Some Ingham County residents are maintaining a favorable view of the type of dogs known as Pit bulls while the Ingham County Animal Control and Shelter is working to boost the positive image of the dogs.
On January 10, 2018 a bill was introduced into the Michigan State Senate that would prohibit local governments from enacting bans on specific breeds of dogs. The bill was not passed and referred to a committee. Despite the bill not passing, county dog experts look favorably on Pit bulls.
Pit bull, a name encompassing several breeds of terriers and mixes, is one that carries the certain stigmas including being “inherently vicious” according to Ingham County Animal Control Director John Dinon.
Dinon says that, in his experience, nurture is the deciding factor in an animal’s behavior.
“I believe that animals should be judged as individuals based on their behavior and not based on their appearance,” says Dinon.
Mike Christie, owner of Off-Leash K9 Training Lansing, who has 20 years of experience working with dogs says “95 percent of the Pit bull breed, they’re just a normal dog. There is no aggression issues, but there are, obviously in all breeds … aggressive dogs.”
Christie says the use of Pit bulls in dog fighting in instances like the case of former NFL quarterback Michael Vick, is part of the reason they have a poor reputation in some groups and communities. However, Christie says these dogs are chosen not because of their nature but because of their physical strength and muscular build.
“They (Pit bulls) are very muscular” Christie says, “pound for pound they have that major pulling power and … their mouth is wider so that is why they like using them for fights.”
Speaking about Pit bull’s nature, Christie says, “They are a very loyal and loving dog … they’ll do anything for their owner … so if they are taught to do something they kind of follow through.”
East Lansing resident Robert Wilson says any dog is going to act differently depending on how it is raised, but the Pit bull owners he has met raise the dogs to be companions and protectors.
Wilson says, “It depends on how you raise them up… and a lot of people that I know of use them for guardianship, especially if they’ve got kids.”
Jacob Prusakiewicz, a Lansing resident and dog owner, says he thinks Lansing has a negative reputation when it comes to Pit bulls due to “bad dog owners” in the area who raise their dogs to be mean.
Prusakiewicz says his friend has a Pit bull and it is a “gentle giant, strong for sure … but they have two children” with which no problems have come up.
When it comes to targeting specific breeds with legislation and bans Prusakiewicz says it raises questions.
“Why that dog? Why not German Shepards? Why not any big dog?” Prusakiewicz asks.
Prusakiewicz says he disagrees with bans of certain dog breeds, but understands that there is no simple solution to “weed out the bad owners” so he can see why some people may want them.
Christie says of breed bans, “I don’t agree with it whatsoever … banning Pit bulls, that’s wrong.”
“I am not a fan of breed specific legislation … I am supportive of strong laws to protect the public from vicious and dangerous dogs. So I would be much more supportive of a behavioral yardstick rather than an appearance yardstick,” says Dinon.
Dinon and the animal shelter focus on improving the image of Pit bulls through the adoption process and promotional events.
“We are basically trying to improve the image by only adopting out dogs that we feel are safe for the community,” Dinon says.
“We use a number of factors to determine if animals are temperamentally suitable for adoption,” says Dinon “including a behavior test called the SAFER test.”
Dinon also says the shelter recently had a promotional event called “Love-a-bull” where Pit bulls had reduced adoption fees.
“Doing our best to put good dogs who will be good ambassadors for breeds or dog types out in the community is probably the best way that we can counteract stereotypes,” says Dinon.