Time to pity the pitbull?
Classified as ‘‘menacing’’, they are euthanised by many council pounds, with no attempt at rehoming, writes
For decades it has been the villain of the canine world, but now it could be time to pity the pitbull, according to the SPCA.
Unclaimed pitbulls in council pounds in Wellington, Auckland, Dunedin and Hamilton are routinely euthanised, without any assessment of their potential for rehoming, becaused of their classification as a menacing breed.
SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen says that is unacceptable, and needs to change.
‘‘It’s completely unnecessary, it’s just an easy way out.’’
Pitbulls are one of five breeds automatically classified as menacing in New Zealand. They receive the classification regardless of their behaviour.
Pounds say the dogs are overrepresented in attack statistics, capable of inflicting serious damage, and are not rehomed for good reason.
But Midgen says judgments should be made ‘‘by deed, not breed’’, as is the case in Christchurch, the only main centre that assesses pitbulls for rehoming.
‘‘We totally oppose euthing a dog simply for it’s breed and we are completely fighting it.’’
Midgen said no law prevented the dogs from being rehomed. The only legal requirement was that a menacing dog must be desexed and muzzled in public.
While she wanted automatic euthanasia stopped, she also questioned councils’ ability to correctly identify the breed, suggesting dogs resembling pitbulls were also being killed.
‘‘How do you define these dogs? DNA is not a conclusive answer on any dog because the breeds are so intermixed, so you can’t say that is a pitbull or not.’’
She acknowledged some of the dogs – often kept for their ‘‘tough-guy’’ image – could not be rehomed because they had been neglected or abused. But she said they should all be assessed by councils, or released to other organisations who would test them.
‘‘There are some lovely, lovely dogs who should be given a chance.’’
Christchurch Bull Breed Rescue owner Abbey van der Plas said she had rehomed ‘‘hundreds’’ of pitbulls over the past decade, and people needed to rethink the dogs’ image.
‘‘These are just dogs, there is no special gene that makes a pitbull get to an age where it just snaps. They are no more likely to bite than any other dog and, like any other dog, they deserve a chance.’’
Her young children helped take care of the dogs, which showed just how loving and trustworthy pitbulls could be, she said.
‘‘When people with kids ask me what sort of dog they should be getting I always recommend a bull breed, they are so good with children.’’
Pounds should assess all dogs, regardless of their breed, and allow them to be rehomed to responsible owners or released to organisations who would do the same, she said.
‘‘There’s nobody sticking up for these dogs and they really have been demonised.’’
In the Wellington region, the Ka¯piti Coast and Porirua councils occasionally rehome pitbulls. Last year, Porirua City Council euthanised 35 dogs classed as menacing because of their breed. A spokeswoman said she was aware one pitbulltype had been rehomed.
Ka¯piti Coast District Council could not say how many were homed or euthanised.
Wellington City Council regional manager animal service Les Dalton said 30 years of experience had shown him pitbulls were more capable than any other dog of inflicting serious damage to humans and animals.
‘‘This type of dog needs an owner who is skilled, experienced and determined to control the dog, and often those owners are not easy to find.
‘‘The SPCA argues that desexing does quieten a dog down eventually, but given past experience of councils rehoming menacing breeds, and having many of those backfire on them, I totally agree with this policy of not rehoming certain breeds.’’
Hamilton City Council animal control manager Susan Stanford said the dogs were over-represented in attack statistics.
‘‘On average 20-25 per cent of our attacks in Hamilton involve pitbull-type dogs, yet they make only 4 per cent of the registered dog population.’’
‘‘There are some lovely, lovely dogs who should be given a chance.’’ SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen