Some dog breeds have, it seems, been harshly branded as ‘hard dogs’ by the media and are finding that image difficult to shake off, even when the reality is far from the truth. The real problem seems to be when irresponsible dog owners are looking for what they consider ‘tough breeds’ to act as guard dogs and to replace some element of their manhood that is missing from their lives.
Staffordshire bull terriers are one such dog breed that has been singled out by dog owners looking for fierce dogs, yet all too often finding that the dogs themselves are meek, mild and playful – far from their portrayed media image. This results in the poor dogs being abandoned by their owners for no being ‘hard enough’.
The problem is particularly rife in Scotland as SPCA workers in Edinburgh have taken in record numbers of Staffordshire bull terriers that have been abandoned by their foolish owners.
The Balerno centre reports that out of the current dogs it has looking for new homes, 80% of them are Staffordshire bull terriers or cross breeds with Staffs. Equally, Seafield’s Dog and Cat Home in Edinburgh states that out of the dogs it has on its books, one third are Staffordshire bull terriers.
The manager of the Edinburgh and Lothians Animal Rescue and Rehoming Centre, Diane Stewart, puts the blame firmly at the door of the dog owners who are looking for ‘hard dogs’:
Many of the Staffies come in as a result of being abandoned because they don’t live up to the hard-man image that certain people buy them for.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to find them good, genuine homes so they remain in our care for much longer than any other breed.
Mike Flynn is the chief superintendent at the Scottish SPCA and he agrees that the problem is due to the idiots who are just looking to own an aggressive dog:
There is a small element of society that goes for status dogs, which is ‘I am a wee hard guy and look at my wee hard dog’. But a lot of Staffies end up getting dumped because they turn out not to be aggressive, and that is beginning to creep up here with an increase in stray dogs.
Staffies are lovely wee dogs but we have a problem rehoming them because people think it is ‘one of those devil dogs’. Staffies are as good as any other dog, as long as they are trained and brought up properly.
David Ewing is the manager of the Dog and Cat Home in Edinburgh and he says that Staffordshire bull terriers have a great nature but are suffering from negative media publicity following the odd isolated incident. David has 20 Staffordshire bull terriers in his care, out of just 60 dogs, and finding homes for them is difficult because of the media and the way the dogs have been treated:
It is a constant uphill struggle to rehome them, and in the last few years the problem has got worse.
There is an image problem with Staffies and it is a big mistake because Staffordshire bull terriers by their very nature are very good little dogs, but people wrongly see them in the same way as pit bull terriers.
Staffies are known as the nanny dog because they are extremely good with people and it is very rare to have one that is aggressive with people. They are thoroughly trustworthy little dogs.
With so many Staffordshire bull terriers looking to be rehomed at the same time, and few families willing to take them, some of the dogs have to be put down, states Christine Henderson of the Edinburgh and Lothians area:
There are thousands of Staffies in rescue centres across Scotland just now and some of them are being put to sleep unnecessarily. It is a really sad situation.
Part of the blame should lay at the feet of the media, such as the press, magazines and music stars, whereas some of the blame should also lie with irresponsible stud dog owners and dog breeders who are selling Staffordshire bull terriers to people purely as status symbols.
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