Advocacy Overdrive – Numbers, Criteria, Intentions and Motivation


This is the first part in a new series I’m calling Advocacy Overdrive. It will be a chronicle of happenings, events, and discussions surrounding The Pit Bull Hoax DVD and other subsequent media related advocacy projects. The purpose is to get more people involved, hence the word overdrive in the title. Past that it will be a way for people to better understand the subject matter at hand as well as who is behind the media.

What is the percentage of “pit bull” dogs?

The numbers that are associated with dog information is often times fuzzy. In some cases the math is fuzzy because the people involved are fudging numbers, sometimes it is because there is just no accurate way to arrive at a number so the results are distilled through research and let’s face it personal bias.

One set of numbers that from my perspective is almost impossible to figure out is the number of actual Pit Bulls. Yes there are Kennel Club registries, and there are dog owners who register their dogs as pit bulls. However; the quality of identification is often suspect at least to me and any credentialed expert I’ve spoken with. Dogs are being identified but how credible are the evaluators?

In The Pit Hoax I have a factoid slide that states Pit Bulls make up 6 – 8 % of the entire dog population.
After viewing an advance copy of the Hoax Diane Jessup mentioned that the percentage was low. She felt it was much higher. She said she’d been seeing a lot of them; her exact question was “have you taken a ride through the “hood” lately?

I know Diane Jessup can ID a Pit Bull; however one’s travels are usually what dictates their perception of “popular”. After a few emails were exchanged it was agreed upon that getting hard numbers for the percentage of pit bulls is next to impossible.
In addition to simply seeing Pit Bulls, the criteria for what a “pit” dog is for me has to do with not only genetics, but behavior as well.

Genetics are tricky these days especially when you consider the mixes out there. I see quite a few bully mixes and few pure pit bulls in the way of genetic cosmetics.
A “pit” dog is a dog that has the ability to work in a herding pit or a fighting pit. They not are mutually exclusive, and this is also where people and dogs get into get into trouble.

In my interview with Jessup for my documentary she stated that even in a litter of dogs bred for fighting it’s hard to get a pup and later a dog that has that genetic predisposition to be a “fighter”.  She went on to say that this is why Vick had been killing so many dogs; most of the dogs just don’t have the motivation.

Behaviorally dogs are efficient. They’ll only do what is needed unless there is a reward history or some pay off in the consequence of their actions. As for fighting/aggression, it is my understanding dogs aggress to create distance, as aggression is rooted in fear. So when a dog kills a cat that is prey drive, not aggression. Huge difference and one that is often misunderstood.

I would surmise that dogs bred to herd cattle and catch hogs are equally varied as well. The fact remains that the original “pit” dogs were bred for herding first, then fighting was bred for. So these herding instincts are the deepest and longest running trait in the line.

My work with dogs consists primarily of Pit Bull’s and PB “type” dogs, I would say 2 out of 5 display a really strong natural affinity, and an actual joy for running, chasing, catching, holding, drop it, take it, and with little operant training. These same dogs will not redirect or be bothered by tactile engagement by the trainer/handler. This is all part of the well bred Pit Bull. Here is the interesting thing; a lot of mixes also display these same traits.
I consider a “pit bull” dog to be a dog that has the behavioral ability either innate or instilled to work in a herding pit. Or the fight pit. I do not train fight dogs or condone it. I do however work with dog aggressive dogs.

All the other Pit Bull “type” dogs are “PET” bull dogs. This does not mean that they cannot develop aggression towards humans or dogs, mind you. It also does not mean they could not be trained to be excellent at herding type behaviors. It means that they do not present as having the drive to herd or fight. Are they Pit Bull “type” dogs in shape etc…sure. However the job they are behaviorally performing is that of a companion animal. Conversely I run into many dogs that are trained and treated like a pet, when their genetics are screaming to herd cattle and work. Again it boils down to who is evaluating dog behavior and is it being done legitimately?

So based on my perspective or bias and my criteria I see only 6 – 8% of the dog population as legitimate Pit Bulls, the rest are mixes and pet bulls. I know this may dismay some people, and please do not let it sadden you, I am not a purest in the sense that I think dogs are “lesser than” like snobby show ring people. All dogs are worthy of respect. Dogs have been bred for purposes, in that way I am a purest.

The media as always has distorted the word “pit bull”, as with many other words and phrases; over time it gets twisted and new meanings get attached. That is one of the foundations of advocacy for Pit Bulls, to restore the truth of the breed. There is a semantics and a verbiage predicament.
The trouble with identifying Pit Bull dogs is twofold, who is doing the identification and what is their criteria? The concern among some  is that if the percentage of pit bulls is this low, then people will not take the trouble seriously.  “Heck there ain’t many of em, what’s the fuss” Well it works both ways. If Pit Bulls are popular and according to the anti dog lobby are “running the streets like monsters” The breed is subjected to over representation.

“How many States er ah…communities have this BSL thing?
The other discussion I recently had was about numbers had to do with states and BSL. I was speaking with Laura Allen of The Animal Law Coalition. They do great work and are a valuable resource for anyone doing animal advocacy.

I found this site

It lists the number of states and their jurisdictions that have BSL, as well as the status of the legislation. I was called into question about how I stated that BSL is in 41 states or has been proposed, and that I should have detailed it as 300 communities throughout 41 states. By saying 41 states have or have proposed BSL can make it sound like a law that people want, or opponents will argue that I am not being accurate.

Again perception plays a big part.

Dog people will say “That is terrible; we must do something” Anti dog people will say “sounds good to me”.
I’m not being biased when I say there are more people for the humane treatment of dogs than not.

Let me explain my intentions and my motivation.

How many communities are there in the USA, Millions? 300 out of millions makes BSL sound like it’s not a real problem, in fact it sounds to me as though it is insignificant.

Now, 41 states sounds as though dogs are in trouble. I am here to rally people to understand that dogs are in fact in trouble, despite all the pampering and products and popularity, dogs are in trouble, because they are still not being fully understood or respectfully and legitimately represented and protected under the full extent of the law. There is a disconnect in our society and it’s due to the fact many people in charge of the fate and folk lore of dogs do not know squat about legitimate dog behavior. Much of what happens in shelters, legislatures and animal control is guess work, gut feelings and personal bias.

As I was researching the states with BSL and the politicians in each state I came across Nebraska’s BSL status. They have one community with 1,100 people, it’s ironically called Friend. Pit Bulls are banned there.

Some might say “hey man out of the whole state that’s not so bad”. I would say that is the small wound that can lead to a life threatening infection that can end in death. That is why BSL is insidious. It starts “somewhere else”, like Denver, then Miami Dade, then some irresponsible dog owner gets in trouble and the next thing you know it’s in the house of reps,  then it’s on the way to the Senate and you then you have Ohio.

BSL is now a part of the subconscious or consciousness of many people who work in shelters and animal control, it influences police and media and now we’ve got a cultural meme that is killing dogs. See Loudoun County VA if you want a recent case to examine.

As far as I am concerned dogs should not be banned or blamed or maligned period, it’s the people in their charge that are to be held responsible. Passing the blame onto a breed of dog is like passing the blame onto a child. Dogs do not have intellectual morality, thus they are innocent.

BSL is not state wide in Nebraska, but it is in that state. BSL is not state wide in Florida, but it’s circling around the legislature; circling around so much so that pit Bull owners and advocacy people are nervous. Get it? BSL is a cancer.

This is not about your dog, as I told one Pit Bull owner who felt I could “mess it up” by speaking up. If it’s just about “our dogs”, if the responsible people turn their backs on dogs who are “type” cast or prejudiced against are we really helping dogs? My dogs are safe, all the people I know “in dogs” or those who have taken the responsible measures to be the best owners they can be, those dogs are safe.

What about the dog’s in shelters? What about the people you run into with dogs that are unaware of BSL and insurance companies refusing coverage or hiking rates due to breed of dog?

41 states have been infected in one way or another by BSL, I would say that as far as a social consciousness goes the whole US is infected and affected by BSL. Various insurance companies consider a long list of dogs as potentially “dangerous”. They do this with no legitimate canine science to back up their claims. It’s all a rouse to make dog owners pay a higher premium. Think about it, 74 million dog owners, why just charge the “pit bull” and “rottie” people?

I was also chided recently by someone on You Tube about how Pugs are not banned. That may be true, but buddy they are on lists of insurance companies, I know because I’ve spoken to people who work for insurance companies, the list exists, and pugs are on it. This may not be BSL in its purest form IE: legislation, but the insurance companies and the legislators are tied at the hip. Remember insurance companies insure townships, municipalities and cities. Starting to see the connection?

Just because BSL get’s shot down in one legislative session, does not mean it will not get brought up again. There should be zero BSL ANYWHERE in the USA.

This is a list of "dangerous dogs" according to some states, insurance companies and housing authorities can be found at

I’m waiting on an updated list for both “dangerous dogs” and states with BSL and their current status.  

My intentions
The goal for me with dog advocacy is to bring an end to BSL in ANY form. The blame should be off the backs of innocent dogs. Dogs who wind up in fatal incidents or dogs that become aggressive are by and large a product of their environment. That environment begins from conception and ends at death. A dog’s behavior is directly shaped by the humans in its life. How dogs are bred, trained and maintained has everything to do with their behavior. You can think otherwise, but you’re going to be disappointed when science eventually wins out and helps creates laws and legitimate educational opportunities for people so that dogs are protected by credentialed people making decisions about their fate and well being in shelters and in homes.

I’m tired of arm chair advocacy. I’m really fed up with multimillion dollar Orgs that claim to help dogs, yet waste millions on propaganda and do not spend it on education. I am sick to the guts with people turning a blind eye, be they dog owners or “professionals”.  I am disgusted by people who pick on dogs and continue the ignorance of their self belief and uninformed unscientific opinions. I’m tired of people not using common sense logic. This is for people “in dogs” too, I wish it was just related to people outside of dogs, sadly it’s not. One thing working with dogs ahs taught me, you need to think outside yourself in order to really make head way with dogs.

Please post what you think the percentage of Pit Bulls in the US dog population is. A separate category would be the shelter population. What is your criterion? If you have links add them to the post.

Also I implore people to get involved with the rights of dogs as it relates to BSL and Insurance companies. If you’ve had issues with getting insured because of your dogs breed speak up. It happens more than some might think. If you don’t speak up you’ll be spoken for and by then it might be too late.

We’re entering an epoch by all standards of how one views history. 2012 is about 2 ½ years away. Now is the time to turn this around. It’s gone on for too long. In the past 20 years BSL has gone from Denver to almost every state in the US. It surely has affected the consciousness.

I admit I do not know everything, and I need help. I’m only reporting on what I’ve found and what people with more experience than me have been gracious enough to share with me. So if you can help in some way, please do. As good as dogs have it in the US, they are not fully protected because they are fully understood.

Till next time stay aware and educated, that’s the best way to protect dogs.

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