Published: Mar 15, 2009 12:00 AM
Modified: Mar 15, 2009 07:15 AM
I'm a Bull City native, but it's safe to say more people know me as a national political blogger at PamsHouseBlend.com, where I write about LGBT rights, race and gender issues, the Religious Right and life in the South. My first column for The Durham News is a bit off the beaten path.
When our shelter dog Lab mix Bailey passed, my wife and I (yes, we legally married in Canada, and it's not recognized in my home state) visited the Durham Animal Protection Society looking for the right match for our remaining dog Chloe, a Bichon Frise. We found Casey.
A tan American Pit Bull Terrier, she was eager to please from our first meeting. We initially had our eye on a retriever mix, but it nearly fear-bit us when it entered the room.
The irony is that the pit bull, the Staffordshire Terrier and the Bull Terrier are often targets of breed-specific discrimination that, quite frankly, is akin to racism. It touches the same hot buttons: images of gang-bangers and thugs who think owning a fighting dog enhances their street cred. It's ironic that the pit bull was historically bred not to be human-aggressive and many aren't dog-aggressive either.
The pit bull actually scores higher on the American Temperament Test than many popular breeds considered "friendly."
But with the bad rep in mind, we knew our new addition to the family had to be an exemplary ambassador for the breed; we took Casey to obedience class, and wanted to place her in dog daycare a couple of times a week for socialization. Dog parks were out, because even if our dog didn't start a scuffle, it's quite common for owners of other breeds to blame the pit if anything happens.
What I encountered during my search was one local facility with a breed-specific discriminatory policy. It said:
"Due to input from clients across North America and experience at our Camps with various breeds, we made the decision in 2006 that certain breeds are not appropriate candidates for our open play environment. ... These breeds include American Pit Bull Terrier, an American Staffordshire Terrier, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of any one or more of these breeds."
Doesn't that kind of discrimination seem quite familiar, painting an entire group with a broad brush based on the experience with a few? If we're talking about dogs with a bad rap and bite frequency, why aren't Dobermans or Rotties on that list? What if a Golden Retriever attacked another dog -- would that breed be banned? We all know the answer.
Many a young minority man can tell you how women clutch their bags or cross the street as they approach, regardless of how the man is dressed. I got a taste of this while walking Casey. Kate was walking Chloe and I was bringing up the rear with Casey and we approached a family. Chloe was getting excited, barking, and she lunged to play with the little girl. The mom let her, never questioning whether Chloe might bite. When I came past, the mom immediately called her daughter off the trail to avoid the Pit Bull.
Otherwise intelligent people completely, utterly take leave of their senses about this -- and it's too often reinforced, even by dog professionals like that dog care facility. Not all are that way though; Casey and Chloe ended up going to Pet Ritz @ The Triangle, where Pits, Dobies, Rotties and other breeds that often suffer bad raps are assessed and accepted as individual dogs.
Contact Pam Spaulding at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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