Pit bull mixes are clogging up Maricopa County-run shelters, but why?

PHOENIX - Stocky builds, short hair and square shaped heads. The breed is easily recognizable.

"Just about every kennel you see on the outside has some type of pit bull mix in it," said Maricopa County Animal Care and Control spokesperson Jose Santiago. 

Pit bulls dominate at both the Phoenix and Mesa shelters. Smaller breeds rarely stay long. So why are pit mixes passed over?

"They think the breed is strictly aggressive and hyperactive and that simply is not the case," Santiago said.

The Phoenix location alone should only hold about 350 animals total, right now it has nearly 500 dogs. Between 85 and 90 percent, Santiago said, are pit bulls or pit mixes.

But aside from the obvious stigma of being a dangerous breed, another part of the equation is for an entirely different reason. It's because of the sheer number of the type of dog in this part of the country.

"In Seattle where I used to live, the big problem (with overcrowding) was rottweilers. All these rotts were being taken in because it was the popular breed," said Valley dog trainer Sam Basso. "Before I left (Seattle) 12 years ago, the shelters were full of labs and lab mixes."

Simply put, Basso said pit bull mixes are popular in the southwest. But he said there's also a marketing issue.

"Are you going to go down to the worst part of town to adopt a dog?" Basso said. "It's easier to go on Craigslist."

Basso also said some people don't want to see the dogs in a shelter atmosphere. Aside from his dog training business, he also runs Citizens Animal Welfare Society, an animal advocacy group. He's hoping the county and the public will work together to get shelters at all corners of the Valley. Meanwhile the county has an ongoing campaign to show people that pits can be a perfect pet, dressing them in bandanas and bow ties for photo shoots. 

If you're interested in adopting a dog, MCACC offers ongoing specials to ease the overcrowding. You can find more information here


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