Shelters confront reality of pit bull discrimination

Too many of the dog shelters in our area are overrun with pets needing forever homes. The problem is even worse for pit bulls because of the ugly preconceived notions many have of the breed.

Fox 29's Bill Anderson went to a Delaware shelter to meet some of those pit bulls and find out how new legislation can hopefully improve their lives.

"There's nothing inherent within pit bulls that would make them aggressive," Walter Fenstermacher, Director of Operations at Brandywine Valley SPCA told Fox 29.

"Depending on who you ask, what's commonly referred to as a 'pitbull' is either a violent and aggressive dog, or just a friendly dog that's occasionally misunderstood as a result of bad owners."

Walter explains, illustrating how 'nurture' can really best 'nature' in the case of pitbull behavior.

"We believe it's really who their pet parents are and how they train them as far as what builds their behavior."

Fair or not, pit bulls do have a reputation that, at least in part, leads to the problem Bill Anderson noticed at Brandywine Valley SPCA: Too many pit bulls are abandoned and end up in shelters.

The poor reputation has led to certain areas passing laws mostly directed at pit bulls, labeling them as dangerous before an individual dog has exhibited dangerous behavior. Some areas have flat out banned the breed, forcing owners to get rid of their family pet if they moved or got a job transfer.

But on Friday, Delaware became the latest state to say 'no more.'

"The house bill that passed is preventing laws from being put in place that would be specific or discriminatory towards certain breeds or dogs that look a certain way," Walter told Fox 29.

Activists hope that the so-called 'anti-breed discrimination bills' will help people view the dogs according to individual behavior and not reputation.

"They're great family dogs," Walter explained. "They can be with other animals, they can be housed with cats. They're just like every other breed."

Fox 29's Bill Anderson loves and supports rescue dogs, though admittedly was also hesitant when it came to pitbulls. So we put his fears to the test.

Charlotte, a pit mix, was much more afraid of Bill than he was of her. Then Stewie came out. Nope. Nothing scary there either. Finally, Copper paid Bill a visit. The rescue pup just wanted attention!

The hope of the breed-specific law ban is that pit bulls can either stay with their original family or get a chance to be adopted into a new one without shouldering the reputation of an entire breed.