Opinion: Stigma against pit bulls is unjustified


Jodee Harmon | @jlharmonphotography

A male pitbull reacts reacts while being handled on March 29, 2019, at the Carbondale Humane Society.

By Elizabeth Biernacki, Staff Reporter

When you think of a pit bull, you’re actually thinking of three different kinds of breeds which have been mushed together into one.

“Pit bull” is not a breed. When we use the term “pit bull,” it should be understood to encompass American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and mixes of those breeds,” according to the Pit Bull Rescue Center.

With that being said, all kinds of breeds labeled as pit bulls are highly stigmatized due to their reputations as fighting dogs, understandably making people wary of their large jaws and muscular frame.


Pit bulls make amazing pets for households, despite how scary they might seem. There are three criteria a dog has to meet to be suitable for a normal household: trainability, loyalty and tolerance.

Trainability: While it is true that some pit bulls were originally bred to be fighting dogs in the 1800’s, that does not mean that the whole breed is inherently “evil”; many pit bulls were also bred to do field work or be companions.

The dogs that were bred for fighting were not aggressive towards people. If they ever were, they would be killed or culled to avoid passing on that trait as it was undesirable.

[Pit bulls] used for fighting needed to be routinely handled by people; therefore aggression toward people was not tolerated. Research confirms that dog-aggressive dogs are no more likely to direct aggression toward people than dogs that aren’t aggressive to other dogs,” the ASPCA said in their Position Statement on Pit Bulls.

I have never once come across an aggressive pit bull myself during the years I have been volunteering with animal shelters.

Out of all the breeds out there, only a Labrador retriever has tried to take a giant chunk out of my left cheek and most certainly, almost succeeded.

Loyalty: “I’ve worked with hundreds of these dogs, and almost all of them were sweet, loving, and highly intelligent. None were any more aggressive than other breeds I’ve encountered,” Zak George, a professional dog trainer, said in his book “Dog Training Revolution: The Complete Guide to Raising the Perfect Pet with Love.”


In his experience, George has found that pit bulls are some of the sweetest and easiest dogs to train. It all comes down to their drive to please people. Even some of the pits bred for dog fighting crave human affection and are extremely loyal.

Tolerance: The American Temperament Test Society tests all breeds of dogs for varying levels of tolerance exhibited when put through a controlled environment.

A failing score is 70% or below and all three breeds associated with pit bulls passed with flying colors.

The American pit bull terrier passed with an 87.4%, the American Staffordshire terrier passed with an 85.5% and the Staffordshire bull terrier passed with a 90.9%, giving the three breeds lumped into “pit bull” an average of 87.9% passing rate for temperament.

This average of all three breeds scored better than some of the most popular dog breeds such as the Australian Shepherd (82.2%), Cardigan Welsh Corgi (80.5%), and golden retriever (85.6%) just to name a few.

The three breeds associated with pit bulls are admittedly quite intimidating to see on the streets but their large muscular bodies and jowls are only what’s seen from the outside.

This dog is extremely affectionate, trainable and tolerant which makes them amazing pets for a household. There are few dogs that are as loyal to their person as a pit bull breed will be if they would just be given a chance by the public.

Staff reporter Elizabeth Biernacki can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @EBiernacki_DE.

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