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So You Think You Know a Pit Bull Person?

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Jessica Biel and her Pit Bull

by Michael Mountain – Founder, Best Friends Animal Society and The Stubby Dog Project

People are watching as the gang approaches from down the street. There are about 10 of them, each tethered to a Pit Bull, all in uniform and on a mission.

The location is downtown San Diego. The “gang” is a group of young Southern California women who call themselves “Pretties with Pitties.” And their uniform is a hot pink T-shirt. The dogs are shelter pets sporting vests that say “Adopt me, I love to cuddle.”

“A lot of people have the perception that Pit Bulls are really for masculine guys and tough guys,” said Kerri Ewing, co-founder of Pretties with Pitties. “We wanted to show people that that’s not the case. They are great dogs for anybody.”

Pit Bulls are warm, friendly, family dogs and not at all like the caricatures that have been portrayed as in recent years. Ewing, a graphic designer and social media consultant, is about as far from the stereotype of a Pit Bull person as you can get.

Ewing, a foster mom to rescued Pit Bulls, has just placed Harry Potter in a great new home. Harry was found abandoned and starving near the Mexico border.

“He refused to believe he was anything but a lap dog,” she said.

In fact, Pit Bulls are as much an “everyone dog” today as they were 50 years ago when they were known as “America’s family pet” and, in the UK, as nanny dogs. And while Labradors and Goldens have been claiming that particular title more in recent years, Pit Bull people span the social spectrum, too. Here are some examples of that.

Won over by Pit Bull puppy

At her Hudson Valley estate outside of New York City, Marilyn Cohen is checking on lunch. That would be lunch for China, her 11-year-old Pit Bull who has cancer and is on a special diet prepared by the chef. Cohen, after all, is in the business of good food – she owns two top-rated restaurants in Manhattan. So only the best is good enough for China.
China is Cohen’s second Pit Bull.

“My twin sons were teenagers on vacation in Florida 11 years ago when they saw this Pit Bull puppy on the beach,” she said. “One of them decided they had to bring the pup home, and he paid his brother to drive her back to New York. That way, he could come home a day later and wouldn’t have to have me yelling at him. Of course, I fell in love with the puppy on the spot. We called him Morgan.”

When Morgan came down with lymphoma some years later, Cohen became obsessed with finding a cure – anything that would save Morgan or even just give him a little more time. “I almost gave up my businesses taking him from one vet to another. My dentist told me ‘You’re crazy; you could have bought a condo for the amount you’ve spent on that dog.’ But not long after that he got a dog himself and admitted that ‘I would have spent any amount on that dog. They’re family.’ ”

Cohen’s husband, Dan, is an Israeli film director, who’s worked mainly in Germany and is best known in the United States for his 1978 movie Madman, starring Sigourney Weaver. Today, he’s at work on a novel that tells a fictionalized version of the family’s Pit Bulls, which he’s also planning on making into a movie.

Does your State Senator have a Pit Bull? Connecticut’s does.

Equally passionate, and a staunch member of the unofficial community of Pit Bull people all across the country is State Senator Bob Duff of Connecticut. “My family and I have adopted two abandoned Pit Bulls, welcoming them into a home with two small children without fear. We’re proud and lucky to have them in our lives,” he said.

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Connecticut state senator Bob Duff’s family includes a Pit Bull

Don’t judge a book by its cover!

Christine Craig grew up in Miami where her parents had emigrated from Haiti in the 1960s. She recently received her MBA, and has been in marketing for several years.

“I couldn’t have told you what a Pit Bull was,” she said. But she adopted one of the puppies after her ex-boyfriend’s Pit Bull had gotten together with the Rottweiler across the street.

“I’ve had Diva nine years. I don’t think of her as being a big dog like a Rottie or a German Shepherd,” Craig said. “But people still seem surprised that I have a Pit Bull. I think they see me as a rather demure person who should have a dog who fits in my purse!”

Craig thinks that most people assume that Pit Bulls are a man’s dog. “Their perception of the dog doesn’t match their perception of my personality. But that just means they don’t know Pits!” she said.

In the city of sin

Across the country in Las Vegas, Tino Sanchez believes that most people in his part of the country really do understand Pit Bulls. He says they know that most of the fear of Pit Bulls is fostered almost entirely by the media’s negative portrayals.

Sanchez, a disc jockey, is a regular volunteer at the city animal shelter, and helps get the dogs ready for new homes. Right now he has five Pit Bulls at home, two of whom are certified therapy dogs.

“Yes, I get weird looks sometimes when I take them all out for a walk,” he said, “but nothing like as much as I get positive reactions. People are always coming up to me asking ‘Why do these dogs have such a bad rap when they’re such good dogs?’”

Rags and Riches

At either end of the economic spectrum you’ll find Gary Michelson, a California, Forbes 400 billionaire and the spinal surgeon who invented spinal implants, and David Love, a homeless man in Brookings, a small town on the Oregon coast.

As a dog lover and, especially, a Pit Bull lover, Michelson is using much of his wealth to help animals, offering $25 million to the first inventor of a safe and effective injectable sterilant for cats and dogs, and another $50 million to support the research and development of the product. His goal is to replace spay/neuter surgery, which is comparatively expensive and time-consuming, and so to reduce the numbers of unwanted, homeless dogs and cats coming into shelters.

In a different way, Love also strives to do the right thing for the world around him. On any given day, he can be found checking on his friend, Buddy, another homeless man, who, like him, gets around in a wheelchair.

Buddy lives more than two miles away. But it’s an easy ride for Love.

“Kitty is my motor,” he said with a grin, referring to the Pit Bull he adopted and who has become not only his best friend but also his official chauffeur and unofficial service and therapy dog. “I’d always been told they were bad dogs, but it’s all in how you teach them. She’s a very gentle dog and she’s great with kids.”

Love has several medical problems, and Kitty has become his lifeline, who enjoys her daily exercise pulling the wheelchair around town.

“She seems to know I’m going to have a seizure before I do,” Love said. When that happens, Kitty takes over, putting her head on his legs and looking at him. “She blocks me from going anywhere!”

Obama’s classmate at Harvard

During the week, David Isaacs is a media entrepreneur, but he often takes time out over the weekend to help find homes for homeless pets. One Saturday morning, he was volunteering for a local rescue group at a table outside a pet supply store on the Upper West Side of New York City. One of the dogs the group was hoping to find a home for was a sad-looking Pit Bull.

“Molly was cowering under a table, so I offered to take her for a walk,” Isaacs said. “I took her for a stroll in NYC’s Central Park. She had a long scar along her back, and she was just terrified, grazing against the wall next to the footpath. I sat down with her, hoping to calm her down a bit. Moments later, she crawled into my lap, curled up and went to sleep.” Isaacs took her home and she’s been part of the family ever since.

Isaacs studied law at Harvard and then at the Harvard Law School, where he was in the same class as Barack Obama. Today he lives with his wife and young daughter in Santa Monica, Calif.

“When we had our baby, a number of people in my wife’s family were concerned,” Isaacs said. “I told them about how in England Pit Bulls used to be known as nanny dogs. But it was soon clear that my daughter could poke Molly, pull her, even ride on her, and Molly just loved her.”

Isaacs said Molly is also the single greatest lover of cats. “The only risk to the cat is that Molly will suck her in through her nostrils when she gets up close to sniff them!”

So who’s a Pit Bull person?

From presidents (Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson) to pop stars (Pink, Madonna and Usher); TV personalities (Jon Stewart, Cesar Millan, Rachel Ray and Dr. Phil) to athletes (Shaquille O’Neal, Serena Williams, Anthony Kim and Amare Stoudemir); and actors (Jessica Biel, Michael J. Fox, Jamie Foxx and Brad Pitt) to legends (Helen Keller, Thomas Edison and Humphrey Bogart), Pit Bulls are the beloved pets of people of every kind.

So, you think you know a Pit Bull person? It’s easy; they’re really no different from anyone else!

This article first appeared here on zoenature.org. & Cross-posted at DogTime


Michael Mountain is one of the founders of Best Friends Animal Society, the nation’s largest animal sanctuary and one of the pioneers of the no-kill movement for homeless pets. As president of Best Friends and editor of Best Friends magazine, he helped to build grassroots adoption and spay/neuter programs all over the country before stepping down in 2008. He currently is the editor and co-founder of Zoe — a new online magazine for people who care about animals, nature and the environment — and the co-founder of StubbyDog, which is working to change public perceptions of Pit Bulls.

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May 13, 2011 Posted by | Adopt Just One More Pet, animal behavior, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, Animal Rescues, animals, Dogs, Fostering and Rescue, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, NO KILL NATION, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets, Political Change, responsible pet ownership, Stop Animal Cruelty, Stop Euthenization, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Doomed Dogs Get On The Rescue Wagon to Other Shelters

Shelter-animal relocations, known as “transfers,” have been quietly going on for years on a fairly small scale. But the numbers are escalating as growing legions of devoted rescuers organize ever-larger convoys; high-kill shelters initiate partnerships with faraway shelters that have space to accept out-of-luck animals; and large pet-advocacy groups develop strategies to increase the number of pets that are moved and saved every month.

“It’s a growing and increasingly important area in the animal protection field,” says Cory Smith of the Humane Society of the United States, which has developed guidelines to help transporters.

Road to a second chance

PetSmart Charities’ Rescue Waggin’ is the volume leader in moving pets from shelters where there’s no chance they’ll be adopted to shelters where they’re almost certain to get new homes quickly.

Its four transport trucks carry dogs and puppies from shelters mostly in the Midwest and South (92,000 animals are euthanized annually in Louisiana shelters alone, Smith says) to shelters primarily in the North and Northeast, where pet owners have long sterilized their pets and overpopulation has largely been brought under control.

In four years, Rescue Waggin’ has transported more than 25,000 dogs for placement in new homes; officials expect to cover 400,000 miles this year and move 8,000 to 10,000 dogs and puppies. “They’re generally adopted within three days of reaching the receiving shelter,” says Kimberly Noetzel of PetSmart Charities.

In Los Angeles, Pup My Ride has, in less than two years, saved more than 1,000 small dogs that were “red-tagged,” or scheduled to be put down. Animal lovers looked across state lines and took advantage of a supply-and-demand reality.

“There is a big surplus of small dogs in L.A.,” says Elizabeth Oreck of Best Friends Animal Society, which runs the volunteer transport program. “They’re killing them by the thousands. But not very far away, there are communities where shelters have waiting lists for small dogs of every age, color, breed and mix.”

So every 10 to 14 days, 20 to 40 lucky dogs that weigh 30 pounds or less are driven to shelters in Arizona or Utah that have a demand for small dogs. “They are adopted in a matter of days,” Oreck says.

On the opposite coast, Mitchell County Animal Rescue in North Carolina and the Potter League for Animals in Middletown, R.I., formed a partnership in 2004 similar to many that are now cropping up.

The Rhode Island shelter, which often has a waiting list of up to 75 for puppies and small dogs, has received 502 dogs and puppies from the overcrowded shelter nearly 900 miles away. Because of the program, says Potter League’s Christie Smith, the community can “get great puppies here” rather than “fueling puppy mills” by buying them at pet stores.

Still, though transfers are saving some of the estimated 4 million animals euthanized in shelters every year, they’re not without controversy. Some people worry that high-kill communities have less motivation to consider spay/neuter programs if pets are exported and the specter of an 85% kill rate no longer hovers. They also worry that the receiving shelters, in their zeal to help, may lessen adoption chances for pets from their own communities.

Strict parameters necessary

“Transfers aren’t a be-all-end-all,” Smith acknowledges. They’re a reasonable adjunct to other programs such as sterilization, she says, adding that many experts believe such initiatives aren’t undermined by exporting unwanted pets if the “messaging to the community” is done properly. Also, she says, officials at both ends must establish strict parameters.

Transfer proponents say it’s unfair to make animals suffer simply because some areas haven’t fully addressed overpopulation. “If someone is drowning, you don’t just stand there and criticize their inability to swim,” says JoAnne Yohannan of North Shore Animal League America in Port Washington, N.Y., a pet-transfer pioneer that began receiving animals in the 1990s through partnerships with high-kill groups, most of them in the South. “There are animals that are dying, and there are families here who want them.”

North Shore will receive about 7,500 dogs and puppies this year from other states.

By Sharon L. Peters, Special for USA TODAY

rescue-mobileThe North Shore Animal League America van sits at the Indianapolis Animal Care & Control during a Tour For Life (TFL) adoption event.

North Shore, the no-kill shelter in Port Washington, N.Y., helps hundreds of pets get new homes every spring with its one-month TFL.

Two mobile units have visited 23 cities from Redding, Calif., to Parma, Ohio, in the past four weeks during a 25-stop, long-haul tour that wraps up Saturday.

No animals are transported from one state to another. Instead, huge, festive local pet adoption events are organized around the arrival of the hard-to-miss units that “carry the message of adoption,” says North Shore’s Joanne Yohannan.

The TFL program was launched in 2001 with four shelters and 50 adoptions. It has evolved to two vehicles that ply two different routes during March and April, attracting thousands at some stops.

In San Antonio this month, 21 rescue groups converged for TFL day and 70 pets were adopted, most of them with special needs, Yohannan says. In Nashville, six groups found homes for 145 animals, and organizers there so cherish TFL’s annual visits that they presented the unit driver a guitar autographed by country star George Strait.

When the two $200,000 units that allow pets to be showcased in a walk-though environment return to New York, they will have covered more than 11,000 miles and incurred more than $16,000 in expenses (covered by sponsor Purina). About 800 shelter pets will have gone to new homes.

Related Articles:  Where there is a will…

Shelters all over the country, but especially in states with high foreclosures and high unemployment, are bursting at the seams.  So if you have the room in your home and the love in your heart… adopt just one more pet and save a life.

Do I Go Home Today?
by Sandi Thompson

My family brought me home
cradled in their arms.
They cuddled me and smiled at me,
and said I was full of charm.

They played with me and laughed with me.
They showered me with toys.
I sure do love my family,
especially the girls and boys.

The children loved to feed me,
they gave me special treats.
They even let me sleep with them — 
all snuggled in the sheets.

I used to go for walks,
often several times a day.
They even fought to hold the leash, 
I’m very proud to say.

They used to laugh and praise me,
when I played with that old shoe.
But I didn’t know the difference
between the old ones and the new.

The kids and I would grab a rag,
for hours we would tug.
So I thought I did the right thing
when I chewed the bedroom rug.

They said that I was out of control,
and would have to live outside.
This I did not understand,
although I tried and tried.

The walks stopped, one by one;
they said they hadn’t time.
I wish that I could change things,
I wish I knew my crime.

My life became so lonely,
in the backyard on a chain.
I barked and barked all day long,
to keep from going insane.

So they brought me to the shelter,
but were embarrassed to say why.
They said I caused an allergy,
and then kissed me goodbye.

If I’d only had some classes,
as a little pup.
I wouldn’t have been so hard to handle
when I was all grown up.

“You only have one day left,”
I heard the worker say.
Does this mean a second chance?
Do I go home today?

April 24, 2009 Posted by | Animal Abandonement, Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Just One More Pet, Pets, responsible pet ownership, Stop Animal Cruelty, Stop Euthenization, Success Stories, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Humane Society of the U.S. finally changes its policy on fighting dogs

 

Careful – you might get cuddled to death by this sweetie    Photo: BestFriends.org 

In a reversal of their decades-old stance, the Humane Society of the United States has reportedly decided on a new interim policy that all dogs seized from fighting operations should now be evaluated for their suitability for adoption on a case-by-case basis.  This is a reversal of longstanding HSUS policy that any dog impounded from a fighting situation was inherently too dangerous to be safely placed in a home and should therefore be killed by authorities as soon as legally permissible.

[Author’s note: Though it is common practice to refer to such government-sanctioned killings of animals as “euthanasia,” the Merriam-Webster definition of euthanasia is “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy,” hence the term cannot truthfully be used to describe the killing of healthy animals who have not yet been determined to be irreversibly aggressive.]


Former Vick fighting dog Leo takes his job as a therapy dog very seriously  Photo: msnbc.com

The announcement of this change in policy came from the Best Friends Animal Society website, and has yet to appear on the HSUS website as of this writing.  A call to the Washington office of the HSUS was not returned.

The reversal comes in the wake of the recent killing of 146 pit bulls who were seized at or born after a raid on a fighting dog operation in Wilkes County, North Carolina.  Seventy of the dogs killed were puppies; nineteen of whom were born after the seizure had taken place.  The killings were ordered by Superior Court Judge Ed Wilson Jr. after testimony from local animal control officials and two representatives of the HSUS.  According the Best Friends website, Judge Wilson ordered that the dogs be killed “without evaluation to determine suitability for placement.”

Scarred ex-fighter, now therapy dog Hector snuggles with new mom Leslie Nuccio  Photo: Eric Risberg/AP

Prior to this incident, the Humane Society of the United States’ policy on fighting dogs came under public fire during the Michael Vick case, when HSUS representatives advocated the killing of all dogs seized from Vick’s “Bad Newz Kennels.”  Subsequent case-by-case evaluations ordered by Judge Henry Hudson revealed that only one dog was too aggressive to be safely placed with a rescue.  That dog was euthanized, another was euthanized due to severe health problems, and the rest were sent to rescues around the country.  Subsequently at least two of these dogs, Leo and Hector, who were considered experienced fighters due to their scars, have gone on to become therapy dogs who visit and comfort patients in hospitals.

I would like to note that I am a supporter of the Humane Society of the United States.  They have done unsurpassed work over decades to increase public awareness of cruelty to animals, including exposing the issue of puppy mills; their groundbreaking work in helping to pass Prop. 2 in California, which is an important first step in decreasing cruel farming practices; and their unparalleled work in exposing shocking cruelty to downed dairy cows headed for slaughter at the now-defunct Hallmark/Westland meat packing company, which led to the nation’s largest-ever beef recall. 

Their stance on fighting dogs, however, has been uncharacteristically rigid and inhumane and I am extremely glad that although it took the senseless, indiscriminate deaths of 146 dogs, HSUS is starting to reexamine their policy in this matter and the injustice of judging and condemning any creature without knowing them personally.

By:  Kate Woodviolet

Source:  Examiner.com – LA Pet Rescue Examiner

Posted By:  Ask Marion – Just One More Pet

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Dogtown

March 21, 2009 Posted by | Animal Rescues, Just One More Pet, Pets, Political Change, Stop Euthenization, Success Stories | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments