The Pit Bull “Problem”

Dr. Seuss had one.

Helen Keller claims they’re one of the best therapy dogs.

Jon Stewart has two – and they watch over his young children.

But these aren’t the stories you hear when you hear about pit bulls.

“I think it all started back in 1987,” says Ken Foster, author of numerous books on dogs, “[when] Sports Illustrated ran a snarling photo [of a pit bull] with a caption ‘BEWARE OF THIS DOG.'”

If you believe rumors, pit bulls have brains that are too big for their heads and jaws that operate like sharks’. Only criminals and gangsters own them; and don’t even think about getting one — they’re known for turning on their masters.

I think Cesar Milan put it best: “In the ’70s, they blamed Dobermans, in the ’80s, they blamed German Shepherds, in the ’90s, they blamed Rottweilers. Now, they blame the Pit Bull.”

These misconceptions are what led Ken Foster to start the Sula Foundation, an organization that provides affordable vaccinations, free spaying and neutering, and basic education and obedience training for pit bulls.

Ken Foster does good in New Orleans by educating pit bulls -- and their owners.
Foster recently raised a hefty sum to help Spartacus (the gorgeous white dog that slept on my lap while we talked), whose leg had been blown off by a shotgun blast. The funds didn’t just pay for the operation that saved Spartacus’s life; they also covered his stay at a local “resort” for dogs, where he could rest, recover, and get used to life on three legs.

Foster says he gets somewhere between 12-20 calls a day to come pick up a pit bull. “Every year in New Orleans, over 2,000 are euthanized,” he explains. “That’s a little more than five a day.”

I ask why the rate is so high, and the answer is complicated.

“People breed them poorly and don’t have the means to take care of them. People move and don’t want to take the dog with them,” he says. “Or, lately, a lot of people are into this ‘moving to New Orleans’ thing for a year to work on their art, adopting a pit bull, ‘cause that’s what everyone does here and then a year later are like, ‘I’m moving back home now, so can you take my dog?’”

Foster air-chokes that imaginary person and laughs a bit, but you can tell it’s an issue – one of many.

“In a place like New Orleans, stigma is a big thing,” he says. “People have preconceived notions of what someone, or something, is supposed to be like and they subsequently get judged based solely on that.”

And as I get viciously attacked by an army of wet kisses and a powerful violent tail, I kind of start to see where he’s coming from.

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  1. kealee
    marshill maine
    August 28, 2013, 1:39 pm

    pits are not mean they are if you beat on them so dont juge a dog by what peaople tell you because some pits are mean if you beat on them and trean to be like that i need a pitbull myen died we dident now how we came back from GA and two week latter so i dident go to school that day it died i was crying for like 5 weeks you can email me at

  2. kealee
    marshill maine
    August 28, 2013, 1:28 pm

    plz coment under me if you now were i can get them in maine

  3. kealee
    August 28, 2013, 1:26 pm

    i had a blue nose pitbull pup but i died i got it from my uncle peanut i ove pitbulls i would never put them in fihting i am in the high school in maine ? i miss my pretty girl

  4. ricky white
    Daytona Beach Fl.
    May 24, 2013, 1:20 pm

    i luv pit bulls…

  5. ricky white
    Daytona beach fl.
    March 7, 2013, 1:08 pm

    who want to fight dogs????lol jk i lun pitbulls..

  6. John
    Kailua Kona, Hawaii
    February 21, 2013, 4:46 am

    I have a huge Maximus blue nose (he is over 90 lbs) that is so beautiful and such a sweet heart asleep at my feet right now. His sister Kalani is asleep and has her head on his stomach. Pitbulls are my favorite breed, we take these kids to Petco on Sundays to see the foster puppies from CARES and to see their friends. You see they were once foster puppies and when they see their friend Debie from CARES big boy Max stands up on her shoulders and gives her the biggest kiss. I just love my dogs, and to me there is no better breed than a PITBULL!

  7. Brenda
    January 11, 2013, 7:47 pm

    I own 4 pit bulls all together and i love them to death. people always say that they are scared pits but thats only because they are used to hearing about pits that fight all they need is a carring home to live in with people that will exercise and love them properly. they are amazing animals.

  8. deon
    August 7, 2012, 1:10 pm


  9. kate
    June 24, 2012, 7:37 am

    pits dont turn on their owers they are like any other dog so this guy that said in the articles was so totaly wrong

  10. […] of all of the people, dogs, neighborhoods, you name it on the receiving end of these good deeds, I have a feeling that it was […]

  11. Emily
    Richmond, VA
    June 10, 2012, 8:51 am

    Thank you so much for this honest and positive article about pitties and Ken Foster, one of any pit bull fan’s heroes! I’m a mother of three little children with an MS in Animals and Public Policy. We love our rescued pit bull (our third) and we also foster shelter pit bulls. Anyone who wonders out loud how I could possibly feel safe having pit bulls around my children has set themselves up for a really long history and sociology lecture, but it’s our dogs more than my words that have changed many people’s minds! Once you love them, it’s like you’ve joined some secret society — I love wearing my Iheartpitbulls shirt from Ring Dog Rescue because I always know the nicest, most interesting people will approach me to whisper, “me, too!”

  12. donna
    May 27, 2012, 5:05 pm

    I have had pitbulls all my life and have never had one probblem its how they’re raised and some times bad breeding that causes problems. I have at various ages and 10 yr. ,4yr. And 7week old pits and not to discriminate we also have shitsu all get along fine, and some of neighbors have change they’re opinion of pits because we take time to train and socialize them to and

  13. Peter Penther
    May 27, 2012, 2:49 am

    Innocent until proven guilty.
    The problem is usually the one holding the leash, not the one wearing the collar.

  14. Amanda F
    Baltimore, MD
    May 25, 2012, 9:17 pm

    Always love to see my favorite breed of dog getting some positive press! I am a teacher with a masters degree and a mother and I also own a pit bull. People need to stop demonizing this breed and start focusing on the two biggest factors in dog bites, unaltered pet and tethered pets. Blaming the pit bull for all dog bites is knee jerk reaction that doesnt address the dog bite problem. You are more likely to be hit by lighting then being attacked by a pit bull. FOr every “pit bull attacks” story you see on the 6 o clock news there are thousands of wonderful pit bull that you never hear about.

  15. Donna Sanspree
    New Orleans Louisiana
    May 25, 2012, 4:01 pm

    Ken Foster is a true hero among we true pit bull owners and lovers. He and Sula do so much to educate and advocate about this breed . It is a wonderful story of what love and kindness can do. I really hate how this great dog is demonized. BTW I am a 57 year old woman who shares my home and heart with 2 awesome rescued pittie boys”. I am not currently nor have I ever been a “Dog Fighter, Gangsta, Thug, Drug Dealer or Pimp on the contrary to what some people think pit bull owners are. Their is no better companion than a pittie with an educated loving owner they will win your heart every time!!!!