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In defense of pit bulls

MUSKEGON, MI (WZZM) -- State lawmakers and even the city of Wyoming has recently considered banning pit bulls after several recent vicious attacks. However some dog lovers say pit bulls are no more dangerous than any other dog.

It's a topic that has been at the center of heated debate for years. Unfortunately, it usually flares up after someone has been hurt or killed by a pit bull.

The Bates family in Muskegon are self-proclaimed pit bull lovers. Chris Bates owns two pit bulls including 7-year old Rage.

"This is my baby. He is the greatest dog that I have ever owned, even as a kid," said Bates.

And while Bates proves the old adage true that "dog is a man's best friend" in this family, it is really an 8-year old girl who is attached to the trusty canine companion.  When asked who is her best friend, Jayde shyly replies Rage.

Rage has been a member of the Bates family since Jayde was a just a tot herself and despite his massive jaws and intimidating 50 pound frame, the family says the purebred pit bull is as sweet and gentle as a pussycat.

"The way he is with my daughter is just one of the coolest things you will ever see with a dog. He is so gentle," said Bates. "He is as loyal as a dog can be. He has never shown any type of aggression ever."

The husband and father of two knows the reputation pit bulls have for being aggressive, dangerous and downright deadly, but it doesn't stop him from letting Rage around Jayde or his three-week old baby Jocilyn. Bates feels banning pit bulls altogether is unfair and feels the breed is getting a bad rap.

"The way they are brought up is the way they will act. If they are brought up around kids and to be a house dog that is how they will act. You can train any dog to be aggressive," he said. "It is a stereotype of the dog and it would be a shame for a kid's pet to be taken away because of a stereotype of what someone taught a dog to do."

Namiko Ota-Noveskey, a behavior specialist for the Humane Society of West Michigan agrees.

"Dangerous dogs are the ones that bite. Any kind of dog, any breed and any size of dog can potentially bite people," she says.

Statistics show pit bulls do not attack more than any other dog. The problems is when they do bite, the damage is likely more severe.

"The bigger the size, the bigger the damage. I think that is true," she said. "Think when you get hit by a little Prius versus a semi truck, I'm sure the semi truck results in bigger damage but that does not make the semi truck more dangerous."

Ota-Noveskey believes states that ban pit bulls, as Michigan lawmakers are attempting to, are missing one important fact.
"Dogs have these stages where they develop just like people or children and there are certain windows of opportunity where it is critical for the puppies to be socialized. It is usually up to 16 to 17 weeks of age. If they don't get proper socialization during that time, you can have a dog that is fine with family members but completely afraid of everyone they don't know."

Employees at the Humane Society of West Michigan knows a lot about pit bulls. They currently have 30 and 40 pit bulls in population. It has more than other shelters because of a well-known reputation for getting pit bulls adopted into suitable homes.

"Pit bulls are just like any other breed of dog. They are all unique they have their own personalities. So you have a super friendly outgoing pit bull that is friendlier than a lab we might have," said Nicole Cook, Marketing Events Coordinator for the Humane Society of West Michigan.

That said, Bates thinks with the right owner, and in the right home, any pit bull can be as sweet and gentle as his.

"People should be in control of their dogs and if not, what happens should be on them. I'm a firm believer of that.
There should be things that make sure responsible people get the breed," he said, convinced that perhaps states should require special pit bull owners to have a special license.

"I think that would be a really good idea and I think that would cut down on a lot of people who are buying them or getting them for fighting purposes from actually buying them," said Bates.

"It is a fact that we have so many pit bull-type dogs and we need to find a way to control the population," said Ota-Noveskey. "When you look at national data of bite incidents you are going to see golden retriever and labrador retrievers at the top. Are they more aggressive then? Probably not. It's because there are so many of them in this country. We really need to have higher standards on breeding dogs, so you breed to really better the breed."

She also says statistics can be unfairly skewed against pit bulls because people bitten by smaller dogs are less likely to report it.

Click here for the other side of this story: Lawmakers look at bans on pit bulls 


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