Jason Ramirez is lucky to be alive after Butch, an American Pit Bull Terrier and beloved family dog, turned on the 27-year-old husband and father. But even after thousands of dollars of painful reconstructive surgery, Ramirez doesn’t blame Butch. “The problem was me,” Ramirez says, “I didn’t cuddle him enough as a puppy.”
Berthold Henderson of the Center for Really Sophisticated Dog Research says that all pit bull attacks are the fault of humans. “A pit bull would never attack unless a human did something wrong first,” says Henderson. “Research shows they are benevolent, peace-loving animals and are particularly well-suited for families with small children.”
Many ask why there seem to be so many pit bull attacks if the animals are so gentle and predictable. Henderson, and all other pit bull owners, say that the attacking pit bull is just a fable—a fable perpetuated in society by a kind of dog breed racism against pit bulls. What’s motivating people to hate this specific breed? Nobody really knows, except that it’s definitely not due to countless pit bull attacks.
Ignorance is at the heart of racism, and it’s at the heart of pit bull vitriol too.
Most people who hate pit bulls can’t even identify one. Many people are attacked by Chihuahuas or Labrador Retrievers and then misidentify these breeds as pits. “The effect,” says Henderson, “is really quite simple. Their hatred causes them to automatically assume that any dog that attacks is a pit bull.”
Doug “Pit Bull-lover” Lewis, President of the American Dog Breeders Association, believes that learning about the breed is the solution to overcoming irrational fear. “Ignorance breeds fear;” says Lewis, “that is why I take every opportunity I can to educate people about the history of the pit bull and related breeds.”
Lewis explains that, “the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier—what most people refer to as ‘pit bulls’—were bred to have the mental propensity and physical ability to overwhelm and mutilate a 2,400 lb testosterone-raging bull. This unique heritage makes them great neighborhood dogs and companions for kids—not things to be feared.”
Pit bulls will attack, of course, but only as a result of ignorance or maltreatment. Lewis explains what this might look like: “The most common trigger for a pit bull attack is when a human is concerned for his or her safety. That’s a quick way to get your forearm de-sinewed or your windpipe crushed. But an attack could be spurred by any kind of ignorant behavior: a sneeze, a stray glance, enjoying yourself at the park; all are examples of the kind of dumb things people do to endanger themselves.”
For Jason Ramirez his hatred of pit bulls turned out to be subconscious. “I thought I loved my dog,” Ramirez says, “but it turns out that I was bigoted against pitties and didn’t even know it.”
Still, Ramirez says the attack was totally preventable: “My message to all pit bull owners is to snuggle your dogs more. Snuggle them like your life depends on it.”