In psychology, "Confirmation Bias" is the process by which a person forms a theory and then searches for things that prove their theory while ignoring things that are contradictory. This is how stereotypes form and grow. The seed is planted, and each event that confirms the stereotype causes it to grow, while events that refute the stereotype are minimized or rejected. We can apply confirmation bias to the stereotypes of pit bulls and their owners. Events which confirm that a pit bull is a killing machine are counted and recalled over and over, while hundreds of thousands of normal, sweet, friendly Pit Bulls are completely ignored. The news media frequently makes connections between drug dealers, criminals, "trailer trash" and degenerates... and pit bulls, while responsible pit bull owners don't make the news at all. Bad owners create dogs that are unpredictable. These dogs are not properly socialized to people, children and other animals. They are not properly trained, and they're owned by irresponsible, ignorant people that refuse to take responsibility for their dog's training, and a lot of the time, basic and humane care.
Because of them, pit bulls have gone from being the all-American breed, prized for their loyalty and intelligence, to the most feared, stereotyped and misunderstood breed ever known. Did you know that Petey from The Little Rascals was a pit bull? That the iconic dog that represented the U.S. Army during WWII and saved many soldiers and captured an enemy spy was a pit bull? That there are thousands of pit bulls working as police dogs, therapy dogs, and search and rescue dogs in the United States alone? They have saved lives, solved crimes, and brought people joy...yet why don't we hear those stories about pit bulls on the news or in the papers, we only hear about them when an improperly raised dog does something it was TAUGHT to do. Most people would be shocked to know that The National Canine Temperament Testing Association tested 122 breeds, and pit bulls placed the fourth highest, with a 95 percent passing rate. That's better than chihuahuas, beagles, poodles and over a hundred other breeds that billions of people own across the world. If you train and raise ANY dog to be aggressive, it will be, no matter what breed it is. It's common sense that if you raise a dog to fight, that's what its going to do. If you raise a dog to be a loving and well behaved family pet, that's what it is going to do... be it a pit bull or any other breed. Come meet my pit bull and you would see the only fighting he would exhibit would be fighting to lick your face and crawl in your lap, because that's how he's raised. What happens when a child is mistreated and abused? It has consequences and that child grows up to be a product of their upbringing. Humans are consciously capable of far worse than pit bulls, but we don't judge or punish ALL people by the deeds of few.
So why is it fair to judge and punish ALL Pit Bulls and their owners by the deeds of few? It's NOT.
When we are young, we are taught don't judge a book by its cover and don't believe everything we hear because it may not be the truth, so why is that so hard to do when it comes to these dogs? When I heard about this horrific incident, it broke my heart. My daughter is in the same grade as Damarius, and I have met him many times while volunteering at Lilesville Elementary School. And it's scary when terrible things happen, especially to children, especially when its in your own backyard, so to speak. And when something like this happens, people want for someone or something to hold responsible, and rightly so. But let's make sure we look in the right direction. The OWNER of the dog needs to be held responsible for this incident. The owner is the one who improperly raised it and improperly secured it and those actions are what caused this terrible incident to occur. And in closing, I ask the people of Anson County to hold the irresponsible owners at fault, not the entire breed, and certainly not every pit bull owner. I ask that you not continue the stereotyping of these dogs and the people who choose to own them. And lastly, I ask of the pit bull owners of Anson County, be the Human Ambassadors for your dogs. Be what the stereotype says we aren't. Be RESPONSIBLE owners. Make sure your dog is properly socialized and trained, adequately cared for, and secure whenever out in public.
And to the people I know personally who are responsible and caring pit bull owners, thank yu, your dogs may not be able to tell you what a great job you're doing, but it does not go unnoticed. And let Us continue to be the ones who prove that you truly can't judge a book by its cover.