Debate Rages Over Pit Bulls After CNY Dog Trainer Facebook Post
UPDATE 1/18/2017 at 7:49am: Another CNY trainer - Evolutionary K9 Academy - has stepped up to offer FREE training to pit bull owners.
UPDATE 1/18/2017 at 6:37am: Mr. Piazza has re-posted his Facebook page with the following update: "Although some of you disagree with what we say we accept that. People have different opinions. However, what we will not tolerate is people calling and leaving threatening messages and trying to bully us into changing our minds. As always, if there are some who really want a conversation regarding this matter, by all means call. We will talk with anyone. We also want to say that we train by appointment only. We do not allow anyone on our property unannounced. Therefore any person who drives up our driveway or comes here without permission will be arrested for Trespassing. There are many trainers who will work with the dog you love so much but we are not one of them."
The story has also caught the attention of Shorty Rossi, of the television series "Pit Boss" who posted on his Facebook page. It has over 1,000 shares.
UPDATE 1/18/2017 at 4:20am: Since this story was published, Mr. Piazza has removed his Facebook page. He reports that people have been coming to his facility, harassing his students, and pulling into his driveway. According to Mr. Piazza, he has also received threats. He intends to file a police report.
In CNY, the question of whether pit bulls are appropriate pets is stirring a powerful debate, with advocates on either side passionately defending their beliefs.
Locally, a debate is raging between Sal Piazza, a Frankfort dog trainer with decades of experience, and a host of animal advocates, including Kimberly Strong, an experienced dog behavior specialist, and founder of Lainey's Army and Road to Home dog rescue.
Pinned to the top of Piazza's K-9 Services (now deleted) Facebook page is the following post:
ATTENTION: Anyone who gives up their Pit Bull and gets another breed, we here at Piazza's K-9 Services Unlimited will TRAIN that dog Free of charge. That's right you heard it here. We want to help keep our communities safe therefore, you have a Pit Bull and can't afford training, bring it back to where you purchased it or adopted it, and we will train any other dog you get free. No questions asked. Just show proof that you surrendered the Pit Bull. Call if you have any questions.
Sal Piazza says this post was the result of asking for solutions for recent pit bull attacks throughout the country. Piazza says he feels the animal advocates and other individuals he spoke to weren't realistic about the danger he believes these dogs pose. He says, when questioned, pit bull advocates "will always say 'any dog can bite." Piazza agrees, but adds, "no other dog will do as much damage as a pit bull when they do bite."
Kimberly Strong, who has trained hundreds of pit bulls in her estimation, feels very differently. "Ignorant fear mongering does nothing to prevent dog bites. Responsible dog ownership learning to read dogs body language..protecting the dogs from people invading their space and making them feel uncomfortable is how you prevent dog bites."
Mr. Piazza advocates a training method that firmly establishes the human as the "pack leader." He says the failure of dog owners to understand dogs are pets and not humans is what leads to behavioral problems. In his estimation, the risk posed by pit bulls with this kind of "irresponsible" pet ownership is too great.
Miss Strong doesn't agree with Mr. Piazza's philosophy but thinks he could demonstrate his concern in another way. "If (he) truly cared about the community he would provide free behavior assessment, free education seminars..on dog behavior and body language. His 40 years of experience makes him a self-proclaimed expert, that believes any breed is good or bad."
During our discussion, Mr. Piazza was adamant that he does not want to ban pit bulls. Instead, he supports a variety of measures designed to keep pit bulls out of the hands of people who are not experienced enough to own the dogs. Mr. Piazza suggested the local humane societies, in his opinion, lacked the expertise to evaluate pit bulls. "You can't save every dog," he says. "A dog that has been in the fighting ring, or a dog that has bitten before, should be euthanized. Those dogs are a ticking time-bomb of aggression." Minimally, Mr. Piazza suggests prospective pit bull owners must show proof of insurance and prove they either own their own home or have permission from a landlord to own a pit bull, specifically.
Kim Strong says these dogs can be successfully rehabilitated. She points to the "NY7" as proof, a group of 7 pit bulls rescued in 2016 from Norwich in Chenango County. Those dogs had all been used in a dogfighting operation. "It takes rehab without pain - no prong or choke collars - trust, positive reward-based training, and time, but it is doable."
While both sides seem to agree that responsible pet ownership is important, with animal and human lives on the line, this isn't an issue that will be settled easily and is one that other communities have struggled to solve as well.
Is there a middle ground between these two sides? What do you think?