WR Ferguson Defends the Pit Bull Breed

Vikings WR Robert Ferguson has long been a fan of pit bulls, the breed of dog that is surrounded by controversy lately after Falcons QB Michael Vick pleaded guilty to charges associated with dog-fighting. Ferguson has three young daughters and five pet pit bulls, making his words of defense to Viking Update very personal.

Heading into this weekend's regular-season opener, much of the national discussion of the game will center not so much of who is playing, but who isn't.

The Falcons were supposed to be led by electrifying quarterback Michael Vick. But, when a raid earlier this year exposed an elaborate pit bull dog-fighting operation, Vick's career and his life were dramatically changed and the insidious world of dog fighting got national attention and a face was put to the crime.

Vikings wide receiver Robert Ferguson said he was saddened more than most by the stunning news as it unfolded because Ferguson is not only a dog lover, but has been a strong advocate of education concerning pit bulls. As a lifelong pit bull owner, Ferguson has become one of the voices speaking out in defense of the animal that he believes has been given too much blame in the dog-fighting world and labeled as natural born killers.

"I've been involved with dogs since I was a kid," Ferguson said. "My (advocacy) began with the kennel I bought my dogs from. Their motto is ‘Punish the Deed, Not the Breed.' I've just been doing my part off of what they started. It's not the dog that is the problem. It is the people that raise them."

Pit bulls have long been viewed as vicious animals, but Ferguson said the perception doesn't match the reality. There are dogs that are just as powerful if not more so, as well as dogs that are trained to attack people. Yet the pit bull is always at the center of controversy in that regard.

"People will say that pit bulls are dangerous because they're so powerful," Ferguson said. "But there are a lot of powerful dogs. Look at the Rottweiler. It's just as strong. The dog that has the most stinging bite are police dogs – German Shepherds. They have a more piercing bite because of their teeth and will go after people. Pit bulls have a bite that locks on, but they don't naturally go after people."

Ferguson, who has three small daughters and five pet pit bulls, said he doesn't fear for the safety of his children because pit bulls are more naturally protective of people. Their reputation came from their original breeding as "bull-baiters" – the act of the dog biting a bull on the nose and bringing it down. For fans of the classic children's series "The Little Rascals," their pet dog Petie was a pit bull and the Our Gang kids would routinely roll around and play with the dog. That is the more standard real-life view of pit bulls, Ferguson said. While they can appear fearsome to many, the violence they display is rarely directed toward people unless they perceive their owner is in danger.

"It has always been an aggressive dog, but never aggressive toward people," Ferguson said. "In order to fight a dog, you have to be in the cage with it when it's training. You don't hear about people getting attacked by their dog while they're training it, because it just isn't natural for them to be aggressive toward people. They've always been people-friendly and protective of people."

While Vick was the first big-name celebrity to get caught up in dog-fighting, Ferguson said those who travel in pit bull circles have known the extent to which it exists for decades. It's only recently that the light has been shined on the business of fighting dogs and that the spotlight it has brought may help bring an end to the barbaric "sport" if those involved know that there are serious ramifications to the carnage.

"The good that will come out of this is that more people will be aware that this goes on everywhere," Ferguson said. "It's not a color issue. Black people do it. White people do it. Chinese people do it. And it's not a ‘down South' thing either. It happens in every state in the country. It's not restricted to one culture or one part of the country. Hopefully, this incident will bring about a change for the better."

Ferguson has used the opportunity to talk to kids at boys and girls clubs about the dangers of dog fighting and that the owners are the ones that should be held accountable. While he may never convince a large segment of the population that the pit bull can be a loveable, loyal breed of dog, the Vick situation can provide lessons to young people before they lose their way.

"I think the government got their point across that you will be punished to the full extent of the law if you're involved in this," Ferguson said. "They made that point loud and clear with Michael Vick. I'm not sure we're ever going to know the full story of what happened and what his involvement was, but the one thing we do know is that you are judged by the people you associate with. If kids can come away with that – you can be guilty by association and you have to watch what kind of people you have around you – there can be some good that comes out of all of this."

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