Stamford native Nicki Puza fell in love with pit bulls while volunteering in veterinary clinics during college. She got her first pit bull at the start of 2009 and her second in April 2010. While in veterinary school, she is also fostering a pure-bred adult male pit bull.
“I found that pit bulls had the most personality, were extremely intelligent, and had the most love to give,” Puza said. “I meet people with my dogs in tow who remark on how wonderful a breed pit bulls are, and how they are so unfortunately misunderstood.”
When Puza went to in Stamford earlier this summer, she was surprised to learn that they do not allow pit bulls. Until recently, the breed policy at Camp Bow Wow was laid out by the corporate headquarters, today, corporate gives each franchise the option of whether or not they will accept pit bulls.
“Owners of pit bulls were disappointed, so we tried to change the policy, we interviewed them and took a six-month-old female pit bull, a sweet, sweet dog with people. She did fine in the interview process, fine with just two or three other dogs,” John Caro, owner of Stamford’s Camp Bow Wow, told Patch. “The second day, her temperament changed, to the point that she bit another dog. When the counselor who was in there tried to control the situation, she bit the person on the arm. I don’t know what might have happened, maybe she thought she was playing rough.”
Since then, Camp Bow Wow has not accepted any pure bred pit bulls, but they do have three or four mixed breed pit bulls.
“I have unfortunately very commonly heard of apartment complexes not allowing pit bulls or German Shepherds, Boxers, Dobermans, or a handful of other breeds....It is easier for me to ignore these restrictions and pass them off as ridiculous because the people making the rules don't know anything about dogs and aren't expected to, unlike the people at a dog boarding facility,” Puza said.
The use of pit bulls in dog fighting is one of the driving forces behind the reputation. It’s easy for people to listen to the news and see dog fighting rings being broken up and draw their own conclusions about the nature of pit bulls. This leaves some boarders up against the wall in deciding whether or not to allow them in their facility.
“I’m sure in many clients' minds, they hear stories of Michael Vick and have it in their mind that they’re bred to fight...they’re afraid. I think if I accepted pit bulls at camp, we would lose clients,” Caro said.
The reputation pit bulls have gained from dog fighting has led to a disastrous chain reaction, dogs being abused, neglected, and developing traits that serve to propel the reputation into the future.
“It makes them a target breed to be adopted as a "status symbol pet." These dogs are trained to be aggressive, protective, and to bite usually by being beaten, abused, and neglected," Puza said. “If they get loose, as they often do thanks to irresponsible owners, the results can be disastrous. What most people don't realize though, is that any breed treated this way may develop the same aggressions.”
“I don’t know what it is, whether it’s in their nature or the way that they were raised,” Caro said. “It’s a reputation that’s been coming for a long time.”
For people who love pit bulls, it’s also a reputation they’re fighting hard to change. October 22, 2011 will mark the fifth annual National Pit Bull Awareness Day, a day that advocates across the US plan to join together to bring some positive attention to their misunderstood best friends.