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SociaBulls Looks To Rehab The Pitbull Rep

By Kim Bellware in News on Jan 11, 2012 5:00PM

Pittie Party: the SociaBulls group hopes that public walks and owner education will help rehab the image of Pit Bulls as a dangerous breed. (photo via the Chicago SociaBulls Facebook page)
The pit bull breed hasn't been getting much positive press lately. After a jogger on Rainbow Beach was mauled by two pit bulls on New Year's Day and a Chicago Streets and Sanitation worker injured her back after being confronted in an alley by a Pit. 2nd Ward Ald. Robert Fioretti wants to reopen discussion on responsible dog ownership.

"Fighting" breeds like Rottweilers and, overwhelmingly, pit bulls, have polarized pet owners for years. Proponents of breed-specific bans point to incidents like the Rainbow Beach mauling as evidence the breed is too dangerous for city living, while supporters of initiatives like "Deed Not Breed" insist pet owner education is a better alternative to bans.

Founded last August, the Chicago SociaBulls is squarely in the anti-ban camp. More than simply educating the public on responsible pit bull ownership, the group hopes to rehab the breed's image to boot.

In the Tribune's recent profile of the group, members were eager to "counter what they see as a misguided public perception about pit bulls," particularly with the potential threat of anti-pit bull legislation looming.

Chicago SociaBulls sprang from the "Two Pitties In the City"blog started in 2008 by Chicagoan Amy Kang. Kang, along with her husband Edward, chronicled their experiences as pit bull owners and dog foster parents and shared pit bull-specific ownership tips with their readers.

Breed advocates typically cite proper socialization as the key to safe exchanges between pit bulls (or any breed) and humans between and pits and other dogs. With that in mind, the Kangs and several "Two Pitties In The City" readers met up for a group walk last summer and have been expanding the outings ever since.

SociaBulls members gather with their dogs and walk their neighborhoods in a pack, hoping to provide an example of how pit bulls can safely co-exist in the city with their two- and four-legged neighbors. On the group's most recent outing in Hyde Park, SociaBulls attracted more than 20 dogs—not just pit bulls—and their owners.

Not all of Chicago's aldermen are jumping to the ban conclusion. Last week 7th ward Ald. Sandi Jackson, whose district includes Rainbow Beach, told the Tribune she plans to look at city ordinances governing dog ownership already on the books.

'"Hopefully there are things we can do legislatively with all of these abandoned and stray dogs," Jackson said.

Illinois has prohibited Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL), though townships like Lombard and Buffalo Grove that have enacted local ordinances regulating or outright banning certain breeds.