PETA and Pit Bulls

Emmett, my inspiration.
Emmett, my inspiration.

When I was in high school, I wanted to make a donation to an animal welfare organization with a small percentage of my babysitting money. I narrowed my options down to PETA and the World Wildlife Fund. I’ve always been fascinated by primates – hence my anthropology degree – so I ended up adopting a chimp through WWF.

Thank goodness.

Because now that I know more about PETA and pit bulls, I would never want one cent of my money going to this organization.

“PETA believes that all pit bulls should be killed upon entering shelters, rather than be adopted by the public. Why? Because PETA believes that there is a chance that someone with bad intentions might adopt a pit from a shelter and use him/her for fighting or tie him/her out in the yard to serve as a macho guard dog,” wrote Gregory Castle, CEO of Best Friends.[1]

Sounds extreme, right?

Can an organization with a fervent – and, at times, zealous – mission to protect the rights of animals actually advocate for the destruction of pit bulls? Can they truly believe that it’s better to kill all pit bulls because they might have a bad outcome than to work to end the abuse these dogs suffer at the hands of people?


PETA advocates for breed bans

“Pit bulls are the most abused breed of dog, and it is the relentless abuse of these dogs at the hands of cruel people that motivates our efforts to stop people from bringing more pit bulls into the world to be hurt and exploited.” – from the PETA website.[2]

So they’re better off dead.

That’s PETA’s stance, anyway.

In a blog post explaining why they advocate for breed bans, they use graphic images of severely abused pit bulls.[3] The message is clear: Wouldn’t these dogs be better off if they had never been born? In fact, that’s almost word-for-word the caption of a photograph on their official pit bull statement, “If only no one had been allowed to breed these dogs’ parents.”[4]

Recently, PETA supported the Maryland pit bull legislation that forced owners to choose between losing their homes or losing their animals. Teresa Chagrin for PETA wrote in an op-ed, “Bans on breeding or acquiring new pit bulls (provided that such laws grandfather-in registered, well-cared for, spayed and neutered dogs) protect pit bulls from horrendous suffering by helping to prevent them from ending up in the hands of cruel people.”[5]

Animal welfare advocates around the globe work tirelessly to stop illogical, unfounded breed bans. Innocent dogs die because of these laws.

Volunteers battle ingrained notions of what a pit bull is, combat media biases, and toil on the ground to stop the abuse of these dogs. Progress has been made. It certainly hasn’t been easy. But it’s been progress nonetheless. Just look at Ohio.

Yet, here is the largest animal rights organization in the world working to dismantle that progress.

An end to pit bull adoptions

Beyond breed bans, PETA wants to take the eradication of pit bulls one step further. They want to prevent pit bulls and pit bull type dogs from being adopted out of shelters.

“Are some pit bulls loving companions? Absolutely! But PETA must consider that 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. There is no denying that pit bulls are at a higher risk of suffering a horrible fate.” – from a letter from PETA reposted on Stubby Dog[6] (emphasis added by me)

Most people would assume that an animal rights organization like PETA would take the opposite position. In fact, until I stumbled across an aside, a throw-away sentence in another article that ignited me to research this, I had no idea – couldn’t imagine – that this would be PETA’s position on pit bulls. It’s illogical. It’s inhumane. It’s just plain nuts.

They’re essentially saying that because a pit bull could suffer, we should get rid of all pit bulls.


Shouldn’t they be using their power to stop the abuse of pit bulls in the first place? To help these dogs find loving homes? To rehabilitate dogs who deserve a second chance? To encourage people to look at pit bulls for what they really are: dogs?

PETA is a global force. I’m not denying the achievements they’ve made in areas like animal testing. However, it’s critical as animal welfare advocates that we understand their stance on pit bulls. We all have precious limited resources – time and money – to donate to organizations we care about.

How can an organization that espouses animal rights condone killing pit bulls, an innocent animal?

I don’t have an answer. I truly don’t. I can’t even wrap my mind around it, to be perfectly honest. But I think we need to be aware, and I think we need to have the conversation.


Editor’s Note: I’ve been researching this for a couple weeks now, and that included reading the comment threads that followed various articles and posts. A common theme from PETA supporters was a demand for attribution of quotes, which is why I’ve footnoted this entire piece. You can follow the links to the original sources. None are made up. None are taken out of context. They’re all straight from the mouth of PETA. Hyperlinked articles aren’t directly tied to the “PETA and Pit Bulls” thesis but are asides worth reading.



  1. says

    Great piece. And honestly brave to write since I know it will bring huge backlash to you. I have many issues with PETA. I’ll just add this one to the list.

    • John says

      I agree, there might be some backlash on this. But this is a very important issue that demands further discussion. We’ve got your back, Maggie!

    • Maggie says

      Thanks so much. And, you know, if there is a backlash? I say bring it! Having read through the comments here and on FB, I think there were many people who were unaware of PETA’s stance on pit bulls, so I’m happy to spread the word!

      • richard havel says

        i agree with you. i have had 2 pit bulls one of which is still alive,and ,they are sweet lovable dogs,especially to people!over the years i have had 6 dobermans and they used to get the same bad rap as pits of course none of it was true. by the way your pit looks like my pit paul,he is 12 years old.

  2. says

    Unbelievable. The more I hear about what some of these larger organizations are doing – PETA, HSUS, AKC, the more I keep my money at a local level. There are enough other smaller animal welfare groups to support, and Best Friends Animal Society is one of the bigger ones that I admire. These other bigger groups just get too political and their stance on some issues just makes no sense. I can see PETA adopting a spay/neuter stance, that is the way for less pit bulls to end up in shelters. I know people who have adopted them, and they are wonderful dogs. I have also heard that there are shelters that immediately euthanize pit bulls that come in. Those types of shelters have a lot of other issues too. You really have to do your research before deciding who to support.

    • Maggie says

      I think donating at the local level is a fabulous idea. You know they need the money and don’t have the outlandish administrative costs of large orgs, and you can pop in and see with your own eyes how they’re spending it! But you’re so right: It’s all about the research!

  3. says

    Great article! PETA really is nuts. Not just when it comes to pit bulls. Wacko Ingrid Newkirk believes that ANY companion animal suffers because it’s “in captivity.” In their minds, rather than “torture” animals this way, it’s better to kill them. In fact, they kill almost 100% of the animals that passes through their facility:

    What also sickens me are the celebrities who continue to endorse PETA. They’re obviously not doing their homework. IMO, they just want to have their name attached to a good and well-known brand. I hope as time passes, more and more people will come to understand what PETA really stands for. Thanks for helping shed some light on them.


    • Maggie says

      Amber, I saw a lot of research about their “shelter” practices. I thought about addressing it here, but then it occurred to me that it should be its own standalone piece because it’s a whole huge separate problem. But I really believe people just don’t realize this is what’s going on. And you’re right: I think the celebrities have no idea. They just sign on for the publicity!

  4. says

    Thank you for bringing this to peoples attention. I had never checked out their website, and had assumed they were doing good works for animal welfare. What in the world are they thinking? I will check out their mission and rethink my own perception of this organization.

    • Maggie says

      I think a lot of people were in the same boat as you, Virgil. I mean, why wouldn’t you assume that the largest animal rights org in the world is doing good?

  5. says

    Great post! PETA’s headquarters are pretty close to where I live…I grew up here. I learned (over the years) that the PETA people were nuts…! Like when they would go to the local fur stores and throw “blood” on customers entering and leaving. I don’t support people buying furs or sellers making them, but really? Let’s grow up here.

    I wrote off PETA a long time ago, so didn’t realize their stance on Pits…just makes me not like them even more!!

    Also, kudos to you for posting this–like you said, I’m sure there will be some backlash from PETA diehards!

    • Maggie says

      Unfortunately, I think those tactics turn off people who aren’t tapped into the animal welfare world. Instead of educating people, they’re simply scaring them off. Thanks for taking the time to comment and share your experience.

    • says

      there is no such thing as a bad pit bull, only a bad pit bull owner the dog will only act/react as to what its owner teaches I’ve had two pits since the birth of my datghuer (now 14 mo.) my first was unfortunateley hit by car and left me grieving and heart broken that I had to get another one. And both protect that child and play with her as tho she was one of their pups, but you dont hear these good stories about a pit bull they are excellent family pets and where they excell most is with children If an irresponsible pb owner wants to teach and instsill aggression in a beautiful, loving animal then it is the owner who is bad not the innocent dogs fault so take my advice, adopt a bully and enjoy the time God allows you to spend with it, as the experience will be rewarding to you both..

  6. says

    When I really found out what PETA was about is when I read The Lost Dogs and the story of Michael Vick and his dog fighting/kiling escapades. PETA wanted those poor dogs “disposed of” immediately with no chance of rehabilitation or rehoming. PETA is a bunch of crap and I’d never support them!

    Thanks for bringing this back to life

    • Maggie says

      YES, Bren. I was dismayed by that as well. In their position paper on pit bulls ( they spell out that they don’t believe in rehabilitating dogs. From the paper: “No doubt the expectation that fighting dogs can somehow be rehabilitated and then placed in a good home will make the hard work of animal control and law enforcement officers even more difficult and, in some cases, prevent them from
      seizing dogs abused in this gruesome industry. These placements make people feel good, but they come at the expense of other needy animals. After all, there are plenty of dogs, including pit bulls, who haven’t been fought, who don’t require one second of rehabilitation or the money to pay for it. They are literally dying for homes. To require a shelter to destroy those adoptable, homeless dogs
      (or close their doors to them) to make room for 20 or 120 singly housed fighting pit bulls—who, no one disputes, are virtually impossible to place
      responsibly—causes suffering and ultimately destroys even more animals.”

      • says

        Thanks for all that. Just justified PETA being a bunch of scumbags. Any dog imo should be given the chance for rehabilitation or a furever home. Their stance just disgusts me.

  7. says

    Fantastic article, Maggie! I’m so glad you wrote about this and I hope that the link is spread far and wide to anyone (but especially celebrities) supporting PETA. It takes a significant investment of time to uncover these types of policies, and I’m glad you’ve made it easy for all us pittie lovers out there.

    • Maggie says

      Thank you, Amy. And YES re: the celebrities! I imagine that they aren’t really looking into the policies but just signing on for the publicity. I can totally see an actress agreeing to pose for one of the anti-fur campaigns because it (almost) seems like a no-brainer. But that’s just splash with no substance!

    • Maggie says

      Thanks, Abby! I think there are many people who had no idea… I mean, I was one of them until I started looking into this!

  8. says

    For a group with Ethics in its name, PETA certainly does a lot of unethical things. My high school senior research paper, 30 years ago, was about animal research and testing. I did a ton of research, sending away to WWF and PETA. I appreciated WWF and what they were doing, but have been sour on PETA all this time. Nothing I hear about them has reversed my opinion.

    • Maggie says

      I bet that was an interesting project as a high school student! And that’s such a good point re: their name. It seems people sign on because they like the sound of it. I mean, who wouldn’t agree to the ethical treatment of animals, right? Right…

  9. says

    Thanks for doing this research – I checked some of it out and you are spot on. I guess there’s no concept of moderation around things pertaining to animals as far as Peta is concerned. My opinion about pitties has been changed dramatically through this community – education is the key. Will share this message out.

    • Maggie says

      I’m so glad you looked into it more. I included those footnotes because I was hoping people would be interested enough to read further. Personally, especially as someone with two pit bull mixes, I just can’t reconcile PETA’s “mission” with this position. It’s just insane.

  10. says

    I’m not a PETA Supporter – and the pit bull issue is only one of the reasons. Perhaps the organization started with good intentions (I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt), but they’ve lost their way in a sea of over zealous, misguided and outlandish policies. I honestly don’t see how they’re furthering animal welfare, despite the obvious star power and funding.

    • Maggie says

      That’s what kills me. Imagine how much good they COULD do! They have the brand recognition, the celeb endorsers, the global network… And instead they’re dismantling the grueling work that animal welfare workers are accomplishing on the ground by souring public opinion and reinforcing these hateful stereotypes. It’s so unfortunate at best and a tragedy at worst.

  11. says

    Whoa, I had no idea PETA had become so insane! We have a wonderful, lovable pit that we adopted from a local shelter. (with no intentions other than finding a wonderful addition to our family) I really am going to have to research this info. There must be something I can do.
    Thank you so much!

    • Maggie says

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. As you research, please share your findings! I think we should all learn as much as we possibly can!

  12. says

    PETA has always made me slightly sick – their over the top methods are actually driving folks away from the real issues and problems. Some of my favorite bloggy friends are pit bulls, and it would be a sadder world if they had never had their second chance.


  13. says

    Thanks for tackling such a tough subject, I think more people need to be aware of what PETA actually advocates for, if they did PETA would have a lot less pull than they do.

    If they did their research and found the areas where these animals tend to be exploited and took their resources to educate people in the proper treatment of animals, you’d have less animals being abused and tortured and we could actually stop the cycle of abuse.

    Unfortunately sometimes people who get into positions of power have misplaced intentions. I’m glad you are shining the light on this hateful organization.

    • Maggie says

      I’m with you, Jodi. I can’t wrap my mind around their misguided practices. They have so much power, but to use it for this??

  14. says

    Oh Maggie thank you for writing this and opening our eyes. This just plain sucks big time! And should be shared with the world!

  15. Nancy says

    PETA is an animal rights organization, not animal welfare. That’s an important distinction because they fool themselves into thinking they are doing what’s best for “captive” animals, which is what pets are to them. Their argument that we must kill homeless animals in order to prevent potential suffering because being homeless in and of itself is a form of suffering is ludicrous. Newkirk even argues pitbulls in good homes are in danger of suffering as they may be subject to the very BSL that PETA supports (read her “why we euthanize” justification). Her circular reasoning is dangerously fallacious as it results in the death of innocents who have done nothing more than cross her path. And then she has the utter gall to approach pitbull advocates like Ken Foster to work with her.

    • Maggie says

      You’re right, Nancy. That is a super important distinction. And, unfortunately, their work is derailing the work of welfare advocates. I had no idea she approached Ken Foster. I’m going to Google that right now!!

  16. Ryan says

    Really, not a single person is going to call out the first citation upon which the entire article relies on misappropriating as PETA’s stance on the issue?

    Read the actual statements Maggie here has cited from PETA within their own context and the issue becomes far less controversial.

    • Maggie says

      Ryan, Thank you for taking the time to comment. I have to disagree, though, but I’m open to discussion. Can you please provide some examples of the misappropriation? I cited enough sources directly from PETA, so I’d love to hear your comments re: context. As far as I’m concerned any form of BSL, but especially BSL promoted by an animal rights organization, is fundamentally controversial.

      • Ryan says

        Hi Maggie, glad to hear you’re open to discussion.

        You did cite directly from PETA but the problem is that you have effectively cited them as defending a kill all pit bulls policy which is simply not true and reaffirmed as not true by a couple of your sources. I can’t find any such statement about a kill all pit bullts policy apart from the offhand hyperbole mentioned in the first citation.

        After you have accepted kill all pit bulls as the policy you then cite their defending of breed specific measures and state “So they’re better off dead. That’s PETA’s stance, anyway.” but “better off dead” is simply not the same as “never been bred to live in such conditions”. I am neither a supporter or opponent of PETA as what they do is quite varied, but sensationalist statements about a kill all pit-bulls policy are disingenuous and stifle any real discussion.

        • Maggie says

          I appreciate you taking the time to have this discussion. Here’s the thing, though, Ingrid Newkirk has written herself that all pit-bull-type dogs that enter shelters should be euthanized. Here’s a link to the letter she wrote: She’s saying that all pit-bull-type dogs that enter shelters should be euthanized AND she’s saying (in the above letter and in the op-ed cited above from the PETA rep) that there needs to be a ban against breeding any pit-bull-type dog AND they’re advocating for mandatory spay neuter for all pit-bull-type dogs… When you put those policies together, what you end up with is no pit-bull-type dogs left. How is that not a “kill them all” set of policies?

          And, I have to call attention to your own sensationalist statement. You say “never been bred to live in such conditions” Well, no animal should be bred to live in such conditions. That, however, is not what PETA is saying. They’re saying should never been bred to live at all… The conditions are irrelevant to them. Nowhere do they say that it’s fine to have pit-bull-type dogs in good conditions!

  17. says

    My Huffington Post expose about PETA’s systematic slaughter of animals has received 160,000 “likes” and has been shared over 50,000 times. In a response issued by PETA yesterday, they do not discuss why they call for the killing of all pit bulls. They do not mention why they call for the round up and killing of healthy feral cats. They fail to address the puppies and kittens they put to death and encourage others to put to death. They do not discuss why Ingrid Newkirk claims they do not support the right to life, her admission that PETA kills “healthy” animals, her staff admitting that the puppies and kittens they killed were “adorable” and “perfect,” nor her belief that animals want to die and that killing them is “a gift.” They do not address their defense of some of the most abusive shelters in the country. They do not address the fact that their “shelter” is too small for the volume of animals they seek out, nor that 90% of those animals are killed within 24 hours, nor the fact they have no adoption hours and do not promote animals for adoption. They do not address the fact that rescue groups have given them healthy animals after PETA promised to find them homes, only to have PETA employees put the animals to death.

  18. Lucie Liotier says

    Honte a vous pour une association qui pretend aidait les animaux c’est une honte de cautionner et de soutenir l’extermination des pittbull. Je suis sur plusieur site de protection animale en france on a commence a vous faire une reputation de menteur d’escroc et d’hypocrite car c’est ce que vous etes.les pitbull ne sont pas dangereux,mais les maitres et les abrutis comme vous le sont HONTE sur vous

    Editor’s Note: Because this was posted in French, I used Google Translate. Here’s the translation: “Shame on you for an organization that claims to helping animals is a shame to endorse and support the extermination of pit bull. I’m spans more than one site on animal protection in France began to get a reputation as a liar and hypocrite crook because that’s what you etes.les pitbull are not dangerous, but the masters and the morons like you are SHAME on you”

  19. Lucie Liotier says

    J’espere que la peta va arreter de pencer que nos amis les pittbull sont a extermine jusque la il faut rien lacher

  20. lea says

    on va vous faire votre reputation !!! bande de connard ! honte a vous , cest a vous qui faut mettre la piqure dans le coeur

  21. Caitlyn says

    You people have lost your minds! To single out one innocent breed of dog and act like they are to blame for how other people have taught them to be. Shame on anyone who thinks pitbulls are nothing but fighters! I have had nothing but pibulls growing up my whole life. They are the most gentle and loving dogs you can have. I find this truly heart braking that you have lost your own self train of thinking. “YOU ARE BEING BLIND SIDED AND BRAIN WASHED BY THE MEDIA” Saying that my loving dog is a monster is ludicrous! I have been attacked many times by dogs and guess what NOT ONE was a pit bull! what you all consider safe well behaved dogs have landed me with almost having to get stitches! So now you tell me that if you saw a child that was hurt and and beaten FORCED to fight and hurt others WOULD YOU BLAME AND KILL THEM? Would you see that innocent child has a monster i think not ! You all that spread horrible lies about one breed and band them saying they should not breed are the real monsters here. Man kind makes me sick! How dare you say you are protecting animals and then do this? I looked up to peda for a long time growing up and helping animals that others didn’t want or left to die. Now i see this that you are turning turing a cold shoulder to real animals in need I LOST RESPECT FOR YOU!

  22. taylor says

    I think that pitbulls are great dogs yeah they can turn on you but so can anyother dog. they desreve a chance too. They are sweet , beautiful fun loving dogs. Give them a chance.

  23. Drea says

    I can’t believe Peta get any support at all…having read an article in the New York times and huffington/daily mail about how high there kill rates are yet the amount of cash they seem to have at there disposal to make vital changes is wasted on no fur campaigns. (which I am all for but)….maybe not euthanasing pretty much every dog and cat they take in be a good start.
    I am the proud mommy for two pitty boys both rescues, both loved and highly pampered…I do recognize its my responsibility to protect them and people from them… there very gentle but some people see how there so big and freak out, I got banned from Peta for admitting I use a leash when in public and a comfortable fitting muzzle as its the law here and I don’t want to give any one the excuse to take my dogs away from me….There just all over the place and have no clear ethics as far as I am concerned there a disgrace!!!!All breeds can be dangerous if in the wrong hands I am all for neutering if you cant handle extra puppies or such both there such mind bending back tracking brain washed idiots who don’t actually care.

  24. rochelle collins says

    I must say that this article makes me discusted in peta and any followers who truly wanna subscribe to such ludicrous and unintelligent ways of thinking!!! Any of you who agree or have any participation in this movement against animals consider yourselves a digrace you are no voice for peace and resoulution! In fact you are spreading hate and intollerance. You are fighting for nothing but ignorance and stupidity. If you truly believe that way then we shouldnt allow for humans to be born either or any other animal because the reality is that every single life form is abused and extremely so!! I can send you some examples of child abuse cases that would apparently make you geniouses believe that we should just not allow for children to be born, or women who are raped and beaten daily. How about all the animals in lab testing, we should just stop those species as well. Not just pit bulls. If you have never owned a pit then shut your face!!! If you have had a bad experience blame the humans We are always at the core of evil on this planet, and the evil usually stems from rediculous thinking such as this article and everyone who agrees with it. The answer is not more destruction. We dont stop the breeding of fear in our world by avoiding it we face it head on. So yeah there may be a rough transition durning the time that most of you dont get how to actually be a peaceful being, but eventually we will breed the problmatic thinking such as this right out of our species so that we may have peace on earth some day.

  25. rochelle collins says

    I am so grateful for those of you who see right through this crap and believe in the beauty of pit bulls. They are the most amazing animals and i get fired up and sick of all the hate spit against them because some people believe what they are told. I have to treat my dogs like prison inmates because of this type of thinking. They have eveyone so scared of them and the law is banning them. Peta lost my support right here in this moment.

  26. says

    I am strongly against breed bans of any kind. Pits are usually great dogs, it is sad they are abused and often used for fighting. PETA should be trying to pass laws for heavier penalties for dog fighting, not trying to eradicating an entire breed. Oh, wait… Their goal is to extinct all domesticated animals. Do not support PETA.

  27. Vicki says

    to any pit haters or fearers who might be pondering that PETA’s stance towards pit type dogs is a good thing… consider this… it’s not limited to pits… not in the slightest. PETA doesn’t want people owning pets of any kind (PETA’s OWN website says”…we believe that it would have been in the animals’ best interests if the institution of “pet keeping”—i.e., breeding animals to be kept and regarded as “pets”—never existed….This selfish desire to possess animals and receive love from them causes immeasurable suffering…”)

    they support and fund ALF (Animal Liberation Front) which does wonderful things like burn down labs and scientist’s homes, simply because they use animals in their experiments… regardless of how humanely they are treated (all labs are not created equal, and they are not all the chamber of horrors that PETA would have us believe).

    if that isn’t enough… their “shelter” in VA kills around 90% +/- of the animals it takes it every year…healthy friendly adoptable animals of ALL breeds and types and descriptions…. not only that, they recently got nailed for STEALING SOMEONE’S DOG RIGHT OFF THEIR PORCH and killing it by that evening.

    so no, PETA is a horrible horrible “organization” that at the VERY least should lose their tax free status, and really should be totally disbanded… possibly even jailed for various reasons, not the least of which is funding ALF’s arsons.

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