This is a very good book. It is about pit bulls. Well, no, actually. It is about pit bulls and their relationships with people. And it is about people and their relationships with other people and the awful power of stereotypes and economic inequality ... Ms. Dickey has earned her reputation as a first-rate reporter. Here she has interviewed more than 350 people in 15 states, including dog rescuers, trainers, breeders, veterinarians, victims of dog bites, police and animal behaviorists. She has also trawled through archives, historic photographs and eyewitness accounts. Her fundamental argument—persuasively made, in large part thanks to the sheer quantity and quality of her research—is that pit bulls are no more inherently aggressive than any other breed.
...a powerful and disturbing book that shows how the rise of the killer-pit bull narrative reflects many broader American anxieties and pathologies surrounding race, class, and poverty ... as Dickey’s careful analysis shows, there are good reasons to question the assumption that anyone who wants a pit bull must have dubious motives ... Dickey quotes racially charged comments by everyone from journalists to kennel club members to show that pit bulls are considered the dogs of choice for minorities, the disenfranchised, and the urban poor ... Dickey’s book is exhaustively and scrupulously researched – she spent seven years traversing the country and conducting hundreds of interviews, and she has unearthed fascinating archival and historical material on her subject. It’s a remarkable study of our capacities for cruelty and compassion toward dogs and other humans, and an eloquent argument for abandoning the fears and prejudices that have made pit bulls in particular the victims of mistreatment.
Ms. Dickey not only writes about the ebb and flow of public fear and loathing, she takes the reader on a thoroughly comprehensible tour of genetics and behavioral science to explain why breeding never guarantees an individual dog’s personality, and shouldn’t be used to condemn it ... Ms. Dickey’s research and reporting are exhaustive, and the book does sometimes get sluggish with details, but it is this work that makes her convincing when she argues that the dogs are more victims than monsters ... picking out one breed to blame is neither warranted nor effective, and a reader of her book will be hard put to disagree.