Victor

Last week I went to the animal shelter I volunteer at and was meant with tragic news. A dog that had been with us for over a year had died some time during the night. The news was devastating, but not shocking. Victor had been going through medical issues for a while. The shelter had been asking volunteers for months if anyone would take him in an a permanent foster so that he could live out whatever life he had left in the comfort of a home. The problem was that Victor needed to be in a home with no other pets. Most volunteers, like myself, have pets at home.

It was sad to watch Victor spend his days in a loud and crowded shelter. It’s a stressing place to be. No place for any dog, let alone a sick, older guy. He was nine. He had come to the shelter when he was eight. The circumstances to how he ended up with us are not fair at all. Victor had been living a good life with his owner on property the owner managed. Then a new landlord came in, took one look at Victor (an American Bulldog) and said that dog’s got to go. Suddenly Victor found himself in a shelter where he stayed until the day he died.

Victor didn’t bite anyone. He didn’t attack anyone. He did no harm. Yet, still he got locked up. That’s what a shelter is to a dog. Even shelters like mine, who treat their animals with loving care and give them all the medical attention they need, are still prisons to these dogs. Shelters are not supposed to be permanent homes, but way too often, too many dogs die there. Either naturally due to medical/age reasons. Or by euthanasia because there is juts not enough space for all of them.

But there would be if more people got involved to help with this overpopulation epidemic this country has. I saw a picture on social media last week of a line of people waiting to foster dogs before hurricane Florence came. My first thought was, where are all these people when local shelters and animals controls have to kill dogs for lack of room? Why is the thought of a dog dying in a hurricane so much worse than a dogs getting a needle or the gas chamber that people flocked to line up to take these dogs in? I’m glad they did, but where are they all the other times a dog’s life is in danger, which is every day?

Maybe because there’s more hoopla with a hurricane. People feel like they’re doing a bigger deed when they foster or adopt a “hurricane dog” as opposed to just a regular dog from the local shelter. I remember when Hurricane Harvey happened and many local shelters, including my own, took in many of those dogs left abandoned and people came out in droves to help out.

Again, it’s great that they do that, but where are they when dogs are killed every single day? It is beyond frustrating. You’re not a bigger hero when you save a hurricane dog as opposed to a dog sitting in a kennel with the clock ticking against it. Most dogs run out of time. Maybe shelters have to be more vocal about what will happen to these dogs if they don’t get out. The shelter I volunteer at is no-kill. I have that luxury of knowing the dogs I come to love, like I did Victor, will get all the time they need to find a home. But they’re still racing against the clock because the older a dog gets, the less likely a person will adopt them. And as in Victor’s case, sometimes your health takes you before you find a home.

Victor deserved better than taking his last breath alone in a kennel. He deserved to be in a comfy bed or snuggled on the couch with his human who loved him, but he was cruelly taken away from his human. He just wanted a home with a bed and lots of hugs and kisses.These breed-specific-laws and breed discrimination has to end. Victor wasn’t a danger to anyone. He was a shelter favorite.

Victor was a goofy, gentle, and playful dog, despite the pain his condition put him through. Make no mistake, Victor was loved where he was. It’s hard seeing his kennel empty and will be even harder to see his kennel with another dog in it because for over a year I have been used to seeing his beautiful face. Miss you. Love you.

If you’re looking for a pet, please visit your local shelter. Please don’t go to breeders or pet stores while shelter animals die.

 

 

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Time to End BSL. It’s Discrimination.

In December, 2010 I adopted a dog named, Phil.  The same dog who is asleep right now in a tangled mess of sheets in my bed. The same dog I have been obsessed with since the day I brought him home. He is a pit/lab mix and I didn’t even consider the “pit” part of him when I saw him on Pet Harbor and decided to drive to Animal Control to visit him. I love Labradors. It was the Lab in him that caught my eye, but the pit bull mix part didn’t deter me in anyway because I had no preconceived notions about pit bulls. I guess I wasn’t paying much attention to mainstream media news that love to portray pit bulls as inherently mean and aggressive dogs who want to do nothing but tear your limbs apart.

With all dogs come the possibility of a bite if the dog is mistreated, teased, or trained to be aggressive. And we know that pit bulls are the most abused breed out there. Every day I am so grateful that I didn’t let ignorance prevent me from bringing Phil home. But when I ask myself if my decision would have been different if I’d been paying a little more attention to the negative portrayal of pit bulls in the news headlines, and I wonder if Phil would be sleeping peacefully in my bed right now. I’m not sure. And that scares the hell out of me because Phil had already been with Animal Care and Control for a couple months by the time I got to him.

In fact, when I brought him in for his veterinary check-up shortly after adopting him, the Dr. told me she was surprised he was kept that long. I was crushed. Over-crowded kill shelters don’t give dogs a lot of time to find homes. And most of these shelters, especially city shelters where I found Phil, seem to be filled with mostly pit bulls, a breed not everyone is willing to bring home. (But I know from experience they are missing out on a great breed of dog.)

As a pit bull owner, I am really concerned about Breed Specific Legislation. BSL does nothing but make it harder for dogs like Phil to find homes. I didn’t know about BSL when I brought Phil home. I didn’t know there could have been external factors preventing me from having Phil as a pet, a companion. Phil has been an amazingly loving dog to me for six amazing years and it infuriates me to think that some city ban, or insurance policy, or association could have told me Phil wasn’t allowed to stay with me.

But yet, some people have to adhere to ordinances placed by people who have never known a pit bull personally (I am sure of this because to know a pit bull is to love a pit bull) and as a result, great dogs never make it out of shelters alive.

People who support BSL believe it is an effective way to prevent dog attacks by basically profiling and discriminating against a specific breed. Even though that “specific breed” has no “specific look” because it includes over five different breeds, including mixes, the legislation continues to ban dogs whether that particular dogs is a danger to society or not.

The term “pit bull” is actually an umbrella reference to include up to five different breed of dogs and mixes. There is no set rule to determine if a dog is actually a pit bull. If a dog looks strong and has a big head, it most likely will be deemed a pit bull, thus decreasing the odds that dog will find a home, despite how sweet and loving the dog may be, and also puts the dog at risk of being a victim of BSL.

BSL wreaks of mistaken identity and unfair judgement that cost innocent dogs their lives. Phil doesn’t know that being part pit bull means he’s supposed to be mean because all he wants to do is cuddle with his blankies and give sloppy kisses.

If the town I live in passed BSL they could legally force me to muzzle my dog any time he is in public despite the face that he has never bitten anyone as long for as I’ve had him.

If you’re interested in learning more about BSL and why it’s not effective, please visit the link below.

http://www.realpitbull.com/laws.html

And if you’re looking for a pet, please visit your local shelter or Animal Control. Please don’t be put off if your shelter has an influx of pit bulls because despite being given the same generic breed name, all of these dogs are so different in looks and personalities.

 

My baby taking an afternoon nap in his mama’s bed

Don’t Bully My Breed

I got into an argument today with a stranger on Twitter about BSL – Breed Specific Legislation. BSL is legislation cities can pass directly targeting a specific breed of dog. Some ordinances completely ban a breed from an entire city (Denver and Miami has done this).

The person I was exchanging words with was in support of banning pit bulls (which technically isn’t a breed).  “Pit Bull” is commonly used as an umbrella term for dogs with boxy-shaped heads, are stocky, appear strong in stature, and, of course, look “mean.” The term “pit bull” generally covers a few types of breeds: American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Bulldog, and Bull Terrier.

If found as strays, or rescued from abusive and neglectful situations, these dogs will be categorized as “pit bulls” and with it, in some situations, a death sentence will be imposed upon them because not many people, it seems, are willing to bring home a dog labelled “pit bull.” Most of these dogs will never leave the shelter they are dropped off at alive. 

BSL is another obstacle these already abused and misunderstood dogs have to endure when trying to find a home. At the local shelter I volunteer at  there was a pit/lab mix named Sable. She was a loving dog who wanted nothing more than to have her belly rubbed and to play with a hose. A family wanted to take her home, but found out their home association didn’t allow pit bulls. Sable would have to wait nine more months before she would finally leave the shelter.

But while she was there, I’d hear other volunteers ask, as they’d pet Sable through the cage with her body pressed against the bars, savoring the attention, “Why are you still here? You’re so adorable. Why are you still here?”

I remember wanting to yell, “Because she’s a fucking pit bull! And people are afraid of pit bulls no matter how sweet they are!”

Of course, I didn’t yell that. I didn’t say anything. I walked away, pissed that there is yet one more obstacle these poor dogs have to fight to find a home. Sable was forced to spend her days in a kennel instead of a home because of BSL. And that isn’t fair or right.

I was arguing with this person on Twitter that BSL kills pit bulls because it makes it harder for them to find homes. When pit bulls don’t find homes, they die. My shelter is a no kill-shelter, but if it wasn’t, Sable would have been put-down. Killed. And she deserved to live. They all do. Thankfully, Sable did find a home, but most are not so lucky.

To me, BSL is straight-up discrimination. We are blaming not just one breed of dog for the aggressive actions of a few dogs, who were made to be mean, but five breeds. How can that be right? I’m always leery of media reports of pit bull attacks because how do they know for sure it was a pit bull? Since “pit bull” is already categorized to include five breeds, throw in mixes, and it’s nearly impossible to know for sure the exact breed of dog.

The probability is that the media doesn’t know for sure the dog is a pit bull. But that doesn’t stop the headlines that target pit bulls, because those headlines sell newspapers. Those headlines get people’s attention more than “Some Type of Mix Dog Attacks Man on Train!”

I think pet owners should be held accountable for what their animals do. A dog doesn’t just maul a person out of the blue. There are signs of aggression before that happens, and I’d bet everything I have that it was the owners who made those dogs that way.

I adopted a pit bull mix. I didn’t have to train him to be the sweetheart that he is. He came to me that way. Dogs labelled “pit bulls” are not born mean. They are loving dogs who deserve to live. They deserve homes.

If the town you live in is considering BSL or currently has BSL, please do all you can to stop or end it.  It is wrong. And it kills. These dogs need more people to advocate for them. They don’t need any more adversaries. They already have enough of those.  If you can, adopt a pit. Give a “pit bull” a chance. I can say from experience that you won’t be sorry.

 

Sable, the chocolate lab/pit mix and my baby, Phil. Two “pit bulls” who found loving homes. I wish they all do.

Save Two Lives. Adopt a Shelter Dog.

When I adopted my dog, Phil, almost five years ago, I didn’t have a specific breed in mind during my search, (although I’ve always had an affinity for Labradors, all labs, Black, Chocolate, and Yellow). So, it was no surprise when I went scouring the Internet for shelter dogs, and my eyes fell upon a beautiful yellow lab mix, that I was instantly smitten and knew he was meant to be my baby.

The fact that Phil’s other breed was pit-bull (please note, pit-bull is technically not a breed, but a broad generalization to include dogs like, American pit-bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, and Staffordshire bull terriers, and other terriers) didn’t even factor into my decision to truck down to the shelter and pick up my new bundle of joy.

Phil being part pit-bull didn’t deter me from adopting him, but it also didn’t play a role in my choosing him, either. I wasn’t making a stance of any kind. It wasn’t a conscious decision to rescue him because of his breed. I wasn’t aware most pit-bulls never make it out of shelters alive.

I didn’t know, at the time, that pit-bulls were the most euthanized dogs in the country. I didn’t know much about pit-bulls, apart from what I had heard in the news every now and then. But surely one can not reasonably judge an entire breed over the actions of only a few. (And the actions of those few were without a doubt instigated by neglectful and abusive human beings.)

But I was wrong.

I was ignorant at the time of the very real, and very strong prejudice against pit-bulls. I didn’t know, the day I took Phil home with me, the powerful stigma attached to this wonderfully loving dog.

According to a 2012 article by Save a Life Harbor Animal Shelter, in Los Angeles alone, two hundred pit-bulls are killed each day. ASPCA estimates that 3.9 million dogs (all breed of dogs) end up in U.S shelters every year, with only 35% of those getting adopted, and 31% being euthanized.

Latest data from ANIMAL PEOPLE shows that pit-bulls make up 60% of dogs euthanized every year. Easily over a million adoptable pit-bulls are killed each year because of ignorance, prejudices, insurance refusal to cover pit-bulls, and discriminatory bans on the breed.

This is a horrible shame.

All that I didn’t know about the unfair treatment toward pit-bulls, before I adopted Phil, that I know now, has made me a huge advocate for pit-bulls. I fight for this breed because I have to. I wasn’t looking for this job, and I didn’t ask for it, but I’ve turned out to be pretty damn good at it.

puppymill protest                                            dont shop adopt

big puppymill protest

*On a side note, ASPCA estimates that 70-80 million dogs are pets in the United States. That’s beyond the amount that could give EVERY single shelter dog a home, as well as the millions of strays in other countries. So much money is spent caring for animals in shelters. If America would only open their homes to all the homeless dogs here, then shelters can spend their resources on flying abused and hungry strays in from other countries, because the numbers show we have enough homes for them, too.

Please note, most pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills. Please stop supporting these awful places. Adopt don’t shop.  Thanks!

P.S – Here’s a pic of my scary pit bull mix…..Shhhh…don’t wake the baby.

phil adorable nuzzle on blankie