same dogs will breed one or two litters of their season's shelter dogs. And the tragic cycle continues.

Whose fault is it?

The people that claim to love them the most are often the ones doing the most damage. Every single person who breeds and sells an intact (not fixed) litter and/or studs out their male dogs is contributing to the epidemic. This includes big name show kennels, "Backyard Breeders" (BYBs) who sell puppies through newspapers and Internet ads, people who breed their family pets and those who have accidental litters. It's all adding up. To make matters worse, not all of these pit bulls being produced have good genetics. This means defective dogs with undesirable traits are getting into the gene pool, hurting our breed even more.

How will it stop?

Things will only start to change when enough people decide that pit bulls deserve better. It's taken thousands of people to create this problem, and it'll take thousands to decide that enough is enough. Do you love the breed enough to want to see a change?

What if?

What if breeders decided to create fewer litters and practiced juvenile spay/neuter of all the non-show pups before they were sold? What if breeders microchipped their puppies before each sale in order to make sure they came back safely if they're ever lost? What if the registries (AKC, UKC, ADBA) decided to limit the numbers of pit bulls that could be registered each year? What if people who only wanted dogs for pets decided to rescue from reputable shelters and rescues instead of buying new puppies? What if breeders and shelters made sure that homes were 100 percent prepared to own this breed before giving them a dog?

What you can do to help:

Please don't breed! Sterilize your pit bull. There are programs that will do it for free or inexpensively. Don't support backyard breeders or show kennels that produce numerous litters.

Do some intensive breed research before you get one. You'll learn that they can be a very difficult breed to own. If you're ready to buy from a breeder, find out all you can about their reputation. Please consider the wonderful dogs in reputable rescues or shelters instead of buying.

If your female gets pregnant, BR will help you find a vet who will give her a problem-free abortion. If you're selling a litter, please spay and neuter the pups before you sell them so they can't be bred themselves. Got a friend that wants to breed? Take him through a shelter and educate him about the epidemic that's killing pit bulls.

Ohlone Humane Society supports breed neutral legislation as the way to control the pet over-population tragedy. It supports legislation that fairly addresses not only the sterilization and breeding of pit bulls but all breeds of dogs and cats.

This article is dedicated to animal shelter pit bull in "D4." Sorry big fellow that no one cared enough to come for you, or make sure you had identification, or neutered you. You were gentle and kind, taking treats softly, quietly questioning why you were there with wise eyes. Sorry you had to die.

The Ohlone Humane Society offers spay/neuter assistance to those who cannot afford the procedure for their dogs and cats - (510) 792-4590. It can also direct you to sterilization programs specifically for pit bulls.

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