Don’t Bully My Breed

I got into an argument today with a stranger on Twitter about BSL – Breed Specific Legislation. BSL is legislation cities can pass directly targeting a specific breed of dog. Some ordinances completely ban a breed from an entire city (Denver and Miami has done this).

The person I was exchanging words with was in support of banning pit bulls (which technically isn’t a breed).  “Pit Bull” is commonly used as an umbrella term for dogs with boxy-shaped heads, are stocky, appear strong in stature, and, of course, look “mean.” The term “pit bull” generally covers a few types of breeds: American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Bulldog, and Bull Terrier.

If found as strays, or rescued from abusive and neglectful situations, these dogs will be categorized as “pit bulls” and with it, in some situations, a death sentence will be imposed upon them because not many people, it seems, are willing to bring home a dog labelled “pit bull.” Most of these dogs will never leave the shelter they are dropped off at alive. 

BSL is another obstacle these already abused and misunderstood dogs have to endure when trying to find a home. At the local shelter I volunteer at  there was a pit/lab mix named Sable. She was a loving dog who wanted nothing more than to have her belly rubbed and to play with a hose. A family wanted to take her home, but found out their home association didn’t allow pit bulls. Sable would have to wait nine more months before she would finally leave the shelter.

But while she was there, I’d hear other volunteers ask, as they’d pet Sable through the cage with her body pressed against the bars, savoring the attention, “Why are you still here? You’re so adorable. Why are you still here?”

I remember wanting to yell, “Because she’s a fucking pit bull! And people are afraid of pit bulls no matter how sweet they are!”

Of course, I didn’t yell that. I didn’t say anything. I walked away, pissed that there is yet one more obstacle these poor dogs have to fight to find a home. Sable was forced to spend her days in a kennel instead of a home because of BSL. And that isn’t fair or right.

I was arguing with this person on Twitter that BSL kills pit bulls because it makes it harder for them to find homes. When pit bulls don’t find homes, they die. My shelter is a no kill-shelter, but if it wasn’t, Sable would have been put-down. Killed. And she deserved to live. They all do. Thankfully, Sable did find a home, but most are not so lucky.

To me, BSL is straight-up discrimination. We are blaming not just one breed of dog for the aggressive actions of a few dogs, who were made to be mean, but five breeds. How can that be right? I’m always leery of media reports of pit bull attacks because how do they know for sure it was a pit bull? Since “pit bull” is already categorized to include five breeds, throw in mixes, and it’s nearly impossible to know for sure the exact breed of dog.

The probability is that the media doesn’t know for sure the dog is a pit bull. But that doesn’t stop the headlines that target pit bulls, because those headlines sell newspapers. Those headlines get people’s attention more than “Some Type of Mix Dog Attacks Man on Train!”

I think pet owners should be held accountable for what their animals do. A dog doesn’t just maul a person out of the blue. There are signs of aggression before that happens, and I’d bet everything I have that it was the owners who made those dogs that way.

I adopted a pit bull mix. I didn’t have to train him to be the sweetheart that he is. He came to me that way. Dogs labelled “pit bulls” are not born mean. They are loving dogs who deserve to live. They deserve homes.

If the town you live in is considering BSL or currently has BSL, please do all you can to stop or end it.  It is wrong. And it kills. These dogs need more people to advocate for them. They don’t need any more adversaries. They already have enough of those.  If you can, adopt a pit. Give a “pit bull” a chance. I can say from experience that you won’t be sorry.


Sable, the chocolate lab/pit mix and my baby, Phil. Two “pit bulls” who found loving homes. I wish they all do.


Author: Alicia Joseph

I'm an animal lover. I volunteer at a dog shelter and love nothing more than watching neglected or abused animals get their second chance and find loving homes. I'm also an author of the books, Her Name, Loving Again, A Penny on the Tracks, Annabel and the Boy in the Window, and a short story called This Christmas. When I'm not writing, I'm usually reading. I'll read anything as long as it is well-written and has a compelling and beautiful story. You can find me on twitter @AliciaJAuthor.

13 thoughts on “Don’t Bully My Breed”

    1. Spoiled? Maybe a little. Yesterday I delayed vacuuming for an hour because Phil looked so comfortably cuddled on the couch with his blankies. I didn’t want to disturb him. (He’s scared of the vacuum.) Thanks for reading, as well as commenting. 🙂

  1. Great post. Alex, my 13 year pit mix that passed away a few months ago, was the best dog I’ve ever had. I am a dog trainer and she helped me with dogs that exhibited aggression, anxiety and much more. Yes, a pit mix helped me rehabilitate dogs that ironically were not considered “aggressive” breeds. Yes, pet parents need to be accountable for their dogs. Dogs that fall under pit bulls should not be owned by first time pet parents. These dogs are amazing, but they need a knowledgeable pet parents and those that are committed to work with them on basic training and behavior.

    1. Thanks for reading, Marcela. I’m sorry to hear about the passing of your dog. I’m sure the 13 years you had with Alex were amazing. I pray Phil will bless me with 13 years. He’s 8 now. These dogs need our help and we need to advocate for them. Thank you for all you do. 🙂

  2. I’ve been educated with Pit Bulls since watching ‘Pit Bulls and Perolees’ on Animal Planet. I have seen the most loving and adoring animals on that show. I’d like to encourage you all to watch this as you will be amazed.

    Just recently a pit bull wandered into our driveway. I did not feel threatened in any way. In fact, he was friendly. Our cats were not so enthused, but they were cool about it.

    I’m so glad that my city doesn’t have laws like the ones you described. Pit Bulls deserve loving homes in every city.

    We need more awareness about these dogs and I thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Lynn! I love that show. Tia Torres and her family are so amazing with their dedication to the dogs. I love the awareness she’s giving pit bulls. I hope people who have never considered adopting a pit watches this show and changes their minds.

  3. Well written we have BSL in the UK too. The Dangerous Dogs Act bans four breeds of dog because our government are too stupid to realise that it’s the deed that should be punished and no breed of dog is born bad, they are made that way by stupid, abusive people. Here there are some people who want to ban Staffordshire Bull Terriers too, so Staffies are filling our rescue centres and not getting adopted because the media whip up ignorance surrounding them. 😦

    1. Thank you for reading my post and leaving a comment. Dog bans are incredibly cruel. So many loving and friendly dogs are killed because there are no homes for them. You’re right. The dogs aren’t born this way, they are raised to be aggressive. A town close to me was considering a ban, many people, including myself, wrote the village president to complain. I got a response that they are not planning to pursue a ban.

      Public pressure is the only thing that will stop this ignorant and cruel legislature. Thank you for being an advocate. 🙂

      1. I know where you’re coming from, I have always adopted dogs, several with problems that other people had given up on. It breaks my heart that there are so many dogs are stuck in rescue centres, including a very high percentage of Staffies and Staffy types, even my own mum was scared of them till I changed her mind and she loves animals, the media whip up such an aura of fear around these dogs when they should be blaming the idiots who don’t know how to raise and train a dog or who worse still treat the cruelly and make them aggressive.

  4. Sorry for the delay in response, Amber. That is so awesome that you have educated your mother about how truly wonderful these dogs are. Changing the mind of one person at a time will really make a difference. Keep it up! I will, too. 🙂

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