For most of the 114 years since the American pitbull terrier was first recognized by the United Kennel Club, the breed was rightly seen as the perfect “nanny dog” for children because of its friendly nature, loyalty and stability. As the ASPCA notes, the pitbulls were “once considered especially non-aggressive to people.”
Today, as any owner of a “pitbull-type” dog* can attest, parents often recoil in horror when they spot one of these animals, pulling their children close as if to protect them from a marauding werewolf. Fanciful myths about the breed abound, and some public officials have compared their bites to those of sharks and tigers.
Since the 1980s, the media have falsely portrayed the pitbull as a bloodthirsty monster, inherently more dangerous than other strong breeds of dog. There is absolutely no factual basis for that narrative, but it’s led to a vicious cycle in which people who want a badass dog to fight, or to guard property, or to intimidate rival gangs tend to choose pitbulls (or Rottweilers, another much-maligned breed). Pitbulls are the dog of choice for irresponsible breeders, dog-fighters, people who want a tough-looking dog to tie up in their yard and those who refuse to have their male dogs fixed because they think those big, swinging balls makes them look tough by proxy (86 percent of fatal canine attacks involve an unneutered male, according to the American Humane Society).