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Having recently spent two years working for the Washington Humane Society as an animal-control officer, I was skeptical before reading Paul Ruffins’ article about the so-called pit-bull dilemma in the District (“Dog Days,” 11/23). Animal shelters are often condemned for cleaning up after an irresponsible society that treats animals like mere disposable possessions. And the Washington Humane Society is no stranger to controversy. So it was a relief to read an article strongly focused on the perspective of the shelter employees who have the unfortunate and thankless job of witnessing firsthand the unconscionable atrocities committed against animals in the District.
As is the case in many urban settings, pit bulls, in particular, all too often fall into the hands of those who seek to enhance their macho image by displaying the dogs on heavy chains and taunting them into aggression. When I was an animal-control officer, not a day went by that I didn’t see pit bulls being mistreated in one form or another: stashed in abandoned buildings with no heat, food, or water; left with untreated infected wounds or fractured limbs; discarded in alleys, so chewed up in a fight they couldn’t walk and could barely wag their tails at the sight of someone who cared. Then there were the other victims: dogs and cats wounded or fatally attacked by pit bulls running loose or in staged events to prove the worth of the pit bull. And people, often children, have been victimized by irresponsible pit-bull owners who failed to keep their dogs under control or denied the possibility that their dogs had the potential to bite.
Working as an animal-control or humane officer is not a glamorous job. It doesn’t pay well, and the hours leave much to be desired. But the Washington Humane Society prides itself on upholding policies that put the best interest of animals first. It is a tragedy that the best thing they can offer most pit bulls is food and a warm bed for a few days and then a humane death. However, it is not the shelters that have singled out this breed. It is the people who continue to mistreat and abuse them.
Mount Rainier, Md.