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Barking back: Pit bull advocates rally to the breed’s defense after 98 Rock DJ’s comments
Used to be, if you were a pit bull owner and somebody said something horrible about the breed of dog you owned, nobody had your back. Even just a few years ago, people—in the media, on the street, in your family—routinely maligned pit bulls as baby killers and thug dogs and bloodthirsty beasts and nobody cared. You bristled, you grumbled under your breath about ignorant people, and you moved on.
That’s not the case anymore. Just this week, nearly 1,500 people joined a Facebook group supporting a boycott of local radio station 98 Rock after morning show host Mickey Cucchiella blasted the dog breed on air earlier this week. Cucchiella, who said pit bulls ought to be banned, kicked, and killed, made his comments after two American bulldogs (not pit bulls, though they’re often mistaken for such) mauled a 7-year-old girl in Dundalk on Saturday.
From a transcript of the show, posted online, Cucchiella said he’d like to “go find who owns these dogs and make the dog bite them in the face,” that people “shouldn’t be able to have kids” if they own pit bulls, and that pit bulls “should be banned from everywhere.”
After his diatribe, Baltimore-area pit bull owners and advocates instantly bounded to the dogs’ defense, commenting on the station’s Facebook page. (Some of the comments were ignorant, admittedly, and don’t really reflect the pit bull community in the best light. For instance, Ricky Hopkins posted on the page that he hopes Mickey is “bullet proof” and that he’d “take pride in kicking your ass. . . what you say can make people very violent!”). Then another group was formed urging pit bull owners and lovers to boycott the station and its advertisers. Within a few days, the group managed to get nearly 1,500 members, the ohmidog blog had covered the fracas, and protesters showed up at 98 Rock’s Bacon and Beer St. Patrick’s Day event.
The tide, it seems, is changing for pit bulls—at least in Baltimore. In the past few years, the city has gone from being a decidedly pit bull unfriendly place to one in which pit bulls are, if not welcome, at least accepted as a normal part of the urban landscape. They’re ubiquitous, and not just on blighted street corners in rough neighborhoods.
Just a few years ago, the city’s animal shelter didn’t adopt out any pit bulls to the general public as a policy; today the shelter, now known as BARCS (the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter), counts pit bulls as its most common shelter resident. BARCS is also home base for a new program called Shelter Partners for Pit Bulls, a partnership with Best Friends animal sanctuary to help get more pit bulls out of the city shelter and into homes. And Baltimore is home to two pit bull education and advocacy groups: B-More Dog (disclosure: The writer is a founding member of this group) and the Baltimore Bully Crew. The members of both of these organizations span the demographic from student to schoolteacher to attorney to janitor.
So yeah, used to be that when someone got on the radio or TV and mouthed off about pit bulls, you fired off an angry letter and felt like you were flinging a pebble into the sea. But not anymore. Because pit bulls aren’t just for idiots anymore. At least not in Baltimore.
Editor’s Note: Cuchiella is having some fun with the controversy, as evidenced by new photos on his Facebook page.
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo
"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw