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How breed bias is killing Wyoming Pit Bulls

The story is the same all over the country – big, powerful dogs are being penalized for their negative representation in the media. “Pit bulls,” or any large dog that fits within the “bully breeds,” face serious prejudice among the general public, insurance companies, and some dog owners. As a result, the shelters are flooded with these sweet-tempered animals. Many are euthanized, while hundreds of others spend most of their lives in no-kill and low-kill shelters or rescues. Where do Wyoming’s Pit Bulls stand? Even with a huge rural population and a high percentage of homes with fenced yards, they’re losing the fight against breed bias.

Bully breeds of all ages and types die in shelters every day, with nothing against them except their breed
Wimbows via Wikimedia Commons

Wyoming breed bans

As of August 2014, only two Wyoming municipalities outright forbid Pit Bull ownership: Manderson and Ranchester. While both of these are very small towns, it’s telling that any breed ban can pass anywhere in such a conservative state where most citizens resent government interference. Instead of passing requirements on spaying or neutering, proper restraint, required renter’s insurance or other aspects of responsible ownership, they’ve already made the plunge to breed banning. Both of these towns are near the Crow Indian Reservation, which has no official animal control, so any limitations on adoptability can spell a slow and unnecessary demise for a portion of the dog population.

Landlords, insurance and specific dog breeds

Every landlord has the right to choose what he or she allows in a rental and what they don’t. Sadly, a disproportionate number of landlords choose to simply forbid Pit Bulls or Pit crosses. Others may be limited by the mandates of their homeowner's insurance, which may place restrictions on specific dog breeds that are thought to be especially destructive or aggressive. Dog-friendly rentals can be difficult to find in general, and this additional restriction means that most renters – even those who are currently in a Pit-friendly place – pass over the Pit Bulls at the shelter “to be on the safe side.”

Mislabeling “accident puppies”

Because of Wyoming’s Pit Bull bias, many backyard breeders intentionally misrepresent their puppies in order to find them homes faster. Hundreds of litters are labeled as “lab cross” or something similarly safe-sounding. Adopters or buyers take the puppies home prepared for typical retriever behaviors, and instead get the bold, outgoing temperament of a large terrier. Most of these mislabeled pups end up in the shelter between 6-18 months of age when they’re much more of a handful than their owners ever expected.

Severe lack of public education

There are a lot of misconceptions about what a Pit Bull is, and those misconceptions frequently lead to bad matches when the dogs find a home. Some people see them as tough, mean dogs with a decidedly masculine appearance, so they’re adopted by people who know nothing about the breed beyond the fact that it “looks cool.” Others simply don’t understand how training requirements are different for large, bold-tempered dogs than for, say, a golden retriever or a shih tzu. Thousands of young, healthy dogs are euthanized every year in Wyoming shelters alone because of a lack of training.

Before adopting or buying a dog, always thoroughly research what you’re getting and what is required for effective training. The combination of unfair legislation, individual prejudice and uneducated owners is costing lives – the lives of tens of thousands of Pit Bulls and related breeds.