Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

Pit Bulls: From Nannies To Hated Breed

Published on October 12, 2011 by   ·   5 Comments Pin It

Pit bulls….what just happened as you read that? Did your hair stand on end with fear or did you fill up with a warm sense of love and comfort? Sadly, many among us have been conditioned by the myriad sensationalist pit bull-related stories put forth in the media. And whether you love the breed or not, it is important to know that the vast majority of these stories are misinformed, partial accounts that have come to represent a minority of incidents. The fact-based reports and statistics on this breed offer an entirely different picture.

For starters, you may be surprised to learn that in the 1940’s and 50’s pit bulls were affectionately referred to as “America’s Nanny Dog.” Their stability, natural affinity for humans, and good nature with kids had many American families “employing” pit bulls to watch over precious new family members. And if any of you has had the good fortune to know a pittie personally, you’ll agree that their ongoing wish to make their love and affection known with kisses likely kept these kids “well groomed” to boot!

GGA Founder Chloé Jo Davis with Twiggy (one of her two adopted pit mutts – RIP)

But the impressive history of this now-maligned breed does not stop here. Their praises could be sung by every municipal chorus and there would still be more content upon which to write an opera!

Pit bulls have not only been trusted to care for human infants, but also, large companies, and even countries, have branded them as “spokes-beings” for their products and causes! Their professional portfolio includes serving as the face for Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and they were America’s choice to convey loyalty and integrity on WWI and WWII campaign posters to enroll troops. In today’s market, if pit bulls had agents they’d land all sorts of coveted gigs.

Helen Keller and her pit bull, Sir Thomas (photo courtesy

Sergeant Stubby (photo courtesy

President Woodrow Wilson’s best friend was not only a pit bull but he was also a war hero. Canine Sgt. Stubby served our country in WWI and was reportedly wounded in action twice. Stubby actually captured a German spy and succeeded in saving his entire platoon by warning them to retreat from a poisonous gas attack. If that doesn’t define “man’s best friend,” what does?

Woodrow Wilson was not the only national leader loved by a member of this breed. As a young boy, Jimmy Carter had a loyal pit bull companion. And General George S. Patton’s faithful bull pooch, Willie, was noted to have mourned his master’s loss for a long time after the general’s passing.

Helen Keller also shared her life and travails with a beloved pit bull companion. And who can forget the famed Petey from the little rascals?

More modern celebrity figures, such as Jon Stewart, Brad Pitt, Jessica Alba, Mary Tyler Moore and Justin Timberlake, have been seen out and about, walking proud with their rescued pit bull companions.

My own work helping rescue animals after Hurricane Katrina had me working side by side with actress Linda Blair (of Exorcist fame) who also came to the Gulf Coast to help rescue animals. Linda was right there in the trenches and is so committed to these canines that she runs her own not-for-profit rescue group to help the breed.

Shayla Pit Bull Terrier: An adopted dog in Cottageville, WV (click for more info on her)

So if history is any indication, I’d say we have a lot to learn about this misunderstood breed. I know you to be a crowd always up for debunking myths about our fellow animals, so I vote that we spread the real story on this “dogged” dog. Hopefully we can educate others missing out on the “bottomless pit” of love these guys have to offer the world.

Originally posted at The Daily Wag on

Dr. Pia Salk is a psychologist, animal welfare advocate, and expert on the human-animal bond. Pia frequently highlights the important role that animals play in our lives and how our societal treatment of animals conveys important messages to our youth. In her own work, Pia often credits the animals as being “the real therapists.”

GGA HQ was home to two pitbull mutts until they died at 18, so you know how we feel about the breed (love, trust, adore.)  But Dr. Pia Salk takes it to the next level by analyzing where we – as a human species – went wrong with this breed – from beloved to most feared, now what can you do to help pits? Debunk, foster, donate, and adopt!

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Readers Comments (5)

  1. AMEN! I’ve had pitbulls most of my life, starting at age 11. I’ve had other dogs as well, large and small, and the most consistent love of my life has always been this breed. They are kind, gentle, and absolutely devoted to their human families, and it is the worst shame imaginable on us as a species the way these naturally people pleasing and noble dogs are maligned.

    Wondering what other friends of this blog who are pro or anti PETA think about Ingrid Newkirk’s stance that pitbull breeding should be banned–in essence, eliminate all pitbulls–because people “can go to the shelter and save one of the countless other breeds and lovable mutts sitting on death row through no fault of their own. ”

    Her statement dismissing the value of adopting a pitbull implies that it’s the pitbull’s fault it’s on death row or it is in a position to be abused. Her claim that “People who genuinely care about dogs won’t be affected by a ban on pits” implies that only thugs “need” to have this dog, and that if we really care about the welfare of canines, our energies need to be focused on the breeds she deems WORTHY of saving.

    We should–and are allowed under the auspices of Ms Newkirk–to respect the sanctity of life and extend love to all animals… EXCEPT pitbulls because she’s scared of them and thinks they’re dangerous. I find this stance to be extremely hypocritical. They did not breed themselves to have superior strength, endurance, and tolerance for pain. They are animals, and as such, are just as innocent as any pig, cow, or duckling subject to the whims and cruelty of human beings who would use them for their own purposes. How is it that wolves in the wild must be protected from hunting and de-population measures–but we need to extinguish pitbulls from the earth because they are plotting to turn on us, it’s just a matter of when and where we meet our end at the jaws of one of these vicious killers! ? GIMME A BREAK!

    I think such obvious ignorance does nothing to remedy the high instances of pitbull abuse because these statements are unfounded by any facts or personal expertise on rehabbing abused or former fighting dogs.

    Newkirk’s statments on pitbulls make them seem dangerous and therefore unworthy of our protection and care as animal lovers, especially with her uninformed claim that it’s easier to adopt other dogs because the challenge to properly socialize a pitbull is too great. Maybe if she actually understood animals instead of lining her pockets with donations made on their behalf, she’d realize that each dog is an individual, and one breed or another is not more difficult to socialize if you know what you’re actually doing. I’d like to know how many pits she has personally rescued or attempted to rehab to feel confident with this statement.

    I’d like her to read about the efforts to save and rehab Michael Vick’s dogs. The folks who undertook the rescue and rehab of these victims are REAL heroes for animals, and perhaps making an effort to understand the challenge of displaying true love, patience, and care for such a misunderstoof animal on a personal level would behoove her.

    Some of these dogs had to be put down because they were too far gone and would pose a danger to people because their trauma was too deep, yes. And ones that *weren’t* are now loving family pets and companions, a far cry from the sad caricature she paints of every pitbull being a potential child mauling murder machine.

    Her solution to ending pitbull abuse is to throw up her hands and say we should just get rid of pitbulls. Is that the best solution the head of People for the ETHICAL Treatment of Animals can offer?

    We can do better than that. Dogs deserve better, regardless of their breed. Adopt a pitbull or donate to an organization that rescues and rehabs these amazing dogs today.

  2. chloejo says:

    I vote for an end to breeding ALL animals!

  3. chloejo says:

    It wouldn’t eliminate them, there are too many already in existence. Moreso an end to BREEDERS.

  4. Jill says:

    I just have to say when I was a teenager……. ahem …. a few years ago…. I met the sweetest pair of dogs anyone could love. Only later did I learn they were Pitt’s. Never really understood what went on, always sounded to me like mishandling of the dog. Any dog can go bad if treated cruelly enough.

  5. ruby says:

    Eye opening.

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