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Unveiling the Truth About Pit Bulls: A Conversation with South Africa’s Pit Bull Experts, the Pit Bull Federation of South Africa

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.

Light brown American Pit Bull Terrier
Buckskin colour American Pit Bull Terrier

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.

Comparison of American Pit Bull vs other breeds
Comparison of American Pit Bull vs other breeds
The myth of a locking jaw – there is no such thing. The physical jaw structure of an APBT is exactly the same as any other dog. The difference comes in that when an APBT bites its victim it will hold on and not let loose, it will finish what it started at all cost. The Nanny-dog – there is no such thing as a nanny dog and no parent should ever leave their child unattended with any dog.

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.

Light brown American Pit Bull Terrier
Buckskin colour American Pit Bull Terrier

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.

Black and white American Pit Bull Terrier
Black and white American Pit Bull Terrier

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!

8. How can people get involved with the Pit Bull Federation of South Africa?

I would like to invite everyone who shares a passion for the breed or has queries to engage with the federation. Feel free to reach out via email or phone. Our outreach initiatives require substantial support as the breed faces challenges. Acknowledging this, we call upon the public to unite and act in the breed’s best interest. To join us, send an email and register in our database, enabling updates on our ongoing efforts and activities. Your involvement matters greatly.
The Pit Bull Federation of South Africa is providing an invaluable public service by dispelling myths and advocating for responsible Pit Bull ownership. Their experienced perspective sheds light on the intricacies of this often misunderstood breed. While Pit Bulls face an uphill battle when it comes to their reputation, organizations like the PBFSA give a reason for optimism. With dedicated ambassadors guiding potential owners and providing expert care advice, the breed stands a fighting chance at redemption. The PBFSA’s approach to education over legislation demonstrates its nuanced stance. Outreach initiatives and collaboration between breeders, welfare groups, and owners can curb irresponsible practices and set pit bulls up for success. There are always inherent risks with powerful dog breeds, but a Pit Bull’s qualities of loyalty, intelligence and drive can make them wonderful companions in the right homes. We applaud the PBFSA for bringing the truth about these dogs into focus – they are so much more than their stereotypes. If you are in the spirit of giving, also check out our post about SA Guide-Dogs Association.



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