The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

September 26, 2013

Local Dog Experts: Pitbulls get a bad rap

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — They may not be a lap dog but don’t let some newspaper article from more than 40 years ago turn you away from adopting or owning the feared Pitbull.

A 1972 article in a national publication said there was a dog bite epidemic in the United States and the accompanying photo was that of a pitbull, said 40-year dog trainer Mark Cusick, of Lewisburg.

“It was started then and people continue to believe pitbulls are a violent dog,” he said. “That is just not true.”

In the last three months, The Daily Item has published nearly 40 images of pitbulls available for adoption at Valley shelters.

“That’s because they are a popular breed,” Cusick said. “Pitbulls make up 20 to 40 percent of the entire dog population in this country.”

The fear of having a pitbull as a house pet is common but Cusick said that trend needs to end.

“I own two myself. I use one as a hunting dog and I was told by everyone that the dog would never work because he would attack everything and it just wouldn’t work. I have yet to see any signs that would happen.”

Even a veterinarian agreed.

“They just have a bad rap,” Dr. Rachel Lawn, of the Sunbury Animal Hospital said. “The stigma for violence is because of what you read about dog fights.”

Cusick said if a pitbull bites someone it will make news in every way possible, but when another dog attacks it is not reported.

“You always hear about the pitbull,” he said. “You don’t ever hear about the Golden Retriever that bites.”

Which led Cusick to provide numbers reported from animal hospitals throughout the country, he said. The No. 1 dog that was reported to have bite individuals was the German Shepherd, Cusick said.

“The number two was a Chow Chow and the third dog was a Golden Retriever,” he said.

“The pitbull was listed at number 26. And if you take into account that the pitbull makes up that 20 to 40 percent of the entire dog population, then you can understand the numbers.”

Even the SPCA in Danville, agreed the pitbull could be a great pet.

“We have several up for adoption,” Keryl Hausmann, office director said. “Because they are popular and people breed them all the time.”

Hausmann said she does believe that the pitbull is not always bred on the right terms.

“Some do it because they are making money off the dogs,” she said. “So they sell what they can and then they give the rest of the litter away. That means someone who wasn’t serious about having one is getting the dog and then realizing it is work and they are bringing them to us.”

Cusick agreed.

“They try to make a quick buck,” he said. “There could be 6 to 12 puppies in 63 days and people don’t realize the amount of time needed with those puppies.”

Cusick said that is where the pitbull or any dog could become temperamental.

“They need attention,” he said. “It’s like anything else that is left alone or not attended to. They could go off.”

Cusick said another reason the pitbull gets a bad reputation is because of their size.

“They are a big dog,” he said. “They are not a dog that is all fluffy. They are strong. So if a child hits a tea cup Poodle it probably won’t end up with a hospital visit. But when you try that with a pitbull because of the size and strength they have the results aren’t the same.”

It all comes down to training, Cusick.

“I have trained several,” he said. “These dogs are good dogs and loyal dogs. They get this rap for being bad and it’s just not true.”