Growing up, I remember being afraid of large dogs - until I had my own beautiful Husky-German Shepard rescue. As humans, we often fear the unknown, deeming things as frightening until we experience them for ourselves. We are flawed, we are biased and, most of the time, that’s okay. However, the scientist, factual, academic side of me was repulsed by the biased projection onto pit bulls by TIME magazine (link here)
My heart breaks at the sight of the dog on the cover of the article - his or her eyes are so soft and tender. It breaks my heart because my best pooch-pals are pit bulls or pitty mixes, and the article’s description of the breed is, among other things, horribly inaccurate, biased, misinformed, ignorant and misleading. The picture they paint isn’t of a specific dangerous breed, but rather it’s the portrait of a ill trained dog, an unfortunate circumstance or an improper handler. However, the general population lacks proper education on pit bulls (what is a pit bull? how many breeds fall under this term? etc.) and/or adequate puppy/dog training (obedience schooling, etc.), which makes them more susceptible to believe misleading and inaccurate information, like the TIME piece mentioned above.
The first thing that came to my mind when I saw this article (given I’m in the field of research) was the false data presented on the “link” between vaccinations and autism. In the late 1980s, a group of researchers published a falsified report that “proved” the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccination “caused” autism in young children, which spread like wildfire over the news. Although social media wasn’t a thing back then, there is no better term than to say it went viral. Even though any of the study’s credibility was ripped to shreds when the results of the study were deemed fraudulant and falsified and the doctor who published the data had his medical license revoked, some individuals believe that there is an actual link between autism and the MMR vaccinations to this day.
The thing with any type of media is that once the information is out there, whether accurate or not, it’s out there forever. No one notices the recanted statements or the corrections made a few days later - people remember the headlines, the publicity, the hype that come with these controversial, flamboyant claims. Just like the autism-vaccine controversy, the words of TIME magazine, and other articles like it, will resonate in the uninformed public’s mind and bias their perception and opinions of pit bulls for years to come. However, it’s beautiful to see the backlash of informed, educated animal lovers and advocates who are fighting for the voiceless.
There are numerous pieces that I suggest you read, especially Huffington’s Post, but really do your own research, make your own educated opinions about this breed - don’t let the media push this idea of a dangerous breed. Pit bulls, like any other breed, are full of characters - some are goofy, some are sookie, some are active and some are aggressive. With the proper knowledge, training and care, unfortunate accidents can be avoided.
At the end of the day, any dog can be dangerous, whatever breed. So let’s drop the prejudice, pick up a bone, toss it around for our four legged friends, love them, train them, learn about them and see the difference it can make when we take full responsibility for our pets.
For more general information on pit bulls, click here.
For more information on the autism-MMR controversy, click here.