With shows like Pit Boss and Pit Bulls and Parolees as part of their programming, Animal Planet has done more than a little to showcase the work of pit bull rescuers and change misconceptions about the breed. And in their latest effort to promote these pups, the cable channel has packed their annual ode to cuteness -- the Puppy Bowl -- with mini versions of the much-maligned pooches.
This year's utterly adorable starting lineup features two purebred pit bulls and four pit bull mixes out of a total of 31 pups. With those kind of numbers, they're definitely making a statement.
But were the bowl to take place in Miami, these six fluffy balls of fur wouldn't be allowed, thanks to Dade County's 20-plus-year ban on pit bulls. Efforts to overturn the legislation failed in a ballot measure last year. Meanwhile, Miami-Dade is the only county in Florida with an active ban, and cities like Cincinnati have recently voted to overturn similar BSL.
There's no doubt that Animal Planet is one of the major players when it comes to changing public opinion about these pups.
Shorty Rossi, star of Pit Boss (a show about a group of little people in the entertainment industry who rescue and rehabilitate pit bulls) was actually in the 305 last year to help stump for the breed. He's stoked that his network is doing so much to support bullies. "They've done a tremendous job," Rossi says.
Rossi has five pit bulls of his own, including his certified service dog, Hercules. He believes that Animal Planet and shows like his have made a huge impact when it comes to raising awareness.
"When I used to travel with Hercules it would be like parting the red sea at LAX. Now it's like, I tell people, if you pet him one more time or get one more picture we're gonna miss our flight! In the airports, the supermarkets that we travel we get people saying, 'Because of you we know how a pit bull really is, because of you and your show we don't believe the hype.'"
Cultist reached out to the nation's largest pro-BSL organization, DogsBite.org, for comment on the issue, but didn't receive a response.
"It takes time to change people, no matter who you are. Some faster than others. I'm able to bring Hercules anywhere so people get to see, in an airport, a nice hotel, a supermarket, what a pit bull really is," Rossi adds. He attributes much of this change in public opinion to shows like his and the efforts of Animal Planet and others involved in breed awareness efforts.
Did we also mention that all the pups in the Puppy Bowl are rescues, available for adoption? Animal Planet is definitely on the side of the underdog.
And in response to those who continue to claim that pit bulls are dangerous, Rossi says that's nonsense. "Most of those people that have that opinion have never owned a pit bull, have never been around a pit bill, have never been victimized by a pit bull or know anyone who ever has. They have an uneducated, unpopular opinion of what they think is happening. Do your research before you make a judgement of a topic. Because of the shows on Animal Planet, because I traveled to over 40 cities doing breed awareness last year, I'm bring attention and awareness to what really is going on."
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This year's Pit Boss season finale showcases the team's efforts in Miami, and it airs on March 30 at 9 p.m. on Animal Planet. In the meantime, Puppy Bowl fans can watch the epic showdown this Sunday starting at 3 p.m. Our money's on little Cash.
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahalexs.