"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, April 24, 2012

Video du Jour

There are millions and millions of everyday people who share their hearts and homes with "pit bull" dogs. Here are just a few. For more information, visit animalfarmfoundation.org.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Video du Jour

Changing Hearts and Minds

By Laura Petrolino, VP of Operations (Reprinted from StubbyDog.org)

You are at the park playing fetch with your dog.

You are on a plane reading a magazine.

You are at the salon getting your nails done.

You are at the grocery store buying dinner.

Undoubtedly, throughout your daily activities, you encounter a moment where you are put in the position to be a pit bull advocate. You might overhear a conversation, be asked directly, or simply have it come up in a discussion.

So what do you do? This is a question that I get a lot, so I thought it worthwhile to put together a short “intro” course for those of you interested in helping to set the record straight, but not exactly sure where to start (or those of you who are already actively advocating, but need a few pointers to be more effective).

I divided the process up into the “5 A’s of Advocacy”:

Be Aware: So the first thing to do when faced with any situation in which you are serving as an impromptu pit bull ambassador is to stop, take a deep breath, and put yourself in check. This is an emotional issue on both sides of the line. It is very easy, especially if you have a pit bull as part of your family, to take things personally and let your emotions overwhelm your intellect. Please don’t. By letting raw emotion rule the roost you will not accomplish anything beneficial for yourself, the person you are talking with, other future advocates and, most importantly, the dogs.

Sure, the love you have for your dog is important, but not if it prevents you from talking logically and laying out important facts, figures and talking points that can help the other party also look past their immediate emotional response and open themselves to the new information that you are bringing to the table. Please know yourself and your limits when it comes to this; if you are unable to separate your immediate emotional response from your attempts to help change public perception about pit bulls, then know it is OK to just walk away. In fact, it is better to walk away.

Acknowledge: Acknowledge the other person’s point of view. Please don’t vilify them in any way just because their exposure to pit bulls has been limited, they’ve had a bad experience personally (or know/have heard of someone who has), or have a knowledge base which has been completely developed off of media sound bites and scare stories.

Please try to put yourself in their shoes. All of us have fears about something that might very well be unfounded, but that doesn’t make them any less real to us. Just because their fear is not your fear doesn’t make it any less scary.

If the person you are talking to has been a victim of an attack or has a dog or family member who has been, start out by expressing your sincere condolences for this fact. Again, put yourself in their shoes.

Arm Yourself: Know your facts and be prepared. Pretend that you are in debate club at school and this the debate topic for the national championship. Would you go in completely unprepared with facts, figures and talking points that were both defensible and emotionally and intellectually resonate? I hope not.

We have a whole site of information and resources that you can use to help you prepare yourself, as do BADRAP and Animal Farm Foundation.

I recommend you pick out three to five really key talking points and/or facts that you master, and use those consistently to make your points. For example, I normally start with bringing up the fact that dogs labeled “pit bulls” are not actually a breed, but instead a grouping of dogs with similar physical characteristics. So basically, a stereotype is being applied to a group of dogs simply because of how they look. This tends to automatically break people out of their fixed mindset because it cuts down on their ability to categorize and immediately alerts them to the fact that their entire foundation for thought about pit bulls was incorrect. I move forward from there.

Really, it is important to see what works for you. What do you feel comfortable talking about? What do you feel are the most important talking points based on discussions or issues that have come up in your community?

I feel the need to add another warning here about not letting emotion interfere with your ability to provide clear and useful facts. I often find that loving pit bull guardians *think* they know a lot about the dogs and the bias, but actually what they know is that they love their dog and like to snuggle on the couch with him/her or watch them do goofy things. Which is fantastic, but not quite the type of persuasive information needed to effectively be an advocate.

Arm them: Obviously you are not going to provide a full and complete re-education to the person you are talking to in one discussion, nor would you want to. This is why I encourage you to pick around three clear and persuasive points to share with them. It gives them enough to start to re-evaluate their stance, but not too much to overwhelm them.

However, you want to be able to provide them with the ability to find out more on their own, and guess what? That’s what StubbyDog is here for. Send them to our site. We will hopefully soon be selling postcard-sized “advocacy flash cards” that you can carry around with you, or simply write our URL down on a piece of paper or the back of your business card (so they can reach back out to you as well, if needed).

I know a lot of you use us as a referral source in this way already, and we definitely encourage you to do it as much as possible. I can’t tell you the number of e-mails I get on a weekly basis from people who have been referred to our site and are grateful and excited about the change in mindset and release of long-held false fears that our site helped them accomplish.

Guess what? As great as your argument might be, as passionate as your intention, as well balanced and knowledgeable as your talking points, sometimes you won’t be able to change someone’s mind. This is just the fact of life. Please know when to walk away and then do it.

Have faith in the fact that there are a lot of minds that are ready to be changed, and there are some that just aren’t there yet. And also realize that even though it may appear that you didn’t get through at this point, your message will most likely continue to resonate in the back of their heads, just waiting for the time when the right additional stimulus triggers them to re-evaluate things.

You can’t always see the difference you make, but move forward confident in the fact that every time you chip away at some of the long cemented false stereotypes about pit bulls, we take a step forward in an overall change in public perception for these dogs.

So let’s hear from you.

What have you found to be most effective in your advocacy efforts?
What problems do you find hardest to overcome?
What makes you nervous about the process?
What makes you excited about the process?
What additional questions do you have?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Video du jour

Here is what REAL Pit Bull owners look like! They are hard-working, responsible, intelligent, caring folks. Their dogs are part of their family and every day they are defying the stereotypes!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hunger Games Star Adopts Pit Bull Puppy

Josh Hutcherson has found a new snuggle buddy.

The Hunger Games star, 19, recently adopted a 3-month-old blue pit bull, which he named Driver.

"Thanks to Josh, he now has a full stomach, warm bed and a loving owner," reads a post on Hutcherson's official Facebook fan page, which announced the news.

Driver and Hutcherson found each other when rescue group Hands Paws Hearts pulled the dog out of a municipal Los Angeles County shelter, as first reported by TooFab.com. The puppy, who has two missing toes, had been dropped off as a stray.

"He sat in the shelter for 11 days with a broken leg, and the injury was already about a month old," adoption coordinator Sasha Rose tells PEOPLE. "He'd been sitting in a great deal of pain."

On the same day Rose went to pick up Driver from the shelter, she got a call from a friend of a friend – who turned out to be Hutcherson. The actor had been looking for a pit bull, and "he wanted a rescue dog, that was a priority."

Hutcherson met the puppy before it went into surgery, and the two hit it off right away.

"Josh is very, very happy," Rose says, and Driver is "very active and playful. He doesn't complain. He's a really nice dog."

By Helin Jung

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Video du Jour

Top 5 Myths about Pit Bulls featuring Chicago Blackhawks player Bryan Bickell and fiance Amanda. For more information visit http://chicagolovespits.org.

This campaign brought to you by AdoptAPet.com, http://adoptapet.com and Found Chicago, http://foundchicago.org.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Video du Jour

You Might Have a Pit Clown If …

Take our handy test to see if your dog is a genuine, certifiable clown.

By Micaela Myers (Reprinted from StubbyDog.org)

Pit bulls and bully breeds in general are often known as the clowns of the canine world. Here’s a checklist to see if you have a purebred Pit Clown.

Check all that apply:

You know what the word “zoomies” means and have seen them in action.

Your pit bull spends at least 25 percent of his time belly up.

He or she snores louder than grandpa, grandma and Santa Claus combined.

Your beloved dog has decided that indeed he deserves the same comforts in life as you, including a recliner and your bed.

You had no idea a dog had so many butt muscles until you came home to your new pit bull for the first time and saw a full on, wiggly butt happy dance.

Your dog knows how to smile, complete with upturned lips, and you have at least one picture to prove it.

Your pit bull likes to sit on strange things, in strange ways or contort himself into funny ragdoll positions.

He or she makes you laugh at least once a day no matter how rotten you are feeling.

If you checked at least five boxes, you indeed have a genuine Pit Clown. Now go get a big slobbery kiss for being such a smart human.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Rachael Ray 'Hasn't Slept Well in Years' – Thanks to Her Dog

Are dogs the masters in some alternate universe? If that alternate universe is Rachael Ray's house, then yes. The talk show host readily admits she's at the mercy of her pit bull, Isaboo.

"She really has the run of the house," Ray tells PEOPLE Pets of her beloved pooch.

And is it any surprise? Isaboo's realm includes the kitchen.

"I make a dog-friendly version of almost everything that we make for dinner, so she gets a lot of home-cooked food," says the celebrity chef. "She likes barley or orzo with chicken stock, carrots and parsley. She likes parsley a lot."

The beloved pooch extends her rule all the way to the bed – the one inhabited by humans.

"We have a queen-size bed and the dog sleeps in the middle," Ray says. "[My husband] John and I are sort of these little quotation marks on either corner.

"Isaboo starts out under [the covers], she gets too hot, then she comes back over," she adds. "We haven't slept well in six years."

In more ways than one, Isaboo's adorable takeover makes her seem like she could be one of Ray's offspring. She even watches animated movies.

"She has a mad crush on John Travolta in Bolt," Ray says. "You put Bolt on and she just stares at the television. She loves every moment of it. It's her hidden pleasure."

Still, there's one line that Ray refuses to let Isaboo cross. "She eats out of a dog bowl," Ray assures. "We're not insane!"

By Megan O'Neill

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Video du Jour

Ellen welcomed Tia Torres to the show to talk about her amazing work at the Villalobos Rescue Center. She rescues pit bulls from terrible situations, and rehabilitates them.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

You Have So Many Pit Bulls!

Of the four to five million dogs and cats euthanized in our country's shelter system it is estimated that one million of those animals are dogs labeled pit bulls. Shelter's report anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of their admissions arepit bull type dogs and because of the negative image, they often are at the shelter longer because many people are scared.

If I didn't know anything about dogs beyond what I read and hear in the news, I would be afraid, too. Fortunately, for me, I have worked with, and been around hundreds of pit bulls, including dogs rescued from the Michael Vick property.

I've been around pits I know casually and socially and around hundreds of strange dogs at pit bull awareness events. Pit bulls are dogs; they have the capacity for love and forgiveness. They appreciate human praise, they want to receive affection. So, why are there so many pit bulls?

The phrase conjures up different images. For many that image is one of the quintessential family dog; loyal, friendly, athletic, and approaches life with a vim and vigor that reminds so many of us of a fun loving childhood. For others, this image tends to portray one of toughness, and 'cool' machismo.

It is the former that has been seen in pop culture to the extent that one artist even adopted the phrase as his own moniker. Part of what creates this image is the myth of a dog born with bad blood, predisposed to violence. For those of us in the animal life saving business, this image is the toughest challenge going and has been for decades.

Compounding the negative image is an erroneous interpretation of breed identification. Being labeled as a 'pit bull' breed has become a life threatening stigma for shelter dogs.

The myths and stories have enveloped so many dogs that the "pit bull" has become a generic term for any dog that shares similar physical characteristics. These are a short coat, blocky head, and a muscular body. In 2009 Dr. Victoria Voith published a study in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine that suggests only about 12 percent of shelter professionals can visually identify a dog agreeable to DNA analysis. The term "pit bull" actually can encompass over 20 breeds of dogs not counting all of the mixed breeds.

Sadly, they are often the dog of choice for criminals. These dogs are victims of the worst sort of abuse: dogfighting. Fighting is something they are forced to do, not something they are. For years the victims of dogfighting were routinely put down. They were deemed to be too aggressive by nature, game stock. The rescue of the Vick dogs has put this misguided notion to bed.

In the winter of 2008 I worked at a large animal welfare organization that had just received custody of 22 of Michael Vick's dogs. The case made headlines nationwide. These dogs were "pit bulls" and according to media reports, and statements made by some animal protection organizations, were of the worst sort. I never really believed the hype that was going around about pit bulls, but the intensity of the headlines was stark and I clearly remember having doubts and wondering if the statements from some of the largest animal protection organizations might actually be true. Today, at least six of the Vick dogs that were saved have become therapy dogs. Many have been adopted into multi-pet homes.

WHAM 13 in Rochester, NY published a story recently that helps answer the question of why there are so many pit bulls. In many areas of the country there are a group of substandard owners looking for a menacing status symbol and perhaps a few quick bucks. The breeding is rampant and unregulated. In areas that are under economic hardship, the dogs are running loose and filling many shelters faster than homes can be found, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of innocent dogs.

What might help to solve the issue is if more families looking to add a dog to their home took a second look at pit bulls and took the time to meet them as individuals with their own unique personalities. It would go a long way to help save lives. Dogs teach us so much and the pit bull issue teaches us even more about discrimination, judgment, acceptance, individuality, and what unconditional love really means. You don't have to take my word for this. Come to the shelter and meet a pit bull.

By Ed Fritz, Executive Director of the Southampton Animal Shelter

Protect the Pitties from the BSL Laws that are Killing Them

The American Dog reports

Prejudice, hatred, racism, apartheid, bigotry, segregation, and breed discrimination all describe the racial profiling of Pit Bulls in this country. The sensational media reports of Pit Bulls attacking children, adults, and other dogs create mass hysteria and fear of this breed, when truth be told the Pit Bull is actually a great family dog that loves children. Since this athletic, loyal breed is the chosen dog of gang bangers, drug dealers, and criminals, a once highly respected dog has now taken a bad rap along with those unsavory members of our society.

It is not fair to label one breed as dangerous when all dogs bite, not just Pit Bulls, and it doesn't matter how small or how big a dog is, they all bite, period. In fact, there are far more greater hazards to be afraid of. Dr. Paula Terifaj, who owns a Pittie, says, " I would feel safe if you could keep drunk drivers off the streets, stop people from running red lights, and ticket all drivers that can't remember we have speed limits. These irresponsible people put my life at risk every day. I would also feel a lot safer if gang bangers did not have guns and terrorists did not hate Americans," she continues. "Let's take away their guns, bombs, and secret weapons. Just think how many thousands of innocent lives we could save! And while we are making our neighborhoods safe again, could you please hunt down and lock up all the pedophiles, rapists, and serial killers. Who needs these human predators lurking around? Fatal dog attacks are rare. More people have been struck and killed by lightning."
Because of the frenzied panic incited by the media towards this breed, or any dog mixed with Pit Bull, there are over 500 U.S. cities that have now enacted breed-specific legislation (BSL) against Pit Bulls. Colorado is one of the worst states, with five cities (Denver, Aurora, Castle Rock, Fort Lupton, and Commerce City) banning all Pit Bulls outright. Iowa has allowed eleven of its cities to ban the breed, but Ohio and Kansas are tied for the absolute worst, with Ohio slaughtering pits in 24 of its cities and Kansas doing the same in 25 of its cities. It's nothing short of an abomination.

Denver attorney Gabriela Sandoval explains, "I think it's safe to say that you already know that BSL is ineffective in carrying out the purpose for which these laws are enacted. BSL is impulsive and shortsighted. It provides a false sense of security to those who fail to understand or recognize the impact these laws have on well-behaved dogs (incarceration, physical and psychological trauma, exile, death) and responsible dog guardians (unjust punishment, forceful relinquishment of companion, physical or psychological trauma). BSL also fails to address the danger that an untrained or improperly trained dog"”of any breed"”may present to others."
Brent Toellner, who runs the KC Dog Blog, has a lot to say about the web site www.dogsbite.org. This site sensationalizes all the tabloid journalism regarding dog bites and tries to encourage BSL in every city. Make sure to read Brent's blog dated March 27, 2010: (http://www.btoellner.typepad.com/kcdogblog/2010/03/thetruth-behind-dogsbiteorg.html).

Another group advocating for Pit Bulls and trying to save America's dog is Roverlution (www.roverlution.org), which tells us they are "Fighting for your freedom to keep your dog." If you visit Roverlution's Web site you'll learn more about this excellent group that "support[s] the right of dog owners to provide homes for their dogs without fear of discrimination or reprisal." According to Roverlution, "BSL which specifically is related to breed-specific legislation by any and all government entities, breed-specific policies by insurance companies, breed-specific policies by homeowners' associations, and breed-specific policies made by privately held or publicly held companies." The site goes on to report that "these discriminatory laws and practices have tragically resulted in the forced abandonment and unnecessary killing of non-aggressive dogs; a practice which shows complete disregard for the respected human-canine bond and denigrates the status of cherished animal companions to the level of pests in need of extermination."

Don't let your city be next. Find out if your city council members are targeting Pit Bulls and get involved. Attend city council meetings if BSL is being considered. Get BSL alerts in your city and join the statewide database (www.understand-a-bull.com/BSLcontacts. htm). Promote responsible dog ownership. You can also go to page 53 in this issue and join or support one of the many Pit Bull advocacy groups listed.