At any given time, the Newton County Animal Control could have pit bulls make up as much as 90 percent of its furry occupants. Considered un-adoptable by animal control, does that mean that a huge population of these animals - both feared and coveted - has been given a death sentence? Not quite.
Although Newton County Animal Control Director Teri Key-Hoosen did not have exact numbers available, she did say that they do get a great deal of pit bulls in the animal shelter, some dropped off, some found on the street, some claimed from homes where they have been neglected or beaten. While they do not adopt out pit bulls due to policy, they do work with another agency to find homes for these animals if there is a true interest. It also helps to weed out those who would use the animals simply as bait dogs (animals used to train other dogs to fight) or for fighting.
Following a large bust on dog fighting several years ago, the "sport" has gone further underground in the county, but it has not been eliminated. Key-Hoosen said her agency responds on a regular basis to dead pit bulls thrown out, or those so beaten and broken they are too near death to save.
The policy is not only for the safety of people, but also for the safety of the pit bulls. She said that people routinely will specifically ask for pit bulls, and they cannot profile or know what the person's intentions are in adopting the animals.
"There's just no way to know," she said. "I know there are plenty of people who would give them loving homes, but as a governmental agency we cannot profile and there is just no way to know."
Key-Hoosen said that while the breed itself is not a "mean" one traditionally, she believes there are dogs now that are hardwired to fight and be aggressive because they have been raised that way and are bred to do just that.
"They are the dogs of choice for fighting," she said.
Key-Hoosen said they are also starting to see pit bulls being bred with other large and sturdy dogs to create an ultimate fighter.
She also said that while a pit bull might have more force in its jaws, "any dog with teeth can bite," and said she has seen plenty of perceived docile breeds that have bitten.
So what happens to all of those pit bulls that come through the doors of the animal shelter? Like many other animals that call the shelter home, they are eventually euthanized. However, if someone is truly interested in a pit bull, he or she can be put in touch with another agency that will work with the person on paperwork and requires a fee paid up front to make sure the dog has all its shots and is spayed or neutered before being adopted out.
"I don't feel that any pit bull has an automatic death sentence," she said.
Key-Hoosen urges anyone interested in adopting a pit bull - or any other animal - from animal control to come in. The goal is to find all of the animals there forever families. While pit bulls might take more steps than the average mixed mutt, it doesn't make them any less worthy of love.