i Oct 13th 13 Comments by

October is National Pit Bull Awareness Month and as I am not only the Marketing Director, but also a pit bull mama and a proponent of the breed, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t devote at least one blog post to pit bulls this month.

I never understood the people who owned one breed of dog over and over again. Maybe it’s because I’ve fostered for so long, but there are so many breeds that I like and that I could see living a harmonious life with my family. Why wouldn’t you want to change things up?  Try something new?  Walk into a shelter and just let fate runs it’s course?

Stella Mae Ireland

Stella Mae Ireland

And then I met Stella. Before becoming an Ireland, Stella was used solely for breeding and likely spent most of her life in a crate.  She and 20 other dogs were found in the basement of a home that police had busted on drug charges.   That was four years ago.

People notoriously like Stella.  She’s gorgeous with a blue brindle coat and huge almond shaped brown eyes.  She’s 65 pounds, but has a small stature, a big head and cropped ears.  She is extremely timid around strangers and in new places and I can assure you that she is more afraid of you than you ever will be of her.  But at home….oh man. She’s a maniac.  She and our dachshund Jackson are best friends.  They play and cuddle and chase each other and steal toys.  She can hop straight up in the air, her lips flap when she runs, and she is so lazy in the mornings that she does the army crawl just to avoid walking.  If “sofa long jump” was an Olympic event, she would win the gold medal. “Crazy eyes” are a sure sign that she’s in a playful mood.  She refuses to jump onto our bed and will only use the doggie steps that we’ve had since we fostered two ancient dachshunds that couldn’t get onto the sofa without the extra help.  She is just now learning how to “jump up” and runs to the sofa when my husband gets home from work and waits for him to come close enough that she can stamd on her hind legs and put her front paws on his chest….and then she falls over because she hasn’t mastered balance yet.  She makes me laugh – constantly.  She is gentle with children, loves other dogs, and is terrified of cats.  And she is hopelessly devoted to us.  I don’t know how I know that…but I do.

When people see my Stella and ask “What kind of dog is she?” I tell them she’s a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, a response that is always met with puzzled looks.  So I sigh, and say “she’s a pit bull.” Eighty percent of the time no one flinches when I saw the “P” word, but the other 20% of the time I see “the look”.  You know the one.  It’s the look that says “I’ve heard about pit bulls and I know they are vicious, violent, good-for-nothing dogs, and nothing you can say is going to change my mind.”

I KNOW there’s nothing I can say.  I KNOW the people reading this fall in the 80%. I KNOW that I can’t overcome the stereotypes.  But that doesn’t stop me.  Give me an opening and I will tell you how amazing my dog and why you should think so too.

I will tell you that “pit bull” is a generic term that four other breeds fall under: American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, Bull Terriers and American Pit Bull Terrier.  They are individual breeds just as labradors, goldens and tollers are all retrievers.

An illustration from the 1950's.  View more vintage photos at

An illustration from the 1950’s. View more vintage photos at

I will tell you that pit bulls have a long and rich history beginning in 1800’s England. Their courageous nature made them valuable as “bull bait” until baiting a bull with a dog was deemed inhumane.  The lower class turned to dog fighting as entertainment but the dogs were never bred to be aggressive towards humans.  The dogs were brought to American and highly valued as they protected their family from predators, were agile in the fields, and could be trusted with their children.   Many felt that their friendly, brave and courageous nature was symbolic of the American people and the dogs could often be found on posters and advertisements and were synonymous with Americana.

I will tell you that trying to find an unbiased report about dog bites is impossible.  Websites are either pro-pit bull or anti-pit bull and the numbers can be manipulated in either side’s favor.  What I do know is that in the very micro-population of the ARL, pit bull residents far exceed that of other breeds known for biting like Chow Chows, German Shepherds, Dobermans, Rottweilers, Great Danes and Saint Bernards.  One COULD conclude, if one wanted to, that there are more pit bulls in shelters because there are more pit bulls out of shelters.  I don’t think anyone would argue that pits are more prevalent than St. Bernards and that it’s likely if we look at the population of a breed vs. the occurrence of that breed biting, it’s possible that the numbers are not quite as black and white as the news would have us believe.

I will tell you that so much of what you hear is myth. Pit bulls don’t have locking jaws – no dog does. Most pit bulls are bred for…..nothing.  Not to fight, not to breed.  Nothing.  Pit bulls are not “naturally vicious.” If raised well (like any dog), they are naturally loving.

I will tell you that I’m not blind.  I work in shelter that services a large urban population and every single day, I see pit bulls come in that aren’t all of the things I love about my Stella.  Even knowing that…SEEING it first hand – it doesn’t change my mind.  Those dogs aren’t born that way. Period.  They are the victim of their environment.  I think this quote from says it perfectly, The bull breeds are often grossly misunderstood. The qualities that make these dogs tenacious players in obedience and agility games also attract highly unscrupulous people looking for strong competitors for their dog fighting rings.”

And I will tell you that now; I’m one of those people. I get it.  I’m a dog owner that just wants to own a million more pit bulls.  I love everything about the breed and I just want to smothered in pittie kisses and post Instagram pictures of huge pittie smiles and fight tirelessly for the breeds (plural, because there are multiple breeds under the pit bull category…remember?) that I’ve grown to know and love.

The thing that spurred me to write this post is that I’ve noticed lately a large number of adopters coming through our doors saying “I have a pit at home, and I’d like to adopt another one.”  I love that.  I think good pit bull owners are as tenacious as the dogs they love.  We are loyal to our dogs and we will do anything to protect them and we’ve all taken an unspoken pact when we became pit bull parents. We’ve vowed to be breed ambassadors. We’ve taken on the responsibility of always setting our dogs up for success, of being the voice for those that can’t speak, and to stand up for the rights they’ve had taken from them.  I can’t change minds by myself, but together?  Yeah.  Together we can change anything.


The ARL is celebrating Pit Bull Awareness month by offering reduced price pit bull & pit bull mix adoptions.  View our adoptabulls here.


  1. Kim Kahler-Dibble
    October 17, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    I loved your post. It was very heartfelt and informative. I’ve heard good and bad things about Pit Bulls. I prefer to think all dogs are good, it’s the person that might not be. Stella is a very lucky girl to have found a great family. 🙂

  2. not fair
    March 9, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    I’ve noticed how your foster program only includes the small, cute, those who have a very decent chance of getting adopted. You never list any pit bulls or larger dogs that are found at your shelter in the foster program. It appears anyone who wants to adopt a “foster” pet has to go through one person while the rest of the animals go through whomever is at the front desk. So WRONG! Your place is run poorly!

    • BethIreland
      March 9, 2015 at 4:37 pm

      Woweee – that’s quite a mouthful! Actually – TONS of large dogs go into foster care. I, myself, (the Marketing Director for the ARL) have fostered 3 labs, 4 pits and a German Shepherd. In fact, this past weekend a 70 pound hound mix (Princess), and an 80 pound shep mix (Lucky) found their forever homes. Star, a 100-lb Newfie is currently in foster as are numerous other larger dogs that just haven’t made it on to the website yet.

      As for “adoptableness” – well, I suppose that’s relative. At any given time you might find foster animals with terminal illness, severe medical problems (Star), chronic disease, behavioral issues (Buddy), not housebroken, and/or elderly (Queenie) in our program. If you think those animals are easy to find homes for, well then, you’d be right. There are tons of adopters out there with big hearts willing to take on an extra challenge. Of course, we do have plenty of healthy animals in foster care as well, but the Grey Muzzle program was created specifically for senior and special needs animals – the two groups that are the hardest to adopt out from the shelter.

      Don’t believe me? I encourage you to check out our Adopted album on Facebook which features 861 animals adopted through our Grey Muzzle program.

      Also – we are ALWAYS looking for homes willing to foster bully breeds. If you’d like to help and be a part of the solution, we would love to have you on our team. You can contact our foster coordinator, Marcy Tocker at or 610-373-8830 x119 and get started saving lives today!

      • Pamela Grubb
        March 11, 2015 at 3:15 pm

        well said beth! I thought of star and lucky right away. apparently “notfair” does not realize the amount of work it takes to run a program like this, or a shelter in general. I also would welcome this person to offer to volunteer and/or foster and see just how many larger and/or harder to place animals that we have.

    • Charlie Manella
      March 9, 2015 at 5:19 pm

      @ not fair:
      My wife and I have personally fostered 3 pit bull mixes from the Animal Rescue League. Our first was Carbo, a long time resident and event-champion. Then to Raja, a scared and temperamental girl who just needed some work on socialization. and finally Roxanne (her story here: ), a scared and emmaciated gem of a girl, who with a lot of attention and hard work (mostly by our own dogs), has become a fantastic member of a loving family.

      I know of many other large dogs including pit-mixes that have been saved just by going thru the Grey Muzzle program, but I will leave it to their individual foster families to weigh in on them.

      I’m not exactly sure where you received your misinformation, but I would highly suggest that you get all your information before posting such a hurtful comment. Come down to the ARL, and speak with the Foster Coordinator, Kennel Manager or Executive Director. Perhaps the can help you get a better understanding of everything that’s done in order to find these animals kind, loving homes.

      Charlie Manella

  3. Kim Reifsnyder
    March 9, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    Dear Not Fair,
    Your comment is not fair!! I went through the foster program with a Pit Bull Hazel whom I adopted. At that time there were at least 3 other Pit Bulls also in foster care. At the reading Royals game on Saturday night there was a Rottie and 3 pit mixes. So to say that only smaller dogs get fostered is just plain wrong! If you feel so passionately about big dogs being fostered why not apply to become a foster parent.

  4. Katie
    March 9, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    I personally was able to foster two dogs from the Berks ARL, before we moved from the area and were no longer able to do so. We took in two pit bulls, since we have a fondness for them. One about 70lbs, was a beautiful sweet girl with a big old head, but couldn’t stop drooling from nervousness in the shelter and soaking her entire body, keeping her true colors from showing. My other “meatball” was far from small but was overbred, had horribly cropped ears, and terrible skin. She would have been miserable and overlooked at a shelter, but bringing her home she was able to heal up and be a gorgeous happy girl.
    As a foster parent we are able to tell potential adopters about the dogs temperament and more, but they are screened the same as adopters coming in to the shelter.
    If you say we only foster cute animals, then you are right! But that’s because they are all cute and adorable to us.
    Just remember that what you see from the outside may not be the whole story and lots go on behind the scenes to give all dogs a chance to find a loving suitable home. I encourage you to be a foster parent and experience the awesomeness for yourself!

  5. mary ann Groff
    March 9, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Not fair,
    Where to begin…I myself have fostered 3 dogs( I am just beginning) which were the following, a gorgeous, huge Rottweiler, second came a sweetie weighing 72 lbs a pittie breed and only this last older gal was smaller. It is so easy to condemn when you are looking in from the outside. I Think you should stop looking through the glass window and come on in and join us! I’ve seen firsthand the people that work there work tirelessly to save every single animal that comes through the door! They spend tons of their time, energy and money working with every single dog, cat, and critter that comes in there! Each one is treated according to its needs! They’re are always asking for help and it takes a village so please sign up to be a foster, sign up to adopt and give an animal a forever home! Or just sign up to come see things for what they really are!

  6. Heather Westfall VMD
    March 9, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    Dear Not Fair,

    You should change your name to Not Informed.

    Grey Muzzle has saved dogs without a snowball’s chance in Hell. The first dog we treated together was a diabetic chihuahua with mammary cancer and a vulvar tumor. That was five years ago, and since that time, I have personally treated and fostered countless animal with Grey Muzzle who have had cancer, demodectic mange, dental disease so awful it fractured their jaws, heart disease, eyes that needed to be removed for untreatable glaucoma, neurological disorders, dying of pyometras, on and on.

    I have also ADOPTED from Grey Muzzle, including one big old fat arthritic Labrador with Lyme disease. Though I loved her, I can tell you she was not SMALL, CUTE, or EASILY ADOPTABLE. This is the case for most of the animals in the program. I am unsure where you get your information, but the majority of dogs in this program are dogs that would likely be euthanized were they anywhere else, or woyuld sit and suffer with their medical issues and be passed over for adoption by most people.

    I am currently fostering (since December) a 15 year old Chihuahua mix who almost died of pneumonia, then needed all of her teeth removed and her fractured jaw repaired, and finally, spayed her and removed her mammary tumors. Without Grey Muzzle and ARL, these dogs would be dead.

    I’m insulted that you assume that this program, and it’s volunteers and veterinarians, are so shallow and uncaring, when nothing could be further from the truth. I cannot count the numbers of big and little dogs that I have personally attended to who have been helped through this program. I don’t know where you get your information, but perhaps you might do your homework before you pass judgement on a program that has made the possibility of life a reality for countless *unadoptable* animals .

    Not Fair/Informed, if you would like to help us to get more unadoptable animals into homes, please, volunteer your time, money, effort, transport, whatever you can to help Grey Muzzle and ARL. You will not only increase the chances for more hard to rehome animals, but you will see how much good comes of it. You can make a difference for animals whose chances we certainly unfair- luckily, this program seeks to make a difference for all of them. So can you.

  7. Erika
    March 9, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    I’ve been fostering for the ARL for about a year and a half now and I have had 5 pitties (Luke, Petey, Snoop, William and Magnum). Since I have no fear of the larger misunderstood breeds (I used to have 2 rotties) I always take the pitties, that is, as long as they get along with my Dimples, who is a 65 lb awesome American pit bull terrier that loves to play fetch with her tennis ball. I can say some fosters are easier than others, shelter dogs no matter what breed may have small behaviors that need to be worked on and that’s where we as foster families come into play. We know that there will be training and socializing needs. The pitties that are brought into the ARL just want to be loved. Most have had a rough time and yet they trust us humans and love us unconditionally.

  8. Stacie
    March 9, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    @ Not Fair
    I just wanted to take a minute to enlighten you on things you may not know. I have been fostering for over a year now and have opened up my home to an Akita, 2 Huskies, 3 Labs, a Pit and several others. Many had medical issues or behavioral issues, but all were able to find homes. I don’t think your comment suggesting the Grey Muzzle Program only provides fosters homes for the small and cute is accurate, mainly because the majority of my foster dogs have been over 60 lbs and some, not so cute (although all completely adorable in my eyes!). Of course, it would be great to see more dogs come out of the shelter and go into foster homes, but we need more people willing to foster!! So, please educate yourself before speaking out against an amazing organization like the Animal Rescue League.

  9. Robin Hughes
    March 10, 2015 at 2:02 am

    Before moving out of the area over a year ago, we were blessed to be foster parents with Grey Muzzle. In fact, we were there in the beginning and just thrilled to be the first official foster family for Grey Muzzle. That was when we brought home Roamy, a rottie mix. Roamy had multiple physical issues . At many places, she wouldn’t have been given a second chance, but Marcy and the other wonderful staff at the ARL saw her beautiful and gentle spirit and wanted to give her that second chance. I am so glad they did! After her there were many others, some small…and some large. All were special and had some challenges…physical or emotional (trust issues, shyness,etc.) that easily could have made them be overlooked for adoption. What I learned through the incredible experience of fostering there is that the ARL and Grey Muzzle and all those involved , including the dedicated veternarians , are amazing and absolutely love these animals and will do everything possible to care for them with the ultimate goal of finding them the very best forever home! There are also some very special adopters out there, too! And the animals…well, it goes without saying, they bring such joy and we are grateful for each one that touched our lives!

  10. Vicky
    March 10, 2015 at 11:52 am

    To: Not Fair – I personally have fostered Pit Bulls for the Animal Rescue League. Did you ever visit the shelter and see how many Pit Bulls are dumped there by irresponsible owners??? Most dogs can only go into foster care if they are good with other dogs, as 90 percent of us foster folks have other dogs and/or cats. Unfortunately the scumbags, especially in the inner City breed brothers & sisters, mother and sons, etc, and the puppies sometimes don’t stand a chance. As an adult they are often dog aggressive or have behavioral problems.


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