According to nationalpitbullawarenessday.org, Jodi Preis of Bless the Bullys, a non-profit rescue and education effort in Tennessee, introduced the idea of National Pit Bull Awareness Day in 2007 and it took off like wildfire. Now, the entire month of October is known as National Pit Bull Awareness Month, while devotees of pit bulls recognize October 27th across the country as National Pit Bull Awareness Day.
National Pit Bull Awareness Day (NPBAD) is a day of appreciation and education designed to change perceptions and stereotypes about pit bulls and their responsible owners. NPBAD was established to educate and foster positive communications and experiences in the communities in which we and our dogs live, and it is an initiative dedicated to restoring the image of the American Pit Bull Terrier.
It is well known that pit bulls, and pit-mixes, are at the current target of breed specific legislation, discrimination, and negative bias among the nation’s media and government. Despite continued efforts by supporters, much of the general public is overwhelmingly misinformed about the breed and hold to a fear-filled image created by humans who exploit the dogs, not the breed itself.
What’s in a Name?
The term “Pit Bull” is in fact a label hung on a variety of recognized breeds, and spills over to any dog with a stocky build and a squarish head. Primarily we think of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and American Bull Terrier as the stereotypical Pit Bull. Before they were vilified as Pit Bulls, these breeds were known as the Nanny Dog.
Families used to seek these dogs as companions and guardians for their children because of their gentle, devoted nature. Even the popular series Spanky and Our Gang also known as Little Rascals, co-starred a Staffordshire Bull Terrier as a beloved member of the gang and protector of the kids.
Other Pit Bulls Everyone Loved
Buster Brown was a comic strip character created in 1902 by Richard F. Outcault. Adopted as the mascot of the Brown Shoe Company in 1904, Buster Brown, his sweetheart Mary Jane, and his dog Tige: an American Pit Bull Terrier, were well-known to the American public in the early 20th century. Buster Brown and his talking pit bull went on to success in film, theater, radio, and television as well as becoming the mascot for Brown shoes for many generations.
Nipper (1884–1895) was a terrier/pit bull mix from Bristol, England, who served as the model for a painting by Francis Barraud titled “His Master’s Voice”. This image was the basis for the dog-and-gramophone commercial logo, one of the world’s most famous used by several audio recording and associated company brands.
In World War I, a pit bull named Stubby captured the heart of the nation. Stubby was the unofficial mascot of the 102nd Infantry Division and was credited with saving the lives of several of his human comrades. For his valiant service, Stubby won several medals and was even awarded the rank of sergeant! He came home from the war to a hero’s welcome and went on to become the mascot for Georgetown University.
Many famous Americans have owned pit bulls (and mixes) who enjoyed sharing media coverage with them. Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Thomas Edison, Woodrow Wilson, John Steinbeck, Helen Keller, and Fred Astaire have all been proud to own dogs of this breed. The actor Ken Howard (the father on the TV show Crossing Jordan) even credits his pit bull with saving his life.
An Undeserved Reputation
As you can see, “pit bulls” have not always been feared. Quite the opposite. They are just the current target of media attention fostered by humans who breed and train dogs for nefarious purposes. Other breeds have been subjected to this attention, German Shepherds, the Chow, Rottweilers, Dobermans have all had their turns being targeted as vicious because people trained them as extreme guard dogs and for fighting sports.
It is the people who engage in these activities that should be feared and banned, not the breeds they exploit.
On a personal note
Marie and I have hosted many “pit bulls” during our years as canine fosters. None of them caused us to fear for our safety. In fact, we have found this breed to be particularly affectionate, lovable, and goofy.
They are active, they are strong. When they have had no training, they can be a handful. But none of them have been vicious. All of them have been smart and easy to train. And they become devoted family members. It is time we move past the media hype that paints these breeds as horrible killers by nature. This is not their nature. That comes only with being exploited and trained to be that way.