When Animal Farm Foundation put out a call for photo submissions from everyday “pit bull” dog owners we never imagined that a little over a year later we’d have a (still growing) collection of hundreds and hundreds of photos.
The Majority Project is the result of those photos, submitted from families around the country who stepped up to help challenge incorrect stereotypes about “pit bull” dog owners.
I am an advocate
You might be wondering: Why do we need to bust stereotypes about “pit bull” dog OWNERS? Isn’t it the dogs that are being discriminated against?
It’s both. Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) singles out dogs based on physical appearance and breed, but anytime we discriminate against a dog, we are discriminating against the people who share their lives with them as well.
I am a 911 Police + Fire Dispatch Officer
And to be frank, sometimes BSL has little to do with the dogs at all. Targeting the dogs is simply a way to profile and discriminate against people. For example, on numerous occasions, policymakers have commented that BSL isn’t necessary because the dogs are dangerous, but instead they believe (falsely) that BSL is way to to keep gang members and criminals out of their communities.
Colorado: Aurora, CO, City Council member Bob Fitzgerald, “We don’t want ‘those people’ here.”
Massachusetts: Councilor-at-Large Michael J. Germain, “Germain said that common sense tells us pit bulls are the choice of gang members to intimidate. ‘The issue isn’t dogs. The issue is gangs,’ he said.”
California: Mayor Rex Parris, “I want gangs out of Lancaster. I want to make it uncomfortable for them to be here. Anything they like, I want to take it away from them. I want to deliberately harass them…It’s really like [gangs] having a weapon that they are allowed to display and intimidate people. If they have a Pit Bull, they may as well put a sign on their head saying, ‘Come get me.’…If they move on to cats I’m going to take their cats.”
I am a cat
Experts know that stereotyping and discrimination fails to address the real issue: criminals and reckless dog owners must be held accountable for their actions, no matter what kind of dog they choose to own. It is never necessary or effective to use discrimination as a tool to address crime and reckless dog ownership.
Enacting and enforcing Responsible Dog Ownership laws which apply equally to ALL dog owners, along with laws addressing non-dog related criminal activities, is the path to safety.
Great communities don’t resort to ineffective policies based on stereotypes and discrimination.
I am a police officer
This kind of human stereotyping also worms its way into shelter polices and is used to justify banning “pit bull” dogs from the adoption floor or restricting adoptions. The “logic” is that if only “bad” people want them, then “pit bull” dogs are better off dead than in their hands. Where would shelters get the idea that good people don’t want “pit bull” dogs? From animal welfare organizations.
ASPCA: “Pit Bulls often attract the worst kind of dog owners —people who are only interested in these dogs for fighting or protection.”
PETA: “…people who have good intentions rarely come to a shelter to adopt pit bulls; almost without exception, those who want pit bulls are attracted to the “macho” image of the breed as a living weapon and seek to play up this image by putting the animals in heavy chains, taunting them into aggression, and leaving them outside in all weather extremes in order to “toughen” them.”
I am a public safety officer + I am an early childhood professional
So what does this have to do with The Majority Project?
The false assertion that only reckless individuals, criminals, and gang members want “pit bull” dogs continues to fuel the fire of restrictive adoption policies, breed specific legislation, and other discriminatory policies.
From law makers to shelter policymakers, the stereotype is that “good” people don’t want or live with “pit bull” dogs. That’s simply not true.
I am a Sunday school teacher
The fact is that dogs labeled “pit bull” are one of the most popular dogs in this country, overwhelmingly owned by normal, everyday families who have value in their community. “Pit bull” dog owners are our co-workers, friends, family, and neighbors.
It’s time to put an accurate face to the average “pit bull” dog owner, so that stereotypes about “pit bull” dog owners can no longer be used as justification for discriminatory shelter policies and legislation.
We are a family!
The everyday “pit bull” dog owners who took part in The Majority Project stood up to say that they are not the exception, they are the rule. You can meet them all here.
We want YOU to use The Majority Project to stand up against discrimination and prejudice in your community. And we’ve got some new tools to help!
- Our brand new handout shows off just a few of the fabulous families who submitted photos. From doctors and deacons, to grandmas and voters, the handout shines a light on them all. The foldout combines their family photos with text to help everyone understand why great communities don’t discriminate. You can request the handout here.
- To help you share The Majority Project more effectively, here are Talking Points to use in your communications. You can download and print the one sheet from this blog or from our website here.
- Our newest eBook on Communications and Media is also here to help. This primer on communicating with elected officials and the media – from TV interviews to testifying at city council meetings – was designed to assist you in speaking confidently and effectively about the issues that matter.
I am a blessed mom
Of course, you can also use the Flickr Album and videos. If you know an organization or an individual that needs to meet the majority of “pit bull” dogs owners, you can share these tools and introduce them to the majority. They may be AFF’s photos and videos, but they’re tools you can all use, so please do!
I am a security officer
Finally: Keep the photos coming! Tell your friends to send in their “I am the Majority” photos. We’ll never stop accepting new photos. The more we collect, the more impact this project will have. Learn how to submit a photo here.
Help us put an end to the stereotypes that fuel the fires of discrimination. Stand up with The Majority.
Xena, Brutus, Trigger, Monster, Ruger, Tank, Harley, Chopper, Flex, Maximus, Whiskey, Storm, Tyson, Gunner, Bullet, Boss…
Before you name your shelter dogs*, consider this: You can influence your adopters perceptions of “pit bull” dogs, starting with the names that you give them. That’s because their names frame them. It’s the context for how adopters will interpret the dogs in front of them.
What’s the deal with framing? Framing is the way that information is presented and it can influence decision-making about that information.
In this case, the information we’re trying to frame is the “pit bull” dog in the shelter kennel. When we make deliberate choices about how a dog is presented, we can influence how adopters will think about that dog. This is framing and it creates a context in which the dog is first viewed. Those first impressions count!
When we create context around a dog – with kennel cards, photos, bios, the blankets in their run, or a sweater – it shapes and alters adopter’s assumptions and perceptions about that dog.
Take the dogs totally out of context and the adopter is left with their own assumptions. But in context, the adopters will view the dogs through the framework we’ve purposely created. We can help adopters to reach new conclusions and leave behind preconceived notions by framing the dogs in a positive light.
One dog, framed two different ways, can have two very different results. Negative frames tend to elicit negative feelings and result in aversion. Positive frames tend to elicit positive feelings and result in proactive choices. Really – it’s that simple!
Meet Bob the Builder. What does that name make you think about? Do you form any expectations about his behavior based on his name? What if his name had been Blaster, Dread, or Tank?
Framing the dogs so that potential adopters think positively and feel good is crucial to the business of saving lives. We need to take the framing effect into account every time we write a bio, take a photo, or write content for our websites. But we can start with their names!
The next time you have the chance to name a “pit bull” dog, consider this: using tough sounding names or names related to weapons or violence reinforces negative perceptions of “pit bull” dogs. And using ironic names – such as “Tiny” for a large dog or “Teflon” for a dog that’s survived abuse or injury – might just backfire too. They can wind up emphasizing features about the dogs that adopters don’t find appealing or even unintentionally perpetuate misconceptions about “pit bull” dogs.
When potential adopters come across a name with a negative association, it may cause them to hesitate (perhaps subconsciousnessly) to meet the dog. Don’t add any roadblocks to a dog’s adoption. Frame them right, from the name up.
What names should you use? Stick with names that are popular and positive. What names make you smile? This article reports that old fashioned human names (like Clara and Alfie) are on the rise for dogs. Think of popular or legendary entertainers, authors, cartoon characters, sports stars, or historical figures. Get your inspirations from geography – think vacation spots, national parks, and beaches or popular local destinations. Brainstorm a list of these pre-approved names and keep them at the intake desk for quick and easy inspiration.
Meet Adele la Belle. What do you think of when you hear her name? Would things change if her name was Harley?
The goal is to choose a name that can’t be associated with something obviously aggressive, illegal, or reckless. There’s no one name that will elicit positive associations for everyone, but you can aim to create a positive experience for the majority of the folks who visit your shelter’s website or kennels.
And if a dog comes in with a name that elicits stereotypes or negative associations, change it!
Remember, the adopters can change the dog’s name to anything they choose once the dog is home. That’s when the best kind of framing happens: from shelter dog to family dog.
*Please note: this blog pertains to shelter dogs who do not have families. Marketing is an important aspect of increasing adoptions for shelter dogs. If your family dog has one of these names, that’s perfectly ok! Your dogs are already part of your family and don’t need to grab the attention of potential adopters.
2014 Note: Although this original post is from 2012, we’re always accepting new photos. If you’d like to be a part of The Majority Project, please follow the instructions below!
As scientific study and research continues to prove that “pit bull” dogs are just like any other dog, we’re now facing a different, equally challenging, hurdle: proving that “pit bull” dog owners are just like any other dog owner.
Why is it so important that we make this point? Because the false belief that only criminals and reckless people want “pit bull” dogs leads to restricted adoption policies, breed specific legislation, and other discriminatory policies.
From law makers and shelter policy makers to talk show hosts and strangers in the checkout line, the stereotype is that “good” people don’t live with “pit bull” dogs.
We know this isn’t true.
To download this poster, please visit: http://www.animalfarmfoundation.org/pages/Posters
In fact, we know that dogs labeled “pit bull” are one of the most popular dogs in this country, overwhelmingly owned by normal, everyday families who have value in their community.
And we no longer want to be discriminated against because of the actions of small minority of dog owners.
Now we need your help to show the world that “pit bull” dog owners are everyday people and we are the majority. Help us spread the message that responsible, loving “pit bull” dog families are the rule, not the exception.
In the coming months, we’ll be shining a spotlight on the millions of everyday “pit bull” dog families in a variety of ways. Here’s how you can help:
1. Download and print this 8.5 x11 (standard printer paper size) POSTER
2. In the blank spot, fill in a word that describes your valued role in your community or in your family.
For example: I am a Mother, Student, Bus Driver, Business Owner, Tax Payer, Husband, Volunteer, Teacher, Voter, Coach, Homeowner, Grandma, Mentor, etc.
Be sure to write this clearly – use a fat marker – and keep it simple. One or two words will do! The point is to remind others that you make a positive contribution at home or in the world.
Tom and Amarillo
3. Gather up your family dogs, hold up the poster, and have your photo taken. If there are multiple people in your photo – such as other family members – have each individual hold up their own, personalized poster.
Christina and Pugsley
4. Email your best photo to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Include the names of everyone in the photo, including your dogs, and your location.
5. Give your dog a treat.
Special Note to All the Pit Bull Awareness Day Event Planners: your upcoming event is a great time to ask a diverse crowd of people and dogs to participate in this perception-shifting campaign! Please consider printing out a stack of posters and participating in this photo project. The more the merrier!
Download the poster HERE.
Thank you everyone!
By sending us your photo, you agree to allow Animal Farm Foundation the right to use it in future materials, such as videos, posters, and social media sites.