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Failing the American Pit Bull Terrier

by Nathan J. Winograd


Merriam Webster definition of RESCUE: freeing from imminent danger by prompt or vigorous action

Sadly it is rare to find rescue organizations today that have not turned their backs on the dogs labeled "Pit Bulls". Yet these naturally affectionate, goofy and people-loving canines need their help more than any other companion animal ever has!

The Pit Bull is the most discriminated animal  on earth and perhaps in the history of all mankind. Based on massive misinformation and unfounded hysteria, millions of Pit Bulls are being slaughtered at shelters (and in lesser numbers by rescues and the public).  They are being killed and banned, not based on their individual conduct, but simply because they were born. While only 66 Pit Bull-related deaths occurred between 1979 and 1998, there are tens of millions of these dogs that have done no wrong. The truth is that these fatalities are amazingly few because the Pit Bull is also perhaps the most abused animal because so many 'bad people' treat them brutally and train them to fight and kill.

Yet, many rescues have crossed them off their list instead of advocating enforcement of animal cruelty laws against perpetrators, fighting for favorable legislation and rallying to protect the beleaguered breed. They won't save them from shelters, take them from owners or try to find them homes.

Those blessed to have Pit Bulls as part of their families know their true good nature. See what nearly 20,000 people have said about Pit Bulls in our recent BSL petition under signature comments. The spectacular Pit Bull breeds score higher on temperament tests than Australian Shepherds, Beagles, Collies, Corgis, Greyhounds, and tens of dozens of other canines*.

If the most ardent 'animal lovers' and 'defenders' refuse to step in, we may see the end of this incredibly loving, intelligent and sensitive creature who deserves so much better from us all.

*Breeds most commonly identified as "Pit Bulls" were amongst the highest scoring on a December 2005 ATTS Temperament Test. Note the huge number of Pit Bulls tested in comparison to other breeds, adding weight to the favorable test results.

Debbie Lynn

Killed 6/30/2006 At Devore Pound, California**
Our rescue had a hold on her, had a HOME for her, plus we offered to pay fees so  her 'owner' could  get her out.
Supervisor Mark Scina killed her instead, despite our calls & emails up to the day before and hours before she was killed.
Sign Our Devore Petition


“Teach Compassion.” It is perhaps the most important job we have as animal protectionists. In the mission statement of every animal welfare and animal rights group, every private and public shelter, and within the credo of every activist is a calling to raise awareness of animal suffering and to ultimately encourage more humane treatment. From the earliest days of our movement’s founding, we have heeded the call to change the hearts and minds of the public, knowing that doing so is a precursor to changes in laws and practices that result in animal suffering. But we have our blind spots.

There is no breed of dog in American more abused, maligned, and misrepresented than the American Pit Bull Terrier. There is no breed of dog more in need of our compassion; in need of our call to arms on their behalf; and in need of what should be the full force of our enduring sanctuary. But we have determined that they are not worthy of it.

We have determined that they do not deserve to live. The more circumspect among us might not say so publicly. We may couch it in more benign terms, shifting the blame to others, claiming that no one will adopt them, convincing ourselves that only a ban will keep them out of harm’s way, but the end result is exactly the same. By our actions, by our words, by our policies, by our failure to speak out on their behalf, we stoke the fire that has at its core only one end for Pit Bulls: their mass killing.

To a breed abused for fighting, victimized by an undeserved reputation, relegated to certain death in shelters, add one more torment: those who should be their most ardent protectors have instead turned against them. We have joined the witch hunt.

The very agencies whose officers seek out dog fighters and abusers in order to “save” the poor creatures relegate Pit Bulls to locked and barren corridors away from public view. Ultimately, all of them—the healthy and friendly ones, side-by-side with the hopelessly sick or vicious—are uniformly put to death.

One of the nation’s leading humane newspapers lauds a city not only for outlawing Pit Bulls but for proactively enforcing the ban on them—a ban that leads to their execution. The editors, who have also called for consistency in ethical practices by encouraging shelters to serve only vegetarian food and who applaud other animal rights causes, apparently see no moral ambiguity when officers go door-to-door seizing happy and friendly pets sleeping on beds and couches, taken from their families upon threat of arrest, while animal control shelter workers wait, “euthanasia kits” at the ready.

In an Oregon county, Pit Bulls are killed en masse in a shelter with an avowed No Kill goal by misusing temperament testing as a de facto ban on the breed. In Denver, Colorado, they are simply outlawed and executed. And People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the nation’s most outspoken animal rights group, has joined the battle to exterminate these dogs—supporting a ban on the breed, and agreeing with a policy that all Pit Bulls who enter shelters seeking sanctuary, instead be killed.

Ending the tragic plight of the American Pit Bull Terrier should be among our most ardent goals. Our advocacy must remind people that at one time, the Pit Bull was the most popular pet in America because of their reputation as a friendly, family dog. We must educate people that the Pit Bull’s misfortunate is in finding themselves the favored breed of the dog fighter at this time in history—a distinction shared at one time by the German Shepherd, Doberman, and Rottweiller. And a distinction that will shift to another breed if we ban Pit Bulls but do not bring about an end to the scourge of dog fighting.

We must rally against the injustice of politics which condemn an entire breed of dog—in practical terms, literally hundreds of thousands of dogs a year—to death, because of the unfortunate characteristics of a few of them.

Where there is vilification, we should teach compassion. Where there are scare tactics, we should preach temperance. Where there are lies, we should speak the truth. Otherwise, the animal welfare movement will have failed the Pit Bull completely.

Mindy was born, like others before her, as part of a litter of puppies to a homeless stray. She was light brown in color, with a dark muzzle. She was taken in by a local family who found the mother and puppies near a local park. She was a friendly dog, the most outgoing of them all and quickly became a favorite of the neighborhood. One by one all the puppies were given away except Mindy. While the others looked like their mother, a Labrador Retriever, and therefore had no trouble finding homes, Mindy looked like the supposed father, the “dreaded” American Pit Bull Terrier. No one wanted her because they were afraid of Pit Bulls. In fact, an article in the local paper even quoted a staff member of the SPCA as saying Pit Bulls were a dangerous breed of dog. The family thought of taking Mindy to the shelter, but they knew she would be killed because of a “no adoption” rule for Pit Bulls. They decided to keep her.

But one day, the back door was accidentally left open by the youngest child and Mindy was gone when the family came home. They put up signs but could not find her. The family would later learn that a kindly and elderly neighbor three blocks away fed her. Every day Mindy would come and eat the scraps of food left out for her on the porch. Later when asked why she did not call the local shelter, the neighbor replied that she was afraid to call because Mindy was a Pit Bull and the shelter banned the breed. She thought Mindy would at least have a chance on the street. But one day Mindy did not come back for the scraps of food. She had been taken by some local thugs who used her as bait for dog fighting.

Ultimately, someone did call the shelter, because of a whining that sounded they said “like blood gurgling in a dog's mouth.” In fact, that was exactly what it was. When the officers came, they found Mindy tied to a fence, covered in bite wounds. Afraid of Mindy, even though she had never so much as growled at anyone, they put a long pole with a metal noose on the end, the “catch-pole,” around her neck and tightened it. When she would not walk, they dragged her. In the process, she defecated on herself out of fear.

There was one witness to her abuse, but the officers did not follow-up. It was one more of over 300 “open” files that begged for attention. The abusers were never sought. After a time, the file was marked “unresolved” and closed.

At the shelter, Mindy was not seen by the staff veterinarian. Her wounds were not dressed and healed. She was not treated kindly. They did not try to find her a loving home. No one searched the lost pet database because of the Pit Bull ban.

Instead, she was taken to a rear compound behind a door marked “staff only” where the glass window was covered in dark paper. To get there, officers took her past the children's drawings of happy families with dogs and cats, through the overhang with large blue letters that read “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,” and into a room adjacent to a plaque commemorating the completion of the shelter with the inscription: “All Life is Precious.”

Mindy lay there for 72 hours while dogs came and went. All of them were Pit Bulls. Most of them were friendly, but that did not matter. This was the “Dangerous Dog” ward at the local SPCA and there were no beds, blankets, toys or treats. In here, volunteers did not walk the dogs like they did in the adoption kennels. Here no one got Kong toys, or rope tugs, an occasional brushing, a treat, or even a pat on the head. Once a day she was given a bowl of dry kibble and her water dish was refilled, but she did not have the strength to eat and she was in pain.

The end probably came like it did to countless others like her:

After three days, she was “catch-poled” again. As one employee held her down by the neck, another came in with a needle. She felt a pin prick. She tried to free herself, but the pole tightened around her neck. She tried to stand up, but her legs felt wobbly and she fell back down. Out of fear, she once again defecated on herself. Suddenly she felt nauseous and vomited. Then another person came in. She crawled into the corner and cowered, the pole still tight around her neck. They stood over her. She wanted to get away but she was too weak to move. Mindy was given poison from a bottle marked “Fatal-plus.” She went limp and let out a last breath. Urine spilled onto the kennel floor. Some time later, her body was thrown in an incinerator.

Copyright 2006, Nathan J. Winograd -





Both State Farm and Farmers Insurance do NOT have policies which exclude dog breeds. They DO insure homeowners with Pit Bulls. So  'insurance restriction'  is not a valid excuse to refuse to home Pit Bulls.

100 years ago Pit Bulls were the family dog just as Golden Retrievers are today. Remember Petey of Little Rascals and the RCA dog next to the megaphone? But their love and trust of man is their downfall. Their complete devotion to man and their trainability has made them easy prey for drug lords and dog-fighting criminals who use them for their malevolent purposes.


**NKN Note:

Mark Scina, supervisor of Devore Animal "Shelter" in San Bernardino County, sealed the death of Debbie Lynn despite the fact that we had a home for her,
had our rescue name on her as a last resort and we even offered to pay the impound fees for her 'owner' because we were told by a Devore employee that she wanted her back but couldn't afford to get her out.  We emailed Mark Scina numerous times, including the day before and just hours before he had her killed.

We estimate the same thing has happed to  several animals in the last few months that we asked Mark Scina not to kill. Since our Devore petition and our complaints on our website, Mark Scina has vowed not to cooperate with us. It appears he  has tragically decided to take out his anger on the animals by ending their lives. Just one more example of many: a gorgeous Siamese mom and her six exquisite kittens were killed by Scina just days before though we had our name on them and a home for all.

Mark Scina is the man at Devore Animal "Shelter" that decides who lives and who dies. He makes his rounds every day with a clipboard, creating his DAILY KILLING SCHEDULE, even when as many as half the cages are empty. Several times he has been asked why he kills with empty cages. He has responded, "That's what we do here" and "that [empty cages] has nothing to do with it."