Local shelter aims to change stigma against pitbulls

HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - When it comes to finding a man's best friend, many people tend to think the worst of pitbulls. At Start Over Rover in Hastings, Co-Founder Anne Halbert said many people come in afraid of pitbulls they have. She said they are like any other breed when it comes to aggressiveness and the stigma against them comes at a big cost.

Many people would discount pitbulls as a dog they would want to adopt. But a Hastings shelter is trying to show they are not aggressive dogs. (KSNB)

One of their dogs, Lilly, is an older pitbull who likes to lie in the sun and have belly rubs. But being a pitbull she has been at the shelter for over four years.

“They'll be walking through the big dog room and will tell children 'oh that's a pitbull you need to stay back' and that is just so not true,” Halbert said.

Halbert said with negative portrayals of pitbulls in the media, people automatically assume all pitbulls are mean dogs. But she stresses that it mostly comes down to how the dog is treated and any breed can be raised to be aggressive.

Pitbulls actually score higher on behavior tests than the general dog population according to the American Pitbull Foundation.

“You are more likely to be bitten by a chihuahua, by a labrador retriever, by any of a lot of those other breeds than you are a pitbull,” Halbert said.

When getting a puppy, she said they need to be frequently socialized with other dogs. Pitbulls are known for being good with kids with some training.

“Odds are it's not going to be a vicious dog. It may get big and it may be very strong but it comes down to us training them,” Halbert said. “We want them to be around the children, around those things then we need to train them not to jump, we need to train them not to run over. They may knock them over playing for big dog vs small.”

Getting a dog from a shelter can be hard not knowing the dog's past. But Start Over Rover puts the dogs through a number of tests and looks closely into the adopters to make sure the dog is going to the right home.

“You know this is something we can absolutely say with confidence when we spend some much time around this breed of dog,” Halbert said.