Pit bull adopted after 4 long years at animal shelter. Here's why there are so many like him.
By Saleen Martin, USA TODAY,2023-06-05
The pit bull mix who spent most of his life in a Kentucky animal shelter, before capturing the imaginations of animal-lovers nationwide, was adopted last week.
But experts say Donatello’s story underscores some of the common misconceptions people have about a breed that fills shelters nationwide.
Donatello, the 5 ½ year old pit bull mix , showed up at Woodford Humane Society in Versailles, Kentucky, on May 13, 2019. He was adopted May 27, after four years and 15 days in the shelter, by a couple with a great love for pit bulls, said Beth Oleson, marketing director for the humane society.
“They’re already working with him on learning new commands and improving his leash manners,” Oleson said. “He’s in very good hands”
There are many more like him: In U.S. shelters, especially the southeast, pit bull mixes are the most prevalent type of dogs, said Sara Ondrako, founder and executive director of the American Pit Bull Foundation.
“You see a whole lot of backyard breeding … and a whole lot of dogs being pumped out into the system for money, for looks,” she said.
People make assumptions about them and when they don’t meet their expectations, they are abandoned or dumped into shelters, she said.
Here are a few of the most common misconceptions humans have about pit bulls, and some ways to address them.
Pit bulls are individuals
Ondrako said pit bulls all have their own boundaries, likes and dislikes.
There are some common behaviors among pit bulls she wanted to highlight though, including their sense of independence.
“They are independent in terms of their personality and what they're like and what they want to do and don't want to do,” she told USA TODAY.
Pit bulls love humans
Ondrako said pit bulls are incredibly human driven, so a lack of one-on-one time with humans stresses them out.
In fact, pit bulls chained up in yards often suffer emotionally because of the lack of human contact.
The dogs also love to please, which makes them good working dogs, she said.
“They're extremely resilient,” said Ondrako, a certified dog behavior consultant. “They are bred historically with both the will and determination not to give up, which I think is one of the reasons they're so resilient to everything that humans have done to them.”
‘It only matters how you raise them’, while well-intended, is wrong
One argument people often make in defense of pit bulls is that it's all in how you raise them, Ondrako said. Some think that if you love them properly they’ll never be a “bite statistic,” she said.
She called the claim well-intended but said it’s not true.
“Just like us, pit bull type dogs are a combination of their nature and nurture, their genetics and their environment,” she said. “It's a common misconception that dogs that are raised really well will be well off because obviously, what we consider being raised well is very subjective.”
What’s important, she said, is that the dog is cared for in a way that meets their individual needs.
Many people think ‘Pit bulls are going to snap someday’
Another huge misconception and one of the worst Ondrako has seen is the claim that pit bulls will snap someday.
“There is always a reason - and there are typically multiple reasons that compound on top of each other - that lead a dog to feel like it has no other choice other than to lash out in a way that is going to get their point across,” she said.
Some reasons could be that the dog needs space or they are afraid, Ondrako said.
She encourages dog owners and those thinking about adopting to be more understanding and research to make sure your personalities and lifestyles match.
“I think the more people can begin to understand a dog, a dog’s needs and the individual that's in front of them and the type of relationship that is two-way not just one-way … I think we will start to see less and less of them ending up on the street and ending up in the shelter,” she said.
As for Donatello, Woodford Humane Society said fans can follow along on his journey at www.instagram.com/donatello_wonder_dog .
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pit bull adopted after 4 long years at animal shelter. Here's why there are so many like him.