National Pit Bull Awareness Day was started in 2007 to bring positive attention and awareness to Pit Bulls and their responsible owners. Over time, the awareness day expanded to an entire month to highlight this breed that fills far too many shelter kennels across the United States. As a rescue movement, we need to focus Pit Bull awareness on responsible breed ownership as much as we do positive breed awareness.
As a shelter, several years ago, it was necessary to increase the adoption criteria for our pit bulls. Sadly, we were seeing return rates for Pit Bulls in excess of 75%. Now that we’ve increased our adoption criteria to require home ownership, prior pet ownership, and a minimum adoption age of 21, our Pit Bull return rate has normalized to our regular return rate of about 5%. We receive a significant amount of negativity that our adoption criteria for Pit Bulls are different than for other breeds but we made those changes out of necessity to improve the lives of our shelter pets. Sadly, many of our Pit Bulls were being returned with behavioral issues that they didn’t exhibit during their first stay at the shelter which contributed to them becoming long-term shelter dogs. While they may have a longer shelter stay, we are hopeful that their adoptions will result in permanency.
Over the course of the last 48 hours, we received 12 surrender requests and 10 of the 12 requests were for Pit Bulls. The reasons for surrendering were similar: I’m moving and I can’t take with me or I can’t afford. Owning a Pit Bull, just like any other dog, is a lifetime commitment. When you welcome a Pit Bull into your life, especially as a renter, you need to think about not only right now, but all of your future moves to ensure they can be included.
If you inquire about available pets at any of our local animal controls and beyond, you will find that many of the available dogs are Pit Bulls. Kennels filled with Pit Bulls at Central Illinois shelters and beyond do not point to a breed problem, it points to a larger issue that we need to address as a community. Many of the Pit Bulls filling shelter kennels are young and were purchased off of social media or obtained for free. Sadly, far too many people want the cute little face without the long-term commitment that comes along
with pet ownership.
Young Pit Bulls are pouring into our shelters unaltered with little to no obedience or manners. Their average length of stay is far too long because there are so many competing for homes. Sadly, far too many pay with their lives at crowded, over-capacity animal controls.
When we talk about Pit Bull awareness, we need to make responsible ownership an integral part of the conversation. We need to encourage the spaying and neutering of Pit Bulls and put an end to backyard breeders, especially backyard breeders that endlessly breed dogs chained up in the backyard for some quick cash. Shelters are filled with not only young adult Pit Bulls but puppies as well. We currently have 2 litters that will be available for adoption soon. Adopt and they will come home spay/neutered, microchipped, and vaccinated.
We can all be a part of this conversation to help this breed whether you own one or not. Speak up when your family or friends are breeding Pit Bulls. Speak up when your family and friends are buying a Pit Bull puppy for $50, or even worse $600 or more from someone online, especially when they are rehoming them at 4, 5 and 6 weeks old. If back yard breeders can’t sell the puppies, they’ll stop breeding the moms. Speak up when you know that your family or friend hasn’t thought beyond pet ownership “right now” and how they’ll care for a Pit Bull long-term through moves, job changes, relationship changes, children, and more…especially speak up if you know they currently live somewhere where they
can’t have the pet, the landlord always finds out.
We can all do something to promote responsible Pit Bull ownership and prevent this beloved breed from ending up in shelters across the country.