"A breed of satin and steel. Pit bulls are a mixture of softness and strength, an uncanny canine combination of fun, foolishness, and serious business, all wrapped up in love."

-D. Caroline Coile

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bulls on Parade Meet Up with Babies in the Park

Pit bull terrier advocate Meetup.com group, Bulls on Parade was in for a big surprise when unbeknownst to the coordinators, another Meetup.com group scheduled a “play-date” at the same time and location.

Every pit bull terrier advocate knows what great family pets pit bull terriers can be, but not every new parent knows the same information.

This is why it was so impressive that so many parents were eager to introduce their children to these dogs when Bulls on Parade, a group of Las Vegas pit bull terrier advocates and their dogs, and a group of new parents and babies showed up at Town Square Park at the same time.

The coalescence of the two groups was a happy accident, according to Bulls on Parade coordinator Heather McClain-Howell.

“We inadvertently scheduled it at the exact same time and place as a baby meet-up.” said Heather. “Much to our surprise, our presence in the park at Town Square was not only accepted, it was embraced!”

Over the course of two-hours, many parents brought their children and babies over to meet the dogs, which provided a fun photo and video opportunity, according to Heather.

“It was a big crowd of pit bulls and babies,” said Heather.

Heather and fellow pit bull terrier advocates Jamie McKay and Peace Love and Pit Bulls’ Tino Sanchez founded Bulls on Parade in the spirit of groups like, BAD RAP and Salt Lake County Pit Crew.

“We really liked the things they were doing to get the dogs out in public,” said Heather.

“We started talking to friends of ours who have pits, but we couldn’t seem to get it together,” continued Heather. “A friend of mine suggested doing it on Meetup, a place where people can come look at the schedule.”

Meetup.com is a website dedicated to helping people organize groups in their communities and making it possible to schedule times for these groups to socialize.

Heather attributes the success of the group to Meetup.com.

“We never would’ve been able to get this together if not for Meetup,” she said.

Setting up the group through Meetup.com was easy and inexpensive, according to Heather.

“I want to encourage people to do this on their own,” said Heather. “If we all did this and in every single city there was a group like this, think of the public perception shift.”

The Bulls on Parade goal is to “get the dogs out in public and to show how great the dogs are and to interact with people, a lot of people, who wouldn’t ordinarily pet a pit bull.”

The group firm in their advocacy of “Saving America’s Dog,” wants all group members to uphold the standards set by the founders, as all dogs must be spayed or neutered, current on all their vaccinations, and well-behaved.

The group meets weekly at different locations all over the Las Vegas Valley.

Most of the meet-ups take place in public locations and are free of charge; educational classes and evaluations are also available through Bulls on Parade for a nominal fee.

Bulls on Parade looks forward to the group growing over time and would like to encourage pit bull terrier lovers outside the Las Vegas area to follow in the footsteps of groups like these.

“Let people see your dogs being ambassadors,” said Heather.

Learn More:

  • Watch the YouTube video of the pit bull terriers and babies together at Town Square.
  • Start your own pit bull terrier Meetup.com group in your community.
  • Join Bulls on Parade on Meetup.

Best Friends Animal Society is working throughout the country to help pit bull terriers, who are battling everything from a media-driven bad reputation to ineffective and expensive legislation. Best Friends hopes to end discrimination against all dogs. Dogs are individuals and should be treated as individuals. Find out how you can help by visiting and becoming a fan of the Pit Bulls: Saving America's Dog campaign.

Join Voices for No More Homeless Pets for updates on animal issues important to you!

Learn more about breed bans and dog bite facts at the National Canine Research Council.

Find more resources in our Tools to Use section.

By Lani Baroody, Best Friends Network volunteer
Photos courtesy of Heather McClain-Howell

Monday, March 28, 2011

Veterinary Technician Has Three Pit Bulls; Learns to Love and Respect the Breed

Veterinary technician at the Mid-Michigan Animal Clinic on Luce Road in Alma, Kelley MacConnel knows dogs.

In the past, she has rescued greyhounds, but now her favorite type of dog is a pit bull.

She has three of them.

“I was won over by their wonderful personality and because they are dying in huge numbers,” she said.

They are being killed because they are being bred and trained to fight.

Of Bad Alice, Reuben and Joey, one dog always accompanies her each day to work, usually Joey. They even go out to lunch with her.

“All the drive-through restaurants know me,” the dog trainer at the Mt. Pleasant Kennel Club said. “Joey gets the chicken off a Wendy’s or McDonald’s salad.”

Pit bulls are, MacConnel said, devoted, courageous, great with children, and they aim to please.

But they have a sometimes frightening reputation.

Irresponsible owners and unscrupulous breeders who breed the worst characteristics are responsible for the bad reputation the animal has received, MacConnel said.

“I’ve read a lot about this, how they have gone from “Petey” in Little Rascals to demons,” she said.

MacConnel said she’ll hear people say that the temper of a pit bull depends on how he is raised or trained. But she points out that breeding is a big factor.

“Genetics are important, too,” she said.

Proper, responsible breeding, training and socializing are all important when owning a pit bull.

That is needed because pit bulls do tend to be a little more dog-aggressive than some other breeds and types, she said.

Of her three dogs, Reuben was obtained through the Gratiot County Animal Control office when he was 6 months old. MacConnel said she knew something of his parentage and was somewhat warned.

As a puppy, he was normal, but as he grew older, he was more dog-aggressive than the other two.

“He showed signs of being territorial,” she said. “He’d get a very serious demeanor.”

So she worked with him, trained him and now, “He’s great.”

Reuben needs a little more activity than the other two and when she takes him out, she throws a ball, “at least 40 times. I do it until he drops.”

The tale about pit bulls having strong and locking jaws is a myth, she said.

“They have no more strength than any other large dog and their jaws do not lock,” she said.

They may, however, be more tenacious, more determined than most, but really, they aren’t much different than any other type of dog.

Pit bulls aren’t truly a breed, she said, “more of a type,” that may include American Staffordshire terriers or Staffordshire bull terriers.

Once upon a time, pit bulls were known as “Butcher’s dogs,” a kind of working dog, she said.

“They were used to control cattle,” she said. “They would grab on and hold.”

But in the 1800s they began being bred to fight.

And therein lies the trouble.

Bred by people more interested in dog fights than having a nice pet, pit bulls often – not always – attract the worst kind of people; the kind of people who, knowing of the pit bulls’ reputation, want a mean, aggressive and territorial dog, MacConnel said.

“I wish they’d be attracted to something else,” she said, of the circle that keeps repeating itself.

Often, but not always, good families aren’t the least bit interested in pit bulls. They’re frightened of them.

MacConnel said she often makes her way through Deerfield Park, west of Mt. Pleasant, with all three dogs on leashes.

“People give me a wide birth,” she said, even though the dogs “are more in control than some of the others (also on leashes). They are trained to wait until the others pass by.”

On the other hand, people who get to know her dogs are surprised they are pit bulls.

“These are happy, tail wagging dogs,” she said.

MacConnel feeds her dogs premium dry dog food twice a day and all have been spayed or neutered.

Bad Alice is prim and proper, although she does find disgusting things to eat out in the yard. (MacConnel has an invisible fence.) Joey likes to be with her the best and Rueben is well, Rueben. He finds thunderstorms frightening and he’ll make a bee-line to her bed during a storm at night.

He’s also the first to let her know what’s outside her door.

No question, MacConnel said, all three would defend her.

To her, they are a never-ending delight.

“Oh Reuben will take something he knows he shouldn’t have and run with it,” she said of the brindled show-off who makes her laugh.

By Linda Gittleman

Friday, March 25, 2011

Celebrities and Pit Bulls

A scene from NCIS:

Katherine Heigl Adopts Injured Pit Bull Used as Bait in Dog Fights

Katherine Heigl won’t be toting around her newly adopted dog in a purse and dressing him up in frou frou duds for the paparazzi.

She’ll just be content that he’s alive and abuse-free.

Heigl’s dog advocacy already trumps most other celebs. She’s the co-founder of the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, named after her brother, who was killed in a car accident when he was 15. She heads the charity’s Hounds of Hope operation, whose mandate is to rescue pets with little hope of adoption from shelters.

The latest addition to her family, which already includes several dogs, is Rufus. He’s a young pit bull who was used as a bait dog in dog fights. Rufus was badly injured when Heigl learned about him. At the time she was looking for a puppy for her adopted daughter, Naleigh.

“Katherine was absolutely heartbroken when she saw how hurt the little guy was, so she paid thousands of dollars for multiple surgeries,” reports ContactMusic.

Celebrities Who Own Pit Bulls:

•Jon Stewart of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart owns two pit bulls: Shamsky & Monkey.

•Ken Howard, award-winning actor from Crossing Jordon, was saved by his pit bull Shadow during a medical crisis.

•Movie star Alicia Silverstone owns a rescued pit bull named Samson.

•Adam Brody gave girlfriend and O.C. co-star Rachel Bilson a pit bull named Penny Lane as a birthday gift.

•Oscar winner Jamie Foxx, TV Personality Rachael Ray and Pittsburgh Steelers Linebacker Joey Porter all own two pit bulls!

•Jessica Biel has a pit bull named Tina, and Jessica Alba owns a pit bull puppy.

•President Theodore Roosevelt, President Woodrow Wilson, singer Kevin Federline, radio personality Ira Glass, actor Fred Astaire, General George Patton, actor Michael J. Fox, actor Jan Michael Vincent, actor Jack Dempsy, Thomas Edison, singer Madonna, movie star Brad Pitt, actress Bernadette Peters, comedian Sinbad, actress Linda Blair, actor Humphrey Bogart, musician Usher, comedian Mel Brooks, actress Ann Bancroft, singer Pink, actress Eliza Dushku and actress Kelli Williams are just a few other celebrities who own or have owned a pit bull.


Video du Jour

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Diva Dog

Hit by a car and left permanently paralyzed, DIVA DOG is the true story of Coral – a pit bull on wheels with a heart of gold and a triumphant will to live. Now she is starring in her very own movie, "DIVA DOG: PIT BULL ON WHEELS." Starring Debra Wilson, Linda Blair, Kelli McCarty, Jordan Ladd, Adrienne Frantz, James Madio, Amelia Kinkade, Tamar Geller, Eric Martsolf & Barbie Orr. DIVA DOG's mission is to bring a good pit bull role model to the public and to educate people about the options for disabled animals.

Buy the movie here: www.divadogthemovie.com/.

The Competition

Photo from Pitter Patter

Sunday, March 6, 2011

All You Need Is Love

Working at a shelter has given me the opportunity to meet people who care about pit bull terriers and who come from all walks of life.

There’s the woman who told me in broken English that she doesn’t feel comfortable telling people how sweet pit bulls are, so instead she comes to the shelter and walks them, hoping people will see her with the pit bulls and realize they are wonderful dogs.

There’s the shy teenage boy who explained to me that he’s been training his deaf pit bull with a form of sign language.

And the middle-aged mother and her two pre-teen sons who want to “man” the pit bull education table at one of the local pet supply stores.

So, what is it about pit bulls that can bring people from differing socio-economic, geographical, and cultural backgrounds into a community of camaraderie?

At first, I thought it might be the fact that most people have felt the sting of discrimination, just like the pit bull. Then I wondered if it was the aesthetic quality of these dogs with their large bully heads and big smiles. Or perhaps the need so many of us have to see the underdog succeed.

Any of these reasons would be enough to bring a group of people together, but none are really strong enough to forge the unique bond that exists among pit bull advocates. I mulled this question over and over for several days. Then, out of nowhere, the answer came to me: LOVE. What holds us all together is our undeniable, unyielding love for pit bulls.

This may not sound like much of a revelation, but the love of a pit bull advocate is a very strong force. I’ve witnessed the sacrifice this love demands from its members:

The volunteer who sacrifices every Saturday afternoon to walk shelter pit bulls who need stress relief from their kennels,

The foster parent who opens his home and heart to a pit bull,

The pit bull guardian who encounters discrimination and hostility from family, friends and strangers,

Or the member of a pit bull rescue group who spends month after month rehabilitating dogs who are the victims of horrendous neglect and abuse.
These are all examples of love in action.

That’s why we rejoice together when laws are passed with stronger penalties against dog fighting. We swell with pride while reading stories about the success of pit bulls in sporting events, as working dogs or as helper dogs. We post on Facebook all the media coverage that portrays pit bulls in a positive light. When any one of these dogs overcomes and succeeds, we are all happy because, in a way, we have all succeeded.

We continue to educate the world about pit bulls and the love we have for these dogs, and if that means joining one more e-mail list to help end one more ignorant attempt at BSL, we join. If it means giving up one more Saturday afternoon to hand out pit bull information flyers, we give up one more Saturday. And if it means spending the extra 20 dollars we saved for ourselves on dog toys for shelter pit bulls, we spend it.

But we are not alone. There is an entire community that stands together, shoulder to shoulder, overcoming daily obstacles of discrimination, ignorance and bigotry, held together by love and striving to educate and create a world where pit bulls are understood and wanted.

I guess the Beatles had it right after all when they sang “Love is all you need."

By Mary Wallick
Photo by Melody McFarland


Thursday, March 3, 2011

What is it About Pit Bulls?

Pit Bull. Two simple words, but so very charged, the reaction to which varies wildly. There are their fearful detractors, those who would have them demonized, having fallen prey to the dogs’ misrepresentation in the media. And then there are their champions, who are struggling to change the tide of public opinion.

“Pit Bull” is, in fact, a loose term for many distinct “bully” breed dogs, such as the American Staffordshire Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. There is a general misunderstanding of the nature of dogs that fall into the Pit Bull camp, one that can be blamed largely on the sad fact that any aggressive attack is often inaccurately blamed on the scapegoated Pit Bull with little concern as to the offender’s actual breed. According to testing by The National Canine Temperament Testing Association, the Golden Retriever, Poodle, Border Collie, English Setter, and numerous other breeds are considered more likely to become aggressive than the breeds commonly referred to as Pit Bulls. While the average score of the 231 breeds tested was a mere 82.4 percent, Pit Bulls scored a 86.5 percent (the higher the score the better).

In truth, bully breeds are goofy, loyal, lovey dogs, by and large fantastic with children. In the UK, they were known as “nanny” dogs, and many Victorian illustrations of family life portray a sweet Pit Bull-type dog overseeing his chubby, beribboned charges.

Yes, this personable package comes wrapped in a powerhouse of a body, one that historically was bred for the cruel blood sport of dog fighting, but these dogs are anything but mean by nature. Sure, some, if left unchecked, have more of a tendency toward dog-aggression than, say, the average affable Labrador Retriever does, but if ever there was a testament to the underlying sweet nature of these dogs, it is seen in the rehabilitation stories of the Pit Bulls seized from Bad Newz Kennels, the Virginia dogfighting ring that was run by NFL quarterback Michael Vick.

Subject to some of the worst humanity has to offer, these were dogs that were caged or chained alone in the woods, tortured, and forced to fight, the torn-apart losers of the battles callously dumped in mass graves, the females tethered to rape tables. And yet, thanks to public outcry and an unprecedented ruling by the judge overseeing the Vick case, nearly $1 million was put aside for the rescue and rehabilitation of these dogs. With the help of a great many caring individuals and organizations who were unwilling to see them put down after having suffered only abuse at the hands of humans, these former dog-ring fighters have now been adopted into homes with other dogs, and are volunteering in elder-care facilities and schools to help children learn to read.

Hector, one of the Bad Newz victims, bears deep scars on his chest. He was adopted by Roo Yori, best known as the guardian of Wallace the Pit Bill, a national flying-disc champ (see the Summer 2010 issue of Modern Dog for photos of Wallace and his high-flying Frisbee grabs). Hector is now ensconced in the Yori household, where he happily shares a home with Yori, his wife, Clara, and Wallace, as well as a Rat Terrier named Scooby, Angus, a black Lab mix, and Mindy Lou, a toy Australian Shepherd. What better testament to the forgiving nature of these animals? As Jim Gorant, author of The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption (Gotham, 2010) has noted, “Generalizations and preconceptions are as unhelpful and counterproductive for Pit Bulls as they are for people.”

There is much work to do, though, to change public opinion. Many, many dogs falling into the Pit Bull camp, lumped together under this one inaccurate label, are crowding shelters, their numbers vast, the available homes few. Moved by the plight of these dogs, Brooklyn-based photographer Bethany Obrecht turned her lens to some of these animals, who hopefully faced her camera.

Sadly, most of the dogs Obrecht photographed didn’t make it, victims of an overburdened shelter system and an uninformed public. We’re hoping we can change that with a positive public relations campaign taking aim at their misrepresentation and drawing attention to the plight of legion Pit Bull-type dogs in desperate need of a home. Adopt a sweet, goofy, grinning Pit Bull today. We’re willing to bet you won’t regret it.

By Rose Frosek
Photographed by Bethany Obrecht

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Lesson of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is one of the hardest lessons in life to learn, but for Clementine, it was second nature. Despite being mistreated, neglected, damaged and used by humans, she hasn’t given up on them yet.

A little more than three years ago, Clementine was brought into the Fayetteville, Arkansas, Animal Shelter. It’s not uncommon for pit bulls to be hauled into the shelter, but Clementine’s condition left staff appalled.

Mitzi Rankin remembers the first thought that ran through her mind upon seeing her.

“How could someone do this?!” she wondered.

Clementine, a full-grown dog, was left in the collar she was given as a puppy. After 20 years of working with animals, Rankin says she had never seen a case so bad.

“Bless her heart, you know, she had to be in so much pain but, it was like she knew she had finally gotten some place where these humans were going to help her,” Mitzi says. “She showed no aggression from the minute we got her.”

Rankin says that despite her pain and abuse, Clem proved to be a real trooper.

“When Dr. Charlie started to work his magic, she just sat there and let me love on her,” she says. “I held her head and talked to her while the veterinarian removed the collar … now keep in mind she was not given anything to knock her out or for pain while we worked on her.”

All in all, Mitzi’s recollection of Clem?

“She was the perfect patient.”

After removing the tiny collar, a deep, gaping wound was left behind. The collar was so thickly embedded into her skin and muscle that it was almost touching her vocal chords, remembers Clementine’s foster dad, Tenoch Gonzalez.

Before even knowing her story, Tenoch felt an indescribable connection to Clementine as he saw her during his time volunteering at the shelter.

“After seeing her, I kept thinking about her and thinking about her,” he says. “I just didn’t want anything to happen to her.”

It didn’t take long before Tenoch and his girlfriend, Sita, took Clementine under their care.

“It was a unique challenge,” Tenoch recalls. “With the scar tissue and the neck wound, we couldn’t use a collar or anything tight around her neck.”

But, that didn’t stop them from socializing and training her.

Sita also found herself at a loss for words to accurately describe Clementine.

“She was just, wow, an amazing dog,” Sita says. “She is just so forgiving, so loving.”

Mitzi couldn’t agree more.

“No matter how long I have been in this business, I will never understand how the animals can be so forgiving,” Mitzi says. “They give unconditional love. They can be beat, starved, abandoned by humans, and they still love.”

As though the embedded collar wasn’t bad enough, Sita says that Clementine was abused in more than one way. She was also emaciated and had obviously been neglected after having puppies. Sita says she just can’t understand how the previous owner could have treated her so poorly.

“How can someone do that to their dog – not make sure the collar fits her?” Sita can’t help but wonder.

She also can’t imagine it was a question of financial ability.

“Why not use some of the money from the puppies to buy a good collar?”

It was only a matter of days that Clementine was off her leash and romping around with the Tenoch’s and Sita’s other dogs. The couple worked hard to socialize Clementine in order to get her ready for adoption. Like a child, they took Clementine wherever they went – running errands to Lowe’s, to grab a movie, you name it.

Eric Gray, who runs Smilin’ Pit Bull Rescue, was contacted by the shelter about the adoption need. SPBR has placed more than 3,000 pit bulls into loving homes.

After receiving word about Clem, Eric posted her story on the SPBR Website, and a good home was soon found.

The only problem: the adopting family was 1,300 miles away … in New Jersey.

But, if Clementine could overcome her challenges so far, she could overcome this one too.

Enter Danny Rock, whom Gray called Clementine’s angel. Danny sure is one special angel with wings – well, with wheels anyway.

“What a sweetheart she was,” Danny recalls. “And what a beauty.”

Rock has been a longtime pit bull advocate, and out of the kindness of his heart, he personally chauffeured Clementine all the way to New Jersey to meet her new family.

“She had a chance at a new start, and she just needed a ride,” Danny explains.

After their scenic cross-country route, which included a few pit stops and a few dog walks, they arrived in New Jersey at the doorstep of the Jensen family.

As responsible owners, the family had prepared a list of questions about Clementine, just so they could give her the best life she deserved.

But, it was love at first sight.

“The girls were very excited, especially my daughter,” says Ron Jensen about his wife and daughter upon Clementine’s arrival.

These days, Clementine is known as Kalli to the Jensen family. Ron says Kalli is just like another member of the family. At the time, she was laying on her personal bed watching TV. Ron says that as he was mentioning her name over the phone, her ears would perk up with excitement.
                                     Clementine, now Kalli, with her new family, the Jensens

“With pit bulls, you just got to be patient and pay attention,” he says.

Although Kalli is probably more than thankful to everyone who helped her find her new place in life, Mitzi, Sita, Tenoch, Danny, Eric, and the others who helped Kalli along the way are simply grateful for what Kalli taught them.

Mitzi couldn’t have said it better.

“Some people could take a few lessons from animals.”

Those involved in helping Kalli asked that this story be in memory of Susan Morgan, a caregiver at the Fayetteville animal shelter. Morgan was known for her love of animals and for her willingness to always go the extra mile for pit bulls in need of help, including Kalli.

By Becca Colbaugh