'Dogs are just dogs:' Changing the stigma of pit bulls

SEATTLE -- Pit bulls have a long-standing reputation for being aggressive or dangerous dogs, that's why many animal shelters have trouble adopting them out.

An article in the New York Times describes the on-going effort to re-brand pit bulls using different names like ‘pittie,’ ‘pittopotamous,’ ‘hippo,’ or ‘potato.’ It's part of a strategy to show these types of dogs as sweet and gentle.

Many rescue organizations in Washington state are also working to change the stigma.

Pit bull is not actually a breed, it's an umbrella term.

"A pit bull can either be a dog that has breeding like an American Staffordshire Terrier or it can also be a dog that has physical characteristics like a blocky head or a stocky body, so it's actually not very scientific to call a dog a pit bull", said Tracy Campion who is the co-author of "Dog Behavior: Modern Science and Our Canine Companions."

A special "pittie" named Leroy is a dog who was once affected by the stigma surrounding pit bulls, but local animal organizations never game up on him.

After ten years, Leroy finally found his forever home with Deanna Goertz. On Q13 News This Morning, Goertz explained how she was initially afraid of pit bulls.

"My daughter went and adopted one and she tells me that I told her I was disappointed in her." said Goertz. "Then I ended up of course getting the phone call 'mom I can't get home to Shorty, could you go let her out' and I'm like what, excuse me?"

Goertz eventually got over her fears and she fell in love with Shorty.

Goertz felt an emptiness in her heart when her daughter moved away with Shorty. Not long after, Leroy found his way into her life and Goertz quickly realized that he was the perfect pal.

"A dog is a dog," said Goertz. "For me it was finding the right match and one that met my personality and I met his."

Amy Ferguson who is the Executive Director of Pawsitive Alliance shared some advice for people who aren't sure about adopting a pit bull or have a fear of these dogs.

"The best thing you can do is actually go to your local shelter and meet one," said Ferguson. "So many shelters have them. Then a thing you can always do is follow Leroy on Facebook and figure out where he is with The Squeaky Toy."

You can read more about Leroy's journey on Pet Connection Magazine's website.

Gallery images provided by Dee Goertz and Dirtie Dog Photography.