They're called bully breed dogs.
Some are illegally trained to protect drug stashes or fight other dogs to the death.
But anyone who loves pit bull terriers and American Staffordshire terriers will tell you these canines are big softies at heart.
Area humane groups provided plenty of proof of the bully breeds' gentle nature Saturday during a special adoption push at the shelter of the SPCA Serving Erie County on Ensminger Road in the Town of Tonawanda.
Puppies slobbered visiting children with wet tongue lashes. Adult "bullies" playfully exchanged sniffs and tackles. At least one dog rested quietly on a willing volunteer's shoulder.
The adoption effort was part of "Bully for You!" a push by the Maddies Pet Rescue Project in Erie County, which seeks to improve the image of the often-maligned and misunderstood pit bull.
"We just wanted to show that they are very social, intelligent, loyal dogs. Those traits are very much a part of the breed," said Kara Lee of Maddies Pet Rescue Project, which organized the adoption effort.
Thirty pit bull terriers and American Staffordshire terriers from three area shelters were offered Saturday for adoption.
About 200 people -- many of them already fans of the bully breed -- showed up to pet and play with the pups.
Twelve ultimately were adopted.
"When we come here and look at all the pit bulls, we want to take them all," said Kathy Besaw of Cheektowaga.
She and her husband, Paul, adopted Troy, a blue American Staffordshire, about three years ago from the SPCA.
They returned for Saturday's event to see how Troy would react to the possibility of another pit bull in the house.
On the shelter's front lawn, Troy frolicked with a smaller pit bull mix, a year-old female named Starla who ended up at the Buffalo Animal Shelter and was seeking a new home.
The pair seemed to hit it off.
"He's good with females. Males, he'll bark at, but he's not there to fight," Paul Besaw said.
"He's the biggest baby I've ever seen in a dog," Kathy Besaw added.
Tera Smith of the Town of Tonawanda stopped by the shelter to find a companion for Dodge, a purebred pit bull terrier she adopted last year.
Dodge had been seized during the raid on a purported drug house and has since been a "wonderful" addition to the family, Smith said.
"He's been good with my other dog, too. We have a miniature pinscher," Smith said. "They're only vicious if they're brought up to fight."
Because of the social stigma attached to pit bulls, dogs from the bully breed account for three-quarters of the canine population in area shelters.
"We're sick and tired of them being put to sleep," Lee said.
Shelter volunteers said the stigma is undeserved.
"They're my favorite. They're very sweet animals by nature," said Danielle Winzenried of Alden.
She has two pit bulls of her own and is caring for a third, Brody, until a permanent home can be found for him.
Similarly, Cathy Williams of Youngstown took in 9-week-old Bully, a white female with patches of brown fur around her eyes who is anything but intimidating.
"She was confiscated in a drug raid," Williams said.
Bully was dehydrated but has been nursed into good health and is "just the sweetest thing," Williams said. "We're hoping to get her adopted. She's going to make a great dog for somebody."