Increasing numbers of pit bull owners register their dogs as therapy, assistance or service dogs to avoid BSL, which requires fewer restrictions on dogs acting as service or therapy dogs. Other disabled owners wish to act as “breed ambassadors” to prove pit bulls can be integrated into society, even in situations where they may prove dangerous.
This page provides a list of quotes from other websites that specify reasons why pit bulls are not suitable service or therapy dogs. It includes a link to a site tracking incidents where pit bulls acting as service or therapy dogs have injured people or other animals.
Reasons pit bulls are not suitable as service or therapy dogs
A note about Pit Bull types (American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Pit mixes). We do not recommend these breeds for service dog training for several reasons:
1). All terrier breeds are difficult to train for service work
2). Pit types must be carefully monitored around small animals, regardless of individual training or temperament
3). You will spend the rest of the dog’s life fighting for access to housing and public facilities. You must decide what is more important to you – having a service dog to help you, or being a breed advocate.
Pit bulls as service dogs? Asking for serious trouble
PETA senior vice president of cruelty investigations states: “The public is misled to believe that pit bulls are like any other dog. And they just aren’t.” The ASPCA also acknowledges on its website that pit bulls are genetically different than other dogs. “Pit bulls have been bred to behave differently during a fight,” it says. “They may not give warning before becoming aggressive, and they’re less likely to back down when clashing with an opponent.”
Breeds classified as Guard Dogs, Flock Guardians or Fighting Dogs have aggression related breed traits that are particularly worrisome. Assistance dog partners who do not have previous experience handling a dog with a strong Protection drive, a fierce Territorial instinct or a hereditary dog aggression problem should not attempt a partnership with one of these breeds. Those who do choose to work with one of these breeds must respect the darker side of its nature, learn how to avoid triggering it and never ignore the potential for a misunderstanding. Occasionally one hears of a Doberman or German Shepherd or a Rottweiler that seems to lack the normal hereditary breed traits that earned such dogs the reputation of being formidable guard dogs. But atypical specimens like that are extremely difficult to find, nor do they come with a lifetime guarantee. Realistically, your odds on a pup from those breeds growing up to be an adult that lacks his breed’s guard dog instinct is very slim. Hereditary breed traits should always be considered part of the package when making a breed choice.
It is critical that dogs are going to be calm and stable “on their own” without the necessity of great guidance and leadership from their handler. When living with someone who has fluctuating weak energy and leadership skills, such as anyone with a psychiatric disorder, a dog will revert to its genetically bred instincts and/or to default behaviors learned in puppyhood.
Bully breeds, dobermans, and rottweilers are used as service dogs. This can caused access problems in areas with breed specific legisislation (BSL) aka breed bans. Some cities require service dogs of a banned breed to be muzzled in public. Or you may not be able to purchase a banned breed if you live within city limits. Housing may also be an issue with a banned breed, or a breed considered “dangerous.” In some cases, a landlord can refuse to permit a dog of a certain breed on the premises.
“I have a “bully breed,” why can’t I use him for the program?”
These breeds make wonderful pets and are accepted in our general dog program. An important goal of our service dog program is to promote engagement with the community. Unfortunately, many bully breeds are looked upon unfavorably and even fearfully by the general population. Our main goal is to advocate for Veterans and service dogs and not for any specific breed of canine companion.”
Critics argue they’re a dangerous breed who should be banned from that role. Colleen Lynn, founder of the organization Dogsbite.org, told the AP there are hundreds of other breeds “far more suitable” for service dogs. “There is simply no need for pit bulls, rescued or otherwise,” she said, “to be utilized as service dogs for people with disabilities.”
Injuries caused by pit bulls acting as service or therapy dogs
Service and therapy pit bulls that “turned pit bull” – a list recent cases
Small dog attacked by Canine Angels “service” pit bull at event