Pit bulls become 'pibbles' as pet owners try to change the dogs' bad rep

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Posted on: February 21, 2019

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Pets 505200702 Pit bulls become 'pibbles' as pet owners try to change the dogs' bad rep To distance the dogs from their reputation as fighters, pit bull promoters are changing the name and hitting social media with cute, cuddly photos. By Marisa Meltzer New York Times February 1, 2019 — 11:06pm Purchase: Order Reprint Gaby Savransky was walking his new puppy in Coffey Park in New York. She was a silvery-gray shade that dog breeders call “blue fawn.” Savransky announced to the onlookers cooing over his pet that her name was Esme, she was 11 weeks old, and she was a pit bull. He apparently wasn’t aware of the effort to rebrand this sometimes maligned breed, starting with a new name. The top contender? Pibble. “‘Pibble’ sounds like ‘pit bull’ but also sounds like ‘nibble,’” said Katy Brink, who is executive editor of the Dodo, a website about animals. Brink also owns a pit bull, a seven-year-old named Sasha, and has been a foster parent to a one-year-old pit bull named Lily. “You also see them called ‘pittie,’‘pittopotamous,’‘hippo,’ or ‘potato.’ It’s part of a bigger effort to show them as silly and sweet and gentle. They just want to give you kisses and lounge around. It shows you there’s nothing to be afraid of,” said Brink. The Dodo produced an original video series called “Pittie Nation”, with episodes with titles like “Pablo, who was scared of men, falls in love with his new dad” (73 million views) or “Shortcake with the world’s best smile” (66 million views). The purpose, according to the site, is to prove that pit bulls “are the most cuddly, loving, goofiest dogs in the world!” The pibble campaign is gaining ground, “Pittie Nation” has had more than 1 billion views on Facebook Watch and rescue groups are portraying the dogs as gentle on social media (sometimes referring to them as “good boys”). But pit bull owners, many of whom have families with children, still say that people are afraid of their dogs. “I live in Crown Heights and people will grab their kids and pull them closer when they see my dogs,” said Brink. Advocates say that’s because there’s a lot of misinformation about pit bulls. Starting with their name. Pit bull is actually an umbrella term rather than a specific breed, according to Dr. Pamela Reid, vice president of the ASPCA anti-cruelty behavior team. “With the pit bull we have this pervasive label that encompasses a variety of purebred dogs as well as mixes that share characteristics but not DNA, like American pit bull terriers, Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, American bulldogs. ‘Pit bull’ is now a label for any medium to large, muscular, short-coated dog with a blocky, disproportionately large head.” Some of these dogs were used for fighting and were often bred indiscriminately, without regard to the behavioral traits being passed on to their offspring. “The result is a population of dogs with a wide range of behavioral predispositions,” Reid said. “We know that there’s so much individual variability within a breed it makes sense scientifically to treat them as individuals.” Still, pit bulls have the greatest intake and euthanasia rate at shelters, according to ASPCA surveys in 2015 and 2016. That’s why pit bull fans are taking a stand. In addition to posting cuddly, funny pictures on videos, high-profile pit bull owners are organizing. Comedian Rebecca Corry has been a vocal advocate for pit bulls. In 2015 she organized the “One Million Pibble March” in Washington, D.C., one of the earliest known uses of the term, to raise awareness about abuse and dogfighting. In late 2018 her organization, the Stand Up for Pits Foundation, released a comedy special featuring Fortune Feimster, Bob Saget and Kaley Cuoco. Corry has two pit bull mixes: Sally and Todd. She calls them pibbles, baked potatoes, even velvet hippos. Those names are as appropriate as the often feared name they used to be called by. “I did their dog DNA recently,” she said, “and they’re not even pit bulls.” StarTribune.com welcomes and encourages readers to comment and engage in substantive, mutually respectful exchanges over news topics. Commenters must follow our Terms of Use . Keep it civil and stay on topic. No profanity, vulgarity, racial slurs or personal attacks.

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