My Pit-Bull Conversion: Joan Raymond on Her Decision to (Probably) Adopt a Pit Bull

It's hard out there for a pit.

Talking pit bulls is as polarizing as talking about health-care reform. Each side—the pro- and anti-pit-bull devotees—has a lot to say. And like health-care reform, some stuff being spewed by both the devotees and the haters is just plain wrong. Some advocates think these dogs are imbued with incredible judgment, rendering them incapable of doing anything wrong. And their people-loving nature makes them the right dog for just about everyone. They also believe the media are responsible for the pits' poor image. First, any dog is capable of doing a bad thing—even your precious pit bull. Second, no one dog is right for every person. And third, bad owners are responsible for the pits' problems. The media have bigger problems right now—like whether we can keep our jobs.

Some anti-pit people think the world would be a safer place if every pit on the planet ceased to exist. They buy into bite statistics and bite fatalities, which are notoriously unreliable. Even the Centers for Disease Control acknowledges that. The anti-pit contingent thinks a pit is a super-freak of a dog that has locking jaws and a brain that grows too big for its head, causing fits of incredible aggression. Oh, puhleeze.

Until the past few weeks, I fell somewhere in the middle. A pit bull was a fine dog—as long as it wasn't living next door to me. I'm ashamed of that, especially since an American pit-bull terrier is responsible for some of my most cherished childhood memories. But I didn't care. Pit bulls today just seemed different, and some small, secret part of me believed the hype.

My reporting revealed that my issue isn't with the dog—it's with people. We are the ones who are ultimately responsible for the dogs, including their reputation. Pit-bull owners have to be realistic about the potential for their dogs to do damage. It's a dog. If you can concede that all dogs can potentially cause problems, that means yours can too. And haters, don't go into a feeding frenzy of misinformation. It's ugly.

Someday, when the time is right, I'm getting a pit. That's something I never thought I'd say. I'll go to a reliable rescue and get hooked up with a pit bull that is right for me. And me, right for it. I won't leave it unattended among other animals. I won't let it run off leash to scare the hell out of people. I'll get it altered, and I'll go to every single class I can possibly attend to get the right tools that will ensure that my pit and I are doing something positive for the breed's credibility.

Is it fair that I would have to be the poster child for responsible dog ownership because I have a pit bull? Hell, no. But to do less just contributes to the problem. And as far as I'm concerned, the pit has enough problems already.