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.

 

 

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.