They’re four-legged, loyal and adopt-a-bull.
Today is National Pit Bull Awareness Day and in order to challenge the stereotype associated with the breed, the Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter is hosting a special event open to all dogs.
From 1 to 4 p.m. there will be pet photos, face painting, agility training, plus a Halloween costume contest for canines. Pinecrest Veterinary Clinic will also be on hand from 1 to 2 p.m. to give rabies vaccinations for $10 per dog. The shelter is located at 525 Sells Ave.
National Pit Bull Awareness Day started five years ago from a group in Cookeville called Bless the Bullys. Now the special day is acknowledged across the country as pit bull owners continue to rally in favor of a breed that tends to have a reputation of aggressive behavior.
“People are scared to death of them and it’s a lot of untrue things about them,” said Eric Rogers, a kennel attendant at the Washington County Johnson City Animal Shelter. “People think they are naturally (mean) the way they are portrayed and they’re not.”
Locally, Rogers says pit bulls are one of the hardest dogs to adopt out of the shelter, especially since there are several stipulations in the adoption process. Owners must have a kennel or fenced-in yard and a home check is required.
There are currently six adult pit bulls available for adoption and others from area rescue operations will also be at today’s event.
Because many of the adoptable pit bulls spend a long time in the shelter environment, staff get a chance to bond with them. Rogers said they’re smart, lovable and enjoy being lap dogs, which is opposite of the perception that they’re “chained-out dogs or the ones you see in movies at the junkyard.”
The Washington County/ Johnson City Animal Shelter gets a lot of stray pit bulls, as well as ones who come from bad homes where they are chained up and left in the yard.
“They’re actually one of the breeds that if you put them on chains and you don’t interact with them, they deteriorate fast and that’s why they become hateful because they thrive on social interaction,” Rogers said.
He and JJ Blevins planned the local National Pit Bull Awareness Day to break the stereotype that they’re dangerous dogs. Rogers says this idea comes from publicized pit bull attacks, which are rarer than bite reports from labradors and chihuahuas.
“It’s the typical reaction from people who have never looked beyond reading about a pit bull attack,” he said.
“The majority of bite cases we take here are all little dogs, but nobody reports on those because no one wants to read about a chihuahua bite.”
Even with all the negativity, Rogers says attitudes are slowly transforming in favor of pit bulls.
“I think a lot of people’s perception of them have changed and you’re seeing people that you wouldn’t think would own pits, like a grandmother jogging down the street with one, but there’s always going to be people who want to have them for status, breed them and sell them for $1,000, or fight them.”
All breeds are invited to attend National Pit Bull Awareness Day and each dog must be on a leash. No retractable leashes will be allowed.