Here’s a fact that’s tough to face: people discriminate against dogs. Dogs. You know, those lovable, friendly, sometimes blocky-headed pals whose primary interests include ear scritches, treats, and belly rubs. We think we speak for all of us when we say, what the pup?
The discrimination is usually directed against dogs with big ol’ noggins — i.e., pit bull breeds — but it can also apply to Dobermans, German Shepherds, and more. It can take many forms, from individuals avoiding contact with certain breeds to insurance companies denying claims based solely on bully breed ownership. Fears about certain breeds are based on persistent myths, despite the fact that most people personally know anywhere between one and 10 jillion friendly pit bulls.
We had to get to the bottom of this, so we got in touch with Shannon Glenn, executive director of My Pit Bull is Family, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit seeking to end housing and insurance discrimination. She started out with some good news: “Overall, I’d say the stigma against bully breeds is getting better. Animal welfare organizations are educating the public that the term ‘pit bull’ isn’t a actually a breed, but an umbrella term for many types of dogs with a set of physical characteristics. The trend is to educate that all dogs are individuals regardless of breed or type.”
However, Shannon notes that housing and insurance discrimination is still a big problem. “Once we end this, more dogs will be able to stay home with loving families, fewer families will have to make really tough choices when it comes to surrendering their loved ones when relocating, rescues will be able to adopt out a greater number of dogs, and fewer dogs will be killed in shelters across the country.”
With this in mind, we sniffed out some strategies and resources that pit bull owners and their allies can use to help end breed discrimination:
No bones about it: this part really boils down to being a conscientious dog mom or dad. Shannon recommends that you take your pup to training classes and take time to give your puppy some TLC (and some good exercise). She also emphasizes that if you’re considering adopting a pit bull, double check that there are no breed restrictions where you live and make sure that your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance covers your new furry companion. Here are some more tips on that, and My Pit Bull is Family also has a wealth of resources, including a the nation’s largest pit bull-friendly housing database.
Read Up, Pup
Education is also SO important, even if you don’t have a pit bull yourself (we love you, bully-breed allies!). Being aware of common arguments and misconceptions used against pit bulls can help you field questions and inform those around you about how great those blocky-headed pups can be.
Walk the Walk
If you’re a pit bull pawrent, Shannon and a ton of other proud pittie owners welcome you to join them in My Pit Bull is Family’s stereotype-breaking “I Am” campaign. Print their “I am a good tenant” or I am a good neighbor” sign, take a photo of yourself holding it, and tag ’em on social media.
If you’re a dog-loving bully breed advocate you can also volunteer with groups like My Pit Bull is Family or with rescues like those listed below. My Pit Bull is Family is working with local legislators this year to pass a law banning insurance companies from discriminating based on breed — sign up to volunteer with ’em, because this one’s going to need all hands on deck!
Take Advantage of Local Resources
These articles should help you on your journey to full-fledged pit bull advocacy:
- Learn what you can do about insurance company discrimination.
- Keep these responses to common misconceptions at the ready.
- Read up on past news stories on this topic here and here.
Plus, check out these seven rescues helping pitties nationwide live their best lives.
So there you have it, you fur-baby-loving freedom fighters. Big thanks to My Pit Bull is Family for helping us arm you with the latest and greatest in discrimination-busting techniques and information. There’s still pup-loads of work to be done to end bully breed discrimination; meanwhile, we’ll do everything we can to support you and your four-legged companions.
Beware of pit bulls: they’re terribly awkward.
(Top photo by KME Photography)