By Susan Donaldson, B.A. (Hons), Animal Campaigner
So called dangerous dogs and overlooked shelter pets have an undeserved reputation which prevents them from being adopted. In this article, we explain why this is wrong.
Certain dog breeds have an undeserved reputation for being dangerous dogs. This makes them unpopular choices for adopters. Along with certain other breeds of dog, they are overlooked in animal shelters and rescues.
Local authority pounds and shelters put animals to death after a short time period. Some other shelters and rescues do the same. The dog breeds that are so often overlooked by adopters are the breeds most often put to sleep.
In ‘no kill’ rescues, these dogs can be left there for months, years, or for the rest of their lives, while being overlooked in favour of other dogs.
There is often nothing wrong with the dogs, there are other factors why they are overlooked. It might be that:
Cats are also often put to death at shelters and pounds due to not finding homes or rescue spaces. There is also an abandonment problem with rabbits and ferrets.
Many people wrongly consider Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Pit Bull Terriers to be dangerous dogs. In the UK, Pit Bulls are on a list of banned “dangerous breeds”.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier type dogs are overlooked shelter pets in the UK because of two reasons:
Their reputation is because they are popular with a certain section of society, who sometimes train them to behave aggressively. If not trained to be that way, they are naturally extremely affectionate, loving, gentle and loyal dogs.
The breed is strong, and is very eager to please. Irresponsible owners take advantage of that for the wrong reasons, sometimes training them to be weapons. This gives the breed the reputation of being aggressive, unpredictable and ‘turning’ on people.
They are sometimes purchased as puppies by people expecting them to have a fierce, aggressive personality. When they are disappointed by their soft, affectionate nature, they abandon them, as they do not fit the purpose they wanted them for. Sadly, Staffies are often abused in the hope they become aggressive.
Staffies are often bred by irresponsible people who do it for profit. They then often sell them to other irresponsible people who pass them on to others, or abandon them. People often abandon them when they realise how much work is involved in owning a dog. They then end up in a shelter or rescue.
In reality, Staffies are extremely soft, affectionate, loving and tolerant dogs. They are known to be good with children. This is recognised by The Kennel Club in the UK. The majority of people who own Staffies – especially who have adopted them – are responsible people who know the true nature of the breed.
Ali Taylor, Head of Behaviour at Battersea Dogs Home in London, says:-
“Your biggest risk with a Staffie is getting licked to death. They get called `The Nanny Dog’ because they are so good with children.”
In the US, Pit Bull Terriers are labelled by people as ‘dangerous dogs’ for the same reasons as Stafford Bull Terriers Are In The UK. They are overlooked in shelters and rescues for the same reasons, too. As a result, around 4000 of these dogs are put to death in shelters across the US EVERY DAY.
In the really touching video, 1 min 44, showing the love between a rescued Pit Bull and children.
Video: This 1.5-minute heart-warming video shows the true nature of the breed
Pit Bull Terriers, and now XL Bullies, are banned in the UK because of the Government's belief they are dangerous dogs. The Dangerous Dogs Act was Breed-Specific Legislation brought in to bring down the number of dangerous dog attacks in Britain. Victimising these innocent dogs has been completely ineffective. Dog attacks have actually increased.
However, authorities continue to seize and kill these so-called dangerous dogs.
The dogs do not have had to do anything wrong to be put to death.
They simply have to look like a breed on the banned list. It has meant many innocent family dogs being ripped from their family, kept in a secret place and then killed.
In the image below is Adolf, now called Bundles. Rescues sometimes change aggressive sounding Staffie names, such as Bruiser, Rambo and Satan, to names that suit their sweet personalities, such as Cuddles, Splodge and Munchie.
Any breed of dog can behave aggressively. There are many reasons a dog can be aggressive. The following explains just some reasons.
Dogs that have been terribly abused by people can become fearful and mistrustful, resulting in aggressive behaviour. This is understandable, as abused dogs will naturally think that people approaching them are going to hurt them if that is what has always happened in the past. However, abuse is not mandatory for aggression to occur. Dogs that have anxiety problems can behave in a similarly aggressive way.
The sad fact is that Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Pit Bull Terriers, are often victims of abuse due to the type of people who often tend to buy them as puppies. People who choose breeds with little physical power and strength do not tend to get them for the purpose of them being aggressive, intimidating weapons, or for abuse such as dog fighting. This means that dogs who are powerful and strong get chosen by such people, and gain a reputation as a result.
Dogs specifically trained to behave aggressively will do so. Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Pit Bull Terriers are loyal breeds eager to please their owners. They will try their best to behave in whatever way pleases them – even enduring agony to do so.
There can also be medical factors which explain uncharacteristic aggressive behaviour, such as anxiety or brain tumours. This is also true of humans.
An additional reason can be if a dog is in pain. The dog may lash out to try to protect itself from further pain.
If a dog senses that there is a genuine threat of harm to its owner, it may display aggression.
In the image below, this Pit Bull was shot in the head trying to protect its owner.
Sometimes dogs can display possessive, guarding, or dominating behaviour. Dog psychologists and behaviourists should be able to help with aggressive behaviour.
When a dog is trained to behave a certain way, they think they are doing what is right because it is pleasing their owner.
Dogs will behave how they have been trained to because they want to please their owners. This Dobermann in the image below, a breed feared by some, just wants love
Responsible rescues assess pets before deciding whether they are suitable for re-homing. When adopting from a rescue that assesses dogs, you should not be worried about adopting one of the so-called dangerous dogs breeds.
If they were not suitable for re-homing, the rescue shelter would not have them available for adoption.
The true affectionate and gentle nature of these breeds, and other so-called dangerous dogs, is demonstrated in the image below.
People who buy puppies instead of adopting dogs probably do not realise it, but by buying dogs, they encourage people to breed puppies for profit. If they purchase from a pet shop or online, they can be supporting extremely cruel puppy farms and bad breeders. This causes terrible suffering to both the animals and the owners of badly bred dogs.
This results in the dog overpopulation problem being made even worse. Consequently, even more innocent, abandoned shelter dogs are put to death.
It is not just the breed that can affect a dog's chances of being adopted. Smaller dogs are much favoured over larger dogs, and pets in their later years are often overlooked, even though they make much calmer pets.
Adopters can also be put off an animal if a pet needs a special diet, is on long-term medication, or any other extra needs. If a pet is more expensive to care for, it is disadvantaged. Pets with medical conditions, or who are disabled, can be overlooked.
The colour of the animal even makes a difference – dark pets are less often adopted, as are brindle dogs. One reason for this could be that the features of dark dogs and cats do not show up well in photographs or on videos.
In some cultures, black dogs are disliked and thought to bring bad luck and misfortune. Black dogs and cats are the colour least adopted.
The combination of being a large, black, brindle or dark-coloured dog of an unpopular breed, or with extra needs, means that the dog has virtually no chance of being adopted.
Due to the massive dog overpopulation, these dogs will usually be one of the millions put to death each year.
Black pets are often overlooked at shelters, and put down. Here is a humorous look at why people should adopt black pets in the image below.
Certain legal breeds are undeservedly thought of as dangerous dogs. These breeds can include Staffordshire Bull Terriers in the UK and Pit Bulls in the US. They are often overlooked in favour of other dogs because of this reputation, and because they are the breeds most often found in shelters and rescues.
The puppies are then often sold to high-risk owners who abandon them, or pass them on to others who ultimately abandon them. They often do not get their pets neutered, and there is also a myth that it is bad for the health of a bitch if she doesn’t have at least one litter.
Breeders sometimes find they cannot find buyers for their puppies, so they end up at a shelter. All these reasons are why there is an especially high overpopulation of these breeds.
The tragic reality is that out of every litter, many of these breeds are likely to end up, at some point, being among the millions put to death every year. This is not because they are dangerous dogs, or through any fault of their own.
Sadly, these breeds are also the most abused breeds, and many will be abused to death by their owners.
Breeders of these dogs give little thought to the fact that the rescues and shelters are bursting at the seams with them. They care little that, so many are killed.
They won’t acknowledge that the puppies they breed will likely be among those killed in the future. These bad breeders only care about money. They cut corners to try to make the highest profit. This can have heartbreaking consequences for owners and their beloved dogs.
So-Called Dangerous Dogs: A large proportion of the 4-5 million dogs put to death across the UK and USA every year are Staffordshire Bull Terrier types (UK) and Pit Bull types (US). This is due to the especially high overpopulation and abandonment of these breeds, plus them being unpopular with adopters because they have the undeserved reputation of being dangerous dogs.
In the wrong hands, any breed can be dangerous dogs. However, people who want to train a dog to be a weapon are attracted to certain dog breeds. This can be because of factors such as their strength, jaw size, loyalty, and ease of training.
Pit Bulls and Staffordshire Bull Terriers are very loyal and eager to please their owners, even if it means going through pain to do so. Bad owners can take advantage of that and train them to act as weapons. This training can involve horrible abuse. Some owners abuse these breeds terribly by involving them in the cruel activity of dog fighting.
Other breeds that can suffer undeserved ‘dangerous dog’ reputations by being associated with aggressive owners include German Shepherds, mastiffs, Rottweilers and Dobermann.
Breeds thought of as dangerous dogs are no more likely to ‘turn’ on a person than any other breed of dog.
Also, the British Kennel Club states that Staffordshire Bull Terriers are highly affectionate and thought of as being the best dogs for children.
They are nicknamed “Nanny Dogs” because of being so good, loyal, gentle and tolerant with children. Pit Bulls in the US are referred to by the same nickname for the same reasons.
Undeservedly thought of as dangerous dogs by many, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Pit Bull Terriers are known as ‘nanny dogs’ because their tolerant nature makes them so good with children
Breed Specific Legislation punishes innocent dogs based entirely on what breed they happen to look like. Due to the worrying number of Pit Bull owners of questionable character training their dogs to be aggressive, Breed-Specific Legislation was introduced in the UK and Pit Bulls were made illegal. They were not the only breed banned – there is a whole list of banned breeds.
This meant many of the dogs of any breed on the list have been seized and ultimately put to death. They did not even have to have done anything wrong. The lucky dogs had owners who had the money and circumstances to enlist lawyers and fight for them in court.
However, the dogs were kept in kennels away from their owners for months, and sometimes years. If the dog was returned, many families found them to be a different dog, with their spirit broken.
This is a heartbreaking situation and completely unjust. Similar Breed-specific legislation is in many countries and regions. It is a constant threat to innocent dogs everywhere.
It is not only the law that unjustly vilifies these breeds. Many people's attitudes are driven by ignorance, misinformation and unfounded fear. This can also vilify the breeds, leading to tragic consequences.
People who have not had experience of the breeds tend to base their knowledge of them on what they see or hear from the media. Instead of realising that the dogs they hear about have been trained by idiot owners to be aggressive and attack, they assume it must be a trait inherent in the breed. This, of course, makes them fear the breed in general.
One example of these attitudes causing a tragic outcome is when an adopted Pit Bull and his owner were bullied to death in New York. Nick Santino, owner of friendly rescue Pit Bull Rocco, was the victim of an unrelenting campaign of harassment by his apartment building's management and other residents.
A neighbour spoke of how some residents even made up accusations of Rocco barking and being a noise nuisance when he was a quiet dog. The constant bullying and ostracising started when Nick’s building, at 1 Lincoln Plaza, brought in a ban on Pit Bulls, which applied only to new residents. This meant it did not apply to him.
As a result of the endless harassment, Nick became depressed and, under intense pressure and with nowhere to turn, he eventually felt he had no other choice but to put Rocco to sleep.
Nick was in agony and torment over what he had done to Rocco. A neighbour, Kevan Cleary, said, “He was distraught and remorseful about putting down his best friend.” The same night, wracked with guilt and grief, Nick wrote in a suicide note:“Today I betrayed my best friend and put down my best friend. Rocco trusted me and I failed him. He didn’t deserve this.” A friend, James Grant, said, “Rocco was the sweetest dog in the world. Rocco wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Below is Nick Santino with his beloved rescue Pit Bull dog Rocco. Nick and Rocco were bullied to death when Nick’s apartment building management and some residents mounted a campaign of harassment against him and his friendly adopted Pit Bull, resulting in both their tragic deaths.
Any breed can be dangerous dogs in the wrong hands. People who have experience of Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Pit Bulls, or other breeds deemed dangerous dogs, know their true nature. They know what soft, loving and gentle pets they make.
Below is an eight-minute film showing the truth about Staffordshire Bull Terriers and similarly overlooked dogs.
With Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Pit Bull Terriers often being food orientated and so eager to please, they are straightforward to train. They are generally healthy breeds regarding genetic defects, and generally easy to care for. They are a great choice to adopt.
Unfortunately, some morally corrupt people use their ease of training and willingness to please to their advantage. They can make these dogs suffer terribly. For details, go to the dog fighting page.
Staffies and Pities are affectionate, people orientated, friendly, tolerant, good with children, cuddly, snugly and soft. This is far from the dangerous dog's reputation they have unfairly gained.
Rottweilers can also be feared and labelled as dangerous dogs for the same reasons as Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Pit Bulls. Plus, they are larger, more powerful dogs. These factors mean they are often undesirable to adopters, so are overlooked.
In reality, they too have gentle, loving and affectionate natures. They do not deserve to be discounted from being adopted because of peoples’ misconceptions.
These images below show the true nature of Rottweilers. It is far removed from the image of being dangerous dogs. The top left image shows adopted deaf Rottweiler Trina having cuddles with her guardian Judy. Judy says of Trina “She is a sweetheart! I love her!”.
German Shepherd Dogs and Alsatians are often feared, and considered to be dangerous dogs, like the breeds above, for similar reasons. They are also large, strong dogs which can be used as weapons in the wrong hands.
Like with any dog, if they have responsible guardians who do not purposely train them to be aggressive, German Shepherds too have gentle, loving and affectionate natures.
The true nature of German Shepherd Dogs / Alsatians, when not purposely trained to be aggressive, is shown in these images. These are hardly pictures of dangerous dogs. The centre picture on the right shows adopted German Shepherd Baron with his devoted guardian Norma. Norma cannot speak highly enough of her wonderful dog, Baron. Sources: 1, 2, 3.
(Norma Farrell, Aileen Yeagle ODea).
Although these may not be considered by many to be dangerous dogs, Lurchers are another victim of being overlooked at shelters and pounds. Sadly, they are often put to death as a result.
The breeds are usually bred and bought as working dogs, to assist the owner in hunting animals. This is a shame, as they make wonderful, affectionate pets and long to be around people.
They are often made to live outside if working dogs, but fewer dogs are more at home on a sofa, if given the chance. If they are no good as working dogs, they are usually not wanted. Many meet inhumane deaths, but some make it to rescues.
Although tall, these quiet dogs are placid, gentle, loving and loyal. They love to live inside around people. Contrary to what many people believe, they do not tend to require any more exercise than other breeds, although they may enjoy a good run around when the opportunity arises.
Lurchers are often overlooked at shelters and pounds. They are unpopular with adopters as they are large dogs, associated with hunting, and people mistakenly think they need excessive exercise. However, they make excellent, gentle and loving pets. They need no more exercise than other dogs and are usually happy to laze around (Source 2: Rescue Helpers Unite)
A huge number of Greyhounds are abandoned, also becoming victims of dog overpopulation. This is mainly because of Greyhound Racing. Many are bred each year, but only a few make the grade.
If they are of no use for making money as a racing dog, they become unwanted. Many are killed inhumanely, but a fraction makes it to rescue. Some are found with their ears cut off (done without anaesthetic), suffering life-threatening infection. This is done so they cannot be traced by their ear tattoos. To find out more, go to the Abuse Of Greyhounds In Greyhound Racing page.
The Spanish Galgo, a breed of Greyhound in Spain which is used as a hunting dog, is treated particularly badly. When the hunting season ends, it is common practice to inhumanely kill them. They are often hung from trees or thrown down deep disused wells to die. Only a lucky few are rescued from their tragic fates and re-homed. More information can be found on the Galgo page.
Greyhounds and Galgos make wonderful pets, having a calm, loving, loyal and gentle nature. They are often unpopular with adopters as they are large and people assume they need excessive exercise. Neither of the breeds need any more exercise than other dogs, and are often happy with a burst of running around once or twice a day.
They make excellent, gentle and loving pets and are known as quite lazy, lay-about, dogs. They will very happily take over your sofa. Because of being bred to hunt, Lurchers and Galgos are usually not good around small animals.
Greyhounds are victims of dog overpopulation because they are used for Greyhound racing. Commonly, if they are not inhumanely killed when they are no longer making money, they are abandoned. A lucky few are rescued and make loving pets.
The reason most pets end up abandoned and in pounds, shelters and rescues is because of the personal problems of the owners and their circumstances. There was usually a lack of forethought when they first got the pet about how they would continue to care for the pet if their circumstances changed.
They often do not realise the time, effort and money owning a dog takes. Many owners are irresponsible and do not feel a sense of responsibility towards their pet. It is hardly ever through any fault of the pet.
Here is a list of common reasons why dogs end up in pounds, shelters, and rescues. The same is true of cats and of any pets.
Some rescue shelters will allow you to take a dog on a trial period, so you can see just how you get on with them. Others do not, but will always take them back if there are problems you cannot cope with. There are not usually such problems, however, as rescues make sure you meet the pet on a number of occasions, and are well-matched.
Irresponsible people not neutering their pets, and breeding for profit, also contribute to the cat and dog overpopulation. This leads to many innocent deaths of these animals.
Unforeseeable circumstances are events people would never in a million years have imagined would happen during the lifetime of their pet. The reason the majority of pets end up in pounds, shelters, and rescues is that people do not use enough forethought when getting pets. They do not consider how they will continue to care for the pet if their circumstances change.
Many people do use forethought and consider how they will care for the pet if, for instance:
However, many people do not use such forethought. Before getting a pet, everybody needs to consider how they will still be able to care for it in these circumstances.
The most common reasons for abandoning pets are predictable circumstance changes like those. If people took pet ownership seriously, they would realise that they are responsible for that pet’s welfare for its entire natural life.
They would use forethought and consideration before getting it, and make contingency plans for if, or when, their life circumstances may change within the pet’s lifetime.
Pet abandonment would then not be the huge problem it is, and the massive number of innocent animals would not be put to death.
The sad fact is that a huge number of dogs and cats do NOT get adopted. The percentage of dogs and cats killed in many shelters is around 75%, whilst only 25% get adopted.
It is estimated that in the UK and US alone, between 4 and 5 million animals a year – mainly cats and dogs – are put to death in various ways. Some countries deal with their cat and dog overpopulation by killing them in extremely inhumane ways. See Cruel Animal Overpopulation Controls.
The puppies and kittens people buy are often purchased from pet shops and backyard breeders, or other bad breeders. They are sold indiscriminately, to anyone willing to pay, no matter how irresponsible or unsuitable.
In the image below, a small, terrified dog is dragged away to be put to death after being abandoned and not adopted whilst in the municipal council shelter. Other dogs look on. It won’t be long before it is their turn. The dog’s death may well be an unpleasant one. See the Animal Overpopulation Controls page.
Purchasing dogs as pets in itself encourages breeding for money, causing pet overpopulation, and in turn more innocent, healthy, adoptable animals being put to death.
Millions of newly bred puppies are purchased every year while millions of healthy, loving, abandoned dogs of all ages are put to death every year at pounds and shelters because people bought puppies instead of adopting them
Other animals, apart from cats and dogs, that are often found at shelters and often put to death due to not being adopted, are ferrets and rabbits. Please consider giving overlooked shelter pets and wrongly labelled dangerous dogs a loving home.
Would you be interested in helping save the lives of victims of cat and dog overpopulation by adopting a pet, or by fostering or sponsoring a pet? You can find more information in the Save A Pet section of the site. Other information related to animal rescue can also be found there.
You can find a list of animal rescues here. You will find animals available for adoption, fostering and sponsoring on their sites.
There is a huge problem of animals being put to death because they are abandoned by owners who do not realise the work and sacrifices involved in owning a pet. The problem is also because too many people buy and breed new pets instead of adopting abandoned animals.
Raise awareness by sharing the information from this site on social media. For instance, you can share information about animal adoption, the issue of pet abandonment, and bad breeders. By doing this, you will help stop animal suffering.
Join groups on social media where people sell animals. Report posts that are selling pets, if it is against the policy of the social media site to do so.
Respectfully let people selling pets – especially for a low price or giving them away free – know about the dangers of doing so. Politely encourage them to re-home their pet through a reputable rescue, as they do thorough checks and have legally binding contracts that the pet may not be passed on. It is always most effective if you are very tactful in your communication.
With people who post saying they are looking for a puppy or kitten, respectfully encourage them to adopt from a rescue. Let them know they can find rescues in their area on the list of animal rescue shelters page, and that there are general rescues, rescues for small breeds only, large breeds only, and rescues for specific breeds only.
Many people do not realise that nearly every breed has rescues dedicated to only them. So does nearly every species of animal and pet.
Let them know that they will be saving a life, and that the rescue space they make available by adopting a pet will save the life of a pound pet who would otherwise be put to death.
Let them know many pets in the pound are put to death because they only have a short period of time to have their lives saved by a rescue space, and there are nowhere near enough. Every adoption means another innocent pet has avoided being put to death feeling lonely, unwanted and unloved.
If you cannot help stop the deaths of innocent pets by adopting, fostering or sponsoring, you can help by cross-posting pets looking for rescue spaces. Animal rescues are also usually in need of volunteers to help in a variety of roles.
Another way of helping save their lives, if you can afford to spare any money, is to donate at this website: Pounds For Poundies.
Even a small donation could mean the difference between an abandoned pet being saved or put to death. Even just the price of a cup of coffee at a café, or a bottle of fizzy pop. The animals on the site also need cross posted.
Do you want to make the world a kinder place by helping stop terrified animals being put through horrific cruelty? By helping to change the habits of consumers by raising awareness, you can do that.
Spreading the animal rights message can be very emotionally draining and distressing. Have a look at the best Vegan activism page to find out how to be an effective advocate for animals, whilst making sure you keep your mind healthy and happy. Do what you can to find more ways to spread awareness.
On this site, there are many varied ways you can help animals and help stop cruelty. There is something for every personality type, no matter what their circumstances.
If you would like to learn more about why we so urgently need to help stop animal suffering, please see the animal cruelty page. It will allow you to broaden your knowledge of many different types of worldwide animal abuse. This will give you the ability to help animals by spreading awareness and answering questions people may have. Please be aware that you may find the information distressing, especially if sensitive.
One great way to help animals is to share the information you have seen on this website. Doing so means more people could help stop animal cruelty. That would make you responsible for more animals being saved from suffering. Together, we can help people help animals.