JoAnna Lou
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Stopping Breed Stereotypes
Petition persuades Mafia Wars to remove Pit Bull “weapons”
This offensive image was posted on Facebook by Mafia Wars when announcing the new animal "weapons."

If you’re on Facebook, most likely you either love or hate the popular game, Mafia Wars. I happen to fall on the dislike side, but I can tell from my Facebook News Feed that many of my friends play the game quite frequently! And they’re not alone--over 7 million people play Mafia Wars every day.

Recently, the game announced the addition of animals as a new type of weapon, which included Pit Bulls. This was obviously disturbing to anyone fighting against Pit Bull stereotypes. It was also surprising coming from Mafia Wars creator, Zynga, who also created YoVille, a game where virtual adoptions of dogs and cats have raised over $125,000 for the San Francisco SPCA. Zynga even allows employees to bring their pets to work, many who have rescue Pit Bulls.

Earlier this month, Zynga announced it would remove Pit Bulls from Mafia Wars after receiving a Change.org petition signed by over 500 community members. The appeal urged the company to stop perpetuating negative pit bull stereotypes.

Personally I don’t see the appeal of Mafia Wars, but I commend Zynga for being responsive to feedback and for ultimately pulling Pit Bulls from the game. The depiction of the breed in the game was downright offensive. Given that only a small fraction of the millions of Mafia Wars users complained, I think Zynga demonstrated sensitivity once the issue was brought to their attention.

And the next time you pass on signing a petition, assuming it won’t make a difference, think twice about the power of your signature!

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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