Natural selection did not shape these animals. They were created, not evolved, but not by any loving divinity’s hand. Their ludicrously muscular bodies were given to them by humans, for the sole purpose of bloodshed in the name of entertainment. There is no other animal on Earth that has been tampered with as much as “Man’s Best Friend”. But unlike most dogs, these were not made with any good purpose in mind. They were not bred to help us work, or to protect us, or love our children, or be companions for ladies of society. We took vermin-killers, bear fighters and bulldogs and bred them into dogs that specialized in killing other dogs, purely for the vicarious satiation of human bloodlust. Their ancestors were selected for musculature, powerful jaws, quick response to their handlers and aggressiveness towards other animals.
Today these are dogs without a purpose. The “sport” of dog fighting is still around, unfortunately, but in today’s world it’s an underground phenomenon that most people despise. Very few modern pit bulls ever participate in it, and even fewer have actual jobs to do. So they have become something even worse than the dog killers they once were. They have become status symbols. Since they look, and often act, like canine gangsters, they’re now desirable accessories for human gangsters and people who wish to look like gangsters. A pit bull is easier to acquire than a Glock, and a lot cheaper than an Escalade, while projecting the same machismo and fuck-you extravagance. Walking a pit bull down the street is an easy way to show the whole neighborhood what a hard case you are, more so than just about any other dog breed.
What a lot of the gangsters and wannabes don’t seem to understand, or just don’t care about, is that dogs are living creatures that take quite a bit of work, and pits are particularly high-maintenance dogs that require expert handling. It isn’t just a matter of being tough with them, either. They need to be trained rigorously. They need space and safe areas where they can cut loose. They are prone to various health problems that need to be dealt with. These are not the kind of dogs that you come home, take out for a quick walk, pour out a bowl of food and forget about them. They are not the kind of dogs your kids can walk if you can’t be bothered. They are extremely powerful. Their instinctive response to other dogs and most other creatures is often hostile, and it takes a lot of work to socialize them properly. You need to be dedicated. You need to work with them, and you need to love them.
It might sound silly to talk about love after everything I’ve just said, but pit bulls need love just like any other pet. Love and dedication can make perfectly good pets out of these intractable, supposedly implacable killers. Pit bulls have been well-behaved family members for thousands of families. They have even been used as therapy animals, working twice as hard as any other dog in this job because they always have to cope with hordes of idiots who believe the urban legends about pits and think they can’t possibly be safe around children and sick people.
You hear stories about pit bulls, a lot of bullshit that unfairly contributes to the breed’s gangster mystique. People will tell you that their jaws lock on victims’ necks and can’t be prized open, that they will turn on their masters without any provocation, and that they have a unique innate immunity to pepper spray. None of these things are true. Pits are just dogs, and the basic mechanisms of their bodies are exactly the same as those of Chihuahuas. The problem with these dogs is not some magical killing mechanism, but temperament. We bred these guys for high pain tolerance thresholds and stubbornness. We wanted them to finish their jobs, no matter what kind of pain they were in, and after so many generations of selective breeding that’s exactly what they do. That stubborn streak, combined with poor training and social conditioning, is what makes so many pit bulls dangerous pets.
February 7, 2007: the refugees start coming in just after four o’clock, and they just don’t stop. Animal control vans from four towns line up outside our back door and start unloading the dogs. When we’ve finished the first load, they go back for another. We’re closed to regular business so that we can examine the pits, looking mostly for signs of abuse and neglect. It doesn’t take much. They are malnourished, frostbitten, dirty, bleeding from their tails, and frightened to death. Nobody loved these dogs.
This is what happens when animals become status symbols for people who don’t care about animals, laws or human decency. People breed them and keep them in unheated backyard sheds. They don’t get vaccinated, exercised or trained. They live in crates stacked up in some asshole’s shed – not for a few hours during the day, not for a two-day stay at the hospital, but for their entire lives.
Several of the dogs have severe diarrhea. Some of them are clinically emaciated. Many of them have untreated wounds. All of them have demodectic mange. Although none of them seem to have been beaten or used for dog fights, none of them have been properly cared for either. These aren’t pets. They are breeding stock – sad, scrawny animals that don’t know anything about being dogs. Only one of them, who seems to have been the owner’s original house dog, has any kind of spirit. Unfortunately, he’s a particularly nasty biter. It figures that the one dog in the bunch who was actually well fed and heated has become the worst kind of gangster dog. His owner probably thought it was cute to have an unmanageable, vicious creature for a pet.
This is typical, I’m sorry to say, of the majority of pit bull owners. Not to lump every pit bull afficionado into one group, but there is a reason why the shelters are full of pit bulls. This is the life cycle of far too many pits: guy who wants to show he is a hard case buys pit puppy from sleazy backyard-shed operation. Guy thinks it’s hilarious to see other animals (including humans) flinching away from his big fuck-off dog on the street for a while. Guy can’t be bothered to exercise dog properly or teach it anything. Guy starts getting annoyed and beating dog when said dog chews on furniture. Dog starts acting up even more than before. Dog bites guy’s girlfriend or mother. Guy gets no-sex ultimatum from girlfriend or stern mother look from mother, says fuck this and takes dog to animal shelter. Dog is never adopted because A, people are afraid of pit bulls in general, and B, this pit bull has been turned into a completely unplaceable maniac dog and could be a poster child for all those people who think pits are psychotic animals. Shelter keeps dog for a few months, then puts it down.
I hate a lot of things in this world, but my most searing hatred is reserved not for vapid TV shows or parasitic celebrities, but for people like the man who raised these malnourished pit bulls, people who mistreat animals for a quick buck and sell them into slavery. I’m not a big fan of the meat-packing industry, but at least there is a beneficial purpose behind it. I don’t understand or particularly like the cat ladies like the one they found last year with 114 cats in her house, but at least in her case I can believe that she genuinely loved her kitties. There is no such excuse for the owner of these poor pit bulls, and if I had my way he’d be locked up for ten or twenty years in the exact same conditions these thirty-seven dogs had to live in.
Want to make a difference? Eliminate these scumbags and help a neglected animal. Next time you need a pet, rescue an animal instead of going to a pet store or puppy farm. Google has over a million results for “animal rescue” and half a million for “pet rescue”. Try a localized search using those terms and your location. Search for a local greyhound rescue group (bet you never wondered what happened to retired racing greyhounds, did you?) Try Petfinder.com, or just go to your local shelter.