Kelly Armour of Cumru Township is a dog lover and has been a pit bull advocate for more than 20 years.

She has owned five pit bulls in her 37 years. She has rehabilitated about 10.

She believes pit bulls are an outstanding, loyal and loving breed, much maligned and incorrectly deemed overly vicious.

In fact, she said pit bulls boast such diversity and come in a variety of sizes, colors and temperaments that even the American Kennel Club has had a hard time trying to classify them,

A workshop Armour conducted Thursday at the Animal Rescue League of Berks County in Cumru drew about 20 people. It was billed as a first step in educating the public about why pit bulls are perceived so negatively.

Hazel, a pit bull therapy dog owned by Kim Reifsnyder of Lower Heidelberg Township, sported a green tutu and novelty shamrock antennas on her head, and served as a friendly visual aid. Also, up-for-adoption Celia, Ruby and Mumbles appeared with handlers and were paraded about.

The dogs, apparently unaware of their poor image, greeted and licked those in attendance.

Armour said the pit bull breed, its lineage tweaked over the years with bull dogs and terriers, originally was a herding and guard dog and even considered a nanny for young children.

She said Helen Keller, Theodore Roosevelt and Gen. George S. Patton were all owners and admirers of pit bulls. She noted the popular dogs were often used in advertising, from Buster Brown shoes to the RCA Victor.

But with its loyal and loving nature that could be easily twisted, the animal was used in the cruel bear-baiting sport hundreds of years ago. Later it was trained to subdue aggressive bulls by biting and gripping their noses, Armour said.

“The blood sport of pit bull fighting didn’t arrive until much later, where dogs fought dogs and the animals were bred with prey-driven terriers and often kept in small cages,” she said.

These dogs became aggressive and unstable animals that often had to be euthanized.

“When pit bulls were used for herding and as family guard dogs, they were never allowed to show aggression toward humans,” Armour said.

Coupled with the extreme animal abuse in recent years came extensive overbreeding and puppy mills, which led to many of the animals winding up in shelters.

In a lot of suburban and urban shelters, 70 to 80 percent of the animals may be pit bulls, Armour said.

“Most shelters handle more bite cases involving German shepherds, Labradors and cocker spaniels than they do with pit bulls,” said Armour, who grew up in Perkiomenville, Montgomery County, and worked for years as a kennel attendant in the Montgomery County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

She said all pit bulls in shelters are screened with behavior assessment and temperament testing before any public adoption is allowed.

“Any animal with teeth can be dangerous,” she said. “Safety is always a concern with any animal, but with pit bulls it’s not the breed that’s bad, it’s the people.”

What you need to know
  • No one breed is right for everyone. It’s all a matter of finding the right dog for you.
  • Many assume if a dog is in a shelter, it’s there because of some fault of its own. That’s a myth. Most owners surrender dogs because of finances, health or moving.
  • People can be frightened by perceptions of a dog’s history. Most problems can be addressed by behavioral modification and training of pets and people.
  • Beware of behavioral problems caused by health issues. Pit bulls, for instance, are generally healthy and resilient, but are prone to food allergies and have other sensitivities.
  • Ninety percent of dog behavioral problems can be reduced by proper exercise.

Original Reading Article by Bruce Posten