I started volunteering at spcaLA about 4 years ago, donating my time photographing shelter animal in need of new homes. Among the dogs housed at the shelter, a disproportionate number of them are pit bulls (which isn’t a single breed, but a collective term referring to a group of breeds including American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier and any crosses with one of these breeds. Some people consider the American Bulldog part of this group as well). Over the years I’ve grown very fond of the pit bulls. In fact they’re now one of my favorite dogs.
If you have not spent a lot of time around pit bulls, it’s likely you have a negative impression of these dogs because of the way some media outlets tend to portray them as man-eating monsters every time a pit bull bites someone. Yes, these are very powerful dogs that can inflict substantial damage when they bite. But I can say with certainty that the vast majority of these dogs have not a single mean bone in their body. They are sweet, loving animals who deserve good homes. I’ve had close interactions with hundreds of them in confined quarters of an animal shelter in the last 4 years; and I can tell you from personal experience the notion that all pit bulls are unpredictable beasts that can turn on a human at a moment’s notice simply isn’t true. On the whole I’ve probably encountered more badly behaved Chihuahuas than pit bulls.
The recent case of Lennox the dog in Belfast, Ireland brought the issue of breed-specific dog legislation into the spotlight. UK’s Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 prohibits ownership of certain “types” of dogs that are deemed dangerous. “Pit bull type” dogs are on that list of prohibited dogs. People who are caught owning such dogs will have their dogs confiscated and destroyed, regardless of the particular dog’s actual temperament. What is especially troubling to me about the law is that the determination of what constitutes “pit bull type” dogs rest in the hands of a single person who subjectively decides whether the dog’s appearance resembles a pit bull. That to me isn’t unlike having a “dangerous people act” that bans “people who may look like they belong to a particular race.” We all know what THAT is called: racism. And we all know that is not acceptable in a civilized society. Now consider another recent news item, the Trayvon Martin case. Whether you agree with the mass media’s attempt to fan the flames in order to make headlines, one thing is clear: We as a society will not tolerate anyone harming anyone else based purely on their appearance. So why is it ok for certain communities and news outlets to send the exact opposite message when it comes to pit bulls? We cannot enact laws that target specific breeds of dogs simply because they “LOOK like someone who MIGHT attack somebody someday.” Breed-specific legislation that forces responsible dog owners to give up their dogs who have never harmed anyone just makes no sense.
I’ve been wanting to do a series of photography exhibits featuring pit bulls to help raise awareness and improve their public image. To get things started, I invited Melissa and Johnathan of the Red Nose Lucy Foundation to come in for a special 4th of July photo shoot with their red pit bull named Lucy. Jennifer Rosen of Bullies and Buddies Rescue also brought in her white pit bull named Ace and a blue pit bull puppy she is fostering named Penny. Red. White. And blue. Perfect for a 4th of July photo shoot! I had a great time hanging out with and photographing these adorable pit bulls. Oh, in case you were interested, Penny is available for adoption! Please contact Bullies and Buddies Rescue for more info. Here are some photos from the July 4th shoot. Enjoy!
For more information on breed specific legislation, here are a few more links: