Wednesday, December 29, 2010
The conventional wisdom on this is that the president’s people have put their finger to the wind and decided that Michael Vick has been sanitized for political consumption by his success. (It’s interesting to speculate how he would be perceived if he were having a lousy year.) Personally, I’m kind of tired of hearing and reading about Michael Vick and wish that the media would lose its obsession with the man, especially since any mention of or concern about the dogs who managed to escape with their lives from his care is conspicuously absent from his public statements.
“Mr. President, what a surprise! Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to commend us for giving the Vicktory dogs a second chance. Sure, I’ve got a few minutes to fill you in … kind of a presidential briefing, I guess.
“To be quite honest, sir, it’s kind of a mixed bag as far as how the dogs are doing. After all, these critters were right there when Michael Vick and his friends were body slamming some of their doggie buddies to death and electrocuting, drowning and hanging others. Unlike Mr. Lurie and the NFL, Bad Newz Kennels wasn’t into second chances. What’s that, sir? Yes, he’s having a great year … yeah, a terrific arm.
“So, as I was saying, it’s a mixed bag on the dogs, though some are doing very well, all things considered. Handsome Dan, Cherry, Mel, Oliver and Halle have all been adopted and some of these guys were pretty shut down, you know, terrified when they arrived here. Mel was mentioned in Bill Plaschke’s article in the L.A. Times about Michael Vick … yeah, he interviewed Mel’s new family in Texas. Poor dog still shakes in a corner whenever a new person comes to the house, but he’s in a great home and that’s what counts.
“What’s that, sir? Sure, we want them all to be adopted and live in homes with a nice family, but unlike Mr. Vick, the court has ordered that most of the dogs, based on their behavior evaluations back in 2007, have to pass a good citizen test before they can be adopted. No, I’m serious. It’s called a Canine Good Citizen certificate, CGC, and it means that the dogs are able to demonstrate self-control, sociability and friendliness toward people and other dogs. Actually, it’s quite an accomplishment for a dog who was encouraged to be aggressive or maybe was used as a bait dog. Sir? Oh, a bait dog is a relatively non-aggressive dog who gets thrown into the ring with a stronger fighter just to give the stronger dog confidence and a taste for blood. That’s right, sir, kinda like a press secretary.
“Anyway, 16 dogs are still at the Sanctuary: Mya, Shadow, Lucas, Layla, Willie Boy, Georgia, Meryl, Ellen, Tug, Denzel, Ray, Squeaker, Lance, Curly, Little Red and Oscar. And they get a lot of attention. Most of them have health issues; some have bebesia, a blood parasite that spreads among fighting dogs and flares up occasionally. Some have immune problems that we speculate came from excessive use of steroids, but they continue to make progress.
“Ray, who was really shy and dog-reactive when he arrived, has earned his CGC. Oscar got his CGC and Shadow has made such great progress that he has a potential adopter coming to meet him next week. We’re very pleased. Most of the dogs are now social enough to share a run with another dog and some spend a few days a week in staff offices, getting comfortable in new environments with people coming and going. Yes, I guess it is a bit like the new Congress, except that most of the dogs would never bite you and I doubt that Congress people are able to share a run, um, I mean, an office.
“Why do we do all this for these dogs? Well, Mr. President, that’s a big question but I’ll try to keep it short. First of all, we don’t believe that killing the Vick dogs, which many people and even some animal organizations wanted to do, would have been right. We know that they are individuals with the potential to have rewarding lives. They were like child soldiers kidnapped by warlords and forced to fight; no one thinks child soldiers should be killed just because they are damaged. Same thing applies here. Also, the Vicktory dogs are victims of a crime. As long as they are struggling to regain even a semblance of the life that should have been theirs from birth, then that crime continues to affect lives, dog and human, and is not yet a thing of the past, regardless of Michael Vick’s jail time or talent. You’re right, sir, it’s not funny and I’d hate to think of Bo in that situation, too.
“Of course, no worries! I’ve got a pretty busy day as well. Nothing like yours, but thanks for calling and please pass along a Happy New Year to Michelle, the girls and Bo from all the animals and staff here at Best Friends…. Oh, just one more thing: I think it would be a great message to send if you adopted a shelter dog as a companion for Bo, maybe a cute pittie girl with a big smile and wiggly butt. Sure, we can set you up. Call anytime — you’ve got the number. And a good day to you, too, Mr. President.”
By: Francis Battista, Co-Founder, Best Friends Animal Society
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
The truth is that many rescued mutts, regardless of their breed backgrounds, go on to become incredible pets that are sources of inspiration for their families and everyone they meet. (Benji, the canine movie star, was a mutt that brought happiness to millions.) In honor of National Mutt Day, which raises awareness and encourages adoptions from shelters, and to prove you should never underestimate a puppy with a checkered past, we want to tell you Lily's story.
We know what you're thinking, but despite her strong build, Lily wasn't rescued from a dog fighting ring. Nor is she the least bit aggressive. This pup's sad story is one of severe neglect. In fact, when Lily was rescued by Pennsylvania SPCA officers, she was on her way to starvation, confined to a yard with two other dogs, including one that had died from lack of food.
Lily's rescue was featured on Discovery's "Animal Cops: Philadelphia" in an episode titled "Dead Dog Denial." As the story goes, Lily's neighbors noticed the dead dog and alerted authorities. Lily's owner claimed she knew nothing about the dead dog in her yard, her neighbors told officers a different story. After an autopsy concluded that Lily's brother had died of starvation, the woman was charged.
Meanwhile, Lily was taken in by PSPCA for treatment and put into its foster program. Though Lily's rescue was dramatic enough in its own right, her rescuers had no idea what bigger and better things were in the skinny pup's future.
A Second Chance
It was through the PSPCA foster program that Lily came to live with her new mom, Alexandra Golaszewska. "When I picked her up, she looked like a black-and-white mutt," Golaszewska tells Paw Nation. "But as she ate more food and got more exercise, her muscles developed. Even the shape of her head changed."
Only then did Golaszewska realize that Lily had some pit bull in her bloodline. However, in stark contrast to her breed's tough-guy stereotype, Lily was quite frail. "She seemed like a dog who probably never got out of her small, fenced-in yard," says Golaszewska. "Her paws were really delicate and got very irritated if we walked even a block on the sidewalk."
Even in the first days at her foster, then forever, home, Lily showed that she was special. "She immediately touched noses with my cat, and wherever I took her she always approached everyone with friendship," Golaszewska explains.
From Rescued to Rescuing
According to Golaszewska, a few friends told her about an upcoming Canine Good Citizen test being held by the PSPCA. Though she thought Lily was probably not ready yet, PSPCA behaviorist Nicole LaRocco encouraged Golaszewska to take Lily as a training exercise. Instead of simply taking notes, Lily amazed her new owner by passing the test on the first try.
Since then, Lily has completed her therapy dog certification and now visits a nearby nursing home regularly. She even has her own Facebook page. The first time Golaszewska took Lily to the nursing home, she witnessed firsthand the powerful effect her therapy pup had on 15 patients in the Alzheimer's ward.
"As soon as we walked into the room, it completely lit up. The patients came to life; they were so happy to see a dog," Golaszewska says. "Lily wags her tail so hard that she looks like she may fall over, which everyone thought was charming, and she toured the room and gave everyone kisses."
Lily's journey from a criminally neglectful home to bringing joy to people at a nursing home makes for an incredible story, but it also illustrates the power rescue pets have to impact and improve our lives. Believe it or not, Golaszewska says she wasn't looking for a dog when she was encouraged by a family member to foster Lily -- but look how that turned out.
Read Paw Nation's article on National Mutt Day and be sure to check out the main site here.
by Josh Lopoer
Here are a few other pit bulls who have a Facebook page. Each one of these dogs had a rough start in life but after being adopted are living up to their full potential. These dogs are excellent ambassadors for the pit bull breed!
Monday, December 20, 2010
It's between two 2-year-old black pit bulls, whose reputation and appearance usually place them among the last dogs to find homes. Not only did Hope, who was found starved and abandoned in Buffalo, find a home, but she found a home for her best friend, too.
Picked up as a stray, Hope was near death and "skin and bones" when she came to the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter, says volunteer Tanya Dyryanka of Buffalo, who fosters animals who need special care or just don't thrive in a shelter environment.
"Everybody said I was crazy when I took her to foster, because she had never even been in a home," says Dyryanka. "But she caught on so quickly." One of the important lessons Hope had to learn was how to interact with other dogs. "She loved them, but she would just run up to them and jump on them, which wasn't good," Dyryanka says. While Hope put on some weight and learned house manners, she also played with another young dog, another black pit bull named Esteban, who was being fostered by a friend of Dyryanka. The two loved to romp and wrestle together.
Dyryanka had had Hope for about three months when she got a text from Melody Halligan of Sloan, whose dog, Sam, had died at age 14.
After Sam's death, Halligan felt it was too soon to open her heart to another animal, but her daughter, Shannon Bailey, urged her to go to the SPCA Serving Erie County "just to look." They saw a dog they liked, but when they returned a few days later, that dog was being walked by a prospective adopter. Although they left without the dog, Halligan realized she was ready to adopt again. She went home and searched petfinder.com, where many rescue groups and shelters post photos of adoptable animals. There she saw Hope.
"I kept coming back to her face," says Halligan. "I'd look through all the animals, and I kept coming back to Hope."
Halligan was glad not to have to go through house-training and puppy problems with the 2-year-old dog. But there was something appealing in her face. She "just looked like she needed a family," Halligan says.
It was love at first sight when Halligan, her boyfriend Ron Swan and her son, Jordan, met Hope. "We fell in love instantly," says Halligan.
At home, Halligan found that Hope "was very needy. She glued herself to my side and always needed affection and attachment." Three weeks after adopting Hope, Halligan contacted Dyryanka again -- this time to ask about a second dog. "I asked if there was anybody there who would be a good match for her."
Little did Halligan know that there was a not only a good match, but a perfect match for Hope. "I was ecstatic, because Esteban was still looking for a home," says Dyryanka. "They always got along so well, they were just attached at the hip. Hope is a sweet girl, but she's high-energy, and Esteban is a really mellow boy, so I knew he'd fit right in with her. It was meant to be," says Dyryanka. She and Esteban's foster owner "had even joked about it for so long, saying, 'Wouldn't it be the perfect home to have Hope and Esteban go together?'"
The reunion of the two dogs was joyous. "They were very happy to see each other, running around and chasing each other," says Halligan. "It was like long-lost lovers when they got together, and I said, 'How can I separate them again now?' I said they're reunited now."
Esteban "looks like a little larger version of Hope," says Halligan. "I have pictures of them side by side, and it looks like Me and Mini-Me. I would say 95 percent of the time they get along wonderful, they sleep together, they lay together. At times, Hope gets on Esteban's nerves."
Has the addition of a second dog taken the canine focus off Halligan? "No," she says. "Now the two of them follow me around everywhere. I never had two dogs at one time before, and the whole family is really enjoying them."
In fact, sweet-natured and devoted Hope and Esteban have inspired others who meet them to adopt pit bulls. Halligan's daughter, Shannon Bailey, adopted Bella, a pit bull, and Bailey's boyfriend's father adopted one, too. "We're just a big pit bull family now. I am now absolutely in love with the breed," says Halligan. "I think they are just wonderful, very loving, very loyal dogs."
The amusing pair love to wear clothes, so Hope, who came so close to death months ago, dressed as a pig and her buddy Esteban was a cow for Halloween. "They like to dressed up and be under blankets and get all snuggly." And, she says, "Everywhere we take them, people say, 'Oh they are so cute!'"
The two dogs who met before they had a permanent home can now look forward to being together for the rest of their lives. "I always say this is their love story," says Halligan.
By Anne Neville http://www.buffalonews.com/life/article278294.ece
Monday, December 13, 2010
Sergeant Stubby died as a hero serving in France in World War I, and the lovable Tige was Buster Brown's best friend.
Even Petey, which ran the streets in the 1930s with the kids in Our Gang comedies, was a pit bull.
Whether real or fictional, the American pit bull was not always considered a pariah, demonized in news reports until communities worldwide legislated against it, and in some cases, banned it to reduce vicious attacks.
Dog advocates often refer to breed bans as knee-jerk reactions by politicians to highly publicized attacks, said Ledy Van Kavage, lead attorney for Best Friends Animal Society and co-author of a chapter on dangerous-dog ordinances in the American Bar Association book, Dangerous Dog Laws, published in 2009.
"I call them panic policymaking at its worst," Van Kavage, of Illinois, said of breed-specific laws. "In reality, any dog bites. We want good, safe legislation with the focus on reckless owners and generic, dangerous-dog laws."
Last week, the Dearborn, Mich., City Council turned down legislation to include breed-specific language (commonly referred to as BSL) in its vicious-dog law, in part because of a presentation by Van Kavage.
In Akron, the owners of certain dogs that are believed to be pit bulls, described as any American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier or any mixed breed of any of those dogs, and canary dogs, are subject to additional security requirements.
Few serious attacks
A study the American Veterinary Medical Association recently released estimates that about 72 million dogs live in the United States, with 37 percent of all households, or 43 million homes, owning at least one.
While dog bites seem to be rather common based on a national survey of about 10,000 people, the study indicates dog bite-related fatalities appear to be rare, at about three fatal bites per 10 million dogs.
A person would stand a better chance of dying from a lightning strike, the report shows.
The study, published in the October edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, was written by Gary Patronek, Margaret Slater and Amy Marder. The conclusion is that breed-specific legislation does nothing to prevent dog bites.
Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state of Colorado and smaller jurisdictions, Patronek and his colleagues estimate that a community would have to ban more than 100,000 dogs of a targeted breed to prevent a single serious dog bite.
"Enthusiasm for BSL persists despite the lack of empirical evidence that legislation of this type reduces the risk of injury from dog bites or reduces associated costs to communities or insurers," the report indicates.
Breed-specific legislation is appealing to lawmakers for three reasons, according to the report: misperception of risk; misinformation and stereotyping; and erroneous beliefs about its effectiveness.
Sensationalized publicity about certain breeds being particularly aggressive, as well as popular beliefs about some breeds' physical and behavioral characteristics contribute to the erroneous belief that certain breeds have a propensity to bite people, the report states.
Saved from death row
Such misconceptions might have played a role in the fate of a bulldog Akron police impounded during a drug raid a few years ago. The owner of the dog, a suspected drug dealer, ordered the animal to attack officers.
Akron police face this situation all too often, said Lt. Rick Edwards, public information officer for the department.
Officers must assess the situation in each case, he said. If a dog charges an officer, it might have to be put down.
"Each situation is different. They have to look at the aggressiveness of the dog," Edwards said.
In this case, the officers felt the excited dog was vicious and ordered it impounded at Summit County Animal Control, where it was held for several months awaiting disposition of the case. Eventually, Municipal Judge Annalisa Williams issued an order to euthanize the dog because it was used in a crime, said Craig Stanley, director of administrative services for the county.
During the months the dog lived at the pound, caretakers began to realize it was no more than 7 or 8 months old when it had arrived. And although it fit Akron's physical description of a vicious dog, it was obvious the animal was deaf and could not have responded to the suspect's order to attack, Stanley said.
"I would play with him every time I went in. I could stand right next to him and shout his name and he didn't respond," Stanley said.
"When the [euthanization] order came out, a lot of the employees were sad about it."
He visited Judge Williams and explained the situation. She agreed to a plan to take the dog off death row. Pound workers moved it to a shelter outside the county, where it could be placed for adoption.
The chain of events illustrates the problems many animals face if they are the property of reckless owners, Stanley said.
Animal control is a law-enforcement agency charged with protecting the citizens of Summit County from vicious animals in a humane way.
Rescue groups, by contrast, have accepted the task of protecting animals from irresponsible owners, bad breeders and puppy mills, as well as dogs at the mercy of unscrupulous people.
Pawsibilities, the Humane Society of Greater Akron, is by law required to rescue and provide care for neglected and abused animals in Summit County.
Four years ago, as many as 80 percent of the dogs living at the Humane Society were considered pit bulls. Today, less than half that percentage call the Twinsburg shelter home.
"The Humane Society is one of the few shelters in the state of Ohio that takes them in and adopts them out," board member Carianne Burnley said.
Kristen Brannigan, director of behavior and adoption testing at the shelter, attributes the successful placements to programs designed to educate the public about "bully breeds." Also, DNA testing is made available — at a potential owner's expense — to determine whether any breeds singled out by law are in the dog's genetic makeup. The $85 tests have helped increase adoptions of long-term residents, she said.
"If the DNA test comes back with no 'bully' breed, the adoption rates skyrocket from 30 to 80 percent," Brannigan said.
At the Humane Society's National Pit Bull Awareness Day program in October, more than 250 visitors were challenged to "pick the pit bull" on a chart with photos representing 24 breeds. The photos were pulled from reputable, pure-bred breeders' Web sites, Brannigan said
"Not one [visitor] was able to pick out the American pit bull on the first try," Brannigan said.
The legal hassle of owning a dog that arbitrarily has been labeled a pit bull because of its appearance is one of the biggest problems the agency faces in placing animals.
Ohio is the only state that singles out "pit bulls" in its legislation as vicious dogs.
Brannigan said every dog at the Humane Society undergoes temperament testing before it may be adopted. Also, anyone who shows an interest in adopting a "pit-bull type" dog is advised of the law in his or her community and given leads on insurance companies willing to provide the $100,000 in liability coverage necessary to comply with Ohio law.
DNA testing in many cases is proving that although a dog's characteristics might indicate a certain breed, the animal's parentage is not reliably assessed by its appearance.
A study published this year in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science indicates that many mixed-breed dogs do not resemble the predominant breeds identified by a DNA analysis. The study, conducted by Victoria Voith, Elizabeth Ingram, Katherine Mitsouras and Kristopher Irizarry, shows there is little correlation between the probable breed composition assigned to a dog and the identification of breeds by DNA analysis.
In other words, it is unwise to judge mixed-breed dog by appearance.
"Justification of current public and private policies pertaining to breed-specific regulations should be reviewed," the study concluded.
Overcoming their past
Best Friends Animal Society Sanctuary, a 33,000-acre animal rescue and rehabilitation center based in southern Utah, recently kicked off a national initiative called Saving America's Dog, to restore the pit bull's image and to challenge breed discrimination laws across the country.
In April 2007, in a highly publicized case, 51 pit bulls were seized from a dog-fighting operation at Bad Newz Kennels, owned by NFL quarterback Michael Vick in Smithfield, Va. Vick was ordered to pay nearly $1 million to rehabilitate the animals.
Animal advocates Bill and Kim Jones of Bath Township, who became involved with Best Friends when they helped the agency rescue animals after Hurricane Katrina, were called on to help rehabilitate 22 of the most challenged dogs taken to the sanctuary. They spoke Wednesday at the Fairlawn branch of the Akron-Summit County Public Library.
The Joneses arrived at Best Friends the same day as the Vick dogs. They found the animals so traumatized, they cowered in corners when humans entered their pens and refused to cross thresholds because "it meant something bad was going to happen to them," Kim Jones said.
Today, with some mishaps along the way, the majority of the Vick dogs are doing well. Three are certified therapy dogs and many have found new, adoptive homes after their painful start in life, Bill Jones said.
Because of the experience, the couple, along with Best Friends, have become breed advocates urging the removal of breed-specific language in favor of more effective laws to protect people from vicious dogs. Best Friends will be bringing that message to Ohio next year, Bill Jones said.
"Best Friends has targeted Ohio to get the [breed-specific] law rescinded," Jones said.
Readers can take a "pick the pit" challenge at http://www.pitbullsontheweb.com/petbull/findpit.html
By Kathy Antoniotti
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
When Susan Dyer Reynolds hired a professional trainer for her newly adopted pit bull, Jasmine Blue, the trainer started his assessment by putting a treat on the floor and saying, "Off." Of course, Jazzy went straight for the treat and promptly got squirted with a water bottle. Again, he put a treat on the floor. This time Jazzy looked at it longingly, but didn't move. When the trainer said, "It's OK," only then did Jazzy timidly approach the treat. "She's going to be easy," the trainer told Reynolds. "She's smart and incredibly sensitive."
After the trainer left, I went downstairs to check on my dad, who was watching a baseball game. Jazzy climbed into bed with him and tried to sneak in another bath of kisses. My dad laughed, and she wagged her big pit bull butt. "I love my granddog," he said. "I know," I smiled, "and she loves you, too."
One week later, my 76-year-old father passed away quietly in his sleep.
The day that followed was a whirlwind of friends taking turns making sure I was never alone. When my dad's longtime girlfriend, Kickie, arrived, she fell into my arms, a pile of grief and tears. Later that evening, we sat on the sofa, talking a bit, but mostly just sitting in stunned silence. Then Kickie perked up.
"Where's Jazzy?" she asked. Normally Jazz was there - usually on the sofa between my dad and Kickie, while I was relegated to the dog bed because there wasn't enough room on the sofa for me.
Kickie headed downstairs to check on her. When she returned, she was clutching my dad's favorite hat. "Jazzy was lying on your Dad's side of the bed," she said, tears streaming down her face. "She got up and went into his closet, sniffed his shoes, his slippers and his hat, then got back up on his side of the bed again. It's like she knows he's gone."
A week later, I drove Kickie to her home in San Jose. When I returned, it was the first time I had been alone, and that's when it finally hit me. I curled up on my bed and was sobbing when I felt something push at my back. I turned around to see Jazzy above me holding her pink stuffed bunny. Her ears were back and her butt was wagging tentatively. I rolled over and continued crying.
Again, I felt something nudge my back. This time she had her orange octopus. "Go away, Jazzy," I said. But she didn't listen. Now she had her Girducken, a stuffed duck with giraffe spots. When I sat up, I discovered she had taken every toy out of her toy box, as if she were determined to find the right toy, the one that would make me stop crying, the one that would make it better.
I wrapped my arms around Jazzy's neck and wept into her fur. She rubbed her cheek against mine, she pawed at my arm and she tried to put the Girducken in my mouth. When I started laughing, she dropped it on the bed and tried to give me a lick. Some people like it, some people don't; I'm one of those people who doesn't mind. Not when it comes from an incredibly sensitive dog.
This story first appeared in "Jasmine Blue's Tails of the Dog Park," published monthly in Northside San Francisco magazine ( http://www.northsidesf.com/). Reynolds is working on a book based on the column.
By: Eileen Mitchell
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Hector The Pit Bull’s Never Ending Quest For The Perfect Bed
Just weeks after adopting the deaf dog, someone attempted to break into the family's home in the middle of the night. They first attempted to access the home through a cellar door, breaking a chain. They eventually smashed a window and kicked in a door.
A brazen, bold attack on an innocent, sleeping family. But there was a surprise in store for these would-be robbers. Inside of the home, they were met by a 165 lb Great Dane, and the family's newly adopted deaf Pit Bull, Dolly.
The family heard the commotion and they were able to call their senior Great Dane back, but the deaf Pit Bull, unable to hear the frantic calls, chased the crooks away into the darkness.
The family was frantic - their newly adopted dog was lost. The next day, they contacted the local humane society and animal shelter. After 48 hrs., they attempted to file a report for the missing dog, but the police did not want to help.
They tried to contact the local media, to share her heroic tale, as well as to get assistance in locating the lost dog. They were told by the media outlets that they could not run a story like that because of the stigma surrounding Pit Bulls.
Rescue Ink learned of the lost hero dog and they assisted the distraught family in their desperate search. Thankfully, after several days of searching and multiple postings of "lost dog" flyers being put up, Dolly was found.
It turns out that a neighbor had found the lost dog. She had taken her in after seeing her running loose. The neighbor was frightened for the dog's safety - apparently she had overheard some boys talking about capturing Dolly and using her for fighting.
When the neighbor saw the lost dog flyers, she called the owners and a happy reunion followed.
Dolly is an amazing dog. She courageously protected her family, even though that family was new to her. After just weeks in her new home, she may have literally saved her family's life.
Who knows what the people were capable of? To smash windows and kick in the doors of a home that is occupied is a bold move - perhaps desperate. Thankfully for Dolly, the Boltz family will never have to know what those people had in mind that night.
As for that local media that would not share Dolly's heroic tale due to her breed? They didn't hesitate to run 2 stories in the following weeks about Pit bull attacks. It would seem that they pick and choose what information they want the residents of the area to hear.
By: Penny Eims