Pit Bull owners speak out against common misconceptions

LEWISTON, ID - Pit Bulls are known for their intelligence and loyalty but they are often stereotyped as aggressive or malignant dogs.

"It all boils down to the owner," said Pit Bull owner Brett Cunnington.

Dog attacks are often only reported when larger breeds threaten or assault other animals or humans. Coincidentally, Pit Bulls are among those canines that many people are afraid of based on what they've seen or heard, however many Pit Bull enthusiasts contend that the breed is not human aggressive.

"Dogs are not born mean, they're made mean, that's the bottom line," said Cunnington.

"Blind hate is blind hate, don't just hate something without knowing it. Do your research about it," said Pit Bull rescuer Don Nickles. "Before I place a Pit Bull in anyone's home, I recommend that they do their research and read about them. They are a special dog and it does take a special kind of person to own this breed."

Organized dog fights still take place in many parts of the country, and the criminal activity which comes at the hands of the human owners continues to give the dogs a bad public image. But owners said that isolated incidents don't reflect on all the dogs.

"I firmly believe there's a bad dog in every bunch," said Cunnington. "There's bad Labs, there's bad Poodles, bad Cocker Spaniel, it's all in how you raise a dog."

Some Pit Bull owners said they are almost made to feel ashamed when admitting to what type of dog they have.

"I work in a salon and I remember when we first got Zeus I said we got a Pit Bull pup." said Amy Cunnington. "It almost came to the point where I was almost embarrassed to say because I didn't want to hear the lecture, and I said because we like the bully breeds, it's all how you raise it."

Pit Bulls are currently used for all types of service work including drug detection, emergency rescue, service and therapy work, military service and much more. However, like any other canine, they can be unsound and have behavioral problems. Pit Bull enthusiasts claim more often than not, those problems are associated with the owner.

"I think a dog is as close to a human as you can get. They need compassion, love and attention," said Brett Cunnington. They can't hold themselves responsible for what they do."

"When people want them to fight, that's what they do," said Nickles. "They do their job and they do it 100%. If that's guarding your home, being a loyal couch companion, watching reality T.V., going on a hike and in some cases, dog fighting."

"I think you have to meet the dog and if you have to get to know the personality and get to know the owner," said Amy Cunnington. "Not all dogs are bad, if they're mistreated, yes they're going to lash out."

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, it's not uncommon for owners to encourage their dogs' aggression by using other dogs and smaller animals such as cats, rabbits and rodents as bait.

KLEW News is currently working on the number of attacks associated with certain breeds of dogs in the L.C. Valley and nationwide.