When it comes to Pit Bulls, there are two schools of thought. The first is that Pit Bulls are sweet dogs, they aren’t vicious, and there's widespread misinformation concerning the breed. It’s how they are raised that matters. The second, all Pit Bulls should be considered vicious, they are known to turn on their owners, and their owners need to be responsible for their containment at all times.
These two schools of thought will never reconcile. There’s simply no convincing those that deem Pit Bulls a vicious breed that they are such sweet dogs, since in most cases they have what they believe to be valid reasons for their opinion. Pit Bull advocates should probably give up trying and be respectful of the fact that these dogs are widely considered a vicious breed. This is why insurance providers will either refuse to provide coverage for dog attacks involving dogs that are considered vicious breeds (not just Pit Bulls), or charge a high premium to cover this type of loss. Even then the pet owner must meet certain containment requirements.
While media reports nearly every Pit Bull-involved mauling incident, we only occasionally hear the stories of Pit Bulls that come to the rescue when their owners, and even strangers, are in danger. Read here about Hades the Pit Bull that dragged a boy to safety after he was severely stung by bees. There are many incidents where Pit Bulls have come to the rescue, and we should keep that in mind when considering the characteristics and temperament of the breed.
I’m somewhere between the two camps and believe that all dogs should be properly contained at all times, primarily for their own safety. Owners of breeds that are considered vicious should be open to the fact that their dog may present a problem for others, and try not to take it personally. It's not personal. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and you can’t necessarily force your opinion onto others. Sure, you love your dog and you know that your pet isn’t vicious, but others don’t know your dog and they are correct in being cautious, especially when children may be at risk.
Dogs have an innate temperament, a personality. Most of us have known happy, friendly dogs that patiently endure engagement with small children and never meet a stranger. And most of us have met dogs that have a hands-off temperament, responding to perceived threats with warnings, and sometimes aggression. Pit Bulls are no exception to either of these temperaments. Pit Bulls are loving and loyal pets with a good disposition if they receive the same love and attention that they so freely give. However, like any breed, a Pit Bull with a sour disposition may be prone to attack if they feel the threat is real (even though in some cases there is no real threat).
Again, this is true of all dogs, regardless of breed. I was once bitten by a Dachshund (he snuck up on me), and was I surprised at how deep this cute little dog could sink his teeth.
I’ve also been attacked by a mixed breed while showing a home, the dog seemed to come from out of nowhere. Luckily I was able to hold him off long enough to get inside the home, and received only minor injuries. But remember, there are things you should do and things you shouldn't when dealing with an aggressive canine. Since I'm not an animal expert, I won't address the do's and don't's of potential animal attacks, but there's a wealth of information on the internet. In this case, when I looked up and saw the dog charging, I braced both feet and dropped my head. The dog attempted to knock me off my feet but I held my ground (literally and figuratively). When I recall the scene it's a bit comical, since my only line of defense was a manilla folder, good shoes, and the ability to remain calm throughout the incident.
However, it's unfortunate that should a Pit Bull become aggressive, they can be relentless and can inflict serious or even fatal injuries. This is the crux of the problem. Pit Bull attacks often result in serious injuries, and sometimes death. The Pit Bull is a powerful breed and a lot can happen in just seconds.
If you are selling your Houston area home and your neighbor’s dog(s) are an issue for prospective buyers, the best approach is to invite your neighbor over for coffee and calmly explain your dilemma. Ask them what can be done to remedy the situation and offer your assistance in doing so. If they aren’t receptive, most homeowner’s associations require that all homeowners obey leash laws and prevent their pets from running loose or posing a threat to other residents. There may even be local ordinances and laws that address pet leash and containment requirements.
Asking your homeowner’s association to intervene may seem harsh, but this is one of the primary purposes of the HOA. It’s their duty to maintain the community and ensure property values are protected from undesirable conditions that are within their control. There are community guidelines that all residents must adhere to, and this includes the proper containment of pets.
I once lived in a neighborhood that had to address an issue with an owner not properly confining their Pit Bulls. These dogs frequently escaped their backyard, and on one occasion chased a resident that was able to outrun them. I approached this women while walking my dog, and she warned me to turn around and explained what had just happened. She was an avid runner and had the physical strength and endurance required to run fast, and escaped the dogs by entering a backyard, climbing two wooden fences, and exiting into the street on the next block.
Don't let the incident I've described above frighten you, or form further bad opinions of the breed. This was an unusual occurrence and it was dealt with. This incident happened years ago, and since then many municipalities have created ordinances, along with HOA rules, to strongly enforce violations of pet containment laws. Along with increased public awareness, incidents of this type are less likely to occur. Again any breed of dog could fit into the story I described above. (Though admittedly very few of us would run for our lives while being chased by a chihuahua or small terrier, while both breeds can be more frequent biters--we just don't hear about them in the media.)
If your neighbor is angry with you for addressing it through the HOA, remind them that you did approach them first and that the problem was interfering with the sale of your home. Ask them to consider what they would do if they were in your position. Would they remove their dogs when showing to prospective buyers? You can also mention that if the dogs continue to present a problem, it may force you to lower your asking price, which could impact their bottom line when they are ready to sell their own home.
Whatever you do, don't insult their dog! Remember, they love their dog and may be sensitive to any inference that their dog could be considered dangerous. Insulting their dog may shut them down and you will have little chance of cooperation. And remember, you will be moving soon and can put the entire incident behind you.
I am a dog lover and empathize with Pit Bull owners wanting their dogs to be understood and accepted. This is a two-way street, and many Pit Bull owners accept that their pet's breed has a reputation for sometimes becoming aggressive. There's a solution for pet related neighbor-to-neighbor tension, so if you're experiencing a problem with a potentially aggressive dog and it has harmed your ability to sell your home, approach it respectfully, including respect for the animal. As the saying goes, you draw more bees with honey than with vinegar, and the odds are that the dog would never harm anyone.
(All statements contained in this article are only the opinion of the author who is not an animal expert. This is not intended to supercede the advice and direction of experts and public officials.)