ALL PETS: Owners celebrate National Pit Bull Awareness Day

There’s a photo flying around the Internet showing a man holding a sign that reads: “Beware of Pit Bulls: They Steal Your Heart”.

How true.

Saturday, Oct. 27, is “National Pit Bull Awareness Day.” Pit bulls have been getting a bad rap for years, but now it’s time to change the public’s mindset. That’s why National Pit Bull Awareness Day was created – to dispel myths and educate people about the joys of pit bulls. So rather than sit at home, why not come and hang out with us at The Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County and meet some of the wonderful pit bulls up for adoption?

Affectionate, tender and loyal to the core, pit bulls were once considered the perfect family pet. At the turn of the century, pit bulls were so trusted with children they were often referred to as “nanny dogs.” Pit bulls like Petey from the Our Gang comedies were popular in films and later television. Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, Helen Keller and Humphrey Bogart all had pit bulls to hug. And let’s not forget modern-day celebs like Rachael Ray, Pink, Alicia Silverstone and Jon Stewart.

But things changed in the 80s as these large, strong dogs were over-bred and in some cases, wound up with irresponsible individuals, drug dealers and dog fighters. “Any breed of dog subjected to what some pit bulls are subjected to can show a negative change in behavior. The public needs to see pit bulls as victims rather than aggressors,” explains Ilka Daniel, The Humane Society’s director of animal protective services. .

When it comes to debunking outrageous myths about pits, The Humane Society’s staff like Steven Pinzon knows they have their work cut out. In his spare time, Pinzon likes to educate the public about pit bulls by taking his dog, Drake out for “meet and greets” with friends and neighbors. Drake may appear a bit intimidating but Pinzon says he’s a big sweetie. Sadly, many dogs like Pinzon’s Drake – usually sweet-natured, fun-loving and sometimes downright silly – are passed over by prospective adopters who may have unsubstantiated fears about aggressive behavior. Thankfully, science supports The Humane Society. According to 2012 studies conducted by the American Temperament Test Society, pit bulls had an overall passing rate for safe behavior of 84-86% compared to approximately 77% for the general dog population.

Daniel says multiple studies regarding serious dog bites point away from dog breeds and towards dogs not being spayed or neutered, not being socialized or being intentionally trained to be aggressive and being perpetually chained. To make matters worse, pit bulls frequently face discrimination and are sometimes banned from housing developments and even entire communities, making adoption an even greater challenge.

“Pit bulls are often passed over due to the stereotypes,” says Phaedra Kohler, director of The Humane Society’s customer and volunteer services. “But most are warm, loving and dedicated animals,” she added. According to Kohler, all of the shelter’s dogs, regardless of breed, are temperament and personality tested prior to adoption.

Educational materials about pit bulls are available at the Humane Society’s front desk. For more information about pit bulls, call The Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County at (772) 388-3331 ext. 10 or visit the Humane Society at 6230 77th St., Vero Beach. Animals for adoption can be seen on the shelter’s website

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