Blog: Are You Calling Me A Wolf?

This is what a Pit Bull breed ban looks like.

By Canine Advocate - Melanie Coy

Click Here for Original Blog Entry or read below:

This past Wednesday evening, April 14, 2010, I attended the presentation of Understanding the Animal Activist... Wolves in Sheeps Clothing (HSUS). The program was hosted by the Cape Girardeau County Farm Bureau. Mr. Kelly Smith, Director of Marketing and Commodities for the Missouri Farm Bureau has been traveling the State of Missouri giving this talk for several months.

On the whole, I found the experience very enlightening. I have been trying to get the different groups of animal activists to come together for a long time myself. What I do have a problem with, is any group using scare tactics to further their agenda. I have been on the receiving end of this type of propaganda for many years.

Thirty years ago I acquired my first American Pit Bull Terrier. For several years I enjoyed this purebred fancy, blissfully unaware of the danger lurking on the horizon. In the mid-1980's the Pit Bull Club I belonged to called all the members and told them about an upcoming program on ABC's 20/20 television news magazine. Barbara Walters was doing a special on the Pit Bull. It was thought the broadcast could have some negative effects on the image of our breed. We were encouraged to watch and if necessary provide feedback. Never in our wildest dreams did we have any warning that this single broadcast would initiate a fire storm the likes of what we have seen in the years since.

In the weeks following this broadcast, all the news talk shows aired programs condemning the American Pit Bull Terrier. You can still go online to view the Sports Illustrated issue that was said to have sealed our fate. A dog breed that was all but unknown, was suddenly thrust into the arena of public opinion. Sadly, public opinion was being formed by a media being motivated by profits, not responsible journalism.

My first encounter with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) was during a broadcast presented by one of the daytime talk shows. The representative of HSUS appeared on screen with a dog that was crammed into a kennel too small for the size of the dog, in a room full of strange people during the taping of a nationally syndicated program. The dog was out of control. He had been "prepped" to give the audience the idea that all Pit Bulls were nothing but slobbering monsters whose only purpose was to maim and kill.

Nationally, communities had already begun demanding the destruction of any dog of this breed. Our towns and cities were in a panic over dogs they had barely even been aware of existing before. Now everyone was an expert because they had seen Barbara Walters' broadcast. The only hope the public had to survive was to destroy every Pit Bull that could be rounded up.

There were no grandfathering provisions in the call to rid our nation of this hound of hell. You either moved your dogs from harms way, immediately, or you stood the chance of having them confiscated and destroyed without due process. This was the beginning of a movement toward the genocide of a dog breed simply because someone had found a way to make a dollar.

In the beginning, no one was prepared to protect their dogs from this mass hysteria. We called on the other breed fanciers to band together with us to fight what could possibly turn into a common enemy. The other fanciers turned their back because, after all, it wasn't their dogs being targeted. German Shepherds and Dobermans had been targeted by public opinion and survived. This thing of attacking the Pit Bull would simply blow over and something else would come under scrutiny.

The attack on the Pit Bull was not like the attacks on the other muscle breeds. This was generating a national media blitz to wipe this breed off the face of the planet. We knew if they succeeded in destroying our dogs, nothing would stop the move to ban any other dog that fell from public favor.

Now in 2010, we are seeing the results of allowing precedent to be set in the passage of laws and ordinances that discriminate against a particular breed. No one is safe. Dogs as small as Pugs are being targeted by insurance companies and towns are targeting any dog over 50 pounds as being undesirable. What better way to eliminate pet ownership than by starting an attack on a breed that was so easy to target?

I have never denied the heritage of my dogs. The heritage that insured the stability of my chosen breed, also guaranteed their doom because of the public relations nightmare that was generated by numerous self serving groups using scare tactics to sway public opinion. I have seen first hand the magnitude of power the animal rights people have when furthering their agenda.

There is a danger when any group employs these methods to sway an uninformed public. The average person has just the barest knowledge of issues surrounding animal welfare. That makes them an easy target when groups want to gain support. This thing of animal legislature is neither simple, nor is it black and white. Using emotion is not a new concept. It is employed by ad agencies, politicians and any other group trying to gain public support. I have little patience with finger pointing between the different groups. This is serious and it involves living, breathing creatures. For the agricultural community, it involves their very survival.

If I had stood up Wednesday evening and introduced myself as a Pit Bull advocate, I am fairly certain my reception would have been chilly at best. I had already made this group wary because of my hosting of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation booth at the Home Show. My BLOG entries are not known for being "vanilla". I want to generate debate and controversy because I feel that is the only way to get the public active. The point that needs to be made is that what has happened to the American Pit Bull Terrier is exactly what will happen to the agricultural community if they do not become active and take a stand on the issues.

The Pit Bull fanciers were the same way then, the farmers are now. We were content to enjoy our dogs among ourselves. We tended to our own business without a care to how the rest of the world lived. We got nailed because we did not heed the warning signs. Now, our dogs are being systematically destroyed by ignorance as much as by lethal injection or gassing. Because we were caught unawares, no dog is safe. This could just as easily happen to any group that is shrouded in the unknown, first hand experience like the farming community.

One point Mr. Smith made, was that in our urbanized society, it has been very easy to present farming practices as barbaric. In our rural location, we have all heard the joke about getting our food from the grocery store if there were no farmers. In large urban areas, that is a concept that, while maybe not believed entirely, is actually more accepted as fact. After all, for those of us that do not witness our food sources from birth to plate, what is easier, considering that steak in plastic wrap or standing in a field?

Just like the Pit Bull, the aspect of the unknown farming factor is easy to target. It is critical that all animal activists educate themselves. The very definition of an activist is someone that gets involved. Mr. Smith is advocating involvement, commitment, speaking out and engaging groups that threaten our pursuits and lifestyles. Guess what Mr. Smith, I do all those things. I use whatever tools are at my disposal to fight the ignorance being presented as fact by these same self serving groups you are trying to rally against. I am an activist. I am also concerned for the welfare of my companion animals, including horses. I have years invested in this fight. I will not be lumped into the same category as HSUS or PETA or any extremist group using emotion and fear tactics to further their personal agenda. If this makes me a wolf, then it is a title I gladly accept.

Please educate yourselves to the facts. Get involved in the legislative process to avoid the same catastrophic results in your area of interest that have consumed the Pit Bull. Donate to your local humane societies and rescues to insure your financial support is used in your communities. Do not allow yourself to be lead by ANY group. Arm yourself with the facts and demand to be informed truthfully, not by sensationalized hype.

There is strength in numbers. I will gladly join with the Missouri Farm Bureau to insure a mutual protection of our rights. Though our pursuits may be different, and our opinions varied, we are in this fight together.



PETA on targeting children: "Everything we do is based at adults." Ingrid Newkirk, PETA President on CNN, March 21, 2002


"Our campaigns are always geared towards children and they always will be." Dan Matthews, PETA Vice President, on FOX News, Dec 19, 2003 


What does it mean to be involved?
When negative legislation is proposed or adopted, it affects and alters the time and energy devoted to positive events as efforts are diverted to protecting our freedoms and those of our animals. It is extremely important to halt the negative influences of animal rights organizations so that energy can be devoted to all the beneficial effects that our animals can bring, such as having events that promote responsible dog ownership, etc. like showing our communities the countless types of work that our dogs are capable of doing.
What are you doing to be involved?
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