MISUNDERSTOOD: A pit bull owned by an island resident.
MISUNDERSTOOD: A pit bull owned by an island resident.

Our Misunderstood aims to educate, aid and advocate for the banned dog breeds of Bermuda.

We started off as a Facebook page, Saving Bermuda’s Misunderstood, after a man was charged for drowning his pit bull after an attack on another dog.

The subsequent public discourse and comments such as “justified action taken on such a vicious breed”, was the final push we needed to do something for these beautiful, energetic, sweet, but misunderstood dogs on the island.

Since January we have worked to try to change the social stigmas and stereotypes around many of the larger dog breeds of this island — namely pit bulls and ‘bully breeds’.

Responsibility

Through research on breed specific legislation (BSL), the pit bull ‘breed’, and general facts and myths surrounding these dogs, we hope to bring about a heightened awareness and appreciation for these animals.

In the long run, our aim is to have BSL lifted and in turn, replaced with realistic and appropriate legislation governing all dogs and holding owners accountable for their pets’ behaviour (not the other way round, as it is now).

In recent months, several countries have revised their own forms of BSL and replaced it with enforceable, breed-neutral legislation.

Within our movement, Our Misunderstood is teaming up with photographers Two + Quarter Studios to put forward a Positive Pit Bull Campaign in the hope of turning around the social stigmas and stereotypes these breeds face.

The aim is to attempt to dispel the negative stereotypes surrounding pit bulls by creating ‘family portraits’ with real owners and their dogs.

The photos will then be used to hopefully start generating a positive image of the breed.

On 24 May, we began one of our visible campaigns which saw 13 of our own pit bull reps displayed across the island in various locations along the usual Catlin End-to-End route.

These images showed the real faces of the breed living in Bermuda.

It saw pit bulls and pit bull mixes as family pets, rescue dogs, award-winning agility dogs and training partners.

Our aim is simple: Equality for the breeds, nothing else.

Instead of having innocent dogs seized from loving and responsible owners and families, we want to encourage Government to support owners of dog breeds deemed potentially-dangerous.

Training and socialization is key. When these powerful dogs are not raised properly, they can present a risk to the public — as is the case for any other breed.

We need to find a way to tackle this problem. Banning certain breeds has only taken the breeding and selling of these dogs underground.

How can we get to the root of the problem and encourage responsibility and accountability?

This is what we are working towards. We are advocating for the responsible owners.

We are listening to their concerns and are providing educational resources where needed.

Our Facebook page is full of wonderful links to training tips, diet suggestions, information on health, and more.

I know that vets are able to care medically for dogs, whether licensed or not. However, formal training and socialization classes are a bit more unpredictable, as an unlicensed dog can be spotted and reported at any time (thus leading to the dog being seized and, more likely than not, being put down — all because of their appearance).

What are responsible dog owners to do?

We believe more can be done than simply killing an entire breed.

But is society ready? Is Government ready to make changes?

Is the community ready to learn about these breeds? And are owners ready to take more responsibility?

Even if it means taking courses on responsible pet-ownership, enrolling your dog into training/socialization classes, and teaching children responsible ways to act around domestic and stray dogs, we can find a way.

 

For more information see www.ourmisunderstood.com or the Our Misunderstood Facebook page. To contact the organizers, e-mail info@ourmisunderstood.com