The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

February 22, 2011

‘Pit Bull guru:’ Misunderstood breed is good family dog

BLOOMSBURG — Bud was hugged along the way as he rode in the first automobile crossing the U.S. Petey became famous with TV’s “The Little Rascals.” Both were Pit Bull Terriers — a breed that has been getting an unjust bad rap for some time, according to Drayton Michaels of Red Bank, N.J.

Michaels, known as “the Pit Bull guru,” has worked professionally with dogs for more than 10 years. He presented a seminar Sunday in Wagging Tail Doggie Day Care, attracting 30-plus people from areas including Danville, Lewisburg, Bloomsburg, Lycoming County and as far away as Connecticut and Baltimore.

“There is no epidemic of dog bites,” he said.

With about 300 million people in this country and 74 million dogs, .0002 percent of people bitten by dogs die, he said. People have a 1 in 25 million chance of being killed by a dog, he said.

Of 4 million dog bites reported by emergency rooms each year, less than 200 require serious medical attention most on par with kitchen and playground accidents, he said.

Michaels said there is no way to accurately determine any breed bite statistics.

“In the documentary ‘Beyond the Myth,’ the research the author did showed 98 percent of experts identifying dogs got the breed wrong,” he said.

Biting has “absolutely nothing to do with a breed - it has to do with dogs and humans getting the proper education.

All dogs can bite,” he said.

Michaels attributes the start of Pit Bull hysteria to a 1987 “Sports Illustrated” cover story titled “Beware of this Dog.” “This was a major magazine read largely by men. Is there any wonder there is a dog-fighting problem in America,” he asked.

“Just because someone is afraid of Pit Bulls does not make them dangerous. A dog’s dangerousness is reliant upon ownership practices,” Michaels said.

In the U.S., 5,479 Pit Bulls are euthanized daily in shelters.

“This is a major problem,” Michael said. “If people look logically and use common sense with these dogs, there would be less euthanasia and more adoptions.

“It all comes back to humans lacking the education.” Pit Bulls, which are humanely bred and owned, are not genetically pre-disposed to human aggression — that is caused by negligent humans, he said.

One of the oldest breeds in the country, Pit Bulls were used to herd bulls, cattle and pigs.

The breed, descended from Irish and English terriers, came to this country with the early settlers, he said.

Michaels, 46, said there has been prejudice through the years of other various breeds.

“In the 1800s, people feared bloodhounds and there were 13 kinds of bloodhounds at the time,” said Michaels, who got his first dog — Mojo, an American Staffordshire Terrier — when he was 35. Other Pit breeds are American Pit Bull and Staffordshire Terrier.

“A loved and family-owned, spayed or neutered Pit Bull has never killed a single person,” Michaels said. “Humans are responsible for all dogs’ behavior be it breeding, training or maintaining. In all fatal or severe dog incidents, there is some level of human negligence.

“I want safe and sound dogs and responsible owners.” As the guru, Michaels is contacted 200 times a week on average.

“I send people information about training and behavior of dogs,” he said. “In today’s age, there is no excuse not to have a humane education.” Silke Wittig, of HeRo Canine Consulting, organized the seminar at Wagging Tail, which sponsors a community event every month.

The owner of a Pit Bull and a Pit Bull-mix, Wittig said the breed is active, smart “and tends to really enjoy being with people. They make a really good family dog. They are very sturdy and tolerant.

It you have a stable Pit Bull, they really have a good sense of humor, are very trainable and very resilient.” Michaels and his wife worked walking dogs in New York City. Then 9-11 hit and they moved to Seattle, Wash., and walked dogs. After their dog developed some behavior problems, Michaels began his research.

He has interviewed master educators, has documented issues surrounding Pit Bulls since 2004 and appeared in the film “Beyond the Myth,” a documentary about families affected by breed discrimination laws. Last year, he was a featured trainer in “Dog Fancy” magazine. He and his wife are both dog trainer academy graduates. He also produced “The Pit Bull Hoax” DVD featuring master educators Dr. Ian Dunbar, Jean Donaldson, Diane Jessup and Dr. Nicholas Dodman.

Sunday was Michaels first visit to Bloomsburg although he has presented other seminars in Pennsylvania as well as in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.

For more information, visit www.pitbullguru.com.

E-mail comments to kblackledge@ thedanvillenews.com.

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