It’s all in how you raise them

Hi everyone! Mayzie’s mom here. Mayzie and I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday and I hope you don’t mind if I take over the blog for the day. (I promise I cleared it with Mayzie first.)

There’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. It’s a phrase. One that I hear used over and over again in regard to pit bull-type dogs. Usually by well-meaning people who want to show that they’re not prejudiced against “pit bulls” or that they understand that not all “pit bulls” are mean.

It’s all in how you raise them.

To be honest, this phrase is starting to wear on me a bit. While I  believe that dog bites are almost always due to human failure, this phrase seems to somehow imply that if a “pit bull” (or any dog for that matter) is raised by a bad owner, it will be a bad dog. And conversely, if it’s raised by a good owner, it will be a good dog.

What it fails to take into account is that dogs, like people, are individuals. And like people, some dogs are just born with faulty wiring; and even the best owner may not be able to manage that dog safely. On the other hand, some dogs are born with such a solid temperament that no matter what you do to them, they will not become violent.

To say that “it’s all in how you raise them,” doesn’t explain a dog like sweet Shelby. One who was so obviously abused and yet continues to show an enormous capacity to love and trust people.

It doesn’t explain Mayzie, who grew up as a “resident dog.” Resident dogs are different from family dogs in that they never get to be part of the family. They’re often tethered in a yard, as Mayzie was, and they aren’t properly socialized or taught what is acceptable behavior. A large percentage of biters are resident dogs, for obvious reasons.  Yet Mayzie loves people and interacts beautifully with them (even when they make unreasonable and seemingly crazy requests).

It doesn’t explain Hector, a former Vick champion fighting dog. Even though he’s covered in scars, he shows no dog aggression and is now a registered therapy dog.

And it doesn’t explain Sarge.

For the first 14 years of his life, Sarge lived with an animal abuser. Let me repeat that – he suffered FOURTEEN years of abuse. He then spent 6 months in a shelter while his abuser was prosecuted. Happily for Sarge, he was adopted by two wonderful people and now lives the good life in Philadelphia. He is also a certified therapy dog and was named the “2010 Humane Educator of the Year” by Philadelphia’s mayor. This amazing dog will turn 16 years old on September 28th. (Be sure to visit Sarge’s blog and read about his story. The blog is very short – only 2 pages long – and you can’t leave a comment. But I promise, it’ll be well worth your time.)

The thing is, there are countless dogs like the ones I’ve mentioned here who, despite their circumstances or backgrounds, are shining examples of why it’s so important to judge dogs as individuals – not on how they look or on their breed. And they are the reason why Breed Specific Legislation is just plain wrong.

There are only a few days left to make a postcard for the “Campaign to End BSL in Denver.” If you haven’t already, please send one in. It’s easy and free. It doesn’t matter if you have a dog or a cat or no pets at all. It doesn’t matter if you live near Denver or across the ocean. What matters is that we all take a stand for what is right. Dogs like Shelby and Mayzie and Hector and Sarge don’t have a voice. But together we can give them one.

Thank you, thank you. From the bottom of my heart (and Mayzie’s)  – thank you!

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