Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pit bulls get bum rap, Humane Society says

MURRAY — There was no excessive barking, no biting and no visibly aggressive behavior among the dozen happy, playful pit bulls and pit-bull mixes hoping for a new home.

The pleasant scene was exactly what the Humane Society of Utah wanted in a special gathering Friday to illustrate that often-feared dogs, if properly trained, are lovers not fighters.

Gene Baierschmidt, Humane Society of Utah executive director, said pit bulls are the most difficult breed to place. Of the 150 total adoptable canines in the kennel, 12 are pit bulls, dogs he says are a victim of perception.

"Any breed is capable of biting," he said. "The biggest biters are cocker spaniels."

There are misconceptions about pit bulls, and the only real problems arise from owners who train their animals to be aggressive, Baierschmidt said.

"There is a continuing debate about pits, and some cities have even enacted bans on private ownership of these dogs," he said. "But they've gotten a bad reputation because irresponsible people have exploited the very characteristics that can also make them loyal, affectionate pets."

Specifically, he says, the dogs are eager to please their human caregivers. If they fall into the hands of people who take advantage of the animals' strength, energy and devotion to train them as fighters, they will, indeed, become aggressive and dangerous.

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