Police Search Animal Shelters for Canine Top Cops, as Pit Bulls Prove They Can Protect and Serve Pit bulls, a loose term used to describe dogs with certain similar appearance traits, have gotten a bad rap. But now many US police departments are doing something wonderful to turn that largely undeserved reputation around, making the much-maligned pit bull into hero K9 cops.
First, it should be clarified that pit bulls are not a breed, per se. The term is used to encompass a variety of breeds, including Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, American Bullies, American Staffordshire Terriers, and American Bulldogs. Because the rare instance of fatal maulings get so much press coverage, while the millions of peaceful, loving, and devoted family dogs get little to none, pit bulls as a group have gotten a reputation as being vicious fighters.
Dog fights rings, such as the infamous and torturous one run by football player Michael Vick, have done nothing to help this ill-deserved image, even though, as in Vick’s case, it is the humans, and not the dogs, who are the evil ones.
Happily, new alliances between animal shelters and police departments nationwide may go far in turning the image around, while simultaneously saving thousands of pits from a near-certain death at municipal pounds across America. Where once cops bought purebred and very expensive German Shepherds from Europe and trained them for tens of thousands of dollars, pit bulls are now proving they can do the same job for a fraction of the cost.
Animal Farm Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 1985 to specifically turn the pit bull image around, is on the forefront of this mission. The charitable organization has teamed up with Austin Pets Alive!, one of the country’s most innovative no kill animal shelters, along with Universal K9, a company that trains dogs for all kinds of personal protection and police work, to turn shelter pits into police pits of the highest order. And cops, many of whom own pits in their private lives, are loving it.
A Facebook alliance called Protect Pit Bulls from BSL (breed-specific legislation, the kind of legal measure that bans pit bulls from entire metropolitan areas, such as the one now being fought in Montreal in Quebec) explains why it’s such a win-win for all involved.
“Instead of spending $10,000 to $15,000 for a trained Belgian or GSD [from Germany], they are now taking pit bulls from [US] shelters and training them, and they are proving themselves to be amazing police and military K9s,” said the group. “Police departments are finally getting it,” they added.
Among those departments are ones in Washington State, Florida, and New York State, where pit bulls as police dogs are becoming an accepted practice. The shelter canines are proving they have what it takes to sniff out drugs, uncover bombs, find dead bodies in rubble, and even help with getting to the bottom of arson cases. Plus, of course, their most important use: apprehending bad guys in the act of committing crimes.
Ironically, and contrary to their nefarious public image, it can sometimes be the most difficult aspect of training to get shelter pits to turn on bad guys, because they are generally so loving towards humans. Hopefully, as these police programs expand and become even more popular, the poor pit bull’s reputation as a bad guy will line up more with their reality as a loving and faithful family dog.
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