Shelter is reopened. Click here to read an important update on the Canine Distemper Virus outbreak.

I’m only sharing this so that you all can know some facts, from an animal sheltering standpoint, about Pit Bulls and the challenges they face.

The Humane Society of Greenwood operates the local County Animal Shelter and it is the only animal intake facility in the County. As such, we can provide much valuable, insightful first-hand information concerning Pit Bulls. In 2012, 505 dogs identified by staff to be American Pit Bull Terriers, American Bulldogs, American Staffordshire Terriers or some variation of mix of those breeds entered the Greenwood County facility. The number of bite or scratch incidents suffered by employees from by any of those dogs was zero. (The majority of injuries was caused by cats and Chihuahuas.)

Sadie the Valentine's Day Fairy (683x1024)
Sincere A17968154 123112 (778x1024)

Our organization has been working tirelessly for ten years to portray the Pit Bull breed for what it naturally is – extremely loving and loyal — and to debunk misperceptions to the contrary created by misuse of the dogs through fighting and other illegal activities. It’s only been in the past four years that we actually began placing Pit Bulls and mixes in our Adoption Area. We hadn’t done it in the past because of fear created through media hype or they drew interest from those who wanted to breed them and perpetuate their exploitation. As a result, the majority of these dogs were being euthanized — not because they were dangerous, but because nobody wanted them.

After the Michael Vick scandal in 2007, and awareness about the breed’s true loving personality surfaced, people started to embrace Pit Bulls. Our organization, along with thousands of other animal welfare agencies throughout the U.S., began to see an upsurging of interest from people wanting to adopt them as family pets. Campaigns and new organizations have formed throughout the world devoted to education about the breed and to protect them from being persecuted. Unfortunately for now, there are still many humans who breed the dog for wrong reasons or train them to be vicious. But by nature, they are not. In fact, at the turn of the 20th century, Pit Bulls were the American icon dog. (Remember Petey from The Little Rascals?) (see attached article from one of our past newsletters)

There are more effective paths toward a solution than perpetuating fear of the breed. All dog owners need to be keenly aware of their pet’s behavior and take note of any indication if and when their dog behaves aggressively. Don’t wait until a tragic event occurs to take action! Visit your vet for a possible a medical cause. Enlist the help of a professional dog obedience trainer. Spaying or neutering your pets can also reduce the likelihood of aggression.

Here are some thought-provoking bite statistics published by the American Humane Society:

  • An estimated 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S. each year
  • Nearly 800,000 dog bites require medical care
  • Approximately 92% of fatal dog attacks involved male dogs, 94% of which were not neutered
  • Approximately 25% of fatal dog attacks involved chained dogs
  • Approximately 71% of bites occur to the extremities (arms, legs, hands, feet)
  • Approximately two-thirds of bites occurred on or near the victim’s property, and most victims knew the dog
  • At least 25 different breeds of dogs have been involved in the 238 dog-bite-related fatalities in the U.S.

And just as important, people need to realize they are many times culpable for sustaining an injury by an animal. There are many common sense ways to avoid getting bit or scratched. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention: “4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, and one in five dog bites results in injuries that require medical attention. There are ways to make dog bites less likely and to help prevent children from being bitten by dogs.” They state that those more likely to get bit are children, adult males, and people who have dogs in their home. There are many tips to keep people safe, but the most important one is NEVER APPROACH AN UNFAMILIAR DOG.

Our board of directors, staff, volunteers, and supporters all hope that the sudden interest in publicizing “news” about isolated incidences of this one breed won’t take us backwards in our efforts. (You should check out how many kittens and small dogs are quarantined each year for biting people.) We’re trying diligently to find homes for dogs like, Marion, Sadie, and Sincere. We will continue to help them and pray they won’t have to be euthanized because of the resurrected fear many people will be sure to embrace.

Let’s educate, not discriminate.

Karen Pettay
Executive Director
Humane Society of Greenwood
Greenwood, SC

UPDATE: Sadie, Marion, and Sincere were both adopted the week after the recent articles were published.