Thinking About Pit Bulls & Living in Memphis

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This week, I stumbled upon a simple tweet from one of the folks I’ve chatted with about all things Southern, especially his former hometown of New Orleans.  And with NOLA means we’ve talked food.  On Wednesday I saw this short tweet pop up:

At the time I was busy with some other things, besides, I don’t have a pit bull nor do I want one.  Besides it was the start of the day and I needed to get to work.  By lunchtime, I thought about it again and went through a bit of effort to find the thing and read the link that went to the American Kennel Club’s website.  You can read the full page here as I’ll only quote passages.

At their January 26th meeting the Memphis City Council will consider an ordinance to require that all “pit bulls” over 8 weeks of age be sterilized unless the owner qualifies for a medical exemption, operates a commercial kennel or the dog is recognized as a show dog. “Pit bulls” are defined as American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and any dogs displaying the physical characteristics of these breeds. It is vital that responsible owners and breeders attend this meeting and oppose this ordinance.

So, this is where I started thinking.  I read the rest of the post and decided I needed to think about this some more. First thoughts, I’ve seen the video on TV…  pit bulls can be incredibly vicious.  They can attack without warning.  If I’m out on a walk and see a pit bull walking without being on a lease, I’m scared.  But I’ve also had friends who have had pit bulls that seemed okay.  They never bothered me.  I began to ponder whether it was genetics, environment, a combination of both….  I needed to learn more.  So I thought maybe I’d ask a few twitter friends whether they had any ideas.

I started with my initial thoughts:

My first read on it is that the breed isn’t at fault but that owners, trainers, breeders, etc should be acting responsibly.  I have to acknowledge that pit bulls and some other breeds have bothered me at times, but I also have friends who have had them without any problems.  In fact, while rottweilers are considered vicious by many, a dear friend has one he calls baby and from what I’ve seen she’s a dear.  And I understand that Baby has had reason to be aggressive but I’ve never seen it.  The thing from the AKC says “AKC opposes any ordinances that are breed-specific. We believe that dogs should be judged on the basis of their deeds, not their breed. These laws are burdensome to responsible owners and will not affect irresponsible owners who do not comply with current animal control laws.”

Some of the stuff I read as I tried to consider whether I felt strongly enough to write my city council are below:

  • What would the ASPCA say about a breed-specific law?  Have they seen them before and if so, what was the outcome?  Read here.
  • The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association has a post on its website that says there are problems identifying breeds at times due to genetic & physical similarities,
  • The New Yorker published an article about stereotypes and how they work, pit bulls were part of the story.  A friend who’s an avid dog person, gave me this link where are some sections posted and you can read the entire article here on the New Yorker’s site.
  • A breed specific law in Toledo, Ohio was challenged and this week it was ruled by a judge to be flawed.  Read more here.

I’ve also had several friends weigh in with their ideas.  I’ll post here without their names as I didn’t think to ask them if I could quote them from their emails.  So they will remain anonymous:

  • I think this is a very slippery road to go down….if they can push through birth control for animals they say should not be here, what about the animals who do not serve a purpose…what about the ones someone thinks are being used in a way that is inappropriate.  Wow…amazing.
  • I understand your concerns.  When I first hear pit bull I think, oh, they are probably mean.  I think I have to agree though that it should be on the deed and not the breed.  I had a friend who owned a rottweiler and it too was very, very gentle.  She also owned a little terrier that bit me every time I got near it.  I was more worried about the little dog than I was the big dog!  I think irresponsible owners will still break the law, no matter what they are.  I think they should focus on enforcing the current laws they have.  If a dog has a history of violence, that dog and it’s owner should be held accountable.
  • A) Bob Barker would always lovingly tell, “have your dog spayed or neutered”. He was right. ALL dogs should be spayed or neutered. Don’t limit it to just a few breeds of dogs.
    B) These breeds that they are targeting are only dangerous when they are raised by morons. They should propose that if certain PEOPLE want these certain breeds of dogs, the PEOPLE should be sterilized as well.
  • I have always taken my animals to be spayed and neutered. Having had a part pit bull, part german shepherd, and a full cocker spaniel, I can tell you that the cocker was the vicious one, but I doubt that is the one targeted.

I think I’ve done enough reearch over the past few days to decide that knowledge paired with my Memphis residency, means I need to speak up.  If you have other ideas that should be considered, please feel free to add your comment to the blog.

The AKC brief says the meeting is Tuesday at 3;30 p.m. at City Hall.  I wish I could be there but have something else I have to do so I’ll be writing my emails to the city council this weekend, hitting send first thing Monday morning.  I’d encourage you to speak up as well.  The list of council representatives is posted here.


Added after original publication.  Thanks to Phil M Guidry for shoutout he gave me in a post to his blog.  As you’ll see, Phil was the one who originally put the link into my part of twitter to bring me up to speed.


A friend sent this to me by email….

I saw your Facebook wall postings about selective regulations for certain breeds of “dangerous” dogs.  As a dog lover myself, I thought if you haven’t already seen this, it would be relevant to this topic!

Please read

If you are an owner of a dog or know someone who has a dog which belongs to a ‘dangerous breed’ category,
or if you have a child visiting your house, please take this as a warning.

Don’t leave your dog with any small child unattended under any circumstances!

Only one little moment was enough for the following to happen.

See the photo below!

Thank you!
The Dog

Having done extensive work with a dog rescue organization here in the city and known many super lovable pit bulls and pit bull mixes, I just felt it important to highlight through this story that there are two sides to every coin!

About Janice Person

I'm Janice & this blog is about my passions -- photography, travel, agriculture & whatever else comes to mind. Putting all those things together is intriguing to me…. I can spend a lot of time soaking it up! It's almost always a colorful adventure!

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7 Responses to Thinking About Pit Bulls & Living in Memphis

  1. Ray Person January 23, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

    First, I’m not sure I would agree with the law, but I would probably strengthen laws concernig dog owners’ responsibilities in the event of a serious attack, especially since I was attacked one night in Enid by a pit bull.

    Second, some breeds have been bred selecting certain traits, emphasizing some and deemphasizing others. Skillet, my red bone hound, for example, is an excellent tracking dog, because this characteristic has been selectively chosen for this breed. Many times such working dogs (as opposed to the house dogs bred for companionship) do not make good pets or at least require a lot more of the owners. So, those dogs that have been selectively bred over the years for fighting (like pit bulls) are more dangerous than those bred for lap dogs (like Pomeranians because of genetics. I don’t think you can deny the biology here.

    • Janice January 23, 2010 at 3:05 pm #

      I see what you are saying Ray. And I would assert that breeders who select for traits that result in viciousness should be held responsible as well as the people who own those dogs. It’s a complex topic and not something I think the Memphis city council will fix with a regulation.

      I think everyone I know would be or has been outraged by a serious dog attack. And I would assert that the investigation into such an attack, etc should include the environment it was raised in and the breeder.

      There are also all the leash or other containment laws, etc that should be observed, particularly if the dog will be around other people. Previous to an attack if there is reason to think a specific animal is capable of such viciousness, there should be some action along that line.

  2. golddogsrandommusings January 23, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    Decisions to spay or neuter a dog should be a decision between the dog owner and their veterinarian based on the dog owner’s household and the breed of dog – NOT as a mandate of government.

  3. Jan January 24, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    Pitbulls – including one slated to be killed not for doing anything but because of breed – serve as explosives, drug and other detection dogs with the Washington State Patrol. They’re service dogs, search & rescue dogs and serve in many other ways. Where pitbulls are outlawed other breeds take over. the #1 biter by statistics is mutts but no one outlaws mutts. No one looks at labradors despite a high profile owner having one declared vicious and (despite some comments) many DO bite. Training, not surgery, changes behavior.

  4. Jan January 24, 2010 at 11:34 am #

    Also have heard of – under the “appears to be” – registered Labradors and others being deemed “pitbull” and if you don’t have papers (most mutts don’t) it’s guilty as charged. Any dog with a blunt nose, wide head and short coat could be deemed “part pitbull” – have one that could be. He’s Australian Cattle Dog x border collie!

  5. Debra February 23, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

    OK, you’ve just won me over with the ‘dangerous breed’

    • Janice February 24, 2010 at 12:32 am #

      Glad you enjoyed it. When I posted the blog, I friend sent it to me and it seemed too appropriate! I had to post it. Have a great day!

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