By: Michael Bicek
Jacksonville, FL – Pit bulls are one of the most notorious breeds of dog in the United States. Most people associate them with dog fighting and having unpredictable character traits, such as biting or attacking for no reason. There is a ton of misinformation when it comes to the breed and Pit Sisters — a Jacksonville non-profit organization — aims to inform.
“People say they are aggressive but they’re loyal to their owners. So if you teach a dog to bite that’s what they want to do. Any dog can be dangerous if you teach them to be,” said Jen Deane, founder and operator of Pit Sisters.
In 2013, The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association published the most comprehensive, multifactorial study of dog bite-related fatalities done since the subject was first studied in the 1970s by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers identified that in 87.1 percent of those fatalities, no able bodied person was present to intervene and that 85.2 percent of victims didn’t even have a familiar relationship with the dog.
There are additional factors that were not even considered in the CDC’s study, such as whether the dog was spayed/neutered or the owner’s abuse and/or neglect of the dog. Misinformation from one study that was completed almost 20 years ago has spread and still is cited by many as the evidence that the pit bull is a terror breed.
The American Temperament Test Society, Inc. — whose slogan is “a sound mind in a sound body” — gives uniform temperament evaluations of purebred and spayed/neutered mixed-breed dogs. As of 2013, the ATTS tested 870 American Pit Bull Terriers and 755 of those 870 passed the temperament test giving the breed an 86.8 percent success rate, which is higher than most other breeds.
Pit Sisters was started by sisters Deane and Sybil Turner in 2011 as a way to rescue pit bulls that were residing in kill shelters, one of which being Animal Care and Protective Services located in downtown Jacksonville. Deane also ventured into other areas — such as Clay County — to rescue dogs.
“We can rescue and that helps the dogs we’re rescuing but it doesn’t help the overall issue,” said Deane whose stance is to now educate. Pit Sisters provides free dog training to families that reside near these shelters in hopes that they take the time to work with their family friend instead of willingly handing them over to a kill shelter.
But Deane doesn’t stop there — she also ventures to elementary schools to teach kids about dog safety. Recently, Deane taught over 200 kindergartners during New Berlin Elementary School’s Safety Day. Deane also took over the Tails Program — program that gives inmates the opportunity to assist and train dogs that are given a second chance to be rehabilitated.
“Make sure you’re ready to make a lifetime commitment. They aren’t something you can get rid of if they’re bad. Make sure to spend time with them, train them, [and] treat them like a member of your family,” said Deane, when asked about families looking to adopt a dog.
Studies alone cannot transform the opinions of people that are adamant that the pit bull is a dangerous dog but education and patience can surely help convince some.