What’s in a name?

Apparently a whole lot.  This is not groundbreaking news in the ‘pitbull’ world.  If your reading this, I’m guessing that the majority of you all know about the name situation.  But what really IS in a name?  There is all this hype and stigma behind The Pitbull.  The word.  Pitbull.  What are we even referring to?!

I went to this great seminar (though I did have to duck out early, unfortunately), brought to us here in Baltimore by the lovely Kim Wolf who came all the way down from Animal Farm Foundation from upstate New York, to help us out with this whole court ruling thing.  I touched on it about a month ago, but for those of you who are not in Maryland…it’s all that we’ve been thinking about.

So anyway, back to the seminar.  Kim said to us, if you take one thing away from this seminar, I want it to be this: you cannot judge a dog based on its appearance.  The appearance of a dog tells you nothing.  Yet that’s what we do, right?  “Oh that’s a rottie, you can tell by its coloring”.  Or, “That dog sure does have some lab in it, you can tell by the coat”.  Or, “that pit is a staffie”.  I’m totally guilty of it.  Remember I joked (kind of) that our little Lolabug looked liked a pitbull-french bulldog-bunny rabbit-mix?!  Kim showed us pictures of all these different dogs and let me tell you, what their DNA tests came back with, told us something totally different then what the average person would have guessed.

Now I don’t have her pictures, but as you know, I foster through a ‘pit bull rescue’.  Yet take a look at the dogs that have come through my home.

What do they all have in common?  Little Lola rang in at a whopping 38lbs, soaking wet.  Knox was a trim 68lbs, and Ariel was a chunky girl (with a big frame) tipping the scale at almost 80lbs.  Though there are no DNA tests, I’m guessing they are a heinz 57 mix.  Yet, they were all considered “pitbull mix” at the shelter they were pulled from.  Do you know any other ‘BREED’ (I say that loosely, because the point of this post is that these are not American Pit Bull Terriers…or any other ‘breed’) that has such a variety in colors, frame/build, size, etc.?  I didn’t think so.

So the point?  Well there are lots.  But a huge point is that Animal Farm’s mission statement started out about 3 decades ago trying to change the image and secure equal treatment of the APBT.   That has since evolved to the ‘pitbull’.  This change was due to the realization that there were a ton of other dogs that were being labeled ‘pitbull’ and discriminated against as well, many of which were just you average, mis-labeled shelter dogs, many of which were not APBT’s at all.

The shocking statistic for me?  A dog’s appearance is 2-10% of his DNA.  That’s it!  Two to ten percent!  That small percentage makes up how large the dog is, how stock/slender, the color of the coat, the markings, the fur, how it’s ears are…etc.  That was very shocking for me.  How do you think the intake worker at the shelter labels the dogs that come in every day?  Do you think they have DNA kits they run on every dog?  Yet pet point (the software many shelters use) requires them to enter in a ‘breed’.  There is no “mutt”, “mix” or other go to label.  So what does the typical American Shelter dog get labeled?  Pitbull. (or Pit bull mix, or terrier mix, etc).

So, food for thought.  What we typically label a ‘pitbull’ many be a good ‘ol Heinz 57 mix.

For us, here at Pittieful Love, we’ll continue to use the word Pitbull, very well knowing that this is not a ‘breed’ but most often, a grouping of dogs who are quickly labeled based on 2-10% of their DNA.  The ‘mission’ of this blog has always been ‘Fostering and loving America’s Dog…’and that’s exactly what we’ll continue to do.

Oh, and if anyone reading this works at a shelter, you can do something by contacting Pet Point and letting them know the labeling system is not working out for you.

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12 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. Love this post. I’ve been mulling around a post of this nature but haven’t put it in words yet. When Ray and I go out on the town we get reactions that run the full gamut from adoration to distrust. Some people look at him and see “pitbull” …mean and menacing while others chase us down to “pet the cute doggie.” Sometimes I allow myself to become oblivious to the Pitbull-ness and am usually reminded by a look or action.

  2. We actually had Nola’s DNA tested with the Wisdom Panel done by drawing blood that had to be done by the vet. So many people always ask us, is she Pit, Rhodesian, Vizsla, Boxer, etc.? Well officially she is 50% Boxer, 25% Belgian Malinois, and 25% Jindo. I am not sure of the validity of the test, but it does go to show you that dogs can be easily mislabeled. In my opinion, dogs should be judged more on their personality traits than their physical looks when being placed in forever homes. It is more important that the dog is the right fit that way than what ‘they are’ as a breed! Thanks for the post.

  3. Totally true. It is like A.D.D. in children. If they don’t know what’s wrong with your kid they have A.D.D. if they can’t tell what kind of dog it is or looks a certain way it is a pit. Even my Sampson has a big block head that reminds me of a bit, but a gentler dog never walked this planet. 🙂 Great post, I re-tweeted it.

  4. Wow- that statistic blew me away! I agree that too many dogs get lumped into the “pitbull” breed. However, I also love that so many advocates are owning that label as something positive and trying their damnedest to turn this b.s. around! I know in the end, goodness will prevail 🙂

    • And that is exactly why we still use the word, pitbull! We love and are proud of this ‘breed’; despite the fact that is really isn’t a breed at all. There may be some similarities, but Kim said, “If dogs are being negatively judged and discriminated against, then they need our help”. ‘Pitbull’ seems to be the catch-all… so pitbull it is. We wanted to spread a little awareness that ‘pitbull’ and the UKC recognized breed of the Pit Bull Terrier are very different things. Let the goodness prevail! 🙂

  5. Preach it, girl!!! I love this post. I remember when my bf freshman year found a pit without tags wandering around the pool where he worked. It was in PG county, so we couldn’t take her to a shelter. She was obviously someone’s beloved pet and so so dear and sweet. We loved her. My parents would have kept her if it weren’t for Corker trying to constantly attack her- how ironic is THAT? We had to take her all the way to Frederick County and we called her a staffordshire terrier, lol. She was adopted out to a farm, which was perfect for her. I think of her often and the poor family who must have lost her.

  6. none of the DNA tests have been proven to be true. All dog breeds today derive from a few “types”, so of course, even if the tests ARE accurate, they are will show remnants of many types.. they are meaningless. There IS a purebred APBT/AST and if you’re interested in the breed, you should be able to identify one. If not, call yourself a generic rescue, which is fine. Save any dog you want, which is fine. But you’re not doing anything for “pit bulls”.

    Appearance doesn’t guarantee behavior, but there ARE breed based behavioral traits as much as there are appearance based traits. That’s what breeds are.

    This is all part of a “who cares about purebred dogs” agenda as well as a “pit bulls are just a generic thing; treat them like any other dog” It’s one thing to say that “all dogs are individuals”… quite another to completely deny the existence of breed traits

    There’s no reputable breed rescue on the face of the earth, whether it’s Dobermans, Rottweilers, GSDs, Jack Russell Terriers, beagles.. even Golden Retrievers.. whose advocates wouldn’t absolutely scoff at such an attitude.

    • At I acknowledged in my post, I am very aware that there are pure bred APBT’s… The fault comes in society labeling a slew of dogs ‘pitbulls’ when in fact, they may not be pitbulls at all. There are also a ton of dogs that many average city workers (animal control, shelter workers, etc) label as pitbull when in fact they are a completely different breed (with completely different traits) such as Cane Corso’s, American Bulldogs, even Boxer mixes, etc. These aren’t even in the terrier grouping of dogs— so the traits can be VERY different. Yet these dogs are often clustered together. The point is, if we (meaning society as a whole) are smacking a label on a dog that comes with all this (crappy) BSL… there is something wrong. The rescue I foster through just pulled a litter of ‘pit bull puppies’ from PG County shelter— they do not adopt out pit bulls there. They turned out to be hound/mastiff mixes, yet if they were not rescued, they would have been euthanized. We (shelters, animal control, the public) are mis-labeling dogs like crazy. And when the label is ‘pitbull’ the unfortunate truth means that this is a death sentence for many.

    • Emily S,

      What exactly is your point? I read your post a few times (which comes off as being rather hostile, perhaps that was your intent?) but do not understand:

      (1) What you are criticizing – the fact that this site or the rescue group that Jess refers/fosters for considers itself a “pit bull site” or “pit bull rescue” when the dogs involved are not purebred APBT/AST?

      (2) What you suggest a “reputable breed rescue” interested in helping pit bulls does and looks like?

      (3) What you suggest we all do so as to prevent our current approach that is “not doing anything for “pit bulls””??

      I look forward to your response.
      Jennifer Wagman

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