Pit Bull dogs have a long road to adoption, often thwarted by prejudices, laws and bans. Yet, would you be surprised to learn that Pits are the number one dog being bred in America? That's right - the dogs that have the hardest time finding homes are also experiencing a baby boom of overpopulation.
It is estimated that there are 3-5 million Pit Bulls in the U.S. The term 'Pit Bull' encompasses mainly three breeds of dog: the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Considered a 'bully breed' and subject to Breed Specific Legislation, they are by far the most euthanized breed.
Debates rage over the validity of accusations against them but one thing is certain....they are being killed in shelters at shocking rates.
Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes average about 33% of shelter intakes nationally, but in large cities the numbers are as high as 40%-65%. About 75% of municipal shelters euthanize Pit Bulls immediately upon intake, without them ever having any chance at adoption. Those that are offered for adoption are usually the first chosen for euthanasia when overcrowding forces the shelter's hand and decisions have to be made.
Studies estimate that up to 1 million Pits are euthanized per year, or 2,800 per day. Some estimates are up to double that number. In the Los Angeles area alone, 200 per day are put to sleep. A study by the organization Animal People reports a 93% euthanasia rate for Pit Bulls and only 1 in 600 Pits finding a forever home.
Read that again. Only ONE in 600 Pit Bulls will have a forever home.
Further, euthanasia estimates don't include the misery and death Pit Bulls face as the #1 dog-fighting breed. Fought dogs that don't die in the ring often suffer excruciating abuse, neglect, abandonment, and eventually death even worse than humane euthanasia.
Our animal shelters are not to blame.
The staff who have to 'choose' which dogs to put down are not to blame.
Those who carry out the euthanization are not to blame.
It's simple math....there are too many Pits and not enough people willing to adopt them. Shelters are overwhelmed with dogs who demand space and funds for their care and medical treatment and something's got to give. It's the animals, very often Pit Bulls, and what they give is their very lives.
Until we can educate the public and move them to spay and neuter, we're just putting a band-aid on a gushing wound. One female dog can produce two litters of 6-10 pups per year. In 6 years that female and her offspring can produce 67,000 dogs!
Often, it is the cost of sterilization that keeps Pits intact to reproduce. Great work is being done to curb the Pit Bull overpopulation by organizations such as the San Francisco SPCA. The facility offered one month during which all Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes were sterilized free of charge. It went so well that they have extended the program indefinitely!
"We know first-hand through previous initiatives...the positive effect efforts like this can have in the community, " says Jeannette Goh, D.V.M., Director of the SF SPCA Spay and Neuter Clinic. "We're excited to offer this service free of charge from here on out."
San Francisco has a legal requirement that all Pits and Pit mixes be spayed or neutered because over 60% of the dogs euthanized in the city are Pit Bulls. The SF SPCA Spay/Neuter Clinic is part of the Leanne B. Roberts Animal Care Center and is on track to perform more than 9,000 sterilizations this year. During the first month of free sterilization for Pit Bulls at the facility, spay and neuter surgeries on Pit Bulls rose 350% from the previous month.
Sterilization of dogs also may increase their lifespan by 1-3 years, as it greatly reduces the risk of cancer and also curbs their urge to roam. Roaming can lead to a short, harsh life on the streets, or...you guessed it...landing in an animal shelter and facing euthanasia.
Kudos to every shelter facility that offers low cost or free sterilization of all dogs, but especially of Pit Bulls. Google to find one in your area and get it done!
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Check out BAD RAP, an organization of owners, trainers, rescuers, educators and supporters of Pit Bulls.