People seriously underestimate the impact the media has on notions of pet ownership and what people can handle in animals.
Books, movies, TV, and internet videos from Youtube, Instagram, and The Dodo often show animals in their best moments, or even acting because they’ve been trained to do certain tasks (or are animated as humanlike characters). The fact is that the vast majority of people, even those who already have pets, have a very low or nonexistent level of animal literacy; what they take away from that kind of media oftens turns into “I want that animal as a pet.”
People who watched Finding Nemo created an explosion of demand for clownfish and blue tangs; Harry Potter, owls; 101 Dalmatians for dalmatians, etc etc etc. When the decision to get a pet modeled after the cute, photo-ready animals seen on a screen is made, there is zero consideration as to whether or not their needs can be met and if people can actually handle them.
Media featuring animals inevitably creates a boom of abandonment and huge environmental impact precisely because people who were in over their heads and acted purely on a whim got their dose of reality, and it’s incredibly heartbreaking to have to see the news detailing such cases. These are just some examples:
Yearly reminders have to be passed around telling people not to buy rabbits on Easter unless they’re committed to actually taking care of them
Thousands of dalmatians were abandoned when families discovered that they are very energy intensive, broody work dogs that are not suited to families with small children, unlike the cuddly Perdita and Pongo
Similarly, huskies and malamutes were surrendered to shelters when people realised they are not loyal Westeros direwolves
Entire ecosystems in Europe and southern Asia lost valuable apex predators when people began poaching them to sell to fans who wanted their own Hedwigs and Errols, and again abandoning them en masse when they discovered owls are highly aggressive, loud, messy, and nocturnal
Japan imported thousands of North American raccoons after the release of the Disney movie Rascal, people let them loose in the wild, and Japan now has a problem trying to figure out what to do with their enormous pest population that has no natural predator in place to control their numbers
Pacific Reefs suffered greatly when people demanded to have clownfish and blue tangs as pets, especially considering they were caught by being stunned with sodium cyanide, which, additionally, severely damages coral as well. NatGeo estimates that up to 90% of tropical fish imported by the US are caught by way of cyanide fishing; this often ends up for naught as these fish are often flushed down the toilet or released to the wild in other ways, which is also why the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico are under threat by voracious invasive species like lionfish
The gist is that the media perpetuates this cycle of people reading about or seeing animal characters, demand is created, people impulse buy those animals, and then leave them for shelters to care for or release them to the wild when they get a rude awakening and find they’re actually unable to deal with those animals.
This isn’t even counting other animals like “mini” pigs, chihuahuas, snakes, foxes, etc etc etc. And we can’t exactly blame this on over enthusiastic children when it’s adults who have the purchasing power to buy a pet, and who choose to do zero research, and who choose to indulge said children or even themselves when that I Want the TV Animal as a Pet urge comes on.
Ignoring what is essentially weaponised cuteness used for online likes is hard, especially when faced with such palatable stuff like that gif of the owl riding the tablet stylus, or the plethora of cat videos. But it costs very little effort to not only educate yourself on the needs of animals and to also not encourage a rapacious pet trade industry, but to communicate that to others so that, hopefully, we won’t have to see things like Peter Dinklage and Jo Rowling having to make statements to the news because of this problem.
What do you think of Hulk the pit bull and the media portrayal of him and his breeders? Just curious
Oh boy. Alright, I think I may end up being attacked for this post,
because I’ve seen that “Hulk” has quite a few huge following of
supporters and I have seen that they that do not particularly like it
when anyone criticizes the the dog’s breeders, but I will try my best
here, I will try to tread lightly so please bare with me, thank you.
The fact is, “Hulk” is not a Pit Bull. And it would be best if we all stopped referring to him as such.
For anyone not familiar with “Hulk”, he is the record holding “World Largest Pit Bull” bred & owned by Dark Dynasty K9s. This is “Hulk”:
Let’s start with his breeders, Dark Dynasty K9s , who have probably never even seen a real APBT/Pit Bull, and wouldn’t know one if one bit them on the face.
I am not going to demonize DDK9 as dog owners, because I suppose from their photos and videos that they must love their dogs, but what DDK9 is doing as breeders is an entirely different story.
DDK9 is doing is very irresponsible, unethical, greedy, actually, and
even detrimental to the image of the real American Pit Bull Terrier and
it’s potentially damaging to the millions of non-APBTs bully breeds that
are falsely labeled as APBTs. And because of the size of “Hulk”, this
could very well put mastiff-type breeds in the same boat as bully
“Hulk” is giving public the false impression that Pit Bulls are capable
of reaching 100, 150, 175+lbs.
A lot of what DDK9 does as
breeders raises countless red flags. The most immediate red flag is that
they do not even know how to spell the breed of dog they are supposedly
breeding. “Pitbulls”, really?
They advertise their dogs as “XL Pitbulls”, which are essentially just oversized American Bullies (or American Bully x mastiff-type mixes?).
In the pedigree of “Hulk”, you will see a “Razors Edge” dog listed by the name of “Razors Edge Payback is a Bomb”
highlighted in yellow, which is the ever so highly popular original
American Bully line commonly (& falsely) referred to as Pit Bulls.
And, also “Eddington’s Wanna Be A Whopper”
(shown below) with a controversial, sketchy history as either an American Bulldog or
mixed breed falsely registered as an APBT in the UKC & ADBA,
which you can read about here because I really do not want to delve into that.
Below are images meant illustrate the different sizes in this American Bully size chart, including the “Pocket”, “Classic”, ”Extreme”, “Standard”, and lastly the “XL” American Bully.
DDK9′s website does not include any of the important details about
their breeding program, I decided maybe we should give them the benefit
of the doubt…
And so I contacted DDK9 through email, asking
them if their dogs undergo any health screenings and evaluations, what
their standards are in breeding in terms of health and whether they aim
to breed away from certain health issues using screening results to
better their breeding program.
This is why it took me a
while to get to your question, because I wanted to give DDK9 some time
to respond to my email, and well it has been about four weeks now and I
have not yet received a response. But if they ever do reply, I’ll be
sure to post it.
DDK9 advertise their dogs as being “huge”, having “great wide chests” and that their dogs produce “monsters”.
DDK9′s sole goal is to produce more of these massive, oversized
American Bullies like “Hulk”, and I have just read that by breeding
“Hulk” within their own kennel they are working towards breaking his
current “record” as the world’s largest (fake) “Pitbull” at 175lbs with his offspring.
found that one of their breeding bitches in particular was bred twice
within a year under the age of two. With how enormous these dogs are,
it’s incredibly irresponsible and potentially harmful to be breeding
them before they have had time to fully mature, not to mention it was at
that bitch’s every heat. While this is just one example of premature
breeding, surely this is a common practice at DDK9, especially
considering their hurried efforts to prodce another record breaking”
“Pitbull”. There is no way that DDK9 is breeding responsibly or with the
health and welfare of their dogs in mind.
“Hulk” allegedly weighs 175 lbs, and is clearly overweight. Just look at this dog:
actually wonder if his breeders have intentionally packed as much
excess weight onto “Hulk” as possible, in effort to truly make him the “World’s Largest”?
The poor dog is probably one wrong step or hop away from blowing a
knee, and not to mention all the other health risks involved in canine
obesity, especially a dog of such a massive size.
Below is an illustration highlighting the ADBA’s standard for the American Pit Bull Terrier:
The American Pit Bull Terrier’s UKC standard calls for dogs/bitches
to weigh between 30 lbs and 60 lbs, and the ADBA calls for 30 lbs to 75
lbs, with 60 to 75 lbs being on the larger side which are few and far
between compared to dogs/bitches of smaller sizes. “The American Pit Bull Terriers is a small to mid-sized dog, an athletic breed with great physical ability.”
To compare to the above photos of “Hulk”, here are some photos of real purebred APBTs:
huge red flag about Dark Dynasty K9 is that they “train” their
“XL Pitbulls” in “protection”, in their own backyard (I cannot seem to
find their credentials in this area, or any titles their dogs have
DDK9 allows all of their dogs to freely socialize / interact with one
another, even sometimes including clients’ dogs that are boarded at their kennel / farm.
According to americanbullydaily.com, “Additionally,
he [Marlon Grennan, breeder] does not believe in separating each dog
whether they are in training or not. By removing any fences, physical
restrictions and barriers the dogs train and live together as a pack
that teaches them how to socialize with other.”
Real American Pit Bull Terriers / Pit Bulls more
often than not are known for exhibiting at least some degree of dog
& animal aggression, and with real APBTs it would be next to
impossible for a dozen Pit Bulls to socialize, interact and roam freely
without a fight breaking out. These are not Pit Bulls. And I am
media hype surrounding “Hulk” has only helped in giving his breeders
more reason to charge tens of thousands to half a million by exploiting
“Hulk” for stud services and his “XL Pitbull” puppies.
media surrounds anything canine related, it makes me terribly nervous,
especially when it’s about Pit Bulls, because it tends to be more
harmful than anything. When a dog bites, it’s the family’s once harmless
“pibble” mix, or in the case of “Hulk”, it’s misrepresenting an entire
breed and giving the public a false impression of what a Pit Bull really
According to www.peoplemagazine.co.za: “The
gentle giant is a doting father to his puppies and is even allowed to
play with the couple’s three-year-old son. “Hulk has shown the world
that when this breed is gentle and balanced, they can be the greatest
dogs in the world,” said Grennan.”
what “Hulk” and his breeders have done for the APBT breed is that they
have given the public an altered and damaging perception of the American Pit Bull
Terrier as a breed.
A lot of rescue organizations that specializes in bully
breeds, have even spoken out against “Hulk” and what his breeders are
doing, and have called for the media to stop portraying “Hulk” and his
breeders in a positive light.
By continuing to misrepresent dogs
like “Hulk” as Pit Bulls, it is seriously damaging to the APBT breed,
bully breeds, and to non-APBTs dogs, and just dogs in general,
especially when these same non-APBT dogs are involved in dog attacks or
are impounded at city pounds / animal shelters. And because of the
appearance of “Hulk”, this could be potentially detrimental to Mastiff
breeds such as the Cane Corso, Presa Canario, and other similar looking
breeds that may find themselves in a dog attack or shelter and are
mislabeled as Pit Bulls.
So, end point: “Hulk” is NOT a Pit Bull, so please stop calling him one!
Actually, it would be best if we stopped calling ALL non-pedigree bully breeds/mutts Pit Bulls.
I have had Vision, a dwarf BCI and my youngest snake, for roughly 9 months now. He will be a year old in July, so by snake standards he is still very much a baby. In the past 9 months, he’s gone from, for lack of better words, a bitey defensive asshole to a relatively passive and trusting creature who simply has Rules ™ on how, where, and when he can be touched. I used the same method to produce these results as I do with all of my reptiles, including my young snake of a notoriously aggressive and defensive species (Amazon Tree Boas) and have frequently been asked how I manage to get these animals that instinctively bite first and ask questions never to allow handling and pictures without drawing blood.
On my dog blog I’ve mentioned the concept of body autonomy a few times in relation to training dogs, and how it crosses over into husbandry in other species. In these posts I’ve detailed how I tame the larger birds at my job, how I teach my snakes not to bite me when I take them out, how I can successfully convince a thrashing dog to accept grooming without a fuss, how I teach cats to not turn into screaming demons for nail trims, and more. I also cover this in many of my dog training lectures at work as my students teach their dogs to allow grooming, nail trims, and medically related handling to prevent injuries and incidents when interacting with these animals. All of this relates back to body autonomy, and how we as humans have consistently ignored other species’ instinctive need to be autonomous.
I am no master animal trainer and do not play one on TV. I train pet dogs and service dogs and have begun to venture into competition, at one point I specialized in rehabbing aggressive and reactive dogs. I have trained various common pet animals in occasionally unconventional ways to do things that make life easier for the both of us, but I don’t claim to be anything special, because what I’m doing is not all that special. It is, however, uncommon for people to make these considerations with their pets and then they call in someone like me to fix a problem that didn’t need to start in the first place.
An example being: frequently on this website and others, the solution for convincing a biting snake not to bite you is to hold it still until it stops biting you. The snake will learn that biting you does not produce the desired result (you letting the snake go or putting it back in its cage) and thus will eventually stop biting you when you pick it up.
In the dog training world, we call this flooding and learned helplessness. It “works” because it produces what we wanted it to. The snake no longer bites when you pick it up. But it failed to address the root of the problem, and frequently if regular handling is not maintained the snake will return to biting you every time you touch it. The snake had learned that there was nothing it could do in order to make you stop doing what it didn’t like, and so had learned that it was helpless against the much larger human. The snake in this situation still doesn’t really want to be handled, it is merely tolerating it because it sees no other option.
While snakes have a much more primitive brain than dogs and thus a much more limited scope of emotions, aggression and violence are always expensive measures to use and thus are frequently considered last resort measures to make an unpleasant situation stop. They are costly in body resources- they take large amounts of energy, stress, and time to resolve, and wounds obtained from violence can become deadly with infection or severity. As a result, a bite should always indicate that whatever you are doing is so unpleasant to the animal you’re doing it to that they’re willing to risk their life in order to make you stop. The common pet snake knows it cannot win against an animal as large as a human. It is hoping you have not come to the same realization, and will not call its bluff.
This creates a problem. Like with dogs, backing off from a situation that is required after a bite will teach the snake that all they have to do to get you to leave them alone is to bite you. If I need to trim my dog’s nails, give him a bath, brush him, or have him examined by a vet, sure I could put him in a muzzle and force him to do it anyway, but it is counter-intuitive to teach him that all he has to do is bite me in order to get out of doing those things he may consider unpleasant. I need to be able to handle my snakes. This is not negotiable, just like the above things I do with my dogs are not negotiable. If I cannot handle them, I cannot check them for injury, disease, or distress. Backing off because my snake, or dog, has threatened to bite me is thus not a viable option. I must be able to complete the task, and the animal in question must let me.
Dogs, by comparison, are relatively easy to convince in this problem. I need to be able to do my dog’s nails. If I give him amazing treats on a good reward schedule, shower him with praise, listen to his body language to give him a chance to calm down and destress before pressing on, and remove my own negative emotions from the equation, he will learn to let me do his nails and even offer the position required for the task within a relatively short amount of time. He does not have to like having his nails done, but I can convince him to like he benefits he gets out of it. Cats and birds and small mammal pets like ferrets, rabbits, and rodents may be slower, but follow much the same way.
I can’t give a snake a treat. That’s not really how snake digestive systems work. I can’t give them a toy. I can’t give them praise. The subtleties of snake body language are much harder to read due to a lack of eyelids, ears, and limbs. Dogs, cats, birds, ferrets, all of these are social creatures that practice social bonding and feel an emotion similar to love (in the dog’s case, actually do feel love). Snakes are not social creatures and their brain is not capable of producing the chemicals involved in the emotion we call love. I cannot convince a snake to love me or to like being handled. That is not something their biology is able to do. Does that mean I have to rely on flooding and learned helplessness in order to get them to let me handle them?
I keep stressy species. While all reptiles are more than capable of stressing themselves to death, my current list of exotic pets includes a special needs ball python with a severe neurological condition, a brazilian rainbow boa specifically purchased from someone who breeds minimally stressy snakes because he got tired of the species’ reputation for being bitey assholes, and a dwarf bci locality (read: like a subspecies, but not different enough to get their own scientific name) known for being defensive bitey assholes. Previously, I had a special needs corn snake that was a defensive bitey asshole, an amazon tree boa that was remarkably handleable despite the species’ reputation for being aggressive and defensive bitey angry assholes, and a few foster ball pythons that came from neglect situations and had never been handled before leading to them being defensive bitey assholes. Stress is common in situations where aggression or violence is utilized, even if it is being utilized by the animal and not the human. If the stress from moving can kill my beloved ATB Hydra, why would I intentionally expose him to situations where he would feel required to use violence again and again until he learned that that was not a way out of the situation?
I did not flood my snakes. I hold them. They do not bite me. It has been a long time since any of them have even struck at me, and the majority of the bites and strikes I have received have been from when I was learning the snake in front of me or from me intentionally ignoring their body language and handling them a way I knew they didn’t like for whatever reason. Snakes do not bite without cause. Whether you, a human, can see that cause or not, snakes do not bite because they are vindictive or mean. As said, their brains are far too primitive to feel such complex emotions. Even wild snakes do not bite without provocation- whether you intentionally provoked them or not does not matter, simply whether they felt provoked enough to need to defend themselves possibly with their lives.
Vision came to me unsure of my intentions and of whether I could be considered safe. He certainly didn’t believe I should be picking him up. At two months old, the world is a scary place to a baby snake where nearly everything is bigger than you and nearly everything wants to kill or eat you. I do not blame him for doubting the warm giant cooing over him with grabby hands. To him, I’m sure I am some baffling mixture of hawk, bear, and wild canine. All of these things readily kill and eat snakes, all of these things may be persuaded to not kill and eat this particular snake if he bites them.
Instead of picking him up and allowing him to spend precious resources stressing himself to the point of repeatedly biting me- which hurts, by the way, so I don’t really want to be bitten any more than I need to be- I allowed him to show me things about him. I let him show me what he does when he’s nervous, when he doesn’t want to be bothered. I let him show me what he does when he’s curious and feels like investigating what’s in front of him. I let him show me how he does and does not like to be touched. Like many snakes, he seems to enjoy being scratched lightly under the chin. Like many snakes, he doesn’t seem to appreciate being tickled on the stomach. He prefers to create a “foot” about 2/3 down his body and use it as an anchored perch when exploring my hands. He does not want his tail to be touched. When he is nervous or unsure of potential danger, he will retract and coil himself into a loose ball. If pressed before he recovers, he will “expand” the “ball” quickly and vocalize. If he continues to be pressured, he will threaten to bite and will begin to try. If he is allowed to relax, he will recreate his “foot” and resume quietly investigating his surroundings.
Today, I took the lid off of his enclosure and lifted him out without a fuss. While this is not a first- we accomplished this task about 4 weeks in- only in the past few weeks has he not immediately retracted into his loose ball and required me to wait a few minutes for him to relax before touching him. Instead, he immediately made his “foot” and began to investigate, leaned against my finger as I scratched his chin, and maintained his confidence throughout the time I handled him. Sure, I could possibly get a similar result through the first method of flooding and teaching him that he is helpless against me, but I don’t need to. I can get a confident content snake that is not only tolerating my handling but also showing curiosity and intelligence without forcing him to accept my hands as things he has to deal with in his life.
The people espousing these methods always ask me how I managed to take such nice, interesting pictures of Hydra without bleeding- or joke about how much blood they think I lost inbetween shots- and are always surprised when I tell them that I don’t get bit because I understand a snake’s need for autonomy and allow the snake to tell me their “rules” for being touched and then follow those rules or understand if I break them I will get bit. As a result, I don’t break their rules unless I have to, and thus I don’t get bit unless I have to. This allows me to handle and investigate my snakes, look in their mouths, check their vents and between their scales, touch their heads, and rescue them from fluke accidents such as Quetzal’s injury with his decor without the snake taking their frustrations out on me. It also allows me to take some pretty pictures of them outside or on props without worrying how I will retrieve them without being bitten when I’m done.