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!
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.”
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.
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.
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!
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