In an interview with dog trainer and pit bull advocate Sarah Cummings (The Daily Star, Oct. 12-13), Ms. Cummings claims that the dogs were originally bred to babysit little children while the parents were out harvesting in the fields.
Where do these fairy tales come from?
The history of the pit bull terrier is clearly recorded in its name. The breed is the result of crossing between the English bulldog, bred for bull-baiting in gaming pits, and various terrier breeds with the intent of producing the ideal animal for dog fighting. Physically, the dogs were bred for compact musculature and powerful jaws; behaviorally, for fearless aggression and the propensity to grab and hold.
Ms. Cummings seems unaware of the contradictions in her own statements. She maintains that pit bulls are gentle and loving by nature, but then says that they require “socialization” to prevent fighting. All dogs need basic training to live in proximity with humans and other animals, but the vast majority of breeds, having been selected over the centuries for nonaggressive traits, do not require targeted training to offset undesirable bred-in tendencies.
I readily acknowledge that due to genetic variability there occasionally will be pit bulls that do not display aggressive natures and could therefore make good pets. (Such “throwbacks” would be culled by hard-line breeders.)
Ms. Cummings clearly loves her rescued dogs, and they are lucky to have her. It is not, after all, the animals’ fault — they are the victims of reckless and irresponsible breeding in the past that unfortunately has seen a resurgence in our day.
One result is the overfilling of animal shelters — particularly the no-kill shelters — with largely unadoptable pit bulls and pit bull mixes, leaving increasingly little room for our eminently adoptable traditional breeds and “family favorite” mutts.