Breed Specific Legislation: Obama Supports Pit Bulls, but Owns Portuguese Water Dogs

| by Denise A Justin
article imagearticle image

With all due respect, we must wonder what suddenly made the President of the U.S. an expert on dog breeds, dog behavior, breed-specific legislation and a supporter of pit bulls.

When the Obama’s just selected a “little sister” for Bo, their purebred Portuguese Water dog, did they consider taking their girls to an animal shelter to cuddle a luv-a-bul Pit Bull as a possible option?

Forgive me if I find Obama’s sudden concern for pit bulls a little disingenuous. Have we forgotten his empathy for shelter dogs in his first presidential campaign, BEFORE he gained the endorsement of the Humane Society of the U.S. in September 2008, urging voters of both parties to support him. And then AFTER the election:

The media statement just published by the Prez, states: “We don’t support breed-specific legislation—research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources.”

Breed-specific legislation (BSL) is generally discussed in regard to pit bulls and related breeds. Obama’s research seems devoid of facts about the burgeoning number of attacks by pit bulls and other bully types nationwide and makes us wonder if he will be taking Bo and Sunny for strolls in Chicago streets.


The most high-profile location for BSL in the country, Denver, Colorado, refutes the White House conclusions that BSL is” ineffective and a waste of public resources:”

Since 1989, when Denver instituted a pit bull ban, "we haven't had one serious pit bull attack," Kory Nelson, a Denver assistant city attorney, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Denver’s assertion that "pit bulls are more dangerous than other breeds of dog" has withstood legal challenges,” he said."We were able to prove there's a difference between pit bulls and other breeds of dogs that make pit bulls more dangerous."

One does not have to “hate” Pit Bulls to be realistic about the breed and understand that some very serious breed-specific laws, including special permits, should be considered nationally to protect the dogs, as well as protecting those who too often are becoming their victims.

If so many owners of Pit Bulls are “irresponsible” that the average length of a pit bull’s life is less than two years, shouldn’t we seriously seek legislation that will assure that “irresponsible” people are not allowed to overbreed, torture, starve, neglect, mutilate, fight, abandon, torch and electrocute them?

The worst transgression of all against pit bulls is denying that this is a breed that was--and still is--specifically bred for dog fighting, which is thriving largely due to the rhetoric repeated by those who become experts as soon as they “own a Pit Bull” but fail to look at—or seemingly care—what happens to the thousands they don’t own.


Sadly, here are the real statistics on what happens to pit bulls, provided by Merritt Clifton, editor of Animal People, who has compiled statistics from all over the country since 1982. He states, “Pit bull attacks are way up:”

--We had 184 fatal & disfiguring pit bull attacks in 2012.

--To date in 2013, we have had 342 fatal & disfiguring pit bull attacks.

“An average of just over 900,000 pit bulls per year over the past 10 years have been killed in shelters after flunking behavioral screening, with a peak of 967,000, a low of 835,000, and 910,000 killed last year. This is about 60% of all the dogs killed in U.S. shelters today, up from about 50% in 2003.

“The average age of pit bulls killed in animal shelters is about 18 months. So what we have at any given time is a third of the pit bull population having not yet reached maturity, a third (at most) in homes they will still occupy at the end of the year, and a third flunking out of homes and being killed -- which translates into a 50% failure rate among adult dogs in homes each & every year.

“About two-thirds of the fatal and disfiguring dog attacks occurring in the U.S. during the past 30 years have been by pit bulls. The low rate of sterilization among pit bulls contributes mightily to the repeated finding that the majority of fatal and disfiguring dog attacks are by non-castrated male dogs.

“But about two-thirds of the fatal and disfiguring attacks by castrated male dogs are also by pit bulls, including at least nine fatalities since 2010 inflicted by pit bulls who were adopted from animal shelters after both castration and passing standard pre-adoption behavioral screening.” (


In response to the Obama epiphany, the head of the Washington Humane Society, states that pit bulls should again be allowed in military housing. All branches of the U.S. armed forces have banned them since numerous attacks on humans and pets on military bases finally culminated in the death of a three-year-old boy attacked by a pit bull at Camp Lejeune in May 2008.

Tiffany Jackson, who works for Marine Corps Community Services on Okinawa and volunteers with the Okinawan American Animal Rescue Society, said that many dogs she sees abused, neglected and then abandoned on military bases ”had owners who wanted the dog as a token rather than a pet.”


Of those pit bulls who do not end up in shelters, a disproportionately high percentage die in organized and amateur dog-fighting matches. Individuals and groups who choose to ignore that reality, or who are involved in it, are often those who most loudly and frequently oppose breed-specific legislation.

Also opposed to BSL are pit bull breeders who profit from churning out puppies for the worldwide dog fighting industry.

Perhaps President Obama might want to take another look at his broad-spectrum comment about BSL. Breed-specific laws can develop positive programs targeting overpopulation, exploitation and suffering.

There is something very wrong when those who want to protect the most abused breed with stricter laws are called “pit bull haters,” and those who claim to be “saving” the breed are knowingly or naively joining or fronting for those who abuse them.

Sources: LA Times, SF Gate, Jacksonville Daily News, Ornery, HSLF, Stripes