Rachel Molyneux adopted her first "pit" when she was 16 and working at a local animal shelter. "Pit" is the word Molyneux affectionately uses for the Staffordshire terrier, aka pit bull. Since then, Molyneux has adopted more pits and is a local cheerleader for the breed. She and her boyfriend last year started Pit n' Proud, an organization that offers training and education classes for pit owners and the community. Their goal is to remind folks that, despite some negative press, pits are generally good dogs. For more information, search on Facebook for Pit n' Proud, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
How did the group start?
As a loosely formed email group. My boyfriend and I had thought about forming a breed club, because there was no place for pit owners to come together and do something positive. Then it quickly morphed into what it is now—an advocacy and education program. As we got people together and talked about the lack of positive images, we realized there was more we could do, like encourage pit owners to participate in competitive dog-sport events.
Are pit bulls not allowed in some competitive events?
They are allowed in most of the competitive dog sports, but there's just not enough support. People who don't know pits don't know they can do pretty much anything. When people think agility, they think border collie, but there are pits that have excelled in this area. They are also great working dogs. Pits have excelled in herding competitions.
How does Pit n' Proud work?
We have a two-pronged approach. We want to be proactive and community-based. We believe in providing support to the pit community as a whole. If we take a proactive role and train people to train dogs, the dogs will be better represented in public. Every dog that's a pit is judged, so it's more important than ever
for pits to be well-behaved. The other (approach) is public education and teaching classes that introduce people to real statistics. We also are working on a therapy-dog program.
How does the therapy-dog class work?
They are all certified through the Delta Society, an all-breed organization that certifies therapy dogs for hospice programs, reading programs at libraries, and to take into schools for education. We have a dog-bite-prevention class. ... It's also a good opportunity for kids who have been victims of stereotyping or bias, just like the breed. We're hoping to do some juvenile-detention work.
What training is offered?
The trainings are run at cost, and we have scholarships. ... Also, if anyone is having an in-home problem, we offer a consultation that is free, and then is $65 per session if they need more help. It's a good way to offer targeted one-on-one training. There are scholarships available for that, too. We are also in the process of offering the Canine Good Citizen class, which is a more-comprehensive eight-week course that starts with human education the first week, and then the next seven weeks are behavioral training in prep for the American Kennel Club evaluation and Good Citizen test.
How do you describe pits?
Pits are usually intense and active, but they are total people-pleasers. If you can convince them that all good comes from you, you will get what you want.
When did you discover the breed?
I stumbled across the breed when I was 13, and I first started working in an animal shelter. I didn't have any misconceptions. My experience was positive. Then I happened to adopt one when I was 16, because she was so open: She chose me, and that's what really got me on their side. The more I encountered problems, the more of an advocate I became of the breed. They are more often victims of abuse and neglect, and they don't get adopted often. Those statistics have made me want to do more for them.
Do you think misconceptions are changing?
The tide is shifting, but it is still a rocky period. ... The image of the dogs is recovering thanks to a lot of positive groups and TV shows. But we think we still have a lot of work left to do. I've encountered people on both sides, including families with children, who've taken in these dogs and love them. Then there are others who only want them for their tough macho image.