Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Future of the APBT

To:   Wayne R. Cavanaugh, President, United Kennel Club
        American Kennel Club
        National Kennel Club
        Canadian Kennel Club
        National American Pit Bull Terrier Association
        American Dog Breeders Association
        and many dog behaviorists and animal welfare specialists

A ten-day old infant was killed on February 19th, 2011 by the family's pit bull in Kalamazoo, which presents a terrible irony. Kalamazoo, as it happens, is the home of the United Kennel Club, the largest purebred registry for American Pit Bull Terriers. In fact, the UKC was originally founded, in 1898, specifically to register fighting dogs.

The UKC has mostly outlived the legacy of it's dogfighting days and provides valuable services to breeders and owners of over 300 dog breeds. The UKC justly prides itself on its family-oriented, friendly, educational events, of which there are over 15,000 annually.

The UKC divides dogs into eight breed groups. The terrier group currently lists 44 breeds, two of which no longer belong in this category.

The American Pit Bull Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier are no more related to the  the Skye, the Cairn, the Irish or the Jack Russell Terrier than an ostrich is to a wren. Trying to shoehorn fighting breeds into this family portrait is an impossibility.

Many breeders have ignored the breed standards and produced individuals with gigantic domes of 26 inches and larger. The highest priced dogs, in sharp contrast to the published standards, have small, narrow eyes and small ears on the back of their heads. Breeders are selecting for lower and wider dogs, as wide as they are tall, and weighing two to three times the published standard. In fact, breeders have developed a new, superior gladiator dog that bears no resemblance to the published conformation standards. Yet these dogs are registered as American Pit Bull Terriers (APBT) by the UKC.

What category do these fighting dogs properly belong in? Perhaps they deserve their own category: Fighting Dogs or Pit Dogs. A more radical option would be to transfer registration policies and rights entirely to the American Dog Breeders Association, which does not deny the dogfighting legacy.

With the escalating level of pit bull attacks on humans we are entering a new era of increased financial liability for owners, shelters, the humane movement, and others who misrepresent the true nature of fighting breeds. It is incumbent on the UKC, as the authority on breed standards, to clearly and honestly define the true characteristics of the APBT.

We strongly urge the UKC to adopt the following changes:   
  • draft a revised set of the APBT breed standards which reflect the current reality;
  • remove all references in UKC illustrations and publications to the APBT as a family pet;
  • recommend that the APBT is NOT suitable as a service, therapy, or  Ambassador Dog, and must not be used in programs such as reading therapy dogs for children;
  • acknowledge the volatile, unpredictable nature of the breed, and the record of attacks on humans, pets, and livestock. 
Millions of pet owners and tens of  thousands of attack victims, and their families, look to the UKC for responsible leadership on this issue.

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32 years of logging fatal & disfiguring dog attacks
   Animals 24-7; September 27, 2014

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