Whitman of WOOF: Celebrating National Pit-bull Awareness Month!

October is National Pit-Bull Awareness Month! So, in honor of this celebration, PSD wants to address some common questions we get about pit bulls as service dogs and recognize the incredible story of our own pittie and WOOF mascot, Whitman. Patriot Service Dogs is excited to help spread awareness about this misunderstood breed–and to spread our love of Whit!

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Who is Whitman?

In 2018, Whitman entered our WOOF Program (Women Offer Obedience and Friendship) as one of six rescue dogs from Hailes Angels Pet Rescue. {For more info on the WOOF Program and our partnership with Hailes, click here.} The director at Hailes picked Whitman to go into the program because he needed extra care, he’d just undergone surgery to remove a cancerous tumor and had lost his right eye in the process. The folks at Hailes knew he would receive the close attention he needed with our inmate-trainers. After just a few days in the dorm, Whitman became a favorite among our trainers and the prison staff. 

We don’t know the full details of Whitman’s life before he was rescued by Hailes; we know he is an older boy with scrapes and scars, skin issues that were unattended to, and a history of cancer. But despite his past, Whitman held no grudges from the moment he entered WOOF. He enjoyed the attention of his trainers and relished in the air conditioning of the officer’s room. Soon, his eye healed but it was clear that he still needed special care, so he stayed in the program through the next class of rescue dogs. Then the next. And eventually, Hailes, PSD, and WOOF agreed that the safest place for Whitman to lead out the rest of his life would be prison, where he is loved and spoiled by all. So, WOOF adopted Whitman and he officially became the program mascot!

As mascot, Whitman greets all new classes of rescue dogs from Hailes and shows them the ropes of prison life. He continues to train (when he feels like it), he attends all meetings for both the service dogs and rescue dogs, sometimes he keeps the officers company in their offices, and most importantly he is always there to snuggle. In a program where dogs are constantly entering and leaving our lives, Whitman is WOOF’s one constant and we hope we give him as much comfort as he gives us.

Can a Pit Bull Become a Service Dog?

Yes! Pit bulls can make great service dogs. At Patriot Service Dogs we do not train pitties in our service dog program for a couple of specific reasons.

  • Despite recent efforts to destigmatize bully breeds there are still cities, counties, and airlines that prohibit pit-bull-like breeds, even if the dog is a fully trained service dog. For example, any pit-bull-type-dog within the city limits of Denver can be seized if the owners do not have “Breed Restricted Permit” and Delta Airlines continues to ban pit-bulls on their planes despite the fact that the federal government has declared the ban on pit-bull service dogs illegal. It can also be very hard to find housing with a pit-bull. Landlords and HOA agreements frequently discriminate against pitties. At Patriot Service Dogs, we do not support these breed bans, but we do not want to put a veteran in a situation where their service dog might be taken from them. We also don’t want to put the burden of researching these bans on a veteran. 

 

  • Most “bully breeds” tend to be very “people-centered” dogs. Once a pit-bull decides who its family is, it can be difficult for the dog to attach itself to someone new. For a family dog, this isn’t a problem, but their intense attachment makes it hard to train and place a pittie with a veteran. A life moving from inmate-trainer, weekend raisers, and finally a veteran would likely cause the dog stress and anxiety. While every dog is different and this isn’t always the case, the trait is common enough that we prefer to only train pit-bulls and pit-mixes as a part of our WOOF Rescue program. This way, they can find their forever families like Whitman has found his family at Lowell!
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Busting Stereotypes:

Locking jaws. Inherent aggression. Fighting dogs. All of those stereotypes are wrong. 

No dog breed has locking jaws and when tested, the average bully breed bite is the same as other breeds their size like labs and boxers. 

According to decades of research from the American Temperament Test Society, pit bulls score in the top 20% of breeds on temperament tests (Border Collies tend to score among the lowest breeds). 

As for fighting dogs, or the common misconception that pit-bulls are only good dogs if you raise them from puppies, check out the documentary The Champions about the pit-bulls rescued from football star Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring. 

1 Comment

  1. Dave Harrold on October 15, 2021 at 4:55 pm

    As always, you’ve found a subject that needs to be told and you did it really well. Thank you Patriot Service Dogs.

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