Pit bull owners defend their pets

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  News Leader 9 began in November with coverage of a pit bull attack that was so serious, Columbus investigators found themselves taking special steps to find the dog.

Thursday night, we spoke with the victim: 13-year-old Brianna Watkins. She lost both of her ears and most of her scalp in the attack.

Investigators say Brianna identified this dog, named Debo, as the one that mauled her.

At this time, his owner is facing charges and Debo is being held as authorities wait for specially-ordered DNA tests to come back, confirming he is indeed the dog that attacked Brianna.

Since our special aired, our newsroom has received quite a bit of feedback. In addition to notes of sympathy for Brianna, local pit bull owners have emailed, commented and called, speaking out in defense of their breed and shedding light on the whole nature versus nurture debate.

Veronika Nunley is a local animal rights advocate who says breeds like pit bulls, German Shepherds andRrottweilers are getting a bad name- often being labeled as vicious and dangerous.

At the center of the controversy lies the question: is it the breed or is it the way the animal is raised?

The owner of five dogs, Nunley has two pit mixes, a Rottweiler mix and a Great Dane. When it comes to their behavior, she says it all boils down to the dog's history and upbringing.

"Please, let's put it in perspective. It's not because it's a pit bull. It's how the dog is treated whether it's the smallest or largest. Any dog can be vicious- any dog, whether it be a Chihuahua, a little Schnauzer or the largest dog being a Great Dane. Dogs are not predominantly violent unless you teach or train them that way," she said.

Leslie Touchberry feels the same way. She and her pit bull, Ally, take part in local rehabilitation efforts and community service programs.

"Ally and I participate as a pet partner team with Delta Society and basically, we volunteer at the library, we've been to the schools, to the nursing homes, and most recently to the pediatric ward at the Medical Center. I could not do what I do with Ally if I had even the slightest inkling she was going to act in an aggressive manner towards another dog or towards another person," she told WTVM.

"It's basically how you raise a dog and how you treat them," Nunley added.

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