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Foreclosure Behind Las Vegas Gates

Krissy Clark

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(Krissy Clark)
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Just recently in Las Vegas, there was a perfect storm of booming home construction, some unscrupulous lending practices and lots of housing speculation by first-time investors. That's added up to some of the nation's highest foreclosure rates.

It's easy to find those neighborhoods hit the hardest by the real estate crisis -- just look for the nicest communities surrounded by brick walls and elegant wrought-iron gates. Weekend America's Krissy Clark recently visited the upscale Las Vegas suburb of Southern Highlands.

The first and most obvious fact of life in the suburban Las Vegas gated community of San Niccolo is, of course, the gate. It's an important feature in both a literal sense and a symbolic one.

The gate is the only way into San Niccolo. And to open it, if you're not a homeowner, you have to dial up your host at a call box in front. The gate is also what gives the new Hacienda-style homes inside a sense of security and exclusivity. Just a few years ago, homes here were selling for $500,000 and up.

At least, that's how the gate used to work, on both symbolic and literal levels, until one sultry weekend last summer. "I came home one night, and the gate was broken," recalls resident Karen Lewis.

Lewis, a business consultant, moved into a house behind this gate two years ago with her husband and their son, on a street called Arcata Point. "It was my dream house, in a way," she says -- high ceilings, a view of the mountains, a private golf course nearby, well-lit sidewalks for jogs after dark.

But the night that front gate was broken was a kind of turning point for Lewis. Some kids had rammed through the gate to get to a raging party next door to her house. They were racing up and down her block in their cars. And she realized the gated community she'd moved into was changing -- fast.

"It just wasn't what I expected," Lewis says. "The gate being continuously broken, the party."

And the list goes on -- one of Karen Lewis's disgruntled neighbors chimes in: "The break-ins which just occurred, the busted windows, the mysterious neighbors across the street who don't speak and come in the middle of the night, the roommates, the broken-down cars, the pit bulls..."

Three pit bulls now live on Arcata Point, Karen's neighbor says. She shows me her son's Louisville Slugger baseball bat, which she carries whenever she leaves the house to fend off the dogs in case they get off-leash.


To understand how San Niccolo went from a place you'd expect to see golden retrievers to a place where pit bulls are the in-vogue pet, you need to back up a few years. Back to when people were just moving in. Families like Lewis' were buying new homes for themselves. But investors were also buying the homes, sometimes two and three houses at a time.

"It was like, who needs to be a drug dealer when you can buy real estate in Las Vegas?" says Butch, a hairdresser who lives a few doors down from Lewis. "Not that I sell drugs."

Butch, who didn't want to give his last name, bought three houses in the neighborhood, each with an adjustable rate mortgage. His plan was to "flip" them for a quick profit. He lives in one of the houses now, and shares it with two roommates -- and his pit bull.

But now that the monthly rate on his loan has ballooned, Butch can't afford the mortgage payments anymore. He stopped making them in January. He says he guesses the bank will get around to seizing his house in another few months.

Butch says he won't miss San Niccolo when he leaves. Frankly, he's gotten a little sick of the gate. "One time I rammed it," he says. "I was drunk."

Twenty-four of the 214 homes in San Niccolo are currently in foreclosure. Many more are vacant. Karen Lewis and her 4-year-old son, Cooper, walk around the neighborhood trying to guess which ones they are.

"There's an empty!" shouts Cooper, pointing at a beige house with a pile of aging phone books on the stoop.

"That's probably a foreclosure," his mom agrees. "The lawn's dead."

A dead lawn is a tell-tale sign of a foreclosed house. Cooper is proud of his find, and starts singing a little song about it. "It's an empty house! I found one! I found one!" he sings.

Crumbling stucco is another sign of a foreclosed house. Lewis points to a gash on the side of one porch. "This has to be willful, because this house is only four years old," she says, explaining that some of her neighbors, forced out by the bank, have taken their frustrations out on their walls.

"I wouldn't blame them," she says.


Foreclosures are not the only thing affecting San Niccolo. With the sagging market, investors who have avoided foreclosure still can't sell their vacant houses right now. Instead, they are renting the homes out. Houses designed for single families are being rented to college kids, or multiple families at a time.

"The house on the corner, we believe, is a half-way house," Lewis says. "There are about six cars -- seems like a bit of an AA meeting." Lewis says she fully supports Alcoholics Anonymous. "I think it's a wonderful thing. But they don't say 'hi.'"

Later, I go to the house that Lewis believes is a half-way house. I knock on the door, and a minute later a young girl peeks her head above a window sill to see who's there. I explain through the glass -- loudly, so she can hear me -- that I'm a reporter doing a story about the neighborhood.

Suddenly, an older woman rushes out to meet me. "Shh!" she whispers. "Everybody sleeping." The woman is Georgina Simmons, and the girl is her 12-year-old granddaughter, Topaz.

"Everybody sleeping," Simmons repeats, in a heavy Mexican accent. "Everybody work in the night time. They are taxi drivers."

"They're graveyard," Topaz explains.

They tell me their family started renting this house a year ago. They moved in, Georgina says, "because we have more rooms here, and we are more together. And we are going to buy the house, probably. We really like the neighborhood."

I ask her how many people live with her. "Nine," her granddaughter volunteers.

"No," Georgina coos, looking intently at the girl.

"Yes," Topaz insists.

"No," Georgina says, more emphatically. "We have seven."

Then she excuses herself, says they need to go finish cooking dinner. And they shut the door.


These days, San Niccolo is about as un-gated-community-like as a gated-community can be. But now that all these people from different backgrounds have found themselves here together, inside this gate, interesting things have begun to happen.

When I ask Lewis how she thinks the real estate crisis has affected her life, she pauses. She doesn't mention the fact that her house was recently reappraised for $115,000 less than she spent on it two years ago. What she mentions is this:

"There are some biases that I had that I didn't realize. You sort of stereotype people -- whether they can afford to live in a certain neighborhood or not. Like the family next to me, they have a detailing business, so they actually have their customers come to their house. And they clean the cars, and they have music playing. And they'd be sitting out in their lawn chairs, drinking beer and talking to their friends, in the middle of a Saturday afternoon. I didn't expect to have that kind of traffic in my street.

"But they're awesome neighbors," she adds. "They're the ones that slow down whenever they see a kid in the street."

Who cares if they leave oil stains on the pavement? So what if it's a clear violation of the homeowner association rules? The really important thing inside these gates, she says, is having a few neighbors she can trust to look out for her family. And for the occasional pit bull.

Comments

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  • By I T

    06/08/2009

    I listened to this piece on the radio and was disappointed when the San Niccolo home owner, who now moved, said she wanted to be in a neighborhood where people 'kept up their yard', their was exclusiveness, and would have certain class of people. Well, I took offense at the 'yard' comment, my uncle would be poor, low class, by her standards, but he bought a house he could afford, on a nice patch of land, and I would guarantee his yard kept as best as any could. Lower on the pay scale doesn't mean you don't have standards. I may be reading to far into this but I can feel bad for her trying to buy class or whatever it was she was aiming for now that she's in a non-ideal situation. I'm glad the experience seemed to have humbled her. By the way, my aunt was bit by a pit-bull while she was out walking....I blame the owners not the dog.

    By edward pudlo

    04/30/2009

    I think Krissy Clark is 100% right. You people are the prejudice ones. I lived in Vegas during the time house prices were skyrocketing and everyone wanted to flip houses. The pit bull analogy is also correct. Ask the people were they got the money to buy the houses and make the monthly payments....

    By Krissy Clark

    08/05/2008

    Thanks for all your passionate and fascinating comments. I don’t think pit bulls have any less of a right to be pets in San Niccolo than other dogs, but your comments were right to point out the ambiguity of this line:

    “To understand how San Niccolo went from a place you'd expect to see golden retrievers to a place where pit bulls are the in-vogue pet, you need to back up a few years.”

    I could have made the line clearer, since I did not mean to suggest that pit bulls are a harbinger of crime and poverty.

    What I should have said was this: “To understand how San Niccolo went from a place its original residents expected to see golden retrievers, to a place where pit bulls were the in-vogue pet, you need to back up a few years.”

    Indeed, some of the folks who first moved to San Niccolo, before the foreclosure crisis, told me they chose this community partly because it was associated with a certain set of status symbols, and pit bulls were not one of them. Were these folks wrong to lump an entire breed of dog together with a complex set of social ills? Of course. But some of them did--at least at first--and I wanted to convey that. (By the end of the story, at least one resident has discovered, and risen above, some of her own prejudices.)

    So thanks for the feedback; it will make my writing sharper next time.

    I also find it interesting that many of the comments here suggest the story succumbed to racial stereotyping, or, in the words of one person who wrote in, that I used "'pit bull' as code for non-white, urban blight, low income."

    In fact, the two characters in my story who were nervous about the pit bulls were not white. One was African American, and the other biracial. Meanwhile, the man who owns the pit bull on the block is white. I did not mention these folks’ races in my radio piece; it didn’t seem relevant. But I wonder-- does that make a difference to the story, or affect the opinions of those who have commented? A number of people seemed to assume that the disgruntled residents of the gated community must be white, and that the pit bull owners must not be. It’s interesting how our own assumptions about people come out when we cannot see the color of their skin.

    By C. MacPherson

    07/24/2008

    [quote]and can swallow her kid whole.[/quote]

    ...and this "fact" is based on what???

    Posting such nonsense just makes you look very foolish and uninformed.

    Nevada Stats
    http://www.nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/NevadaStats.asp

    [quote]A National Canine Research Council Perspective Report

    Over the past 43 years (1965 - 2007) there have been four (4) fatal dog attacks in Nevada.

    The last two fatal attacks in Nevada have been by Wolf dogs: One case involved a 10-week-old infant left unattended with the animal (1982), and the other case was a 73-year-old woman who entered into an enclosure where her son kept eight wolf dogs.

    The other fatal attacks occurred in 1975 and 1977 and were cases of young children left unsupervised with unfamiliar dogs. Two different breeds/types of dogs were involved in these two incidents.

    In spite of the reckless and negligent ownership practices of some dog owners, dogs still pose an incredibly low risk for causing a fatality:

    Incidence of Fatal Dog Attacks in Nevada as Compared to Other Selected Risks:

    Snapshot of Nevada: Year 2003

    Persons killed by dogs: 0
    Child death in hot car (hyperthermia): 2
    ATV-related fatalities: 6
    Bicycle-related fatalities: 10
    Persons drowned in tub or swimming pool: 13

    No child has been killed by a dog in Nevada over the past 25 years, yet:

    According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

    In a SINGLE YEAR, seventeen (17) Nevada children died as a result of maltreatment, (abuse/neglect).[/quote]

    Children face much more of a risk from their parents/caretakers than from ANY dog of any Breed/type.

    By Angelo Corleone

    From Las Vegas, NV, 07/24/2008

    It is funny how everyone making these comments about how racist this article is just assumes the homeowner is a white racist. Look at the slide show Ms. Lewis is black. She isn't afraid of other minorities in the neighborhood she is a mother and is afraid of a breed of dog which has been bread for violence for two hundred years and can swallow her kid whole.

    By Brian Hewitt

    07/17/2008

    Wow, I thought Ms. Clark would at least have the cajones to explain herself, but she apparently is too ashamed by this shoddy piece of journalism to show show her face. Hopefull she is taking this time to actually do a little research about the breed before putting her foot in her mouth any farther.

    By C. MacPherson

    07/16/2008

    This just in.
    You can say anything you want in Canada about Pit Bull Owners and get away with it apparently.
    Wow!
    http://www.broadcastermagazine.com/issues/ISArticle.asp?id=87090&issue=07162008

    Krissy`s comments just slipped from first place.
    Perhaps they`d be interested in some comments from Pit Bull Owners from another Country or maybe not since this fella kinda suggested that they should be killed.

    By Barbara Postol

    From Pittsburgh, PA, 07/16/2008

    This article implicitly reeks of racial stereotyping and propagating misinformation. This was an embarrassment to read, as someone who studies media. Furthermore, as someone who loves pit bulls, it outraged me.

    "And the list goes on -- one of Karen Lewis's disgruntled neighbors chimes in: "The break-ins which just occurred, the busted windows, the mysterious neighbors across the street who don't speak and come in the middle of the night, the roommates, the broken-down cars, the pit bulls..."

    To me this says that affluent, white folks do not own pit bull terriers and they are synonymous with crime and violence. Shame on you, NPR!

    Here is how many people get their views on these beautiful dogs: They watch TV news. How does TV news work? It has to sell ad time. What is a good way to sell ad time and tune people in? Invoke fear and scare them! I await the day to see a “Live at Five” report on a roaming pack of Yorkies attacking, but am not holding my breath. Pit bulls are just dogs, can we move on?

    Learn about pit bulls, or better yet adopt one (or two) and you will never know a greater love of a gentle animal.

    By C. MacPherson

    07/16/2008

    "To understand how San Niccolo went from a place you'd expect to see golden retrievers to a place where pit bulls are the in-vogue pet, you need to back up a few years."

    Krissy perhaps you`re just not accessing the right information before you think/write/speak.
    http://www.animalfarmfoundation.org/topic.php?id=2&topic=103
    "Pit Bulls" happen to outscore the Golden Retriever in temperament testing.
    In fact "Pit Bulls" outscore the All Breed Avg year after year.
    Perhaps it`s the Golden Retriever owners who are dragging down the neighborhood.
    Just kidding GR owners.
    People in the know,know...
    [quote] IT�S THE OWNER, NOT THE DOG [/quote]
    http://www.nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/assets/NCRC%202007%20Final%20Report.pdf

    By A Chang

    From Newton, MA, 07/15/2008

    Ms. Clark owes a huge apology to all the responsible Pit Bull owners and their therapy dogs, drug sniffing dogs, border patrol dogs or just well mannered, well behaved dogs in general. Her comments completely negates and undermines all our efforts in ensuring our dogs are some of the best behaved ones in public simply because we have a point to make. It is also comments such as hers that continuously fuels the public's unfounded fear of this breed, resulting in thousands of perfectly good Pit Bulls being euthanized in the shelters very year because no one will adopt them. You do not have to take my words for it, Ms. Clark, just volunteer at an animal shelter and see for yourself.

    By Todd Sholos

    From North Adams, MA, 07/15/2008

    As I read this article passed on to me via email, I began to wonder how uneducated and ignorant the author could actually be. I fully understand that pit bulls have a bad reputation; however the focus of the article was intended to be the decline of tenants in the neighborhood. It just amazes me that rather that completely focusing on the topic at hand, Krissy Clark takes her place in line to bash a breed that doesn't need put down any further. Next time Krissy do some homework, become educated, and write with some class. To quote you article, "The break-ins which just occurred, the busted windows, the mysterious neighbors across the street who don't speak and come in the middle of the night, the roommates, the broken-down cars, the pit bulls...". I would like to know Krissy, how you would lower yourself to include a quote like this. So pit bulls ruin a neighborhood... I would like to say that you and the person quoted couldn't be further from the truth. I live with my girlfriend and my 4 pitbulls in a very nice area in Berkshire County, MA. Can you honestly say that a dog makes a neighborhood. No, people make the neighborhood. If you would spend one-third of the amount of time educating yourself about the breed as you do bashing it, you'd realize that they are one of the most loyal dogs with one of the highest success rates for temperament testing around, period. Simply stupid!

    By Misse Talento

    From Pittsburgh, PA, 07/15/2008

    You cannot blame the breed of dog on the owners. Unfortunely, any dog can be trained to be mean and aggressive. It is not the fault of the pitbull that his owner is irresponsible. Pitbulls are very good family dogs when raised with responsible owners. People need to realize that there are not bad breeds of dogs there are bad owners. We as a society need to quit blaming the breed and start to fix the problem- the irresponsible and bad dog owners!

    By Beth Ruff

    From Pittsburgh, PA, 07/14/2008

    Clearly Ms. Clark is not much of a journalist if she had to resort to the sensational, gratititous stereotyping of a dog breed (that she obviously knows nothing about)to illustrate the demise of an affluent neighborhood. As a an owner of a pitbull mix I am offended. As a listener of NPR I am disappointed that this is what now passes for journalism. How is stereotyping a dog breed different then stereotyping a particular ethnicity of a person? Oh, wait, she does that also! Very nice NPR, my public radio dollars just went elsewhere - probably to the local pit bull rescue. And some information on the most aggressive dog breed: http://www.parentdish.com/2008/07/07/dogs-breeds-to-be-wary-of/

    By Danny Arnold

    From Pittsburgh, PA, 07/14/2008

    I'm glad to see read the responses to this blatantly ignorant and biased article. Finally, people are beginning to fight back against the idiots who continue to spew hatred against these wonderful dogs. "Pit bulls", like all dogs, are part of all types of families. Just because some owners are thugs doesn't justify unfounded hatred toward the dog. Keep it up everyone! Fight back against these idiots who speak from ignorance and fear. The people who know these dogs know the truth and we have to make fear-mongers understand the harm they're doing. Stand up for pit bulls! We know the truth!

    By Laura D.

    From Texoma, TX, 07/14/2008

    NPR has long been my main source of news and entertainment, and I never would have expected to hear such a story that is so offensive, on so many levels.

    My husband and I both have masters' degrees and nothing worse than a traffic ticket on our records. Both of us volunteer hundreds of hours in the community. And we have 3 rescued "Pit Bulls." I know hundreds of fellow American Pit Bull Terrier owners, and they are business owners, veterans of the armed forces, lawyers, teachers -- hard-working, law-abiding and church-going people.

    And by the way, I don't feel the least bit sorry for those whose greed (excuse the pun) bit them in the butt.

    By Anna Cluxton

    From Columbus, OH, 07/14/2008

    I am dismayed and appalled to see NPR carrying a story which furthers the media bias about pit bulls. Have you guys been drinking the PETA juice??? My husband and I are masters educated, white, upper middle-class yuppies and somehow us owning two pit bulls ties us to, um, "undesirable" for a gated community?
    Amazing.
    Please do some research and please understand that your words carry weight.

    By c. MacPherson

    07/14/2008

    Pit Bull Placebo
    Great suggestion
    Should be required reading prior to commenting about these dogs.
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0972191410/ref=sib_dp_pt#reader-link
    Another great site for documented,fact based info is the National Canine Research Council
    http://www.nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/breedissue.asp

    By natalie ucci

    From san jose, CA, 07/13/2008

    Pit bulls are only owned by "low class" thug type folks? You need to carry a bat in case on is off leash? These statements are among the numerous obsurd statements and generalizations about this breed and their people that I read constantly. My husband and I are both college educated, we OWN our home, we have 2 kids, the youngest just turned 1, and we have a Pit Bull. Not only is she the sweetest dog I have ever had the good fortune of owning, but she loves everyone. She is a rescue dog that has every right to not like humans, but she does not judge, something that this woman should try and learn from her. We are not gangsters, we don't sell drugs, we work hard to give our kids a good life, and our dogs are a part of our family. Educate yourself! Everyone needs to read The Pit Bull Placebo, because the next "man-eating" breed might just be yours.

    By Brian Hewitt

    07/13/2008

    I'm not sure why I thought the pit bull being shot in the garage was part of this story. I got that part confused with another case of breed profiling in another article, but it doesn't lessen the absurdity of someone carrying a bat with them because of the pit bulls in the neighborhood, simply because of what breed they are.

    By C. MacPherson

    07/13/2008

    Just a few links to add if this reporter wants to learn more about Pit Bulls as Brian suggested.
    http://www.animalfarmfoundation.org/section.php?id=5
    Here are a few more owners of Pit Bulls
    http://www.lawdogsusa.org/lawdogs.html
    Let`s see some stories on these K9 Pit Bulls.
    Another link for "Dr Leo" the therapy Dog
    http://www.ourpack.org/
    I also would like to see positive stories on all the great dogs and owners out there.
    There`s lots of them.
    Let`s see some stories on the many Pit Bulls that have earned their TDI(Therapy Dogs)
    Let`s see more stories on Wallace the Pit Bull-the 2007 Purina IDC National Champion.
    http://www.badrap.org/rescue/hall_of_fame.cfm
    http://www.understand-a-bull.com/DogSurvey.htm

    By Brian Hewitt

    07/13/2008

    The last place I expected to find close minded ingnorance and stereotyping was on NPR. Krissy Clark has no place on your staff and and donations you had coming your way from me will be going elsewhere thank to the sensationalism posted in this piece (of what, is the question) by Krissy Clark.

    Pit Bulls are not a breed fancied by only the "low class" as is suggested by Ms. Clark, and I am outraged that you have jumped on the media bandwagon, trying to boost ratings by villifying a great breed of dog. If it were a Lab or a Golden, would the owner have felt the need to shoot it because it approached him in his garage?

    You owe it to your listeners to tell the other side of the story. How about some coverage on the amazing progress the dogs confiscated from Michael Vick are doing. If you need a place to start, here are a few links:

    Leo, therapy dog: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/print/asectionfrontimage.html

    Hector, afraid of ankle biters: http://www.twincities.com/ci_9833497

    http://wcco.com/pets/vick.pit.bull.2.767486.html

    Wallace the Pit Bull, not a Vick dog, but a rescued from death row and champion disc dog. He is owned by the couple who adopted Hector: http://www.wallacethepitbull.com

    Please consider doing a positive piece on this breed to offset the fact that your addition to media hype has helped to strengthen the ignorance that is so prevelant among those who believe all that they hear on the radio or tv. I would expect something like this from NBC or Fox, but not NPR.

    Here's to hoping you educate yourself about the breed a bit more before you perpetuate the ignorant rhetoric that we already have too much of.

    Brian Hewitt

    By sammie sweet

    07/13/2008

    actually when i got my sub-prime mortgage it came with a pit bull...

    By Camille White

    From Newton, MA, 07/12/2008

    I take great exception to the implications Ms. Krissy Clark made regarding the Pit Bull breed in this story. I am an owner of 2 rescued Pit Bulls, one received his Canine Good Citizenship Certificate, the other one is being trained as a therapy dog. I am also an attorney, as well as a law abiding citizen, living in Newton, Massachusetts. NOT all Pit Bull owners are drug dealers or criminals in general as NOT all Pit Bulls are the aggressive and vicious dogs that the media, such as yours, would have the public beleive. I am shocked that NPR, a news network I have always considered to be fair and balanced would take such a discriminatory stand. You should remember the power your broadcast wields and consider the impact that a negative, untrue statement about any subject can have. I, for one, will never contribute to NPR again, you do not deserve this Pit Bull owner's support.

    By Kelli Fall

    From Dexter, MI, 07/12/2008

    I was appalled and dismayed to hear yet again, a completely unfounded, ignorant and stereo-typical view of pit-bulls in the media. This story was supposed to be about the foreclosure and housing crisis, and yet the "reporter" managed at least 3 jabs at this amazing breed. I expected more from NPR. Another case of the media creating fear mongering and believing their own hype. I own a wonderful Pit-Bull. She peacefully lives with my 2 other dogs, 2 indoor cats and my 1 year old son. I would rather live with my Pit than the "golden retriever" that the reporter believes to be the epitome of the perfect dog. Please - base your stories on fact not ignorance. Her comments made me wonder what other parts of the story were completely fiction.

    By cheri scribner

    From las vegas, NV, 05/03/2008

    This history of Bull Terrier's: Although the exact history of the breed of dog known as the American Pit Bull Terrier is unknown it is generally agreed that they are descended from bull-and-terrier crosses brought to America from England and Ireland in the 1800s. The Bull and Terrier type dogs were created by crossing the English working Bulldog with English hunting Terriers. The Bulldog that is the ancestor of the APBT was used for many types of work including baiting, fighting, stock work, hunting, and as a farm dog. When bull-baiting was outlawed in England in by the Cruelty to Animals act in 1835 along with dogfighting, illegal dogfighting gained popularity since it is much easier to organize and conceal than a bull-baiting contest.[13]

    Fighting dogs were bred for strength, speed and gameness, or the willingness to see a task through to it's conclusion regardless of serious threat of injury or death. While fighting dogs in England were not necessarily a singular breed of dog but rather a type of dog bred for gameness from different stock, in the USA the breed solidified and was named the American Pit Bull Terrier. [14] Breeders knew that a dog like this could be dangerous to people and difficult to control if it were aggressive toward people, so breeders would look for the crucial trait of nonaggression towards humans. Fighting dogs that showed aggression towards it's owner or handler were routinely killed and thus removed from the gene pool. This resulted a line of strong dogs that, while aggressive towards dogs and other animals, would be much gentler with people.[15]

    In the late 1800s to early 1900s, two clubs were formed for the specific purpose of registering APBTs: the United Kennel Club and the American Dog Breeder's Association. The United Kennel Club was founded with the registration of an American Pit Bull Terrier and was the first registry to recognize the breed.[16]

    As dog fighting declined in popularity in the United States in the early 20th century, many dog owners wanted to legitimize the breed and distance it from it's fighting roots. The name "Staffordshire Terrier" was adopted by some owners and was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1936. Later, the word "American" was added to reduce confusion with it's smaller British cousin, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Not all breeders, however, agreed with the standard adopted by the AKC, and continued to use the name American Pit Bull Terrier for their lines. Much confusion still remains in regards to the APBT, the AST, and the SBT. Once an extremely popular family dog in the United States (in fact, the dog in the Our Gang movies was an APBT), the American Pit Bull Terrier's popularity began to decline in the United States following World War II in favor of other breeds.

    I have two American Bull Terrier's and a Lab. All my dogs are well socialized with other animal, people and children. It depends on the owner of the bread, if you use a positive-negative reinforcement training or only a negative reinforcement training for any breed of animal.

    My Eldes Terrier was abandoned in a home that had been vacant for sometime and she was less then 3 months old. But what a wounderful, sweet and pleasent little girl she is, everyone comments me on how sweet she is.

    Most of the dog attacks that you hear of in the media is normally a mixed bread with American Bull Terrier, but again it's how you raise your dog. Lots of exerice, training and socialing will make for a wounderful pleasent pet.

    By Haley K

    From San Diego, CA, 05/02/2008

    I have been listening to Weekend America for several years (via podcasts these days) and I typically enjoy the wide range of stories Weekend America offers; however, this story was disappointing and offensive. I agree with the previous comments that the repeated use of pit bulls as a symbol of undesirability was both racist and breedist. I was especially shocked by the way Ms. Clark juxtaposed golden retrievers and pit bulls. She may as well have said white/suburban people are good and minority/inner city people are bad. Equally repugnant was the way the story fostered the undeserved reputation of pit bulls. In reality, they are loyal, loving, and as sweet as golden retrievers. Just look at the nearly 50 dogs that were rescued from Michael Vick’s property. Even after extensive abuse, many of them were immediately placed in loving homes. The story almost left me feeling hopeful as Ms. Lewis revealed how she has re-evaluated her stereotypes. I wish it could have ended on a positive note rather than with the final jab at pit bulls and what this story used them to represent.

    By manuela mcgee

    From Port Orchard, WA, 04/30/2008

    Thanks for calling me a lower class person. Some people would call anybody living in the "city of sin" godless and damned. Guess it all depends on which ivory tower you are currently residing.

    By Mike Wilson

    From Las Vegas, NV, 04/29/2008

    This sampling is what is happening ALL over Las Vegas. The pit bull thing is symbolic of a lower class of people, pit bulls belonging to single guys living in communities of families. Just a few weeks ago in Rhodes Ranch, we were awakened by gunfire. A guy working in his garage had a neighbors pit bull approach him. Dog died and the other two dogs were taken. (True story, called Rhodes Ranch security for details)

    What do dogs have to do with this? It's a sign of the times in Vegas. Everyone got in over their heads. Instead of upper middle class families moving into these nice "master planned" neighborhoods, we now are looking at a surge of renters who care little about the properties they're in and even less about their neighbors. The greed and stupidity of many home buyers and investors have turned this town into a cesspool of trash. Our schools have suffered as a result, with the inability to attract new teachers due to housing costs, and a rougher group of kids due to the lowered standards that are now evident in every community across Las Vegas.

    Don't move here, not if you come from a society with strong family values and community. It's a dark time here, and it is getting worse every month. No gates or master planned community can prevent what's happened here.

    By Gary Gaunt

    04/27/2008

    Whilst we do not have gated communties per se in Australia, we do have the same subprime issues. Any Australian reading the article would be nodding the head in recognition. Pit Bulls in the US, Rottys, Staffys and the like here? The canine ownership socio-economic demographic in the context of the article is the same here, "race" has nothing to do with it. It's not the animals nor their owners fault if they are similarly untaught in acceptable socialisation skils. It is just what it is. My 2 yr old Schnoodle needed some serious socialisation training right from puppyhood and still needs a nudge or three. The same as most all of us need from time to time. Heavens knows, my wife of 35 years still finds it necessary with me. It's not rocket science but neither will it happen spontaneously.
    Perhaps the the positive side of the bringing down of the gates is that that social groups that were previously separated can learn some of these skills from and about each other.

    By Rebecca Barocas

    04/26/2008

    I was shocked to read such barely cloaked racism from NPR. I know many responsible dog owners who own "pit bull" type dogs. They are delightful to have around, lovable, and born commediens. Any dog, regardless of breed, can become the neighborhood problem if raised to be that way by an irresponsible dog owner. The two problem dogs in my neighborhood by the way, a chocolate Lab and a Shar Pei - surprised? My dog regularly plays with a "pit bull" that she met in obedience class, the sweetest dog I've ever met. When are you in the media going to stop using the "pit bull" as code for non-white, urban blight, low income?

    By Dana Childs

    From Federal Way, WA, 04/26/2008

    I am an Anglo-American college degree holding, middle class, NPR listener/member homeowner who shares my home with a Lhasa Apso/Shih Tzu mix. I listened to this story today while driving home and decided to immediately post my commnet once I got home. I felt mine might be the only comment regarding the "pit bull" references but was pleased to see that others have posted. I agree with the poster who thought this was hidden racism. The impression I came away with was that golden retrievers was used as code for "Anglo/wealthy" and pit bull was used as code for "non-Anglo/poor". Not only is this form of racism particulary bothersome but to add breedism on top of it? Kind, responsible dog owners of any race/income/education level are welcome to be my neighbors regardless of the breed of dog they own. I wonder what Ira Glass, owner of a rescued pit bull, would think of this story?

    By Manuela McGee

    From Port Orchard, WA, 04/26/2008

    I am actually happy to see that two other listeners picked up on my cause for a comment. I was almost ready to let the first comment about pitbull vs Golden Retriever slide.. but then the whole piece had to end with it?
    While I found the piece interesting, it was completely marred for me by using "pitbulls" as a synonym for "undesirables". Why not say straight out what kind of PEOPLE are "undesired"? Is the writer of the piece afraid of appearing racist or prejudiced and instead uses "pitbull" as her way out?

    I happen to own American Pitbull Terriers and American Staffordshier Terriers. I compete in multiple dog-events with them, ie: agility, obedience and weightpull. All the while, the neighbor down the road owns three out of control Labrador Retrievers who have chased me down the road on my bicycle and have accosted me, my dogs and multiple other walkers-by on our neighborhood walks. I am not so sure that the interviewed woman would have preferred the Labradors over my "pitbulls" when it came to a real life choice.

    This is my first year to pledge during an NPR pledge-drive; I plan to pledge again. But please, in return, keep the kind of dogs I own out of your stories, unless it is pertinent to the content.

    By CJ McElroy

    From Providence, RI, 04/26/2008

    Yet another example of the media using pit bulls to gauge the negative downturn of our society. I own a pit bull and he plays with my 10 and 11 year old sisters a gently as the golden retriever might. In fact, I have seen goldens act more aggressively toward children than any pit bull. It is sad to hear this sort of ignorance on NPR, shame on you. Not all pit bull owners are low lifes. I am college educated with a respectable job. Perhapsthe problem is the lust for these gated communities themselves. It is an unnatural way to be living. Not to mention most of these exclusive communities are built on the cheap and not meant to last so that when their prices do fall, they fall hard. Overall I am very disappointed in hearing this sort of blabber on NPR, more like FOX News.

    By Suzanne Vice

    From Sacramento, CA, 04/26/2008

    Once again, a negative comment towards pit bulls. I was very disappointed to hear the negative reference of the breed in this report. I guess the negative reference added to your story, the visual of a vicous dog running rampant in the neighborhood since the "bad" people took over the gated community??? Not all pit bull owners are low-life, druggie thugs - but normal, responsible, respectable memembers of society with normal, high level jobs. Talk to Rachel Ray, John Stewart, both who are proud pit bull owners. Other than that, the story was interesting. Thank you.

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