American Pit Bull Terrier: American Icon or Demon Dog

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American Pit Bull Terrier:
American Icon or Demon Dog?

Sunday McLean I-Search Essay Eileen Goldman ENC-1101

What I know

Pit Bull is simply the name of a dog. As monikers go, it’s an ominous one. It means many things to many people with one more or less commonly understood connotation: risk. I have had my Pit Bull since he was a puppy, going on nine years now. Until two years ago, I would have strongly disputed the general consensus that these highly controversial dogs are actually dangerous. If asked now, I would say I am not certain what I believe. I do think that “each dog is an individual,” ( personal correspondence, 1-23-2013) that has his or her own disposition and personality, but as I wade through this veritable ocean of research, I still have to wonder, are Pit Bulls genetically predisposed to be dangerous?

What I want to know
       Are Pit Bulls dangerous to their owners? Are Pit Bulls more dog-aggressive than other breeds? Is it safe to have Pit Bulls in close proximity to small children? What is the genetic construction of a Pit Bull? Can fighting dogs be rehabilitated? What is the history of Pit Bulls? Do Pit Bulls actually have a “locking” jaw mechanism?

   

What makes Pit Bulls so potentially dangerous? Is breed-specific legislation justifiable, right or fair? Why do Pit Bulls often comprise the majority of animals in shelters? Can bad behavior in Pit Bulls be wholly attributed to the environment in which they are raised?

 

Can/do Pit bulls make good pets? Should Pit Bulls continue to be bred?

My Search Process
I suppose my search process began in November of 2004 when I walked past the litter of sickly Pit Bull pups in San Diego, California. Prior to adopting the one destined to be my dog, Robin, I began research on the breed. I had, at the time, a six year-old boy. There had been so much bad press involving Pit Bulls, and I didn’t want a potentially dangerous dog anywhere near my child. California was, at that time, a hot spot for the breed with the never-ending gang activity and dog fighting. Additionally, the death of Diane Whipple in San Francisco in 2001 was fresh in everyone’s minds. She was an athletic young professional who was mauled outside of her apartment by a large breed of dog called Presa Canario. These dogs are somewhat similar in appearance to Pit Bulls with the main exception being that they are larger in stature. Once news spread of her attack, all bully breeds were in the public’s crosshairs. Pit Bulls were inevitably put on the front line. My research continues now as I try to piece together the puzzle that is the much-maligned Pit Bull. Initially, I found the LIRN an invaluable resource which provided many journals and news articles. Most of them consisted of sensational Pit Bull maulings, a smattering of Michael Vick dogs, along with a heavy dollop of Breed-Specific Legislation articles from various parts of the country.

My search then segued into reaching out to Facebook friends whom I knew were actively involved in various Pit Bull advocacy organizations. These were the resources that would provide me with the main meat and scope for my research. My personal friend from college works at a non-profit organization in Asheville, North Carolina called Humane Alliance. I emailed her and she put in a word for me with her director, who then directed me to an organization called Animal Farm Foundation which is a mission-based organization devoted to Pit Bull advocacy and research. It was from their website, www.animalfarmfoundation.org that I found the book written by their director, Karen Delise. As I devoured her masterpiece, The Pit Bull Placebo (K. Delise, 2007), I realized there was too much good information here for me to possibly even make use of it all for my humble I-Search essay. As far as finding subjects to interview, I began with the obvious. I called my veterinarian, the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast, and the property...
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