According to Dickey, misinformation plays a significant role in shaping public perception of pit bulls. For instance, fatal dog incidents are exceedingly rare, and attributing these tragedies to pit bulls is often inaccurate.
“Dogs experts, like Jeffrey Sacks at the CDC, have demonstrated that the breed identifications in fatal incidents involving pit bulls are frequently flawed,” Dickey explained in an interview with National Geographic. “The term ‘pit bull’ has expanded so broadly over the years that people now categorize any dog with a large head and short coat as a pit bull, rather than distinguishing between the various pit bull breeds.”
Dickey also highlights the contrasting historical view of pit bulls in the United States. According to Dickey’s research, during WWI and the Depression, pit bulls were quite popular and not perceived as a threat. Instead, they were emblematic of blue-collar workers and ordinary citizens.
However, the post-WWII era brought about changes in this perception. Dickey notes that the economic boom led to increased interest in kennel club breeds, causing pit bulls to lose favor among American pet owners. One of the significant shifts in public perception occurred in the 1970s when the humane movement began efforts to combat illegal dog fights.
Since then, pit bulls have struggled to shake off their negative reputation. Ultimately, it appears that the Leary family’s decision to allow their entirely harmless pit bull to sleep with their young daughter is not unwarranted, especially given the comfort and companionship the dog provides. Ady’s father summed it up succinctly when he told The Dodo, “If you raise them with love, they only show love.”