BSL | BSL http://www.dogster.com/bsl BSL en-us Thu, 26 Feb 2015 04:00:00 -0800 Thu, 26 Feb 2015 04:00:00 -0800 http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss Orion <![CDATA[Actor Jon Bernthal Wants to See a Picture of You and Your Pit Bull]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/jon-bernthal-walking-dead-majority-project-pit-bulls-bsl-animal-farm-foundation
Share this image

In 2012, I answered a casting call for the Majority Project. The ongoing campaign, created by Animal Farm Foundation, is a photo collection of "Pit Bull-type" dogs and their owners. As the human to an American Pit Bull Terrier, I'm always keen to share pictures of my boy, especially when it can help educate the public about just how wonderful the breed is.

The foundation began rescuing and rehoming pets, focusing on American Pit Bull Terriers, in 1985. Very quickly, it realized that many of the dogs were not purebreds but a mix of various breeds often labeled as Pit Bull. The group says on its website that a Pit Bull is "not a breed or breed mix, but an ever-expanding group that includes whatever an animal control worker, shelter worker, dog trainer, politician, dog owner, police officer, or newspaper says it is."

Share this image
A submission to The Majority Project: Chris with Brady, Abby, and Cassie in Clayton, North Carolina.

Beyond its many programs and services to help these dogs, AFF wanted to do something bigger to fight the breed-specific legislation targeting these dogs and their owners. The Majority Project features images of Pit Bull owners holding signs that read, "I am a ________. I am a "Pit Bull" dog owner. I am the MAJORITY."

Each person personalizes their sign by filling in the blank with a word that describes themselves as a valued member of a family or community. The foundation had recognized that it wasn't just the public's perception of the dogs being targeted by BSL that needed to change, it was their perception of the owners of those dogs.

Share this image
Submission to The Majority Project: a girl and her dog in Jackson, Mississippi.

Notorious anti-Pit Bull groups like to generalize these owners with labels such as "thugs" and "lowlifes." Those labels couldn't be further from the truth, as the Majority Project is proving one photo at a time. The people who own the dogs, like myself, are as diverse as the breeds and breed mixes that fall under the Pit Bull umbrella. Since the start of the project, AFF has received more than 1,000 photos and gained more than 9,000 followers on its Facebook fan page.

Teachers, lawyers, doctors, children, parents, law enforcement members, and more have all submitted photos to the project. To add a little star power to its campaign, the foundation has teamed up with Jon Bernthal, best known for his former role as Shane Walsh on The Walking Dead. Some submissions will even be featured along with the actor's in an upcoming televised public service announcement!

Share this image
Jon Bernthal and one of his Pit Bulls.

AFF's director of operations, Caitlin Quinn, said that although "it is hard to identify the impact of the Majority Project, since these days so many great things are happening for Pit Bull dogs and their owners, we do know that BSL is on the decline all across the country. It's our goal to continue to fuel that trend by generating awareness through the Majority Project photos. This is definitely good news for Pit Bulls and their owners across the nation. National Canine Research Council reported that five more states no longer allow BSL, and more than seven times as many U.S. municipalities repealed or rejected proposed BSL than enacted it between January 2012 to May 2014."

.

It's amazing having stars like Bernthal participating in the Majority Project. Posed with his two dogs, Boss and Venice, along with his two-year-old son, Billy, the actor has a sign that reads, "I am a father. I am a "Pit Bull" dog owner. I am the MAJORITY." The actor's love for his dogs doesn't go unnoticed on his Instagram account, where he posts pictures of them going for walks with the family, riding in their vehicles, and sharing in cuddle time.

He is a model example for the public and for his son. Billy is clearly being raised to understand that dogs are part of the family and that they are individuals and deserve to be treated as such. 

Share this image
My own submission to The Majority Project in 2012.

It is my personal hope that one day, we won't need campaigns like the the Majority Project because it will have helped to eradicate BSL and other types of breed discrimination. We can't get there without your help, though, so download the Majority Project poster, grab your pooch, and take a picture! Submit your photo, then check out the rest of the submissions on AFF's website and Facebook page. Feel free to share your photo in the comments below -- we'd love to see them!

Read more about Pit Bulls and BSL on Dogster:

About Meghan Lodge: Fits the Aquarius definition to a fault, loves animals, and is always pushing for change. Loves ink, whether it's in tattoos, books, or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. Proud parent of Toby (cat) and Axle (dog). I'm a former quiet nerd who's turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate.

]]>
Thu, 26 Feb 2015 04:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/jon-bernthal-walking-dead-majority-project-pit-bulls-bsl-animal-farm-foundation
<![CDATA[Bulletproof Oakley, Shot as a Puppy, Helps Stop Animal Abuse ]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/bulletproof-oakley-animal-abuse-pit-bulls-dog-rescue-adoption Kristie Karcanes doesn't know much about what happened to her rescue dog, Oakley, in the first couple months of his life, but she can be certain he was the victim of a very violent act.
Share this image

"I just know he came into the shelter with a bullet in his spine before he was nine weeks old," she explains.

According to Karcanes, little Oakley the Pit Bull arrived at the Montgomery County shelter in North Carolina as an owner surrender, but the person who brought him in didn’t mention the bullet. They told shelter workers that Oakley had been born without the use of his hind legs. Karcanes says the fact that Oakley's paralysis was caused by people wasn't discovered until rescuers pulled him from the shelter.

"They took him to the vet immediately, and they did an X-ray on him because they wanted to see what was causing his paralysis. That's when they found a bullet near his spine."

Share this image
The bullet is clearly visible in this early X-ray of Oakley. His doctors decided to leave it there because the damage was permanent and its removal could cause other problems. (All photos courtesy of Bulletproof Oakley's Facebook page)

It's a story Karcanes is getting used to telling -- and one that is attracting plenty of attention online. After adopting the pup in 2014, Karcanes started a Facebook page for Bulletproof Oakley with the hope of spreading the word about the consequences of animal abuse. Her platform for advocacy is fitting, considering it was social media that brought Karcanes and Oakley together in the first place.

Active in North Carolina's rescue community, Karcanes first noticed Oakley on her Facebook feed in 2014 and watched as a group she hadn't before worked with, Friends FUR Life K9 Rescue, started Oakley on the road to recovery by ridding him of worms and urine burns.

"I liked their page and started following his story because I just wanted to make sure he was OK," Karcanes remembers.

After a few days of keeping up with Oakley on Facebook, Karcanes couldn't stop thinking about him, so she reached out to the director of Friends FUR Life K9 Rescue to ask if she could meet the endearing little pup.

Share this image
Oakley will never have use of all four legs, but he gets around quickly in his wheels.

"I just wanted to meet him, with maybe a possibility of wanting to foster him," explains Karcanes, who ended up bringing Oakley home as a foster just one day after meeting the paralyzed Pit Bull puppy, who impressed her by bouncing around on his bottom.

Although Karcanes knew she was drawn to Oakley, she didn't even consider adoption at first as she wasn't sure if she could commit to a dog with complex medical needs and life-long incontinence. She also didn't know if her other three dogs -- Jasper, Ollie, and Kya -- would accept Oakley.

"That was my biggest worry. I wondered if they were going to take him in," explains Karcanes, adding that two of her dogs were indeed weirded out by Oakley at first.

"But Ollie took him right in. Ollie didn't care that he was different. He got down to his size and just played with him. I think that made it easier for the other two to warm up."

Within two weeks, Jasper and Kya also had accepted Oakley into their pack and Karcanes had accepted him into her heart. Oakley became a foster failure and a permanent member of the household. These days, the furry foursome loves to run together in the backyard -- with Oakley keeping up in his wheelchair.

Share this image
Oakley and his fur siblings. From left to right: Jasper, Kya, Oakley, and Ollie.

"I totally fell in love with him," says Karcanes, who adds that caring for Oakley has included some unexpected challenges. Recently, the pup had to have a paw amputated.

"It didn't even cross my mind that something like this was going to occur -- that he would actually chew at his own feet. I had no idea."

Unable to feel his back paws, young Oakley took to chewing on one of them. Karcanes tried bandages, the cone of shame, and a muzzle, all to no avail.

"We went in and actually amputated a toe and a half first, trying to save the paw."

Then one night when Karcanes was sleeping, Oakley injured himself so badly that the whole his paw had to be removed.

"He hasn't tried to go for it since, and he's not trying to go for the other foot," says Karcanes, adding that Oakley's vet has also tried medications for nerve pain as well as antidepressants to keep Oakley from chewing himself.  

Share this image
Poor Oakley chewed his paw beyond repair.

After what she's experienced with Oakley, Karcanes says she encourages other potential pet owners to consider getting a special-needs pet, but wants people to recognize that it is a very big responsibility -- one that often includes unexpected outcomes.

While Oakley continues to recover from his amputation, Karcanes continues to devote herself to advocating for greater awareness of animal abuse.

"Before Oakley came into my life, I knew of animal abuse, but I didn’t know how bad it was until I started his Facebook page and started seeing all these other animals and the things that they have been through, the things that they’ve survived."

"If I don't know that -- and I actually work in rescue -- there must be so many other people out there who don't know at all," she says.

That’s why Karcanes is making Oakley into the poster boy in a campaign to stop animal abuse.

"We've made shirts. We've made hoodies. I'm actually making a website now,” she says. “People need to know that if you see it, it needs to be reported, because so many people see it and don't do anything about it."

Bulletproof Oakley will never walk or regain feeling in his back end because of the bullet that pierced his flesh as a puppy, but Karcanes hopes his influence may save other animals from a similar fate.

Read more Monday Miracles on Dogster:

About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.

]]>
Mon, 23 Feb 2015 02:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/bulletproof-oakley-animal-abuse-pit-bulls-dog-rescue-adoption
<![CDATA[Chloe the Wonder Pup Survives Abandonment and Parvo ]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/chloe-wonder-pup-pit-bull Chloe the Wonder Pup's story begins during a snowstorm in North Carolina. The tiny Pit Bull was just a week old when authorities were called to the home where she and her dog family had been abandoned, left behind when the last tenants moved away.
Share this image

Chloe's father, chained up outdoors, had already succumbed to starvation and exposure.

"Her mom was clinging for her life," explains Amber Oravsky, who adopted little Chloe seven weeks later. "They brought mom and three or four siblings into the shelter, but Chloe was the only one who survived."

Without a mother to nurse her, the shelter was no place for such a young puppy, so an employee of the Stokes County Animal Shelter in Germanton, North Carolina, took little Chloe into her own home as a foster puppy. The tiny dog needed to be bottle fed every two hours.

Share this image
Baby Chloe when she arrived at her foster home. (All photos courtesy of Chloe the Wonder Pup Facebook page)

In foster care, Chloe was loved and cared for by humans for the first time. Her foster family made sure she was fed, cuddled, and socialized extensively.

"They took her everywhere. If they went to a baseball game, Chloe went to a baseball game," says Oravsky.

Eventually Chloe's foster family turned her over to The Fort, a no-kill shelter dedicated to the rescue of all dogs, but Pit Bulls like Chloe in particular. Founded by reality TV star Jake Gardner, who appeared on Animal Planet's Pit Bulls and Parolees, the shelter serves an area of North Carolina that sees 30,000 dogs enter shelters annually.

Oravsky and her fiancé live in upstate New York, but were planning a trip to visit family in North Carolina when a nephew posted pictures of Chloe. 

Share this image
It's not surprising Oravsky fell in love with Chloe's pictures.

Despite having two dogs and two young children at home already, Oravsky and her fiancé both fell in love with the puppy in the pictures, and were soon completing The Fort's application process. The family drove to North Carolina and stopped at the shelter to pick up eight-week-old Chloe on the way to Oravsky's in-laws.

The whole family fell in love with the adorable puppy, but their happy vacation was quickly overshadowed by concern.

"When we first got her, the first couple of days she was okay, but then she got real lethargic," Oravsky recalls. "She wouldn't eat. Every time she drank, she threw up." Oravsky rushed little Chloe to the emergency vet and received devastating news. Chloe had parvo.

Parvo, also known as canine parvovirus, can cause a fatal illness in dogs. The highly contagious virus is spread either through contact between dogs or through feces. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, canine parvovirus type 2c is the most common variant of parvo in the United States, and it can remain infectious in soil for at least year. The ASPCA notes the virus severely impacts a dog's intestinal tract and also attacks white blood cells. Young animals who survive parvo can suffer cardiac problems for the rest of their lives.

After the frightening diagnosis, Oravsky's in-laws suggested taking Chloe to their regular vet, where she stayed for several days of treatment.

Share this image
Chloe the Wonder Pup pulled through after a diagnosis of parvo.

"We caught it early enough," says Oravsky. "She bounced right back. They gave us daily updates while she was in the infirmary."

The experience of almost losing Chloe has made Oravsky a vocal advocate for pet vaccination.

"Chloe did have the booster, but she obviously didn't get it in time because she ended up with parvo," says Orvasky, adding that Chloe probably picked up the virus as a very young puppy, before her arrival at The Fort.

"Make sure that you vaccinate your pets. Take them to the vet when they need to go to the vet, because parvo can be prevented," she says.

After Chloe won her fight against the virus, she came home to find she had another fight on her hands -- this time the little puppy was up against breed bias. Some of Oravsky's extended family members remain skeptical of the Pit Bull, who shares the house with two children younger than two. Oravsky says she simply doesn't believe in bad dog breeds, just bad owners and bad training. She says that Pit Bulls make delightful family dogs.

"Pit Bulls were known as nanny dogs in the beginning. They were meant to be with kids. She is so good with my two boys," Oravsky says. "They're goofy, they're playful, and their tails -- well, at least Chloe's -- are always wagging."

Share this image
Young Chloe with one of her human brothers.

Oravsky maintains that happy Chloe has proven that she can overcome anything, and as the dog enters adolescence she has another challenge to take on. After a recent scrap with her older dog sister Kiki, an Olde English Bulldog, young Chloe wound up needing stitches and a drain.

Share this image
Chloe is now recovering after a fight with her dog sibling.

Oravsky is confident that with the right tools, both dogs can learn to live in harmony. She says the next challenge for her wonder pup Chloe will be training with a behaviorist. 

Read more Monday Miracles:

About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.

]]>
Mon, 12 Jan 2015 04:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/chloe-wonder-pup-pit-bull
<![CDATA[The Positive Pit Bull Works to Change Perceptions About the Breed]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/pit-bull-breed-positive-pit-bull-paige-burris
Share this image

After adopting her own Pit Bulls in 2008, certified dog trainer Paige Burris experienced firsthand the daily discrimination they face on. In 2009, she founded The Positive Pit Bull, Inc., a group dedicated to educating the public about the dogs and debunking myths surrounding the breed.

Using social media, The Positive Pit Bull strives to put forward the most positive face for the dogs, often by showing their best trait -- love for and loyalty to people. Boasting more than 735,000 Facebook fans, the Positive Pit Bull is clearly not alone in its mission and love for the breed.

Burris doesn't rely solely on social media; she keeps the group heavily involved in the community, particularly in the Christmas and St. Patrick's Day parades. In the Positive Pit Bull's home of Raleigh, North Carolina, the Christmas parade "is the largest between NYC and Atlanta on the East Coast," according to its Facebook page, with more than 80,000 people in attendance; plus, it's televised. The Positive Pit Bull participated for the first time in 2011, and it actually won the People's Choice Award by thousands of votes!

Share this image
Paige Burris with her dog, Rocco. (Photo courtesy of Evie Curley)

Focusing primarily on education, Burris and her group work to educate people who have never actually met a Pit Bull, yet already have an aversion to them due to negative media. The group's goal is to see these dogs treated and portrayed fairly.

"We know that every dog is an individual and the behaviors one particular dog exhibits is always a combination of nature (genetic traits he was born with) and nurture (the environment he's lived in and the way he's been treated)," says Burris in an email interview. "Until we start judging dogs (and their behaviors) as individuals, many more innocent dogs will be targeted and killed because of their looks alone. We don't believe it is right, and we can't and won't sit around while it happens. We actively advocate for the breed."

Share this image
Cricket, Burris, and Rocco. (Photo courtesy of Steve Exum)

One of the ways the Positive Pit Bull works to portray the dogs in a positive light is by getting as many CGC (Canine Good Citizen) certified as possible. Burris holds CGC classes and tests the dogs, and she also encourages those who pass to train and test their dogs to become certified therapy dogs. She did this with two of her own dogs, Rocco and Cricket, and they now visit local hospitals and nursing homes to bring cheer to the sick and the elderly.

Share this image
One of the calendar shots by Burris. Isn't Cricket adorable?!

Besides her work with the Positive Pit Bull, Burris personally advocates for Pit Bulls by showing their softer side through her own photography. "I believe in the power of photography. I've seen it help save many dogs' lives. I regularly photograph dogs at my local shelter, and I see them go to homes right away; without good photos, they can languish and sometimes never make it out. I use my skills to help the breed as much as I can," she says.

Each year, the Positive Pit Bull offers calendars featuring Burris’ photos, which show the silly, joyful, and soulful side of the breed. Fans from all over the world order the calendars. "There are Pit Bull fans worldwide, and we are uniting," says Burris.

Share this image
Burris and her dog, Cricket, having some fun. (Photo courtesy of Thomas Hudson)

In 2011 and 2012, the Positive Pit Bull hosted two huge spay/neuter events in Raleigh's Historic Oak View Park, targeting two primary Zip codes where Pit Bulls regularly end up in shelters. More than 400 Pit Bulls came to the events each year, some being walked on wire coat hangers, in very dirty and too-small collars, and on chains. Those dogs were immediately given new collars and leashes, dog food, rabies vaccines, microchips, toys, treats, and information on responsible ownership.

The group signed dogs up for free spay/neuter surgeries, and also had a flyball exhibition, weight pull, and agility exhibition set up so that people could see some positive activities they could do with their dogs. The first year of this event, the Positive Pit Bull spayed/neutered 100 dogs! It collaborated with several area vets, who continue to do spay/neuter surgeries for the group. 

From fighting breed-specific legislation to encouraging responsible dog ownership, Paige Burris and the Positive Pit Bull are true Dogster Heroes!

Read more about Pit Bulls:

]]>
Wed, 31 Dec 2014 08:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/pit-bull-breed-positive-pit-bull-paige-burris
<![CDATA[Laura Schlessinger Condemns Pit Bulls; Dog Lovers Strike Back]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/laura-schlessinger-pit-bull-controversy-dog-lovers-outrage-janet-goree-petition On Monday of this week, satellite talk show host Laura Schlessinger outraged dog lovers when she talked about going to a local dog shelter. Schlessinger said that she was shocked that there were so many Pit Bulls in the shelter and that she considered them a "waste of space" who should be put down.

Share this image

To anyone who's paid even cursory attention to her career, the fact that Laura Schlessinger said something stupid and hateful shouldn't be surprising. It's kind of what she does. Her entire career has essentially been built on selling hackneyed stereotypes as straightforward common sense. In 2000, gay rights activists campaigned against Schlessinger's new television show because over the years, she had repeatedly referred to gay men and lesbians as "biological errors," as well as saying that gay men were predators and pedophiles. The show went on the air but was cancelled after only a year.

In 2010, Schlessinger was forced to make the move from broadcast radio to satellite after she used the n-word 11 times while talking to a black woman who had called her show. The woman, who was married to a white man, asked for advice because she felt her husband let friends and family make racist comments around her without speaking up. Schlessinger told the woman, "If you're that hypersensitive about color and don't have a sense of humor, don't marry out of your race."

Share this image
Laura Schlessinger on CNN.

A week after the call, Schlessinger announced that she had "decided" to stop doing radio and move to satellite broadcasting.

"I want to regain my First Amendment rights," she told Larry King in an interview. "I want to be able to say what's on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates, attack sponsors. I'm sort of done with that."

Compared to using the n-word eleven times or calling gay men pedophiles, her comments about Pit Bulls might be considered relatively mild. They come from the same place, however; they exploit commonly held fears and ignorance, and they parade these as courage. Schlessinger would be nowhere if she weren't able to persuade an awful lot of people that her bigotry is actually an act of resistance.

Share this image
Mischievous face of Pit Bull by Shutterstock.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who would be quite happy to kill Pit Bulls en masse, just as there are many people who cling to the idea that LGBT people are out to rape their children or that racism would go away if only black people would stop being so "sensitive" about it. Just last month, a 9-year-old girl and her family had to fight to keep their town from taking her pet and euthanizing it for no other reason than that he was a Pit Bull. Despite what her PR hacks might want us to think, Schlessinger hasn't said anything new or courageous. Schlessinger has never in her career gone after anyone who had more power than her. She invariably targets those who are already marginalized by the prejudices of others and then pretends that she's speaking truth to power.

Share this image
Close-up of Pit Bull Terrier by Shutterstock.

Fortunately, dog lovers have been pushing back and trying to make Schlessinger accountable. Writer Janet Goree has been especially prominent, using her column and her Twitter feed to promote Schlessinger's critics. Goree says that when she called Schlessinger's office for a comment, the person on the phone hung up on her; a request for comment via Twitter was ignored.

As of this writing, an online petition condemning Schlessinger has gotten 10,000 signatures. (Organizers are trying for 20,000.) The petition reads in part:

Such speeches are completely unacceptable. The reputation that Pit Bulls have is totally misleading -- since the 1980, the media has begun to portray Pit Bulls as dangerous dogs. This couldn't be any more false! There is no such thing as a 'bad' dog, but rather a 'bad' owner! In addition, because of their good temperaments -- friendly nature, loyalty and stability -- Pit Bulls are considered the perfect 'nanny dogs' for children. They make excellent family and their love for children is well known.

Dog lovers have also started a hashtag campaign on Twitter. Pit owners have been asked to tweet pictures of their dogs with the (incredibly long) tag #Drlaurawhydoyouwantmedead.

Schlessinger herself has ignored all criticism. Just as Goree's requests for comment were ignored, Schlessinger's Twitter feed and Facebook page haven't even acknowledged the controversy. The posts simply continue to churn past like they would any other week, summarizing her "call of the day" and dispensing trite pieces of "wisdom."

What do you think? Is there a way to make Schlessinger sit up and notice, or does the controversy just serve her public relations strategy by giving her attention?

Via Inquistr

Read more about dogs in the news on Dogster: ]]>
Fri, 19 Dec 2014 11:45:00 -0800 /the-scoop/laura-schlessinger-pit-bull-controversy-dog-lovers-outrage-janet-goree-petition
<![CDATA[10 Things I've Learned From Watching "Pit Bulls & Parolees"]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/pitbulls-parolees-animal-planet-tia-torres-animal-dog-rescue-adoption Animal Planet's Pit Bulls & Parolees is one of my favorite TV shows. I'm very into animal rescue, and I like the work that Tia Torres and her family do with the Villalobos Rescue Center. Recently, I realized that I've learned a number of important lessons while watching this series.

Share this image
The cast of Pit Bulls & Parolees. (Photo courtesy of Animal Planet.)

1. Life is hard

Okay, I already knew this, but sometimes it's easy to think life is harder for me than for other people. Everyone on Pit Bulls & Parolees has been through difficult things in life. And most of the rescued dogs have been through horrible experiences. This TV show does not avoid the reality that life has very challenging moments.

2. Rescue is best done as a family affair

Torres involves her children -- daughters Tania and Mariah and sons Kanani and Keli'i -- in her rescue work. They are key players in pulling off successful rescues, and each one has different talents and strengths.

3. Rescue is a way of life

There are those who see animal rescue as a way of life, not just a casual occurrence. This is clearly the case on Pit Bulls & Parolees. Tia and her family are working with the animals all day, every day. They carry the supplies they need in their vehicles and are always prepared to help an animal, whenever the situation arises.

Share this image
Torres enlists the help of her two daughters, Tania and Mariah, in the rescue work she does. (Photo courtesy of Animal Planet.)

4. Life doesn't always happen as planned

Sometimes I think there is a conspiracy to prevent me from really getting ahead financially. One thing I have seen on this show is that most people face a variety of unexpected challenges.

5. Even if you're famous and do good things, bad things can happen 

The thing that really drove this home for me was when Torres got really excited to move her rescue to Tehachapi, California. It was a special place she wanted to share with her dogs and family. But not long after she got there, her new neighbors objected to the rescue and basically forced them out. It's easy to think that famous people don't have to deal with challenges of this nature. It's not always an accurate assumption, though.

6. Yet, if you keep at it, things work out

Not knowing what else to do, Tia moved her rescue to New Orleans. Villalobos Rescue Center has been very successful in the city and has drawn a lot of attention to the numerous animals in need there. If Torres hadn't been forced out of her dream sanctuary, she would not have found the success she has in New Orleans and helped all of those dogs there.

Share this image
Mariah pulls puppies out of an abandoned house covered in mold. (Photo courtesy of Animal Planet.)

7.  Try your hardest every day

I don't doubt that Torres and her family members feel like there's simply too much work to do when they wake up every morning. But we see them working hard and giving it their all on a regular basis, like in the episode where Torres gives CPR to a little puppy who died in her arms as she tried to breathe life into him. As long as you try your hardest, that’s the best you can do. It's always better than doing nothing.

8. It takes many people to make a rescue successful

From those who call in reports of an animal in need, to those who transport animals, to the ones who clean kennels every day, many people are involved in making animal rescue a successful endeavor.

9. I really want Torres to write a memoir

Torres has lived a fascinating life. I hope one day she will write about it. She's raised at least four kids primarily on her own, started a rescue that has become one of the best known in the country, gets to wear a T-shirt and jeans to work every day, and has managed a marriage while her husband is incarcerated. Torres has guts and is not afraid to walk her own path. These are qualities I always admire.

Share this image
(Photo courtesy of the Pit Bull & Parolees Facebook page.)

10. Sometimes people -- and dogs -- need second chances

One of my favorite things about Pit Bulls & Parolees is that we get to witness second chances for both animals and people. I was once married to a felon, and I know how hard it can be for them to find legitimate work and housing, even years after a conviction. Torres gives those who need a second chance an opportunity to redeem themselves while doing work that is meaningful. I think one of my favorite moments from the show was seeing Earl become a homeowner. He is one of my favorites, and I have a soft spot in my heart for him. So it was great to see his years of hard work pay off!

Read related stories on Dogster:

About the author: Kezia Willingham is a Breadwinning Laundry Queen who works as a Health Coordinator for Head Start. She is a regular contributor to Catster and Dogster. Her writing has appeared in Literary Mama, The New York Times, The Seattle Times, and multiple anthologies. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, which includes a number of rescued cats and dogs. You can follow her on Twitter.

]]>
Wed, 17 Dec 2014 08:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/pitbulls-parolees-animal-planet-tia-torres-animal-dog-rescue-adoption
<![CDATA[O'Hara Owens and Her Pit Bull Can Stay Together]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/disabled-girl-ohara-owens-pit-bull-zeus-stay-together-moreauville-louisiana Congratulations, dog lovers: The good guys have won in the village of Moreauville, Louisiana. Instead of beginning to round up Pit Bulls and Rottweilers on Dec. 1 for "further disposition," the city council voted on Monday evening to repeal the ordinance that had sparked a nationwide backlash.

Share this image
Zeus sleeping at home. (Saving Zeus Facebook Page)

The story of Moreauville immediately seized national attention because of O'Hara Owens, a disabled girl with severe neck problems. O'Hara's best friend is her Pit Bull, Zeus, and the law would have forced her family to either give the dog away to a family outside of the area or see him taken away by the village and euthanized. The story got picked up by CNN, The View, USA Today, and, well.... Dogster. Even by the time we wrote it up last week, the local government had become well aware that they had stepped in it. Alderman Penn Lemoine said those words that you almost never hear from politicians: "It was a mistake."

Share this image
O'Hara, Zeus, and her mother relax on the couch. (Saving Zeus Facebook Page)

Even so, some people doubted that the law would officially be repealed. Lemoine and his colleagues never said publicly that they would get rid of the law; only that the Dec. 1 deadline would not be enforced. As the deadline approached, Zeus was sent to stay with friends elsewhere, just to prepare for a worst-case scenario. 

"Zeus has been separated from our family for 24 hours now because we didn't know what was going to happen," O'Hara's mother Joanna Armand told local television station KALB. "Our family has been in complete chaos. The kids aren't used to it. He's not used to it. So, I'm excited to go get him, bring him home, and get everybody back to normal."

On the "Saving Zeus" Facebook page, Armand expressed her joy at the repeal without hesitation or inhibition: "WE WON!!!! THE MOREAUVILLE VICIOUS DOG BAN IS REPEALED AND ABOLISHED!!!!! WHOOP!! WHOOP!!! IM GOING TO GET OUR BABY NOW!!!!!"

Share this image
O'Hara snuggling with Zeus. (Saving Zeus Facebook Page)

She also wrote that when she brought Zeus back in through the front door, her children reacted like it was Christmas morning. Who could blame them?

Instead of euthanizing specific breeds, Moreauville will enforce existing Louisiana law that will fine owners if their dogs are found wandering around off-leash or causing other problems. Mayor Timmy Lemoine claimed that the decision to repeal was made largely because of a legal threat by PETA. "We got a threat from PETA that said, if we didn't repeal this ordinance, they had enough money to shut the Village of Moreauville down," he told KALB. "I wasn't going to be known as the mayor and shut the Village of Moreauville down because of this."

Share this image
O'Hara's brother asleep with Zeus. (Saving Zeus Facebook Page)

Credit where credit is due. However, considering that PETA's recent actions included abducting a man's dog from his front porch and euthanizing her within three days, it still has a lot to make up for, even if its legal threat did help end the ban.

The truth is, there was a lot of pressure on Moreauville even without PETA, and much of the credit has to go to Joanna Armand for speaking out and supporting her daughter.

What does O'Hara Owens, the girl at the center of the controversy have to say about the way the story ended? "I get to have my best friend back," she told KALB. Ultimately, that's the ending that everyone wanted. Our congratulations to the Owens-Armand family and Zeus, and to the village of Moreauville for finally doing the right thing. Hopefully, we'll see the same end to many more breed-specific laws just like this.

Via KALB and Saving Zeus Facebook Page

Read more about dogs in the news on Dogster:

]]>
Wed, 03 Dec 2014 10:50:00 -0800 /the-scoop/disabled-girl-ohara-owens-pit-bull-zeus-stay-together-moreauville-louisiana
<![CDATA[A Disabled Girl Will Keep Her Dog, and a Bad Law Will Go Away]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/disabled-girl-pit-bull-moreauville-louisiana Those of us who oppose breed-specific legislation got a small victory recently. Thanks to a nationwide backlash and an online petition, the village of Moreauville, Louisiana, now says that it will rescind an ordinance banning Pit Bulls and Rottweilers.

The ordinance is a very new one; it was passed on Oct. 13 and gave owners until Dec. 1 to get rid of their dogs. About halfway through November, Joanna Armand got a notice from the city giving her two weeks to find a new home for their Pit Bull, Zeus, or he would be taken into custody and euthanized. Or actually, "further disposition," as the letter said.

The news was a blow to the entire family, but especially to Armand's young daughter, O'Hara Owens. O'Hara suffers from extreme neck problems that require her to wear a halo brace and use a wheelchair. Although Zeus is not an official service dog, he's O'Hara's constant companion and lets the rest of the family know when she's in trouble. "I can sit here if I'm in pain, he comes and he notices it before I even make any noise," she told local television station KALB. When she has spasms or seizures in the night, Zeus will run to get O'Hara's mother.

Share this image
O'Hara holding the letter from the town that notified the family that they must get rid of Zeus.

Armand set up a Facebook page called Saving Zeus to get her story out, and she set up an online petition. Both got immediate attention. When CNN reported on the story yesterday, the petition already had 40,000 signatures. As of this writing, it has 252,500. The story of Zeus, O'Hara, and the ordinance has been featured on CNN, The View, and USA Today.

Share this image
From left: O'Hara Owens, Joanna Armand, and KALB reporter Brooke Buford.

Within a few days, a small village of 950 people became known as the place that was going to kill a disabled girl's dog simply because of the dog's breed. After being one of the most outspoken public advocates for the ordinance and the village's right to enforce it, Alderman Penn Lemoine blinked. "It was a mistake," he told the Times-Picayune. "And it's got to be redone and reworded. And this Dec. 1 date is not going to happen."

Share this image

Originally, Lemoine had told the media that the ordinance was created to deal with pervasive complaints by citizens about dogs running loose. "We had several residents that were complaining about not being able to walk along the neighborhoods because these dogs were basically running along town," he said in a phone interview with KALB. Now, he concedes that the city will have to find another solution, such as enforcing leash laws. "We'll get legal counsel to help us formulate something that's going to try to keep the dogs off the street," he told the Times-Picayune.

Today doesn't feel like a big day for justice in most places, but at least O'Hare Owens and her friend Zeus have gotten a little bit, as rare as that might be.

Via NOLA.com and CNN

Read more about dogs in the news on Dogster:

]]>
Tue, 25 Nov 2014 01:00:00 -0800 /the-scoop/disabled-girl-pit-bull-moreauville-louisiana
<![CDATA[Have You Ever Had an Unconscious Bias Against Pit Bulls?]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/pit-bull-bias-bsl-dog-fostering-adoption Once upon a time, I was afraid of dogs. All dogs. And when it came to Pit Bulls, I was downright terrified. These fears came about when I was a kid.

I changed after adopting my first cat in 2012. My late-in-life affection for cats eventually developed into a late-in-life affection for dogs. My daughter, Zinnia, and I would visit the dogs in the shelter every time volunteered weekly with the cats. So I guess it was really Zinnia who got me interested in pups, as she had always wanted one.

Share this image
May Belle, Lilly, and Daisy with my son, Justin. (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

As time passed, I became more and more comfortable around dogs, even the large power breeds, as I visited them in their kennels. I started to learn more about Pit Bulls and the discrimination they face. I read lots of stories about what great pets they can be, in between stories about them mauling people to death.

It didn't take a whole lot more time for me to fancy Pit Bulls as the underdogs of the dog world. Plus, I learned to like the way they looked, and decided I wanted to have one of my own.

Share this image
Me with Lilly. (Photo by Zinnia Willingham)

After adopting my four dogs, I also decided I didn't want to foster anymore because I get attached to many of the animals and have a hard time letting them go.

But last month, Lori, my foster coordinator, sent out an email looking for a foster for a large, female, senior Pit Bull mix with skin issues and a history of neglect; she needed long-term care.

I promptly deleted the email, but I kept thinking about that dog over the weekend. So on Monday, I told Lori I could take my dogs to meet her after work, but warned her that my dogs are female and May Belle, in particular, doesn't really like other dogs. Plus, we have cats. So I wasn't sure we would be the best placement. Lori and I made a plan that if no one else took this white Pittie in, then I would bring in May Belle and see if it would be a go (I was fairly sure it would not).

Share this image
My daughter, Zinnia, with Crystal the day we brought her home. (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

I wouldn't be writing this story if someone else had offered to take the white dog in. Nor would I be writing it if May Belle had freaked out upon meeting her.

For the purposes of this story, I am going to call the white dog Crystal. Due to her history of neglect, with the county intervening, I have been asked not to reveal many details about her past. And honestly, I don't know a whole lot more, except that the circumstances leading to her confiscation would make any Dogster reader sad.

Share this image
Crystal sitting on Zinnia’s lap when we got home. (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

But as sad as dog rescue may be, it is also full of as many magical and happy stories fueled by kindhearted people willing to do the dirty work so many others would rather not.

Crystal has now been with us for about a month. Her coming to live with us has led me to confront internalized biases I didn't know I had.

Crystal is a large dog. She weighs about 60 pounds and is very strong. In fact, on one of the first walks we took with her, she saw some small, fenced dogs and ran downhill toward them with such vigor that she almost pulled my 17-year-old daughter out into the street.

Share this image
Crystal likes the kitty bed even though it’s not quite the right size. (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

I grabbed Crystal's leash, and it took most of my strength to pull her in another direction. Plus, she was shrieking like a banshee. I broke out into a sweat, and the only thing I could focus on was getting her, my kids, and my small dogs home.

It was weird because Crystal was fine in our house. She was calm around our Chihuahuas and showed only mild interest in our cats. She did not bark inside the house unless we put her in a crate. Then she would start screaming like she was an old woman being tortured. She kind of sounded like Chewbacca. So we started to call her Chew-Blanca. And she started sleeping in my daughter's bed so the neighbors wouldn't call the authorities.

Share this image
Chew-Blanca, happy not to be in her crate. (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

The next few times we took Crystal out for a walk, she also became very reactive, pulling, yelping, barking, and screaming when she saw other dogs. One day I looked up "reactive dog" on Dogster and found a bunch of stories.

It turns out there are some dogs who become so excited upon seeing another dog that they cannot control their energy. I think this is Crystal's issue, as she is not aggressive unless another dog comes at her with aggression.

Share this image
Crystal off leash in the dog park, which we only do when no one else is there. She loves it. (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

I also learned that as a Pit Bull guardian, I would have to take more responsibility than most other dog owners and to expect to be blamed for any harm that could happen.

This is when I started to get scared. There'd been a recent series of news reports in my local paper about Pit Bulls attacking people and small dogs. Would Crystal attack one of my kids, dogs, or cats?

Share this image
Justin giving Crystal some love. (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

So far she’s shown no interest in harming any one of us, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the attacks I read about in the news. Would these stories poison even a liberal, benevolent-hearted type who doesn’t believe in stereotypes, such as myself?

Share this image
Crystal rides with us when we pick my daughter up after work. (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

I didn't really like how I felt and how fear had permeated my unconscious thoughts.

I wished I had a partner to help me with my kids and rescue animals. I also thought about returning Crystal to the shelter. But I don't have a partner, and Crystal's age, skin condition, and leash reactivity wouldn't do much for her if she needed to be adopted. 

So I asked Lori if the shelter would pay for me to take a behavior class. These classes are expensive, so I didn't think they would say yes. But they did!

Share this image
Crystal hasn’t let me drop her back at the shelter yet. (Selfie by Kezia Willingham)

The shelter also supplied me with a Gentle Leader head harness, which I picked up a few days ago. I will be bringing Crystal to her first behavior class next week, but for the first session, we had to come without our dogs to meet the other people in the class and pick up some training handouts. It was very helpful just having the chance to talk about leash reactivity with other dog owners dealing with the same thing.

Share this image
Crystal and Ruby lounging on Zinnia’s lap. (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

We were advised to find a coping strategy to help get us through the period until the first class with our dogs. Avoidance of other dogs has been our primary technique when we walk Crystal. This means we often walk her late at night. We also now know which route to take in our neighborhood in order to avoid yards with dogs in them. It's harder to do than I would have previously expected! And every time we see a dog coming, we change direction, making me feel like I am a kid playing some kind of game. It's hard, but it's working.

Share this image
Crystal and Nimbus are pals now, too. (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

As far as my fear, I have decided to focus on rational, logical thoughts as opposed to the what-ifs. So far, Crystal has made no aggressive moves toward any beings in my house. And she looks at me with the most soulful eyes.

The problem with focusing on a specific breed when reporting on dog attacks is that it creates an inaccurate bias against these dogs and leads to the false belief that one is always safe in the company of other breeds. I hate to admit it, but my Chihuahuas have bitten other people in my own house. Crystal has not.

Share this image
I like bringing Crystal with me when I run errands. She is less anxious than my Chihuahuas. (Photo by Kezia Willingham)

I don’t like to admit that I have this bias against certain dogs, but I am proud to be working through it.

What about you, readers? Have you ever been scared of a particular breed or size of dog? Have you ever had a leash-reactive dog? Tell us your experiences in the comments!

Read related stories:

About the author: Kezia Willinghamis a Breadwinning Laundry Queen who works as a Health Coordinator for Head Start. She is a regular contributor to Catster and Dogster. Her writing has appeared in Literary Mama, The New York Times, The Seattle Times, and multiple anthologies. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, which includes a number of rescued cats and dogs.You can follow her on Twitter.

]]>
Thu, 13 Nov 2014 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/pit-bull-bias-bsl-dog-fostering-adoption
<![CDATA[How My Pit Bulls Taught Me the Importance of Diversity]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dog-adoption-breeds-diversity-national-pit-bull-awareness-day Editor's note: Tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 25) is National Pit Bull Awareness Day, a great time to publish this reflection from a writer who has lived with four Pit Bulls and learned a lot from the experience, not only about the dogs but from humans' reactions to them.

It's June 2012, and I'm driving my Subaru through the insane streets of downtown Manhattan. Falstaff and Hudson, my two Pit Bulls, are giving me nauseated and disapproving looks in the rearview mirror. My female Pit Bull, Amber, died unexpectedly a year before, otherwise her intense, obsessive look would have joined them.

My boys are not on my new lease in New York City, but I have a great confidence in the common sense of New Yorkers and feel certain that if we stay out of folks' way, no one will complain. Live and let live, especially in the uber-tolerant area of the Lower East Side of New York City where we were moving. (The Tenement Museum, which explores the slums of bygone New York, is about as politically correct as can be.)

Share this image
Just look into Amber's intense eyes. (Photo by Kelly Pulley)

I am also certain of my ability to convince neighbors in our walk-up building with an unreliable elevator that my Pit Bulls are not to be feared.

Fast forward two months and I'm stuck in the unreliable elevator with one of my neighbors, who is Chinese and is culturally afraid of big, scary-looking dogs. I try to explain that Falstaff is really very sweet, until I realize that language barriers and my own vigor are not helping. Meanwhile, Falstaff stands there calmly, aware that any excess of energy in the situation is just stupid. By the time the elevator starts up again, my neighbor is patting Falstaff's head.

Pit Bulls are -- everything. Calm. Excited. Dog friendly. Cat friendly. Not so cat friendly. As Amy Stevens of the NYC Pit Bull Meetup Group says: "Pit Bulls are some of the most diverse dogs. They're a type instead of a breed, but also share some characteristics as opposed to a random mixed breed."

Share this image
Illustration by Nigel Sussman.

But, most of all, I have found, after owning four of them, that Pit Bulls are intrinsically attached to humans. They're on the same wavelength and seem to almost understand our fickle human ways. And, because of this, they have a lot to teach us about human fallibility and credulity. 

I was pondering this as I sipped a lethal cocktail at the Taiwanese place around the corner. Where are we with the whole Pit Bull issue? Have we advanced at all as far as fighting Breed-Specific Legislation or saving these dogs from extinction? (Yes, some groups such as PETA want to eradicate Pit Bulls.) How can we improve our mission? What has worked, what hasn't? "Yes, I'll have another mai tai." And, at that point, my common sense flew out the window.

Share this image
Hudson was a Grumpy Gus even as a puppy in 2000. (Photo courtesy Kelly Pulley)

Fast forward (again) to April 2013 (hang on, it's a wild ride) and my love Falstaff died unexpectedly of bone marrow cancer. So, I had a really grumpy, 13-year-old Hudson who was super tough and needed a bit of softening. Along comes Bunch, my fourth Pit Bull.

And this is where the notion of listening to the Pit Bulls came to fruition. This was not only because Bunch is one of the most friendly and compassionate creatures I've known. It was largely because Bunch just -- exists. Bunch is Bunch. Bunch is joyous and so all the world revolves around her.

Share this image
Only a dog with Buddhist characteristics, like Falstaff, would allow himself to be dressed up as a Goth Girl for Halloween. (Photo courtesy Kelly Pulley)

In other words, we are overanalyzing our fight against those opposed to Pit Bulls. There is, understandably, as much anger on the pro side as as the con. We haven't gotten that far; pick any country in Europe and I'll bet Pit Bulls are not allowed to come in. You can't even drive through some American states if you have a Pit Bull in your car. Denver still bans them despite the fact that Colorado has passed a bill that makes BSL in the state illegal -- go figure.

We've tried renaming Pit Bulls with the thought that we could fool the Pit Bull antagonists (honestly, a flat head and muscular body almost always means it's a Pit Bull). We've used celebs like the wonderful Rachael Ray to promote Pits and, here in NYC, there's even a hunks and Pit Bull calendar which I'm sure many buy even if they're not pro-Pit Bull. (Hey, it gets lonely here.)

Share this image
Bunch takes a power nap on the walking path. (Photo by Kelly Pulley)

For me, Bunch is the closest Pit Bull I've had even though we're not always simpatico. She is curious but cautious; I am curious and rash. Every person Bunch meets is a potential friend (and petter). I swear she knows how to manipulate men and women differently, but just in a friendly way. She loves cats but knows they usually have claws. She adjusts to the size of the dog, even a four-pound Chihuahua. She also adjusts to the type of person/cat/dog pulling back if they're aggressive and being engaged if they're affectionate.

According to New York City vet Dr. Jonathan Leshanski, Pit Bulls are becoming more popular because of their flexible natures: "If you take the time to get to know a Pit Bull before you adopt" -- fostering is a great way to do this -- "you'll probably find a great match."

Share this image
Bunch hangs out in front of one of many "No Dogs Allowed" signs in New York City. (Photo by Kelly Pulley)

Your Pit Bull might be like Bunch, who is joyous and carefree and openly affectionate; like Amber, with big-time ADD; like Falstaff, the Buddha dog; or like Hudson, a Grumpy Gus. Whatever your Pit Bull is like, the main thing is that he or she connects in some ways with humans. 

Not everyone will love every Pit Bull. But if we can define their connection to humans in general, we have a chance to change negative opinions one Pit Bull at a time.

Read more on Dogster about Pit Bulls and breed-specific legislation:

 About Kelly Pulley: Longtime dog owner and Pit Bull guru, Kelly has been a writer for Dogster for many years. She now tackles everything from controversial topics such as Pit Bulls to loving itty-bitty dogs despite their size. Catch her at www.petwriter.com and www.pitbullguru.com

]]>
Fri, 24 Oct 2014 02:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-adoption-breeds-diversity-national-pit-bull-awareness-day
<![CDATA[Is Black Dog Syndrome Really a Thing?]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/black-dog-syndrome Over the last decade, stories about Black Dog Syndrome have appeared in print, online, and on television with increasing frequency. Black Dog Syndrome is the oft-repeated hypothesis that black dogs spend longer in shelters and are euthanized at a higher rate than dogs of any other coat color.

The most recent spate of essays, articles, and think-pieces dealing with Black Dog Syndrome tends to take one of two forms. Half argue that Black Dog Syndrome is real and that people should make extraordinary effort to adopt black dogs. The rest take issue with the lack of solid, long-term, quantifiable, scientific data on black dogs and adoption practices.

Share this image
Is Black Dog Syndrome real? Does it really matter? brussels griffon laying down on green background by Shutterstock.

Is Black Dog Syndrome real? Does it matter?

The current fashion is to use the limited data available to deny or dismiss Black Dog Syndrome entirely. In this article, we're not simply going to rehash the perceptual factors that underlie Black Dog Syndrome, nor will we call the validity of the studies into question. Both the mythos of Black Dog Syndrome and the inconsistent data point towards real, substantive, and actionable phenomena. What can the growing surfeit of essays tell us about improving quality of life for all shelter and rescue dogs?

Prejudices toward "mean" or "dangerous" dog breeds

Black Dog Syndrome does not exist in isolation, and it is easy to see how other misperceptions and errors only fuel and reinforce the underlying ideas. One oft-repeated justification for Black Dog Syndrome links the color of a black dog's coat to specific medium and large dog breeds. Read any article about Black Dog Syndrome, and you'll almost invariably see that certain dog breeds are namechecked, including the Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Black Labrador Retriever, and Pit Bull Terrier.

Share this image
No dog is inherently mean or dangerous. Ask this German Shepherd. German Shepherd Puppy Dog K9 by Shutterstock.

Which kinds of dogs appear most frequently in lists of the meanest and the most dangerous dog breeds? If you said Dobermans, German Shepherds, and Pit Bulls, you'd be correct. That the first two tend to have dominant black coat coloration is no coincidence. No dog is inherently dangerous or mean.

Preconceived notions and prevailing prejudices against certain dog breeds means that they are disproportionately affected in public perception. Stories in the media about these dog breeds tend to focus overwhelmingly on dogs that have been abused, mistreated, or neglected. This tendency only reinforces negative stereotypes against both the breeds and the color.

Share this image
One frequently-cited study states that people had overwhelmingly positive impressions of black standard Poodles. Black poodle sitting in a studio by Shutterstock.

Black dogs aren't photogenic, or are difficult to photograph

This is one of the strangest and weakest arguments for Black Dog Syndrome in an age when high-res digital photography is as accessible as the smartphone in your pocket. Essays on Black Dog Syndrome cite the complaints of shelter workers that black dogs don't photograph well for display on adoption websites. They also note that shelter patrons have more difficulty seeing black dogs than dogs of any other coat color.

The takeaway is not that people cannot see black dogs, nor that they present a sinister appearance. It may be a weak argument for Black Dog Syndrome, but its repetition may point us toward a more troubling reality: that shelters and rescues are poorly lit. Humans get seasonal affective disorder when the days grow shorter. Might the perception of shelter animals -- black dogs or not -- be related?

Share this image
Dogs, like humans (and Superman), thrive on exposure to Earth's yellow sun. Lighting in shelters should be a concern. Dog laying in the sunshine by Shutterstock.

With as many crowdfunding platforms as there are now, the recurrent theme of invisibility surrounding Black Dog Syndrome should encourage us to add brighter lighting and artificial sun lamps to the wishlists of shelters and rescues. Yes, additional lighting costs money, but if a dude can raise $50,000 to make potato salad, surely committed animal lovers can find ways to fund better lighting for their local shelter? A scheme of this nature would benefit all of a shelter's temporary inhabitants, including black dogs.

Black dogs are euthanized at a higher rate

Certainly the most troubling assertion about Black Dog Syndrome is that black dogs are put to death at a higher rate than other dogs. Length of stay is a factor for black dogs at venues that euthanize. Encouraging people to adopt black dogs is one strategy, with organizations holding events that put black dogs in the public eye. There's a non-profit collective right here in my home state of North Carolina that sponsors any number of such events.

Share this image
Everyone smiles at the sight of a Pug. Funny puppy pug by Shutterstock.

Stories on Black Dog Syndrome focus on the disproportionate number of black dogs that are euthanized, but they are not the only victims. The larger issue is surely overpopulation of shelters and rescues generally. One way to address the perceived inequity facing black dogs on the canine equivalent of death row is to continue to insist upon timely and responsible pet sterilization.

We cannot overstress, nor be too vocal about the vital importance of spaying and neutering all dogs at the earliest and safest opportunity. The problem is not black dogs, specifically, but that there are too many stray and homeless dogs than there are available homes.

Share this image
Let's stop debating Black Dog Syndrome and work to improve quality of life for all dogs, regardless of coat color. Portrait of nice Rottweiler in garden by Shutterstock.

Black Dog Syndrome must inspire action, not debate

Whether Black Dog Syndrome is real is ultimately irrelevant. What is both significant and important is that shelters and rescues are receiving much needed attention. These organizations and others exist through the extraordinary efforts of staff and volunteers. Their perception of Black Dog Syndrome echoes their despair that so many pets are in desperate need of homes.

If someone heads to a shelter or rescue with the express intention of adopting a black dog and ends up adopting a yellow dog, the net result is not the confirmation of a bias against black dogs, but the adoption and rehoming of a dog, full stop. One thing that is universally true of articles on Black Dog Syndrome is that comment sections explode with stories, photos, and fond memories from owners of black dogs. Let this continue! Tell us why you love your black dogs!

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

]]>
Thu, 23 Oct 2014 02:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/black-dog-syndrome
<![CDATA[Get to Know the Rottweiler: Rough, Ready -- and Friendly]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dog-breeds-rottweiler-dogs He has a reputation as a tough guy -- and he is plenty tough when the occasion arises -- but the Rottweiler is a dog of many talents: herding, guarding, therapy, obedience, search and rescue, military and police work. Plus he's a darn good friend!

Share this image
Rottweiler puppies run by Shutterstock

More interesting things about the Rottweiler:

  • Some people may confuse the Rottweiler with the Doberman Pinscher or Beauceron, but the Rottweiler is much stockier and has small hanging ears; the others usually have longer or cropped ears. They may also be confused with the Bernese Mountain Dog or Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, but the Rottweiler has no white in him.
  • The tail is traditionally docked, and most Rotties in the United States have docked tails. However, European Rottweilers and those from other countries in which tail docking is prohibited have long tails.
  • Occasional long-coated Rottweilers are born. The long coat is the result of two recessive genes. Such dogs cannot be shown in American Kennel Club conformation shows.
  • Occasional red Rottweilers are also born, the result of two recessive genes at the location that determines whether the base color will be black or brown. Such dogs cannot be shown in American Kennel Club conformation shows. Blue and albino Rotties are also disqualified from conformation shows.

Share this image
Rottweiler chasing ball by Shutterstock

  • In ancient Roman times, dogs guarded and drove the cattle that accompanied Roman troops on long marches. Some of these dogs were left behind in southern Germany, where they were valued as cattle drovers.
  • The town of Rottweil (which means red roof) became a center of cattle commerce. The drover dogs herded the cattle to town, protected them, and then guarded the money earned from their sale, and pulled carts of supplies back from town. Some dogs worked as butcher’s helpers, and became known as Rottweiler Metzgerhunds (butcher dogs).

Share this image
Rottweiler and tub by Shutterstock

  • A monument to the Rottweiler stands in the town of Rottweil, Germany.
  • When cattle driving was outlawed and dog carts were replaced by donkey carts and railroads in the late 1800s, Rottweilers became unemployed and their numbers dwindled. The breed found a new role as a police dog and war dog during World Wars I and II.
  • The American Kennel Club recognized the Rottweiler as an official breed in 1931.
  • The Rottweiler is in the American Kennel Club Working group.

Share this image
Rottweiler enjoying a jump by Shutterstock

  • In the early 1990s, the Rottweiler rose to become the second most popular breed in America. The breed then fell dramatically in popularity, but is currently making a comeback. The dog is currently the ninth most popular American Kennel Club breed, up from 15th a decade ago.
  • The Rottweiler has been a target of breed specific legislation in some communities.
  • No Rottweiler has won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club, and only one has won the Working group there (in 2006).
  • Media credits include films The Omen and Lethal Weapon 3; TV series Entourage, Kath and Kim and Human Target; and the children's book Good Dog, Carl.

Share this image
Woman and Rottweiler by Shutterstock

  • Triumph the Insult Comedy Dog is a Rottweiler.
  • Owners include Will Smith, Elton John, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Carrie Fisher, DMX, Elvira, John Larroquette, Herschel Walker, Curt Schilling, Greg Vaughn, Sid Caesar, Bryant Young, Kenny Norman, Jerry Rice, Ken Griffey Jr., Rashard Lewis, Dedee Pfeiffer, Paris Hilton, Alicia Silverstone, David Beckham, Jay Mohr, Freddie Prinze Jr., Eva Longoria and Malcolm-Jamal Warner.

Do you own a Rottweiler? Have you spent time with one? Let's hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you'd like us to write about, let us know that, too!

Interested in other breed profiles? Find dozens of them here.

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron's Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier.

]]>
Mon, 29 Sep 2014 04:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-breeds-rottweiler-dogs
<![CDATA[We Chat With the Woman Behind Pinups for Pitbulls]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/pit-bull-calendar-pictures-photos-pinups-for-pitbulls
Share this image

I don’t have a Pit Bull, but I fancy them. They are beautiful, and my heart bleeds for those awaiting permanent homes in shelters across the country. As someone who became involved in animal rescue only a couple of years ago, the realities Pit Bulls face continue to amaze me -- the enormous numbers of animals in need, the stark truth that many are killed due to lack of homes, and the breed specific legislation that prevents people from providing them a place to live.

Pinups for Pitbulls is an organization that advocates on behalf of the Pit Bull and similar types of dog. Started by Deirdre Franklin more than 10 years ago, the group uses an artistic aesthetic to promote the well-being of Pit Bulls through its annual calendar and in partnership with rescue organizations across the country at events scheduled throughout the year.

Share this image
Meredith and Harlow. (Photo by Celeste Giuliano)

In October, Pinups for Pitbulls is releasing its first book, published by the Overlook Press. The book is filled with gorgeous photos of models and Pit Bulls, along with the educational message about saving Pitties. 

I was really excited to have the opportunity to connect with the brilliant founder Deirdre Franklin. Below is our interview conducted exclusively for Dogster.

Share this image
Deirdre "Little Darling" Franklin and Baxter Bean feature on the cover of Pinups for Pitbulls' new book. (Photography by Celeste Giuliano)

Tell me about current public policy campaigns you are working on.

We are working with Safe Humane Aurora in Colorado to help them with their efforts to eradicate breed discriminatory practices in their city. We are always working on a national level with various cities and residents to help them stay aware of local ordinance changes or shifts in policy.

Share this image
Shorty Rossi of "Pit Boss" and Deirdre Franklin with Hercules. (Photo by Riley Kern)
 

Additionally, I completed my master’s degree in Public Policy in June 2013 at Drexel University. My case study dealt with the subject of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) and I am working on getting it published so that it can help more cities and legislators understand the scope of education needed to keep communities safe with breed neutral laws.

What can people do to help with these issues and campaigns?

Stay on top of local news and city meetings. Listen to Pit Bulletin Legal News Radio, which is a weekly BlogTalkRadio show that I am a guest on every Tuesday.  We discuss all of the latest BSL news to make sure that the public is aware of what is happening in their region. Contact local newspapers about positive press stories and thank them for publishing good information about all dogs. Get involved with us! We accept volunteers year-round. They can write us at info@pinupsforpitbulls.org for more information. 

Share this image
Anahita and Xena. (Photo by Celeste Giuliano)

What made you decide to publish a book? Do any of the proceeds go to Pit Bull rescue? What excites you most about this endeavor?

I have always wanted to publish a book, especially about this topic, which I am so passionate about. It is an excellent tool to reach the public in a new forum that we otherwise might not have access to. Barnes & Noble has purchased a significant number of books to feature on their holiday endcaps. We could not imagine a better way to reach a group that may not understand what is happening to innocent dogs and families worldwide. Our publisher, the Overlook Press, sought us out and wanted to feature my story and the story of Pinups for Pitbulls over the last decade. It is an incredible opportunity that we are forever grateful for.

Share this image
Stacey Lea with Thunder and Taylor. (Photo by Celeste Giuliano)

We are a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit. The proceeds benefit our mission to educate and advocate on behalf of all dogs. This directly affects rescue groups, as it helps people to understand that all dogs are individuals and worthy of a loving home. We also offer the book at a wholesale rate, should any rescue group or store want to carry it for their benefit.

What excites me most is that our cause is gaining traction at the speed of light. It makes me so happy to know that our book will fall into the hands of folks who might just be attracted to it for the beautiful photography. But when they open it and begin to learn about what has happened to these dogs and some of the transformative hero tales within the book, their hearts will open and more dogs will have a future.

When is the new calendar coming out? Tell me something exciting about the newest edition.

I am so excited about our 2015 calendar! Not only is it our 10th anniversary calendar, but it is by far the best calendar that we have ever produced.

Share this image
Nancy and Brock in Paris. (Photo by Celeste Giuliano)

Celeste Giuliano and her amazing team make working together a blast. You can see it in the photos and some of the behind-the-scenes images that we’re including in this edition. We chose an Archie comics style this year, because we display our educational booths at various comic-cons throughout the U.S. It is very fun and so colorful! It’s like nothing that we have ever produced before.

Every year it seems impossible to figure out how we can do better than the last year, and then, somehow we do! It’s a team effort and we’re so lucky to have such amazing advocates grace the pages this year.

Share this image
(Photography by Celeste Giuliano)

You use volunteers to host events throughout the country. What are you looking for in potential volunteers?

We are looking for men and women who are well-spoken, caring, and compassionate individuals, and who are ready to speak well on behalf of dogs. We arm our volunteers with science-based facts that are irrefutable and emotion-free.

It is important to us, as the voice for dogs, that we speak in a concise and educated manner about these dogs. The bottom line is, they are simply dogs and they deserve the same TLC that any other dog deserves. We are looking for people who do not simply want to be in our calendar, but rather who want to share booth space with our advocates and enjoy the honor of speaking for dogs. 

Share this image
Stephanie and Echo in space. (Photo by Celeste Giuliano)

Do you have any tips to share for how you balance your day job with your rescue and advocacy efforts?

Ha! Thankfully, after nearly 10 years, this is my day job. I’ve always worked two-plus jobs and volunteered, keeping myself rather busy for years. My best advice would be: If you feel yourself getting tired, impatient, or angry, take a step back and take care of yourself first. You’re no good to the cause or yourself when you yourself need TLC. You can do better work with a well-rested, kind-hearted lifestyle. 

Remember also that a little bit goes a long way and that we are all cogs in a much greater machine. We can do a little bit for a long time and still affect change. Try not to take on the world all at once. Together, we will make a difference.

To learn more about Pinups for Pit Bulls, follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram; keep up with Deirdre on Twitter and Instagram; and purchase the book or calendar

Read related stories on Dogster:

About the author: Kezia Willingham works for Head Start by day and is a freelance writer on the side. She lives with her family, which includes 6 cats and 4 dogs, in the Pacific Northwest. Her writing has appeared in xoJane, Literary Mama, and the Seattle Times. You can follow her on Twitter

]]>
Tue, 23 Sep 2014 06:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/pit-bull-calendar-pictures-photos-pinups-for-pitbulls
<![CDATA[We Ask a Comedian About Pit Bull Rescue -- And It's No Laughing Matter]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/rebecca-corry-pit-bull-dogs-stand-up-for-pits-dog-rescue-adoption-interview-pictures-photos
Share this image

As a comedian, I get to meet many talented people. You see them at the clubs over and over again and become friendly in passing, but it’s not like we’re calling each other up and hanging out on the weekends (most of us are hopefully working on the weekends).

So on the rare occasion when you actually strike up a real friendship with a fellow comedian, it is very nice. It is even nicer when you share a passion: rescuing dogs and raising awareness about the issues they face.

I have known comedian Rebecca Corry for years. I knew that she was hilarious, talented, and very charitable. What I didn’t know until a few years ago was that we shared a passion for dogs and more specifically Pit Bulls. I have written about the plight of the Pit for years, but Rebecca has been their voice for years, as has her rescue Pittie, Angel.

Share this image
Comedian Rebecca Corry and her pittie, Angel, are supporters of Show Your Soft Side. (Photo courtesy Rebecca Corry)

I recently sat down with her to discuss Stand Up for Pits' expansion to New York City and the One Million Pibble March on Washington.

Tell us about Angel. When did your love of dogs begin?

She is the exact opposite of me. She is calm, zenlike, loving, patient, and kind. I am not. She is flawless! Angel loves everybody. I do not. Angel is living proof that Pit Bull Terriers are born inherently good. 

I came out of the womb loving animals. I’ve always had a connection with animals. I just think they are the most magnificent gift we have been given. If people were more like dogs, the world would be a much better place.

Share this image
Angel is known on Twitter as the #velvethippo. Photo courtesy Rebecca Corry's Twitter feed

You recently led the One Million Pibble March on Washington. How did it go? 

It truly was one of the most special days of my life, and I know it was just as special to the thousands of people who joined us. It was amazing to be part of a giant group of people who stood together as one loud voice for the voiceless.

Share this image
Rebecca's beloved Angel played a starring role in the One Million Pibble march. (Photo courtesy Rebecca Corry)

It accomplished a lot as we showed people that they have the power to do something. The march also inspired people to be more active and educated people about the dog-fighting epidemic in this country and breed-specific legislation. We sent a message to those in power that were no longer going to be quiet. We let our lawmakers know that we’re not going to sit back and take breed-specific legislation anymore.

Share this image
Rebecca addresses the crowds at the One Million Pibble March. (Photo courtesy Rebecca Corry)

I believe the affects of the march will live on forever. The march brought people in and outside of the animal community together and thousands were inspired to take action. Zero downside to that magical day. Zero.

You worked long and hard on putting the One Million Pibble March together. What did it feel like the day it was actually here?

Well, that’s a tough question. Not sure how long it will take me to fully process the journey and experience, but I can say, that when you walk on to the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol and see thousands of people after you have dedicated over a year of your life to putting it all together, it's beyond overwhelming. The incredible turnout gave me hope and inspiration.

Share this image
The crowd at the One Million Pibble March greeted Angel like the superstar she is. (Photo courtesy Rebecca Corry)

The march made history. It was a giant step in the right direction for many reasons. One big one being the empowerment of people. We are the majority and we have to take it upon ourselves to do everything we can. If the "experts" and animal community could fix this it would have been fixed already. We need everyone to understand the abuse and discrimination these dogs have received. It’s up to all of us to do something about it. We have a long way to go but I am proud to have been part of that historic day with all those beautiful human beings.

Share this image
Photo courtesy Rebecca Corry

What was your inspiration for putting together the march?

It’s a really simple answer: Knowledge. When you learn about BSL, you learn the dog-fighting epidemic is bigger now more than ever before, and doing nothing is not an option. But the true inspiration for all things I do is Angel. Knowing and loving her is enough to inspire my life's work. She is magical. They all are and they all deserve a chance to live love-filled, safe lives.

Share this image
(Photo courtesy Rebecca Corry)

You recently expanded your benefit Stand Up for Pits to New York City. How did it go? 

People stood in line for over an hour to get a kiss from the precious Angel in the kissing booth. New Yorkers are amazing people. It was one of the most enthusiastic audiences we have had. The comedians Janeane Garofalo, Susie Essman, Morgan Murphy, yourself -- the whole show was awesome. People had been wanting us to bring Stand Up for Pits to New York City for years, and it feels good to have done that and know we are coming back.

Share this image
Comedian and cat lover Marc Maron was won over by Angel, too. Photo courtesy Rebecca Corry's Twitter feed

Our dream is to get into more cities and bigger venues. The more cities, the bigger the venues, the more awareness we raise. We are currently in seven cities but every city in this country needs Stand Up for Pits -- there is much work to be done. 

How can people get involved with the Stand Up for Pits Foundation?

Come to the live events! You don’t have to own a Pit or even own a dog to enjoy Stand Up for Pits. By coming you are saving lives and being a part of positive change. People can get involved by visiting the site, learning about what they can do to help end abuse and discrimination, and then take action.

Share this image
Angel waits patiently for bacon. Photo courtesy Rebecca Corry's Twitter feed

If you’re not able to attend an event or foster or adopt, you can donate or purchase merchandise or spread the word. It all matters.

Our foundation is about reaching everyone, not just people in the animal community -- abuse and discrimination is everyone's problem. It’s a social issue, and together we can end it and create safer and more humane communities for humans and pets. We want to inspire people to do what they can and encourage them to stick to it. We have amazing supporters. They are some of the smartest, most dedicated people I have ever met. I love them.

Share this image
Rebecca and Angel starred in the Show Your Soft Side campaign.

What’s the best part about having Angel in your life?

The best part of life is having Angel. She is a gift. Pure joy and love, and I'm the luckiest person on earth for having the privilege of being owned by her. I never take a single moment I have with her for granted. I've been asked, "Do you think dogs are better than people?" My answer, “Have you met people?”

To keep up with Rebecca, Angel, and the latest on the Stand Up for Pits Foundation, follow them on Facebook and follow Rebecca on Twitter and Instagram. Then be sure to catch Rebecca on NBC’s new sitcom One Big Happy, produced by Ellen DeGeneres.

Read related stories on Dogster:

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

Do you know of a rescue hero — dog, human, or group — we should profile on Dogster? Write us at dogsterheroes@dogster.com.
 
About the author: Brian Fischler is a standup comedian and writer. He has been seen on The Today Show, published in Maxim Magazine as the Comedian of the Month, and on Top Gear USA on The History Channel. Along with writing for Dogster, Brian also writes for Cesar Millan’s website and magazine. Brian also runs Laugh For Sight, a bicoastal comedy benefit featuring the biggest names in comedy that come together to raise money and awareness for retinal degenerative eye disease research. You can connect with Brian on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @Blindgator. 
]]>
Thu, 10 Jul 2014 02:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/rebecca-corry-pit-bull-dogs-stand-up-for-pits-dog-rescue-adoption-interview-pictures-photos
<![CDATA[How the Love of a Pit Bull Helped Me Beat Bulimia]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dog-adoption-love-pit-bull-bulimia-addiction Angel was a white, heavy-set Pit Bull with a head twice the size of mine, and she came to the shelter after being hit by a car. As a result of the accident, one front leg was slightly shorter than the other, so that when she walked, she had this adorable strut, this irritable wiggle, and a butt so big and noticeable she was nicknamed Kim K. 

I met Angel while working in the marketing department at a local humane society, during my lowest of lows. The love of my life had just moved out, anyone who knew me was telling me to go back to rehab, and I was spending all of my money on food that I’d inevitably throw up. Sometimes, I vomited up to 20 times a night. After seven years as a bulimic, I saw no difference between myself and the homeless drug addicts who lived outside of my studio apartment. Their drug was heroin; mine was cupcakes. 

Share this image
I loved hanging out with Sweet Pea at the shelter. She was a one-year-old pit bull mix with a heart of gold.

Sometimes I look back and wonder how I could have possibly kept a job during this time, but then I remember dogs like Angel. She made me smile with that strut -- and how insistent she was to be in a person’s lap, all 75 pounds of her. I’d hold her and talk to her, tell her about my problems until I forgot about them for a few precious minutes. I’d get lost in the emotion I felt looking into her eyes -- a combination of a sadness, anger, and disappointment. Angel had been at the shelter for months and very few people showed interest in her. She was surely as affectionate the Bichon Frise I’d grown up with, and better trained. 

Share this image
Wilson the pittie really is a great dog.

Yet her bulky appearance was intimidating. And if anyone could understand judgment based on appearances, it was me. Most of the time, my entire self-worth was based on my weight. Sometimes, I closed my eyes in the shower because I couldn’t stand to look down at my body. My body was normal-sized, perhaps even too thin, but that’s not what I saw. I saw what my mind told me, and it was always the same -- fat, disgusting, ugly. 

The mind doesn’t know everything. This is what addiction and six years working in animal welfare has taught me. The mind doesn’t know everything.

Despite years of therapy, rehab, spiritual retreats and nutritionists' appointments, I did nothing but grow sicker. I was around Pit Bulls every day. And at my worst, these dogs gave me a place of comfort and acceptance, which I felt I didn’t deserve. With them, I was free from the burden of a critical and often delusional mind. I thought less and felt more. I breathed. I soothed. I petted. I told dogs like Angel the awful things I did in the night, the paychecks I spent at Burger King and 7-11, the food and blood I vomited, the ugliness of the life I was desperately trying to hide -- and they’d look at me no different. Actually, they’d look at me like I mattered, like I meant something, like I was a reason for joy. Those eyes, those sweet Pit Bull eyes -- they gave me something to live for.

Share this image
Sweet Pea and other Pit Bulls helped me to heal.

Before I worked at the humane society, I was afraid of Pit Bulls. I’d seen the news stories. I’d seen how big they were. I’d never interacted with one. I didn’t know that a dog is the way that he or she is for many reasons, breed being just one of them. I didn’t know that every dog, like every person, is different. I didn’t know that Pit Bulls would come to be the great passion of my life and ultimately help me to heal.

According to the National Association of Anorexia and Eating Disorders, 24 million people of all ages suffer from some kind of eating disorder, and only 1 in 10 seek treatment. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, underscoring the widespread nature of this often silent condition. In some small way, I hope that my story (which I've shared on Salon as well) will encourage more sufferers of addiction to turn to animals -- whatever animals they are drawn to -- as a source of love and healing.

I’m still turning to Pit Bulls, and I hope I will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

My definition of beauty has changed. What I once ran from, what I once didn’t understand, I can find beauty in today.

#pitbeautiful = uniquely, unconventionally beautiful

Every dog, like every person, is different. Let’s change society’s perception, and help spread awareness about #pitbeautiful dogs across the country in need of homes. Join me in sharing adoptable pit bulls on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #pitbeautiful.

Here are some links to adoptable Pit Bulls in my area:

1. Wilson #pitbeautiful, available through Karma Rescue

2. Bambi #pitbeautiful, ready for adoption through the San Diego Humane Society

Share this image
Bambi is up for adoption at the San Diego Humane Society.

3. Gentle Ben #pitbeautiful, available from It's the Pits

Share this image

4. Chico, #pitbeautiful, available through the Pasadena Humane Society:

Share this image
Chico in Pasadena is looking for a home.

 5. Nala, #pitbeautiful, also available through the Pasadena Humane Society:

Share this image

6. Maui, #pitbeautiful,  available at San Diego Humane Services.

Share this image

7. Faith, #pitbeautiful, available from It's the Pits.

Share this image

8. Juliet, #pitbeautiful, available through No Kill Los Angeles.

Share this image

Do you know Pit Bulls in need of homes? I encourage you to post them in the comments below and use the hashtag #pitbeautiful.

Read more about Pit Bulls:

Read more about the bond between humans and dogs on Dogster:

About the author: Shannon Gusy is a San Diego-based writer and hardcore animal lover. She is working on a memoir about eating disorders, pit bulls, and the courage to change everything. Follow Shannon on Twitter.

]]>
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 06:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-adoption-love-pit-bull-bulimia-addiction
<![CDATA[How to Find a Breed-Specific Dog Rescue Group]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dog-breeds-breed-specific-rescue-group-adoption-tips I’ve supported animal rescue organizations for many years. I've participated in adoption events, community awareness presentations, and animal socialization sessions. I've cleaned my fair share of dog runs. I even spent time as the president of the Humane Society of Forsyth County (Georgia), a no-kill shelter. Anything I could do to help a dog or cat get adopted, I have done, and I expect to continue doing so for many years ahead.

Share this image
My wife, Kim, and I love Schnauzers, so we adopted Buzz and Woody from a Schnauzer rescue group.

Often people approach me looking for a specific type of dog. They’ve either had a dog of that breed in the past or know someone who has one now. Sometimes, though not as often as I would like, they’ve put a lot of time into researching various breeds to determine the ones that might be the right fit for their family or individual lifestyle.

I try to persuade them that all dogs have their own personalities, regardless of breed specifics. Many non-purebred dogs are wonderful, healthy, and very smart. These dogs can make wonderful companions for their families.

If they still insist on adopting a purebred, I let them know that they are indeed available at local animal shelters and through animal rescues and breed-specific organizations. You can find a rescue organization for just about every breed of dog out there.

For example, we adopted our most recent Schnauzer, Kramer, from Schnauzer Love Rescue, which focuses on rescuing and adopting Schnauzers throughout the southeastern United States. There are also wonderful organizations like Arizona Golden Rescue, who find homes for Golden Retrievers, and Friends to the Forlorn, who rescue and rehome Pit Bulls.

Share this image
Kramer came to us via Schnauzer Love Rescue.

I asked Nancy Delf at Schnauzer Love Rescue how her group finds dogs. “I think few people know to look for a rescue organization if they need to relinquish their dogs," she says. "I’ve answered several Craigslist ads for rehoming Schnauzers." Instead of their owners trying to find their dogs new homes online, she offers to take the Schnauzers into her rescue group. "People just don’t know about, or don’t think about, turning their dog in to a breed-specific rescue. I think more people would turn their dogs in to us instead of taking them to county shelters, too, if they were just aware that this was an option.”

I asked Nancy what she believes to be the biggest misconception people have regarding rescue organizations. “People need to understand that many rescues are run entirely by volunteers," she says. Her group is completely reliant on donations and adoption fees -- and those fees are still probably less than SLR's veterinarian costs, should a particular dog be kept for any length of time.

Nancy stressed that you'll need to remain patient with any dog you bring into your home. But she says the upside of going to a group like hers is that you know what you’re getting, since they know the breed and are very familiar with the dogs in their care.

Share this image
Approach adoption with an open mind. Photo: Sad puppy looking through mesh by Shutterstock

Some breed-specific organizations have operations in several states. “If there is a dog in Florida and someone in Tennessee wants to adopt the dog, we try to arrange transportation to get the dog to Tennessee or at least a little closer to the adopter’s location,” Nancy says. “We have a vast transport network. Ultimately, it would be better for the family to go to where the dog is to meet them initially because the dog would be in a comfortable setting for the first meeting. However, realistically, that can’t always happen.”

Here are five ways to learn more about breed-specific rescue groups and adoption.

1. Petfinder

Search Petfinder to locate specific breeds of dogs as well as breed-specific organizations nationally or in your area.

2. Dogster

Visit Dogster, especially our Dogster Heroes articles, which often deal with breed-specific rescue groups. 

3. Web search

Use an Internet search engine to search for specific breeds. Use key words with the breed name, like “adoptable Schnauzers,” “Schnauzer rescues,” or “Schnauzers available for adoption."

4. Pet supply stores

Visit larger pet supply stores during posted dog adoption events. There's an adoption event virtually every weekend in my area, and you may find the breed of dog you're looking for. Be sure to talk with the adoption event coordinator if you don’t see a dog you’re interested in. Often, they’ll have more dogs available for adoption or currently at foster homes.

5. Foster

Nancy also recommends fostering dogs for a local rescue organization. In doing so, you can meet several dogs and eventually you will find one that you cannot live without.

Have you adopted a dog from a breed-specific rescue? Do you have favorite rescues to recommend, or tips to share? Share your stories on Dogster.

Read more about breed-specific rescues and shelters: 

Check out these other great Dogster articles by Tim Link:

About Tim Link: All-American guy who loves to rock out to Queen while consuming pizza and Pinot Noir and prefers to associate with open-minded people who love all critters. Considers himself to be the literal voice for all animals. Author, writer, radio host, Reiki Master, Animal Communicator and consultant at Wagging Tales

]]>
Wed, 05 Mar 2014 08:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/dog-breeds-breed-specific-rescue-group-adoption-tips
<![CDATA[Is Breed-Specific Legislation on Its Way Out?]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/dog-breeds-laws-breed-specific-legislation-bsl-trend Could breed-specific legislation become a thing of the past? Is it on its way there now? A trend suggests that it could be.

It used to be that supporting a bill outlawing the vicious breed-of-the-day -- most often Pit Bulls -- was a great way for politicians to gain street cred as being no-nonsense, take-action kinds of people without actually risking anything. But more and more, people and their representatives are starting to see breed-specific legislation as the cheap scapegoating tactic that it is. In August, President Obama took a public stand against BSL, calling it "largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources."

A lot more people are coming to that conclusion, and it's showing in the laws. Right now, 17 states have banned breed-specific legislation, and six more -- Maryland, Vermont, South Dakota, Missouri, Utah, and Washington -- have laws in the works.

Share this image
Pug Laying Down With Handcuffs by Shutterstock.

The Huffington Post published a pretty good article by Arin Greenwood last Friday about the growing trend, and why breed-specific legislation is no longer popular. The best argument is just that the facts are against it: More studies are showing that, whatever you think about the fairness of BSL, or whether it's right, it just does not make people any safer.

Greenwood points to a study that came out just last December, in The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, that looked at common factors in fatal dog attacks. The factors identified included the victim being a stranger to the dog; the dog having a history of abusive owners; and poor management of the dog by the owner.

"Breed was not one of those factors," the study's authors say, forthrightly.

Another study from 2010 reported that breed-specific laws had no effect on incidence of dog attacks in the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain.

Share this image
Pit Bull Dog by Shutterstock.

The strength of BSL has always been that it appeals to "common sense." But the history of science is that for hundreds of years, it has shown that "common sense" is often incompatible with the facts. But prejudice can still have a grip over the facts. In Maryland, an appeals court ruled last year that landlords could be held responsible for violent Pit Bulls who are in the custody of their tenants. After that decision, a lot of Pit Bull owners in Maryland were faced with a stark choice: lose their dog or lose their home. Legislation now under consideration in Maryland would prevent landlords from discriminating against tenants because of the breeds of their dogs.

The time of breed-specific legislation may not be over, but it is dwindling, slowly.

Via Huffington Post

Read the most talked about news on Dogster:

]]>
Tue, 11 Feb 2014 10:00:00 -0800 /the-scoop/dog-breeds-laws-breed-specific-legislation-bsl-trend
<![CDATA[Is It Responsible to Breed or Buy Wolf Dog Hybrids? ]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/wolf-dog-breeds-breeding-hybrid-dogs-rescue-adoption When dogs are pushed to mix together closely with wolves or coyotes, they will sometimes interbreed and produce fertile offspring. In the wild this presents a challenge to the conservation of many different wolf and wolf-like species around the world. In captivity, we are confronted with the phenomenon of the wolf dog as a companion or privately held captive exotic animal.

What is a wolf dog?

The domestic dog is technically a sub-species of the wolf, so the extent to which a dog is a “wolf dog” (also called hybrids) is a matter of degree. And a certain amount of of cross breeding has occurred throughout history. These days wolf dog crosses are normally made with dogs of a similar body type such as Malamutes, Huskies, and German Shepherds. This is despite the fact that ancient dog breeds like the Shar-Pei and Basenji are actually genetically closer to the ancestral wolf.

Share this image
Wolfdog -- Lori Labrecque /Shutterstock

Many shelters and experts consider dogs with a pure wolf ancestor within the last five generations to be a wolf dog. Given that capture of wolves is illegal and few wolf owners breed them with dogs, very few deliberately bred American wolf dogs are recent crosses. Wolf dog breeders tend to describe wolf dogs as low, medium, or high content depending on the proportion of wolf ancestry (sometimes creatively calculated).

So if, for example, you breed two wolf dogs, each with one pure wolf parent (50 percent), their offspring would also be counted as 50 percent, and any similarly bred offspring, even five or ten generation after the initial outcross to the wolf. However, later generation animals may be very different due to the arbitrary redistribution of genes and unavoidable selection for dogs more adapted to domestic settings. On the open market, high-content puppies are more valuable and many pure dogs are fraudulently sold as wolf dogs.

Breed and accidents

Wolf dog breeds have been established at various periods in history: the Saarloos hound in the 1920s, as well as a wolf dog breed established in Czechoslovakia in the 1950s and Italy in the 1960s. The breeds are considered to now be domesticated breeds of dog and not, despite their names, hybrids.

Share this image
Czechoslovakian wolfdog -- guido nardacci / Shutterstock

On the other hand, wolf genes are sporadically reintroduced because first generation wolf dogs are still accidentally produced when a female dog in heat strays and encounters a male wolf. Owners suspecting such a cross can use a genetic test offered by UC Davis to detect wolf genetics in the puppies. The test is not reliable beyond three generations of descent from the wolf. The information may be important as wolf dogs may need to be kept more like captive exotic animals than docile pets once they start to mature, and owners for these demanding first generation hybrids must be selected with care.

Wolf dog ownership

Ownership of wolf dogs is illegal or highly restricted in most states as they are considered potentially dangerous. Nevertheless it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of wolf dogs are kept in the United States. As such, many veterinarians cannot legally treat a dog they know to be a wolf dog and owners often misrepresent the breed of their animal. (Especially as it is official policy that that rabies vaccine is not effective with wolf dogs, though that is a decision that many consider to be more a matter of policy than science).

Share this image
Wolfdog in an outdoor enclosure -- Mariomassone / Wikimedia Commons

Wolf dogs show variable level of "domesticated" behavior, which becomes clear as they outgrow puppyhood. Many need to be kept in a highly secure outdoor enclosure suitable for a wild animals rather than in the home.

Wolf dogs being kept in substandard housing, or that end up in rescues and sanctuaries, has become a problem. Most shelters will not adopt known wolf dogs due to a high profile case in the 1980s, when a recently adopted wolf dog escaped and killed a child.

Are wolf dogs dangerous?

Many breeders currently operating make blanket claims that wolf dogs are “not aggressive.” The reality is more complex. Wolf dogs inherit an arbitrary amount of wolf genotype and phenotype. There are accounts online of two wolf dogs from the same litter raised in the same home where one was a dog-like pet and the other would not tolerate human contact and was euthanized for fear aggression. 

It is hard to judge the range of temperament found in the current population of American wolf dogs, as breeders and owners tend to want to downplay the stigma but also emphasize the “wild” mystique of these hybrids -- and very little reliable data is available, especially in states where ownership is illegal.

Given that wolf dog behavior will vary on a continuum from domesticated to wild, it is understandable that the authorities do not want to open the door to unlimited breeding and ownership of wolf hybrids. The trend nationwide is towards restricting ownership of exotic animals and by extension crossbreeds of these species.

In states where ownership is illegal I think that to own a wolf dog is to place your animal at risk of seizure and potentially euthanasia. And a large population of these animals represent a higher risk of escape and interbreeding with wolves than domestic dogs. In general, the existence of the hybrid risks introducing negative traits back into both parent populations, and the hybrids themselves are highly challenging animals to care for, with an elevated chance of being neglected or maltreated.

Share this image
Black coloration in American wolves is due to genes from cross-breeding with dogs -- public domain image

So what is the justification for breeding these animals? Basically people think they are cool; sometimes for deep spiritual reasons, but often for shallow macho reasons. It seems to me that if people like a wolfish look or temperament in their dogs, there are breeds with a history of backcrossing, where many generations of selective breeding have established all the necessary features of domestication, such as readily bonding with humans and reduced emotional reactivity (for example, fear and aggression).

As an individual I can understand being fascinated with wolf dogs. I personally have often pondered the possibilities of owning exotic pets like the Russian strain of domesticated foxes or the world largest rodent, the capybara. It is certainly possible to be a responsible owner of any of these animals.

I oppose discrimination against breeds, but it is my opinion that wolf dogs should not be deliberately bred. Responsible dog owners who understand the special responsibility of caring for a wolf dog, and who live in a state where ownership is legal, should seek out animals in need of rescue or rehoming -- and be prepared to house them in an enriched outdoor enclosure if necessary. 

There is a reason our bond with the wolf ultimately created the dog. Because dogs are safer choices for us, and they have more fun living with us than animals who still carry an instinct to fear humans, which they might never fully overcome.

What do you think? Should people breed or buy wolf dogs? Let us know in the comments!

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

About the author: Emily Kane is a New Zealand-born animal behaviorist of the throw-back radical behaviorist type, albeit with a holistic-yuppie-feminist-slacker twist. She spent many years as an animal behavior researcher and is now more of an indoor paper-pushing researcher. Her early dog-related education came from Jess the Afghan Hound and Border Collies Bandit and Tam. It is now being continued by her own dogs and extended dog family and some cats (and her three aquatic snails Gala, Granny, and Pippin -- they think of themselves as dog-esque).

]]>
Fri, 31 Jan 2014 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/wolf-dog-breeds-breeding-hybrid-dogs-rescue-adoption
<![CDATA[Good News! Washington State Might Be Next to Prohibit Breed-Specific Legislation]]> http://www.dogster.com/the-scoop/breed-specific-legislation-dog-breeds-pit-bull-bsl-washington-state-bill Here's some good news in dog-related law: Washington state is considering banning breed-specific legislation.

Under HB 2117, introduced by Rep. Sherry Appleton, cities would no longer be allowed to use the breed of a dog to determine whether the animals should be declared "dangerous." Only the dog's behavior could be considered. Right now, about two to three dozen cities in Washington have ordinances that target specific breeds.

Share this image
Pit Bulls are one of the most popular targets of breed-specific legislation. Outdoor Portrait close-up American Pit Bull Terrier by Shutterstock.

A lot of breeds have been targets by breed-specific legislation, or BSL, but Pit Bull owners probably feel the brunt of it most often. Thanks to the news media image of Pits as being violent, and their association with dog fighting, they're easy targets. In Dec., I even wrote about a city attorney in North Chicago who rationalized a policeman's fatal shooting of a dog because "Many drug dealers have a Pit Bull and this was a Pit Bull." That kind of fear makes it easy to target an entire breed based on the actions of a few.

Appleton made a pointed and evocative argument against this image of "dangerous" dogs: "I had a friend that was attacked and disfigured by a Beagle. That's Snoopy," she said. "It just depends on how a dog is treated."

Share this image
Capitol of Olympia in Washington state by Shutterstock.

That's a great point, although it does leave me with the image of Snoopy, my beloved childhood icon, as Cujo rattling around in my head.

Sometimes, breed-specific legislation can seem like an easy sell for politicians. It has the benefit of offering a simple, clear solution to a public problem, and it can make a politician seem unafraid to stand up and take clear and decisive action. But as H.L. Mencken once said, "There is always a well-known solution to every human problem -- neat, plausible, and wrong."

Share this image
catwalker / Shutterstock.com

More states are coming to recognize this, with regard to breed-specific legislation. Last June, Nevada became the 14th state to outlaw BSL. Late last year, President Obama publicly opposed BSL in response to a petition submitted via the White House's website.

It would be great to see Washington join that list, and congratulations to Rep. Appleton for bringing the issue to the table.

But please -- can I have cute Snoopy back in my head now?

Read more on Breed-Specific Legislation:

Via Seattle Times and Examiner.com

]]>
Wed, 15 Jan 2014 11:30:00 -0800 /the-scoop/breed-specific-legislation-dog-breeds-pit-bull-bsl-washington-state-bill
<![CDATA[Pit Bulls Get a Celebrity Makeover with Rachael Ray and Her Pittie, Isaboo]]> http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/rachael-ray-pit-bull-dog-rescue-celebrity-makeover-isaboo-interview Last month dog lovers, and, in particular, Pit Bull fans celebrated National Pitbull Awareness Month, designed to change perceptions and stereotypes about Pit Bulls and their responsible owners. Fortunately, celebrities such as Rachael Ray and Denise Richards are getting on board. Such support is doing a lot to help restore the Pit's image as a lovable family dog.  

“Pit Bulls weren’t always synonymous with a bad dog image,” explains celebrity dog trainer Harrison Forbes of Franklin, Tennessee. Forbes himself is a family man with a lovable Pit Bull named Ruger.  

Share this image
I was lucky enough to sit down for a chat with Rachael about Isaboo.

“Back in the '70s, the Doberman was the tough guy’s dog of choice, and then it was the Rottweiler in the '80s," Forbes says. "The Pit Bull is just the latest trend. It’s just sustained this image a lot longer in the cycle of the tough dog breed because they have what behaviorists call a 'soft temperament,' which means that they are easy to handle and look a lot tougher than they are."

The reason so many Pit Bulls are still landing in shelters around the country is that the wrong people are getting this type of dog for the wrong reasons. 

Forbes helped actress Denise Richards rehome a dog she rescued but couldn’t keep because she already had the maximum number of pets legally allowed on her property. Richards even paid for the dog to be in doggie daycare until it was adopted.  

Share this image
The "Pit Boss" crew, with Shorty Rossi, center.

The Animal Planet show Pit Boss, where Pit Bull devotee Shorty Rossi, takes on the gargantuan task of rescuing, rehabbing, and training them, has done a lot to restore the image. 

But leading the celebrity bandwagon is TV personality Rachael Ray. Ray has started a rescue organization called Rachael’s Rescue to find Pit Bulls forever homes, which is funded with the proceeds of her pet food line Nutrish. She also uses her celebrity to promote her favorite pooch, Isaboo, as a poster child showing the endearing charm of Pit Bulls.

Share this image
Rachael and her beloved Isaboo.

Although her pooch has been well-schooled in good manners around the house, Ray admits that just like any other dog, Isaboo knows how to take advantage of her mom. To show her pooch’s soft lovable personality, she shared Isaboo’s favorite things with Dogster.

Favorite Food: "It's my lamb with orzo. She loves that. We make Izzie a dog version of whatever we're eating as a family every night." 

Favorite Color: “Orange. It's the color of hunger awareness, and she happens to look so darn good in it. I love to dress her up."

Isaboo’s Pet Hate: "Dogs with a Napoleon complex -- she just doesn't get it. She especially loves little dogs and wants to play. And she doesn't understand cats; she thinks they are cute dogs. My mother has 15 cats and she sits down on the floor crying and begging them to play with her."

Favorite Pastime: "A good nap in the middle of my pillows with her favorite cashmere blanket covering her."

Favorite thing to do with Rachael: "We love to watch movies together, especially teary ones. She helps me calm down after a good drama or a tragic love story. I really need her. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I loved the movie District 9. I cried so hard when the main character made a little metal rose out of a garbage can for his girlfriend. Izzie came over and started kissing me and trying to clean me up with an expression on her face that said 'Snap out of it!'"

Share this image
Harrison Forbes with his pittie, Ruger.

Isaboo’s pet name for Rachael (if she could talk): "It would be Ma, of course! And she would say something like 'Ma! Really, Ma! Get a hobby, Ma, and stop staring at me!’ "

Fortunately, more rescue shelters are starting to develop enrichment programs that offer some of the same opportunities that dogs get in foster homes. For example, basic obedience training, play groups, and even off-site field trips with volunteers. 

If you are planning to adopt a Pit Bull, don't be shy about asking the shelter or rescue a lot of questions about their programs. Learn about what kinds of routines the dogs have gone through while waiting to be rehomed. This way you can continue this methodology at home. 

About the author: Sandy Robins is an award-winning multimedia pet lifestyle expert and author and spokesperson. She is the 2013 recipient of the Outstanding Journalism and Contribution to the Pet Industry award, presented by the American Pet products Association. Her third cat book, The Original Cat Bible, will be on bookshelves spring 2014. She lives in southern California with her family and fur kids cats Fudge and Ziggy, and has been voted “favorite auntie” by every dog on the block. Follow her on Facebook.

Read more about Pit Bulls and their fans:

]]>
Fri, 22 Nov 2013 10:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/rachael-ray-pit-bull-dog-rescue-celebrity-makeover-isaboo-interview