Pit bulls tend to get a bad rap in the media, but the Pit Bull Federation of South Africa (PBFSA) is on a mission to change public perception of this misunderstood breed. In a candid and enlightening interview, we sat down with the Lehanda from the Pit Bull Federation of South Africa (PBFSA) to explore the motivations behind their formation, dispel common misconceptions about pit bulls, and discuss their efforts to promote responsible ownership.
1. What motivated you to start the Pit Bull Federation of South Africa?
In the early 1980’s the Pit Bull Federation of South Africa (PBFSA) was formed after the original organisation split into two. The PBFSA remained affiliated with the American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA) and continued the use of their breed standard, show rules and Registration Body for American Pit Bull Terriers (APBT). The ADBA has more than 100 years’ experience in the original APBT and we continued learning from them about the breed and caring for it.
2. What are some of the common misconceptions about Pit Bulls you encounter and as an expert, what advice would you give to potential new Pit Bull owners?
Before deciding to make a Pit Bull part of your family do research, with the correct sources, about the breed – Google is not your friend when it comes to your Pit Bull. Get the correct information from the breed-specific organisation and experts in the field. Pit Bulls are not human aggressive and find out what the real pit bull looks like. The actual appearance of the breed is the single biggest misconception about the breed. There are a wide variety of bully breeds available but they are not American Pit Bull Terriers, there is only one APBT.
3. How can current pit bull owners be responsible and help protect the breed’s public image? What are some best practices you recommend?
Take responsibility for your Pit Bull, there is no such thing as a bad dog, only a bad owner. Get involved with the PBFSA, we care for APBT and we have and will continue to fight for its preservation. We are committed to promoting and educating responsible pit bull ownership.
4. What initiatives, programs, or collaborations is the Pit Bull Federation involved in currently to support animal welfare and specifically Pit Bulls?
We have several education initiatives running in some communities currently. Unfortunately, welfare organisations do not want to work with the breed organisations. Our ethical breeders are doing the right thing for preserving the breed, but if we can get welfare to work with us we can curb backyard breeding to a large extent. They are also the single biggest group that needs to participate in educating the public about responsible Pit Bull ownership, but they themselves do not always understand the breed.
5. What proactive measures do you think should be taken to prevent Pit Bull attack incidents and ensure public safety when it comes to Pit Bulls?
One must remember that all dogs bite, we only hear about Pit Bull attacks/bites because it is so severe when it does happen. Fighting other animals are in its genes, it is what it was originally bred for, but the APBT is not human-aggressive. It all comes down to education – owning a properly bred, socialised, stimulated and exercised APBT makes an ideal companion animal. However, you have to realise that this breed does have restrictions such as inherently not good with other animals. It falls under working breeds so it needs proper stimulation and exercise. And again the owner needs to take responsibility for its pit bull, do not put your dog up for failure – in other words do not put your dog in a situation where it can feel threatened or insecure about its surroundings. When owning a Pit Bull you must be able to keep it safe behind proper fencing and at all times ensure that people that come in contact with your dog are not at risk at any time.
6. What are your thoughts on laws that ban or restrict Pit Bull breeds? Is breed-specific legislation an issue in South Africa?
Banning any particular breed is not the answer to any problem. Before our owners start taking responsibility for owning a Pit Bull and keeping it safe, the public perception won’t change. It is up to us as owners to be responsible, educate ourselves in being responsible Pit Bull owners and stop blaming other people or our breed when we fail them.
7. Are there any particularly inspirational Pit Bulls (past or present) that you look to as great examples for the breed or could you share a specific story where you saw a pit bull bring joy to a family or individual in need?
I am sure you can talk to any number of successful pit bull owners and they will each have their own unique story to tell about the Pit Bull. These dogs will do anything to please their owner and will go the extra mile for anyone in their “family” – from entertaining (they are silly clowns), protecting their humans when needed and even rescuing them from dangerous situations or just smothering them with love and affection. They will not leave your side for one single moment of the day!