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"Pit Bulls"

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***Update October 17, 2012: We are pleased to tell you that Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is officially leaving the City of Edmonton! City Council has passed an amendment to its Animal Control Bylaw which eliminates the previous section which outlined that certain dogs were labelled "restricted" solely based on their breed.  

The Edmonton Humane Society is thrilled with City Council's decision to eliminate this legislation that we have felt for a long time was discriminatory.

Here is the bylaw report the City Council passed on October 17, 2012:


Fact and Fiction about dogs commonly called "Pit Bulls"

Information courtesy of the Edmonton Humane Society and BAD RAP.  www.badrap.org

For the purpose of this page, we use the generic term 'pit bull' to describe these dogs, even though there is no proper definition for pit bull. Recent research including DNA analysis by Dr. Victoria Voith and others has proven that dogs commonly identified as pit bulls are quite often a mix of multiple breeds, so breed identification by appearance alone is now considered to be inaccurate and misleading.


Although originally bred to assist butchers in taking bulls to market, these dogs had remarkable qualities to do many things. They were used to help working farms and used as nanny dogs for young children.


  • They can range between 25 and 75 pounds. In recent years, appearance and conformations vary so widely that it's hard to recognize the 'old world' pit bull anymore in the 'new world' creations. A good reminder why DNA analysis keeps coming back with mixed breed results for so many dogs considered to be 'pit bulls.'
  • Pit bulls are beautiful in their variety, but their most appealing features are their inner qualities. Strength, confidence, a sense of humor and a zest for life are all hallmarks of the breed.
  • Properly socialized dogs are quite affectionate and friendly, even with strangers, and therefore do not make good guard dogs.
  • They’re intelligent and eager to please and tend to remain playful throughout their lives. While some can be low key ‘couch potatoes,’ many others need a job to channel their enthusiasm and energy.
  • They excel in dog sports, search and rescue work, drug and bomb detection work, and as therapy dogs.
  • Severe shyness, fearfulness or human-directed aggression is not characteristic of the breed and highly undesirable in any breed of dog.


The media, including Sports Illustrated, shamefully capitalized on fears of a modern day werewolf by promoting stereotypical images, and the reputation of the entire breed was dragged down with yet more sensationalistic headlines and damaging myths and untruths. This set the stage for breed specific laws (BSL), which cropped up in select places as the dogs began to be used as a political platform by opportunistic politicians.

Even the most responsible owners still struggle to keep their dogs safe from discrimination and harm. The larger threats to the dogs are much more insidious and mainstream than even the threat of dog fighting, and result in an unforgivable prejudice that condemns countless pit bulls to homelessness and an early death. It is the housing market that routinely forces families to surrender their dogs to crowded shelters because no property owner will rent to them - even to a hero dog. It's ill-informed professionals who promotes profiling dogs based on appearance.


Aren't Pit Bulls MEAN and VICIOUS?

No more vicious than golden retrievers, beagles or other popular dogs! In yearly tests of over 240 dog breeds by the American Temperament Testing Society (ATTS), pit bulls consistently achieve a passing rate that's as good or better than the other most popular breeds. How did your favorite breed do? Check at www.ATTS.org

In the ATTS test, a dog is put through a series of confrontational situations. Any sign of panic or aggression leads to failure of the test. The achievement of pit bulls in this study disproves once and for all the old tired belief that pit bulls are inherently aggressive to people. Like any breed of dog, a healthy pit bull that is properly raised will reflect the good care his owners have invested in him. Photo credit: Carol Guzy, Washington Post.




Don't Pit Bulls eventually TURN ON THEIR OWNERS?

No. Healthy pit bulls with stable temperaments are succeeding in countless homes across the continent. Dogs that bite people are typically troubled individuals, set up to fail by irresponsible and/or reckless owners who've ignored or disregarded the classic warning signs that come with nearly any dog bite. In general, biting dogs have been set up to fail by improper handling, abuse and/or damaged genetics. Profiling dog breeds works against the goal of reducing dog bites. Bite prevention education resources as offered by the Edmonton Humane Society can help build safe, humane communities without resorting to the kind of ineffective paranoia that comes from targeting select breeds. For a well-researched source of information on canine aggression, visit The National Canine Research Council.



Don't Pit Bulls have LOCKING JAWS?

A pit bull's ability to "lock on" with its jaws is one whopper of a myth that refuses to let go. There is no 'enzyme,' no special mechanism that would make a pit bull's jaws 'lock.' They're DOGS, not alligators. Need proof? After research, Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin, University of Georgia concluded, "We found that the American Pit Bull Terriers did not have any unique mechanism that would allow these dogs to lock their jaws. There were no mechanical or morphological differences..."

Bite pressure fact checking, reported by The National Canine Research Council (NCRC) .  Above: Art credit C.S. Neal




Dog Aggression Happens! Dogs will be dogs. Your job is to set your dog up for success.

In all dog breeds, dog tolerance levels can range from very dog social to very dog aggressive. Most well socialized pit bulls fall somewhere in the middle. To make things even more confusing, dog tolerance levels can shift. Late maturing puppies can lose their forgiving nature as they grow older, catching many dog owners by surprise. In other cases, dog aggressive adults can become much more dog tolerant with training and proper socializing opportunities.

Dog tolerance comes from a blend of nature and nurture and is influenced by a dog's genetics, socialization, training and owner management ... not "How he was raised." You ultimately hold the key to your dog's success with other dogs. That is why the Edmonton Humane Society has training classes dedicated to Pit Bulls and Bully Breeds.




Confused? Know Your Dog!

No matter how tolerant your dog may be with other dogs, it's your responsibility to keep him well socialized and properly managed around other dogs, especially dogs he doesn't know. Good management is important and must be kept up for the life of your pet. This includes avoiding rushed leash greets, designing measured introductions with potential dog friends and monitoring play sessions. Any dog that shows leash reactivity by pulling at the leash and barking at dogs does NOT make a good impression and should be handled with training ASAP.





Pit Bulls are Social Butterflies

Your dog will LOVE going places with you to see the sights and visit with your friends, family, and strangers on the street. Heads up though - you'll need to wear a thick skin in some situations. Perfect strangers will want to talk with you about pit bulls - some with friendly comments and some will say the rudest things. It can all seem like a grueling exercise at times when you're navigating insensitive comments. There's a bright side to this madness. By taking your well behaved pit bull out into the world, you know you'll be actively working to educate and dispel breed myths every single day. Hanging out at the local coffee shop with your lovable dog by your side will probably bring you more interesting conversations then you ever thought possible. And undoubtedly, you'll be making friends while you're busy changing minds.  The Edmonton Humane Society does not agree in taking them to dog parks.  Many dog breeds do not cope well in this often stressful and highly energetic scenario and pit bulls are no exception.




Bilinda Wagner, DBTMcc, CAPPDT

Canine Enrichment Centre Program Manager, Edmonton Humane Society

780-491-3521     This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it