October is Pit Bull Awareness Month, and in the Canadian city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, a young male Pit Bull known as Heroic Henry is finally learning to trust humans — and he’s proving that Pit Bulls are often the ones who need protection, despite their reputation.
“From what we understand, Henry was on a leash, tied to a dark minivan, and then pulled down Lenore Drive for a number of blocks before the leash broke,” the Executive Director of the Saskatoon SPCA, Patricia Cameron, tells Dogster.
“Many bystanders were horrified to see this, and they rushed to his aid.”
Henry was taken to the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine suffering multiple injuries to his face, legs, and body. He was covered in severe road rash, and in some places his injuries went right down to the bone. But Henry didn’t give up.
“He survived, which is pretty amazing,” says Cameron. “The clinic felt that he had a good opportunity to recover and set about giving him treatment, and he came into our care.”
The Saskatoon SPCA was ready and willing to care for Henry, but knew it wouldn’t be cheap.
“We look after 4,000 animals each year, and it’s very expensive to provide all that care for thousands of animals, so we rely on extra fundraising for these high-needs medical cases,” explains Cameron.
“In Henry’s case, we needed a lot of money because [his medical] estimates now are over $15,000,” says Cameron, who adds that some of the people who witnessed Henry’s horrible assault were among the first to come forward with donations.
The Saskatoon SPCA still does not know exactly how much the total cost of Henry’s medical care will be, as Henry is likely going to require surgery for a wound that is not healing properly. According to Cameron, any extra funds donated in Henry’s name will be directed to other high-needs medical cases. Three more such animals have come into the shelter since Henry began his journey of healing just weeks ago, in late September.
“He’s still a ways away from recovery, emotionally and physically,” says Cameron, who does note progress. “He is being more friendly. When he first came in, he was totally terrified. A terrified dog is more likely to lash out to try to protect themselves, but now he’s gradually coming into his own.”
As he is still healing from his injuries, Henry isn’t adoptable quite yet, but when the time comes, Cameron says he will require a very special human.
“Someone who is aware of his background and is going to use a lot of patience and humane, positive reinforcement training — none of this punishment-based training — and who can be patient and also make sure that Henry is kept safe and secure so that he doesn’t feel fearful.”
Cameron says that at 60-70 pounds, Henry is a very powerful animal who will need to live with someone who is able and willing to give him the exercise an athletic, muscular dog requires — and he’s not the only dog of this kind who is looking for that special someone.
“We do see Pit Bull and Pit Bull mixes regularly, and we have seen a number of animals that look like Henry,” Cameron explains, adding that it’s thought Henry might have some Staffordshire in him and may have been bred specifically for a muscular physique and an extra large head.
“He’s what some people call a hippopotamus-head Pit Bull.”
Cameron says the Saskatoon SPCA would like to see standards of breeding that protect animals from exaggerated features that may cause health issues, but Henry is one of the lucky ones — other than the injuries he sustained in the dragging, he is healthy, which is helpful in his recovery.
“He’s doing great. Way better than one would ever imagine.”
Although terrified at first, Henry is now up and moving, and is confident enough to take food from SPCA staff. The organization is grateful for the outpouring of support from the community of Saskatoon, which is generally supportive of Pit Bulls.
“The people who have been vocal about Henry’s case, most of them are very sympathetic to the breed and do believe that it’s about the owner,” says Cameron. “If there’s a problem dog, it’s not the breed, it’s that the animal has not been appropriately trained and given the kind of guidance that would make them successful in the community.”
Henry is far from the first Pit Bull to get a second chance thanks to Saskatoon and its SPCA. Earlier this year, the Saskatoon SPCA welcomed a group of Pit Bulls from the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society in Ontario. That province has banned Pit Bulls, so the shelter could not rehome them locally.
“I think that communities are deluding themselves if they think it’s a safer community by banning any breed,” says Cameron, who promotes responsible pet ownership instead of breed-specific legislation.
“Kitchener-Waterloo flew out four dogs to us, they’d all been health checked, had their vaccines, and been behavior tested,” Cameron explains. “They’ve all found their forever homes here and are reported to be very happy in them.”
The Saskatoon SPCA hopes Henry will get his happy ending, too, and make people think twice about their bias against the breed.
“Pit Bulls deserve a lot of sympathy because they’re great dogs, but at human hands they can have very bad outcomes,” says Cameron. She hopes someone with information that would help identify the people in the minivan that dragged Henry will come forward.
“It’s a miracle he survived, and the outpouring of love and understanding for him from the community is also amazing.”
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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+.