A pit bull is a type of dog that some people are really afraid of, so they have made laws saying that no one can own a pit bull in certain cities. The reason why people are afraid of pit bulls is because this breed of dog is used for dog fighting, and fighting dogs are taught to be mean and aggressive. Sometimes pit bulls have even killed people, and this is the main reason why people are afraid of them. Of course, other types of dogs can be mean and aggressive and kill people, too, but when people are scared, they don't always think clearly about such things.
But anyway, not all pit bulls are bad. In fact, lots of pit bulls are very nice dogs. It's just that if their owners train them to be fighting dogs, then that makes them be mean and get a bad reputation.
The name "pit bull" really means one of three different breeds: American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, or Staffordshire Bull Terrier. These breeds all have long names, so it's easier just to say "pit bull," unless you're at a dog show, and then you need to be more specific. Pit bulls first started in Great Britain when people bred terriers with a kind of bulldog that no longer exists. Then when people came to live in America, they brought these dogs with them. At first, they just kept them to help with wild hogs and cattle, and also as family pets.
Then in the early 20th century, people who organized dog fights decided they liked pit bulls better than bull terriers, which they used before that. Since dog fighting is illegal now, it has to be done in secret places. Maybe you have heard of Michael Vick, who was a football player who was also doing dog fights. He was not only being illegal by fighting dogs, but he also abused some of his dogs, so he had to go to jail for a while. Now he says he has seen the evil of his ways and he is sorry, which I hope is the truth!
Dog fighting is VERY BAD because the dogs can get hurt or killed, and if they don't fight well, they might be shot. Also sometimes people steal dogs and other pets to use as bait animals to teach the fighting dogs how to fight better. These bait animals might have their mouths taped shut or their teeth ground down so that they cannot hurt the pit bulls that are attacking them. This makes me feel sick every time I think about it! So I just want to say that if you are a dog or cat, make sure you don't get left outside in the yard where you can be stolen and used as bait!
But as long as we're on the subject of horrible stuff, I will tell you about some numbers I found. In 2008, 23 people were killed by dogs, and 15 of those dogs were pit bull-type dogs. This is a bad number to think about, and here's another bad number: during 2008 there were 1.7 million dogs euthanized in U.S. shelters, and 58% of those dogs were pit bulls.
In Kansas City, we have had some pit bull attacks, including one lady who was killed right in her back yard by her neighbor's pit bulls. In some parts of town, it is illegal to own a pit bull. But where we live, it is okay, so we could adopt one, except that we already have our Legal Limit of Dogs, and getting another dog would be illegal, no matter what kind of dog it was.
But anyway, there are a lot of people who have pit bulls that they don't use for fighting, and this is a good thing. Here's a list of some famous people who own pit bulls: Michael J. Fox, Rachael Ray, Jon Stewart, Cesar Millan, Mary Tyler Moore, and Jessica Biel. I'm sure there are probably lots more famous people who also have pit bulls. And here's a photo of Helen Keller with a pit bull. I don't know if it was her very own dog or just a doggy friend of hers, but it is clear that she likes this dog and is not afraid of it.
If you would like to have a pit bull in your family, you can adopt one from the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City. There are several very nice pit bulls there. Mom has met and played with all of them, and she says that any one of them would make a fine pet. The only thing is that if you live in a city where it is illegal to own a pit bull, you should adopt some other kind of dog, like maybe a basenji.
Here are some of the very nice pit bulls that are at the Humane Society. This first one is named Fletch. He is about 4 years old. When the Animal Control people first found him wandering around, Fletch looked really awful. We think he was used as a bait dog, and that's why he had so many wounds on his head and ears and neck.
Here's how he looked in the beginning, but you can see that he looks lots, lots better now! Fletch is a happy dog who loves being petted. He thinks he is just a big lap dog, and he doesn't hold any grudges because of his previous bad experiences.
This next dog is named Sprocket. He is 3 years old, and he has a lot of energy. He's very friendly, and he has that interesting sort of blue colored coat. Mom likes Sprocket a whole bunch and thinks he would make a great family pet and maybe even a good therapy or agility dog.
Here's a picture of Smiley. He is white with brindle spots, which makes him very handsome. Smiley is 2 years old. He's a little shy with people he doesn't know, but what he really likes to do is play fetch with a tennis ball. He will fetch the ball over and over again. Of course, he will also tear up the ball if he gets the chance, but he is just doing what dogs like to do!
There is one other pit bull at the shelter, and his name is Pete. We don't have a picture of him, but he is reddish-brown, and he has longer legs than most pit bulls. Pete is very energetic and he would need lots of exercise, but he's a fun dog. Mom forgot to look at the card on his run to see how old he is, but he is probably 2 years or maybe younger.
If you want to know more about any of these dogs, just go to this website: http://www.hsgkc.org
Or if you live someplace besides Kansas City, you can find pit bulls at a shelter or rescue group near you.