Monday, March 06, 2017

Matzo meets 'his' cats: Slow and steady wins the race

When Amy and James asked to adopt Matzo Ball, they told us they had two cats at home, in addition to their two dogs.  Would it work?

The dog part would likely go smoothly but the cats were a concern. We were very honest: “He can be an excitable guy and he’s shown some prey drive towards squirrels and birds. We believe he could injure your cat if intros go too fast. BUT, if you take intros nice and slow – and in, weeks-slow rather than hours-slow, and if you stage your intros and monitor every step, we think he could eventually learn to live nicely with everybody.”

The cats’ personalities factored in to the equation as much as Matzo’s. Amy and James told us that one of their cats was fearless and would likely rush Matzo, while the other cat would probably be nonplussed. Knowing that a rushed intro would be more than Matzo could handle, they set up a plan to create the best success. During this intro period, Matzo was with them under a foster/adopt contract and he was marked as having a ‘pending’ adoption. We agreed to hold off on going full adoption until the household had found a healthy and successful rhythm between all the various creatures.

Long story short, it worked. They did such an impressive job making it work that we asked them to bullet out their step-by-step for future adopters. Here’s how they got success:

Amy and James broke their intros process down into separate phases and waited to see solid success before pressing on. Smart. They said.  "Philosophically, we followed similar guidelines to introducing our cats and Matzo Ball as this BR post. We tried to make sure that all interactions, however brief, were positive for both Matzo and the cats. We tried to set things up so that the cats could end the interaction whenever they wanted to, and only moved on to the next phase when Matzo was consistently appropriate at each level of interaction.”

Ingredients for their success:  
Doors and a dog crate for safe separating
Leashes and a Tie-down for managed intros
A squirt bottle for corrections
Training lessons for Matzo (distraction work)
Places for the cats to retreat to
A good game plan, good communication between the humans.
Plenty of patience, time and a can-do attitude.  

Phase One: ‘I Smell You’

"Matzo had no visual contact with the cats at first -- We wanted him to just get used to their smell. We closed off the room with Matzo’s crate so our cats couldn’t get in and so he couldn’t see the cats. The way our house is laid out allowed us to also vary the amount of space between Matzo and the cats -- we started with three sets of closed doors between everyone, then went to two, and then one (plus a crate). We’d also periodically bring Matzo into the rooms that the cats had been hanging out in so he could investigate their smells, and brought some of the cats' beds to him, too.

Our biggest challenge during this phase was actually our brave cat, who wanted to see Matzo so badly he tried to sneak into the rooms he was in. We didn't want Matzo's first face to face with the cat to be when he was excited, so having a cat run at his crate head-first was not part of the plan."

Phase Two: Closed door ‘Greetings’

"Once Matzo thought smelling cat bedding was boring, we had our cats in adjoining rooms so he could get used to their sounds without actually seeing them. Any extreme excitement -- attempts to paw at the door, whining, or get into the room with the cats, for example -- were discouraged immediately with a sharp NO and, if he persisted, a quick spray bottle squirt.

The challenge with this phase was again our brave cat: when she heard Matzo sniffing the door, she would stick her paws under the door to get at him.

This was the longest, most challenging phase for everyone; the cats didn’t like being cooped up, and it was difficult for Matzo not to get excited when our cat initiated a game of Whack-a-Mole under his nose."

Phase Three:  ‘I See You and I’m Trying to Stay Calm!’

"Once Matzo was consistently showing appropriate interest in the cat paws emerging from under the door -- polite sniffing, but no whining, pawing, barking or fixed staring -- we let Matzo see the cats for the first time. We started with him in his crate allowing him to see us holding a cat through a glass door in the next room. If the cat wanted to leave or if he showed any overt excitement -- barking, whining, panting, pawing, fixed staring -- we told him no, removed the cat and redirected his attention."

(Note from BADRAP: Matzo was learning how to stay calm and focused on his handler around exciting distractions during Saturday Pit Ed class exercises. )

"Once he was appropriately calm when he saw a cat through the door, we tried bringing the cats into the same room with him while he was in his kennel. Next, we had our cats in the same room as him while he was on at tie-down. And then finally, Matzo could be on leash with the cats in the same room.

This phase didn’t actually last long. Again, our brave cat was more of a challenge than Matzo. When she saw the dog, she’d try to get away from us and run over to him.

When Matzo was calm on leash around the cats, we allowed him some off leash time in the room. We made sure there were always places for the cats to retreat to if interacting with Matzo was too much, and supervised these interactions extra closely.

We were lucky that our cats were already very calm around dogs -- they don’t run away when they see a dog, which means that there are few opportunities for Matzo (or our other dogs) to chase the cats. Being around our other dogs who knew the rules about cats also helped Matzo learn pretty quickly."

Important Info from Amy & James: 

"Our cats are also indoor-only cats. Matzo will still bark at and chase the feral cats in our neighborhood that wail on our fence. He still doesn’t have unsupervised interactions with our cats. When we’re not at home, he stays safe in his crate… although our brave cat’s favorite sleeping spot is on top!"

Three cheers for smart adopters and their agreeable animals.

Follow Matzo's Instagram Updates: BlanketMonsters

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Resisting Stereotypes and Bans: True then, Truer now.

Dealing with hate-think and discrimination is familiar turf for many pit bull owners. We’ve become pros at navigating situations where fear-based judgment can pose real threats to our canine family members. We fight breed bans by wearing thick skins and arming ourselves with facts to help educate, and we participate in creating effective animal laws and policies that reflect contemporary science while embracing canines as the individuals that they are. The animal welfare community as a whole has done beautiful work to disarm the stigmas and stereotypes attached to blocky headed dogs, and trends are swinging towards game changing Owner Support programs that are fueled by empathy for families in our communities. We’re evolving … At least in some corners.

In recent months, some of our rescue partners have been hit with a different form of stereotyping crisis in their personal lives. As animal advocates, they’ve been heroes. But as immigrants, they’re in the crosshairs of dangerous ideologies of people who condemn their religion, home countries and/or skin color. Who knew we'd see efforts in our country to ban humans based on nothing but their parentage? These trends are so un-American that it seems unbelievable that this is surfacing as a topic on our blog today - but once you see the parallels, you can't un-see them.

In the interest of inviting a broader dialogue that takes the lessons we’ve learned from pit bull advocacy to a new level, we’re sharing the viewpoints of three valued rescue friends.


Freba Maulauizada was a pit bull owner (shown with Ariel), a shelter volunteer, a dog rescuer and a vocal city activist who went to bat for Oakland Animal Service’s budget and program needs when we met several years ago. She still rescues dogs in Louisiana where she now lives with Tammy Murray, her life partner of 16 years.

I have all the strikes against me.
My name is Freba. I am from Afghanistan. I am a woman.
I am Muslim and I am also gay.
I now live in a red state.
Well, one can just imagine how I feel.
I feel like a pit bull. All odds are against me.
But just like a pit bull, I like to make sure that other’s ignorance will not belittle me.
I know who I am, and I will fight against hate and ignorance
by being a shining example of my Roots.
Love to all.
- Freba 


Berenice Hernandez is longtime BADRAP team member. ‘Zippy’ - one of the celebrated survivors from M. Vick's dog fighting operation - found a home with their family ten years ago. This is what Berenice wants you to know about being an immigrant in today’s America.

"I walked into a local sandwich shop to pick up lunch before I headed to work; it was a few days after the elections.  I noticed the young girl helping me had different energy than usual. I, having a heavy feeling, ask her how she is holding up.  She looks at me with a sigh of relief and says “as best as I can, given the situation.” She tells me how someone with a Trump button had come into the shop and told her she had voted for him to get rid of people like her. The young girl told me that this wasn't her first encounter with someone like that. This girl of Mexican descent was born here, in this country. We talked for a bit about our fears, our worries and also our strengths. I understand that not all Trump voters feel this way. I know that. I really do. However, my sense of safety and trust is affected by hearing these words. Complete strangers hating on you without knowing you, sure makes you feel uneasy.

I am an immigrant. I have lived in this beautiful country for over thirty years. I am proud of my heritage, as I am proud to be an American.  I wasn’t born here but I worked hard to become an American citizen, to adopt this country as my own. My parents have worked hard to build a life for them and their children. My mother escaped a civil war in El Salvador (worth looking it up for details). She is a business owner, my father a Postal service worker for over 25 years. I have built a family here. I have a job here. I have volunteered my time and money to organizations. My children were born here. My husband is second generation Chicano, part Native American (Yaqui). His family lived in New Mexico when New Mexico became part of the U.S.

I am a volunteer, an advocate for animals. I have spent time educating against Breed Specific Legislation. I have met with politicians to advocate for our beloved misunderstood dogs. I became involved with Pit Bulls 17 years ago, when a 4 week-old pit mix landed in my hands. She needed my help, so I stepped in. I had no clue that I would learn so much about people’s biases. After all, I had no idea what a pit bull was. All I saw was a dog that needed help so I helped her. Over the last 17 years I have had my share of foster dogs, some which have ended up as permanent family members. Back in 2007, I ended up with a new foster, this foster was different though. Not because she was different as a dog but because of her circumstances. As you know, before the Vick dogs, all fight-bust dogs would be euthanized. Automatically labeled and fate sealed. We have learned many lessons from the Vick case. An accomplishment we can celebrate because barriers were broken. These dogs once viewed as vicious, now exposed for the world to see. They are now seen as what they have always been: just dogs.  Dogs victimized by greed.

I am a mother. My children know what it’s like to not be able to have friends over because the parents don’t approve of our dogs. My children have shed tears because they just didn’t understand how someone who didn’t even know our dogs could have such fears and dislike for them. They learned from a young age a lesson about labels, exclusion and misunderstanding. They have also learned to have empathy, sympathy and compassion, not only for dogs but also for the misplaced fears of people.  My two oldest daughters are now 17 & 14.  Sadly, they have been experiencing those same feelings lately. They have been told that Trump will build a wall to keep people like them out of “our country”, they have seen confederate flags displayed from the back of pick up trucks in their school parking lot. They have had to stand up to friends because those friends have made hurtful comments regarding the immigration ban. This ban affects family of friends they know. While my children understand that comments like these often come from a lack of understanding, they refuse to accept that saying such things should be okay.

Think about times when you have been made to feel like you don't belong simply because you didn't speak the language, or you wore the wrong outfit or you walked your big dog down the street and people were scared. I know, in some ways these don’t compare to what we are experiencing these days but you get the idea. This is how some of us are feeling right now.  Anger, fear, lack of information hurts people.

For my fellow immigrants, I want you to know you are not alone. You belong here, I belong here, our families belong here, and our dogs belong here! Here in America! We are a nation of love, understanding and compassion.  I truly believe that.  To those who may feel that immigrants as a whole are a threat to you, look around.  Look at people like me, my family.  We are hardworking, good-hearted people, advocates, just like you. We want better for our children and the world. Just as we unite to do right by animals, fight battles like BSL, fight-bust victims and dedicate our time to better the life of animals and people, I ask you to please stop for one minute and practice empathy for all humans.

No walls, no barriers, no assumptions, no hatred just because we may look different. We are not that different after all." - Berenice Hernandez

Photo top: Carol Guzy for the Washington Post.  Second photo: Deanne Fitzmaurice for Sports Illustrated.


Farah Ravon adopted BADRAP dog ‘Rosie’ when we were still a young org. She later became a key US-based support member for one of our favorite animal initiatives - Vafa Animal Shelter. Vafa is a brilliant, non-governmental organization that was created to protect animal rights in Iran. Iranian-Americans among others are critical to Vafa’s ability to save lives. They bring supplies with them when they visit, and chaperone one or more dogs back to waiting US adopters when they return home. As you can imagine, traveler bans will have a devastating effect on this struggling animal shelter.

"My name is Faranak, aka Farah, and I am an Iranian-American, but I am more than just an Iranian-American; I am a daughter, a wife and a sister. I define myself most strongly as an animal rescue worker. 
I left Iran when I was 12 and have lived in the United States the majority of my life. This country has always been my second home. 
Suddenly all of that has changed. Suddenly I feel like an outsider, like I don't belong. I am confused, scared and feeling helpless. My friends and family are also confused, scared, and feeling helpless. 
The rescue work I have done over the last 15+ years has opened me up to the beauty and diversity that is the United States. I am proud to say there are many more Iranian-Americans just like me, who also love and rescue animals.
The travel ban has not only impacted the lives of human beings from Muslim countries, it has already had a damaging impact on our ability to help animals who are desperately in need. We depend on kind souls traveling in and out of the country to accompany our dogs and cats to the United States. Without them, our efforts would fail. 
Because of the ban, there is a very real possibility the people who have volunteered to do this work will be detained at the airport. As a result, our dogs might have to spend 48 hours or more in a crate. Sadly, this is not simply a hypothetical scenario. Just last week we made the very difficult decision to postpone a rescue because of these circumstances. 
How many people traveling to the states, even citizens, will be willing to assume the risk and added stress of accompanying a dog when they might be subjected to delays? How many dogs will suffer? I speak to you now as one animal lover to another. 
We can agree, the intense love and loyalty of an animal has no bounds, sees no color or race. All that is required to feel these truths as a human being is an open heart."

Talk to us. We welcome respectful, non-inflammatory comments.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Women's March and companion animals: Why human rights matter.

This post was written in response to those who asked why representatives from dog advocacy group BADRAP chose to participate in the Jan 21 Women's March.

Last Saturday
, we canceled classes and lifted foster dog Lolo into our car along with some quickly made signs and headed downtown to Oakland's Women's March. We didn't know what to expect to be honest, but - serendipity - the first people we ran into were former adopters with their three young kids. Kids and families with handmade signs were everywhere, in fact. We were definitely at the right place.

We soon had to give up on keeping track of our friends - The crowd was just too massive. (One in 45 California residents marched. An estimated 100K counted in Oakland and upwards of 4.6+ million just in the US). While waiting for some kind of announcement to signal the start, we were squeezed into a shoulder to shoulder, slow motion lava flow down Madison Street with the impressively resilient Lolo. Drums were beating, people bopping up and down, pink hats, strollers, kids on parents shoulders, a cornucopia of signs. Everyone smiling and there was chanting and high five-ing and hugging. Wait. We're crammed like sardines, we don't know what the plan is or where the next bathroom will be. Why are we all so HAPPY? Then the realization that the march had started, and without knowing it, we were already in way deep.

Technically, we've been in way deep since our group was birthed in 1999, even more so since our KeepEm Home mission found its legs. Our nation's pets - pit bulls in particular - will just keep falling into crisis until we tackle the perennial obstacles that block their humans from the support and resources more fortunate dog owners take for granted. Let's be real; we can't begin to save all the sheltered dogs that need to be saved, especially while outside pressures push animal shelters into a constant state of overcrowding and crisis. Something's gotta give.

The Woman's March was an affirmation of what is sacred and what needs support and tending to in our country.

What do we want? Safe, humane communities for all. 
How do we get it?  By acknowledging our neighbors' struggles. By taking a stand when fundamental human rights are threatened.

So why did we march?
We marched for women, including victims of domestic violence. Because when an abuser threatens your dog's life, finding safe places (women's shelters, hotels, even friend's homes) that can or will accept pets is nearly impossible - even more so if your dog is a pit bull. The links between animal abuse and family violence are well known, and while society tries to get a handle on reducing these crimes, we need more safe options for women who need to escape. Violence Against Women programs? They need support, not defunding. Photo right: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle

We marched for worker's rights, including the compelling need for a living minimum wage - because when families are forced to piece several jobs together just to cover their basic necessities, everyone suffers including their children and pets. (Don't tell me that struggling families don't deserve pets - don't even go there). Throughout history, nice families have sold puppies to help keep food on the table and that practice continues today. Affordable vet care and training classes are in short supply. Affordable housing shortages plague our cities; now more than ever, large numbers are relinquishing their pets when they can't find rentals that will accept them. Our animal shelters are a living museum of these disparities, and they struggle daily with the overflow.
Suicide. The trends that contribute to pet homelessness are inhumane to everyone, including animal shelter and rescue workers who deal with such high intake numbers and so much burn out that they face the highest suicide rate among US workers: 5.3 in 1 million workers - a rate shared only by firefighters and police officers. Link: The fatal epidemic no one is talking about.
We marched for affordable health care for all. And paid sick days, because when the key provider of a struggling family falls ill and bills can't be paid, gut wrenching decisions to surrender pets naturally follow (See Mila's story).

We marched for the environment, because as animal lovers, we root for nature and we understand that the welfare of animals and the health of our planet are intrinsically connected. And because we trust the science behind climate change as well as we trust our own eyes, we know that US support for peer reviewed research and fast action is critical (Note: Keep your eye out for the Scientists March on Washingon.)

We marched for the rights of indigenous peoples, including the peaceful, prayerful water protectors of Standing Rock who've been working tirelessly to block the Dakota Access Pipeline from destroying their sacred lands and poisoning a river. Their courage and vision inspires us and is echoed in struggles of indigenous peoples around the world.

We marched for People of Color, and the need to address racism in all its forms. Because when you own a pit bull and your skin is brown or black, just imagine the ways that the world (strangers, potential landlords, law enforcement) can judge.

We marched for refugee and immigrant rights, because they're our neighbors, friends, co-workers. And we marched for Muslims, because our dogs have taught us that stereotypes lie and fear cripples us all. We marched for LGBTQ rights as we do every year in SF's Pride Parade, not just because many of our volunteers and adopters are gay, but because the LGBTQ community was the first to extend a welcoming hand to us 18 years ago, back when BADRAP was a young org and pit bulls were widely rejected and stereotyped. They get it.

Finally, we marched for ourselves. Because it felt so completely right to be surrounded by thousands of positive, supportive, decent human beings who believe in participating in a hopeful future.

People First

The wake up call was just what we needed. Animal welfare world, this is long overdue: It's time we connect the dots and acknowledge the undeniable connection between human rights issues and companion animal issues. Fundamental human rights must be ardently defended if we truly care about companion animals.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Stories from Our Streets: A front row seat to what's real and what matters

A first ever show highlighting dog owner support work

Patrons of the busy community-based Zocalo Coffee House in San Leandro have been enjoying their coffees and convos next to 19 oversized images of what are very likely their neighbors and their neighbors’ dogs. We couldn’t think of a better place to launch our ‘Stories from Our Streets’ Photo Project, which was created to celebrate the human-animal bond in our community while raising awareness about the obstacles many pet owners face when trying to keep their dogs during disruptive times - pit bull owners especially. Shot over several months during BADRAP’s owner support and pet wellness events, photographer Kathy Kinnear’s sensitive and candid images always seem to find the heart of the moment. A paragraph that explains the unique story, situation or challenge faced by that pet owner accompanies each photo.

Until December 30

The show stays up until the end of December and then will be moved to other venues in our quest to help people learn more about the current landscape of pet ownership in our communities – pit bull ownership in particular.

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. - Pablo Picasso

Our best hope is that interest in these photos will bring understanding, and understanding will help to increase opportunities for pet owners including more landlord acceptance, and more support for those who are struggling to keep their dogs in their families, where they belong.

(Top Photo) Life Saver Dog: Leo’s person told us that he helped keep her going during some very dark days. Their bond was undeniable. "While many of us intuitively understand the benefits of positive interactions with animals in our lives, an emerging body of research is recognizing the impact the human-animal bond can have on individual and community health." - Pet Partners
Keep'Em Home: A challenge for our times

I can’t lie, the historic shortage of affordable housing in CA has made the ‘Keep'Em Home’ project one of the most difficult missions we’ve taken on as animal advocates. The Vick dogs? - Moving that mountain was a cake-walk compared to this work! But valuable missions are never meant to be easy, and while we're learning how to be better advocates for our neighbors, we're also encouraged by some of the plans that are underway to increase housing opportunities in CA.

Triaging the need

Requests for help from area dog owners file in almost daily, and while there is a limit to the number of cases we can take on, we’ve gotten better at triaging the need as it arrives: the home with the dog with the impending litter that they can’t afford gets a quick spay/abort, the grieving family who can’t afford a euthanasia for their suffering senior dog gets an immediate appointment with one of our compassionate partner vets, the Good Samaritan with the reactive dog gets a quick spot in our training classes, and the family who lost their housing gets peace of mind from knowing their dog will be safe in our Rescue Barn. Thanks to donor support, we've been able to organize ten larger public outreach events in 2016 and perform 166 spay/neuter surgeries thanks to our veterinarian partners (hats off to Well Pet Veterinary Clinic) while serving over 650 families with everything our team has to offer.

Our numbers feel good because so much is getting done, but we're humbled right down to size when we remember that that the population of the counties we serve (Alameda and Contra Costa) is 2.5 million people, and pit bulls are counted among the top five most popular breed types. That's a LOT of dogs. Thankfully we're not alone in our commitment to owner support. Paw Fund,  FOBACS, PALS, East Bay SPCA and Contra Costa Animal Services are among the groups working to serve pet owners, each of us specializing in some things with lots of overlap. The need is big, but because the SF Bay Area has a long history of valuing the search for humane solutions to difficult problems, it feels natural and necessary to embrace owner support work as the social justice work that it is.

The face of animal welfare work is changing, and the Stories from Our Streets exhibit offers a front row seat to some of the best changes. We hope that you get a chance to see it this December. Please tell us if you do. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Zocalo Coffeehouse
645 Bancroft Ave. San Leandro 94577

PHOTO GALLERY of a typical 'Nut Truck' event. All images c/o Kathy Kinnear.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Breed ban in Montreal: What we know. How to help.

We are consolidating some of the information that's surfacing regarding Montreal's ban on pit bulls and ongoing efforts being made to help the dogs and their families. Concern about Montreal's situation is massive and it can be difficult to keep up with the shifting news. We welcome your updates and corrections as we tend to the links and information listed here.

4/18/17 UPDATE: Quebec Gov't Intends to Bring Dog Ban to Entire Province (Link)
From the Montreal SPCA: "The Montreal SPCA is highly concerned by Bill 128, introduced this morning by our provincial government, which includes breed specific legislation (BSL), namely by targeting “pit bull-type dogs”, “Rottweilers” and any dogs resulting from a mix of these breeds.. We are currently taking the time to study the bill, consult with our legal team, and assess how this will affect our organization and the animals and communities across the province. Once we have a clear idea of our next steps, we will be making a public statement. For more information on why BSL is not a solution to the issue of dangerous dogs, please visit"

12/1/16 UPDATE: Quebec Court of Appeal Reinstates Modified Bylaw (Link)
The lifting of the suspension order means many of the bylaw’s provisions targeting pit bull-type dogs will come into force, including the muzzling.
10/5/16 BIG NEWS UPDATE - Pit Bull Bylaw in Montreal temporarily SUSPENDED by Superior Court judge.  

"During the hearing, Gouin said several aspects of the bylaw presented by the city raised troubling questions, particularly because they appeared to categorize a vast segment of the dog population as dangerous when most of them are not. Gouin noted as well that the city’s definition of “pit bull-type dogs” seemed vague and overly broad, which would unfairly target many pets and their owners." News Link.  

This means that pit bull owners will not have to apply for a special permit or muzzle their dogs, and Montreal shelters can continue to adopt out pit bull dogs while the Montreal SPCA unfolds its full legal appeal to have sections of the bylaw retracted.

UPDATE 10/3/16: Montreal Superior Court says bylaw lacks clarity. Suspends decision about injunction until Wednesday, Oct 5.  News

The Ban's Requirements

Under the new bylaw, owners of pit-bull type dogs, pit-bull mixes or any dog with similar physical characteristics have until Dec. 31 to apply for a special permit with the city, or risk having their dog euthanized. The dogs must be sterilized, micro-chipped and vaccinated for rabies by March 1, 2017. (All dogs regardless of breed must be sterilized and microchipped by Dec. 31, 2019.)

Pit-bull type dogs will have to wear a muzzle while on the streets and in their yards if their fence does not reach a required height. Their owners will have to provide proof they don’t have a criminal record involving violence. Licenses for the dogs will cost $150 a year. Source: National Post.

What we know / Dated October 3, 2016

Montreal has stated that its ban on unowned and unregistered 'pit bulls' will begin on Monday October 3.  However no information has surfaced to help citizens know how it will play out. For example: How will 'pit bulls' be identified? Can citizens request an appeal of their dog has been identified as a pit bull incorrectly? How do pit bull owners prove that they have no criminal record? How will the city enforce the law? - All unknown. News link.

A leading concern is how Montreal city leaders hope to identify pit bulls. Contemporary research has shown that using visual analysis to identify breed type is inaccurate and misleading, so all dogs with blocky heads and short coats could become potential targets for fines, expulsion and death. 

Why was a ban enacted? A woman was killed by her neighbor's dog in her yard in June 2016. The dog had two prior bites on record. Police assumed it was a pit bull however its breed type has not been confirmed. A task force committee was assembled to review contemporary expertise on dog safety and public policy. Their recommendations to seek out alternative solutions to a ban were rejected by city Mayor Coderre.

Information on effective public safety measures from Safer Kinder Communities. 

How can I help?

IMPORTANT: The Montreal SPCA needs financial support to pursue a legal challenge against the ban. Please be generous so they can build a solid case that presents contemporary expertise, peer-reviewed studies, and world trends to the courts.  LINK

UPDATE: A second court challenge is being planned by a Montreal-based coalition of lawyers and experts in animal behavior. LINK

How can I help save a dog from Montreal?

There are no large scale plans to move seized or unowned dogs out of the Province and into the United States as of today. We'll all know more after an injunction filed by the Montreal SPCA today is reviewed by the courts. A judge may agree to block the city's ban long enough to review their lawsuit. This is obviously the best case scenario. A good source for news is the Montreal SPCA's facebook page.

Within Canada: Some at-risk dogs have been moved to Nova Scotia and to Saskatchewan-based rescue groups Prairie Sky Dog Rescue in Regina and Prairie Pooches Rescue in Cando. Link

IMPORTANT: News of the breed ban has created a wave of panic on social media, and many rescue and transport groups have responded by offering to assist. Some groups have launched fundraisers for costs they expect to incur. While the outpouring of help is truly inspiring, be aware that there is no vetting of the groups that have offered to accept dogs, which opens the door to false claims and potential for harm. To ensure the safety of Montreal's dogs as well as the best use of your donation dollars, please be extremely selective with your support.

BADRAP is not currently planning to take displaced Montreal dogs because the number of local helpers is quite large and shipping dogs across the continent does not appear to be a necessary or practical response at this time

A First Goal: Keeping them Home

Prairie Pit bull Rescue in Lethbridge, Alberta announced that they will be working with Montreal-based activists to assist targeted dog owners with resources (spays and neuters, muzzles and financial support) so financially challenged families can keep their dogs. Efforts to keep dogs home - even during less than ideal circumstances - are always preferred over shipping beloved pets off to other places. (Note: Prairie Pit Bull Rescue is one of BADRAP's trusted rescue/transfer partners) PPBR also plans to assist in rescue/transfer efforts of Montreal dogs who do not have homes. New York Bully Crew made same announcement on their facebook page yesterday.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Slice of Summer

A little peek into the goings-on at the Rescue Barn this summer. 

Three of the pups are mixed-breed dogs who were found emaciated and sickly, but are now bouncing back. The husky-x pup - 'Chessa' - came from a breeder who has asked for help with placement and spay/neuter for Chessa's parent dogs. Adult pit bulls Snorkles and Mila make an appearance, as well as mentor dogs Eddie (pit bull) and Elliot and Billie (husky/shepherd mixes). Finally, in the last slide, is the tiny 'Lily,' who is new to our program. All photo credits go to Kathy Kinnear.


Can't see it? Look here: LINK

Taking on the city: One way to get rabies exemptions for sick dogs

EDIT: This blog post was originally published in 2010. We hope this information is helpful to dog owners with questions about rabies exemptions for their dogs.


Several years ago, shortly after getting her vaccinations at a boarding kennel, our pit bull Sally experienced an immuno-collapse that sucked the life out of her and scared the hec out of us. Our once outrageously vivacious pit bull melted into a lethargic lump of swollen glands who could barely raise her head. She developed mast cell cancer soon after. Talk about owner guilt. Although she slowly recovered and has been boosted greatly with diet and holistic care, we decided to stop giving our sick girl her vaccines. None. Our vet fully supports our decision, although we are, technically, breaking the law.

While we need to keep our pet population healthy with standard immunizations, the question has come up: How much is too much? Christie Keith reported on the growing awareness of the downfalls of over vaccinating dogs recently in the SFGate. More and more dog owners are willing to curb some or all of their dog's vaccines - for chronically sick dogs especially - but the decision to stop rabies vaccines makes outlaws out of us in places where rabies renewal is mandated by law.

Solving this conundrum has to involve amending our animal laws to include exceptions, which is a tall order. This is why we were so impressed when one of our longtime friends - Susi Allen of Monterey - took on her city in order to save her sick dog from a potentially damaging requirement.

Susi's dog Bunny (above) was diagnosed with chronic colitis shortly after being adopted from an east bay shelter. Treating this uncomfortable disorder - which is an inflammation of the large intestine - can involve an exhausting search for solutions with frustrating set backs as the condition cycles through repeat flare ups. Susi found help with nutritional therapy, but she and her veterinarian both felt that a rabies vaccine would exacerbate Bunny's symptoms and make her sick all over again, so Susi decided to skip the shot when she was due. The problem was, Bunny's vet was powerless to help Susi sidestep the law that mandates rabies renewal for all dogs in her city. That's when this pit bull mama got busy. She was kind enough to outline her adventures with local legislation with us ...

"I contacted Dr. Ila Davis, Supervising Veterinarian for Monterey County, to ask about obtaining a medical exemption from the rabies vaccine. Dr. Davis was very sympathetic, but said a rabies titer would not be accepted in lieu of a vaccine shot. So I contacted the City of Monterey Animal Control Officer, Cathi Cristobal, and explained the situation. Not only did she completely understand the situation, she said she would accept a letter from my vet indicating a vaccine could be detrimental to Bunny’s health in lieu of a current rabies certificate and issue Bunny a one year dog license.

About a month prior to the dog license renewal, Bunny was given a rabies titer, which resulted in a 1:95 reading. The Centers for Disease Control considers a result of 1:5 to be adequate in humans. This was a 50 lb. dog with a 1:95! My vet wrote a letter attesting to Bunny’s health and requesting exemption from any further rabies vaccines.

I took a copy of the letter, the titer results and my dog license renewal notice to the city Finance Department and was told they would not issue the $9.00 dog license without the rabies certificate. There was nothing AC Officer Cristobal could do. At this point I decided my only option was to PANIC! I had to either have my dog injected with a vaccine that could potentially exacerbate her already severe medical condition (or potentially kill her), OR I could not license her and run the risk of having her confiscated under city ordinance for having an unlicensed, unvaccinated dog.

Officer Cristobal suggested I appear before the City Council, requesting an exemption to the city ordinance requiring rabies vaccines. I couldn’t do it because then I’m calling attention to the fact that I have an unlicensed dog and am violating the current city ordinance. And did I mention Bunny is a pit bull?"

Susi red flagged an email to Gary Tiscornia, Executive Director of the SPCA for Monterey County, asking for advice. She said, "He responded with several suggestions, one of which Dr. Carol Iida, the SPCA vet suggested: contact the state vet, Dr. Ben Sun. Amanda Mouisset, the Animal Behaviorist at the SPCA (and my supervisor), mentioned legislation she recently heard about which would allow an exemption from the rabies vaccine for sick animals: AB2000. After reseaching AB2000, I contacted Dr. W. Jean Dodds (Rabies Challenge Fund). Dr. Dodds was sympathetic but told me that even dogs with terminal cancer were not exempt from the vaccine. Her website states it’s possible to obtain a waiver from the vaccine, although they are often not permitted regardless of the justification. Dr. Dodds provided me with additional research material but not a lot of hope.

I contacted Dr. Ben Sun, the State Public Health Veterinarian, to explain my situation and ask, at Dr. Iida’s suggestion, how he felt AB2000 would be implemented if passed. I also asked about the rabies vaccine itself, which the manufacturers state should only be administered to healthy animals: what conditions or symptoms need to be present to constitute a legally un-healthy animal to which the rabies vaccine should not be given? I had read some of Dr. Sun’s work and knew he didn’t hold titer results in high regard.

Dr. Sun responded quickly and provided a lot of interesting, thought-provoking information. He said he was not aware of a list of diseases or conditions that would be a contraindication to rabies vaccine. There’s that Catch 22 again: the manufacturers of the vaccines state it must only be administered to healthy animals, BUT there is no method of defining a legal unhealthy, and thus, exempt, animal.

After a few more emails, Dr. Sun told me there were several cities/counties in the state that have exemption ordinances. What? Really? He gave me the list and I contacted AC Officer Cristobal, who had now announced her impending retirement. I volunteered to collect the information if she thought it would help. Within a day, I dropped off a large package of information for her at the Monterey PD, containing each localities’ ordinance highlighted and a suggestion that the exempted dog not be confined to the owner’s property, but allowed in public under constant restraint (a leash).

Officer Cristobal sent me an email stating Deputy Chief Phil Penko was drafting an ordinance for presentation to the City Council. A few days later she sent me a copy of the draft. It would be heard at the May 4th meeting, the day after Officer Cristobal retires. I attended the City Council meeting and the exemption ordinance was a consent item. The Mayor asked if any of the council members objected to any of the consent items, and no one objected to the proposed ordinance….so then it needed to be heard again at the next council meeting. I attended that one also on May 18th. Again, nobody objected and it passed! It passed. I still am in shock….it passed!

I have an email from Deputy Chief Penko stating Bunny is covered under the new ordinance and am awaiting a letter from the Police Chief. I carry a copy of the ordinance, the email from DC Penko, the letter from my vet and the titer results with me whenever I walk Bunny. There are duplicate copies in the glove box of the car. ..."

Shortly after writing her experience, Susi's hard work paid off .. She wrote again to say, "IT'S ON THE BOOKS! The City of Monterey Code includes the Rabies Exemption!! Sec 6-13 has been amended to include the exemption language. The new ordinance went into effect 6/18/10. I'm still waiting for a letter from the Chief of Police giving me the authorization to allow me to pay the dog license.....but hey, it's only been a month. It'll happen....!"

We have to salute Bunny for inspiring her diehard owner to step up and champion for sick dogs in her city. Rock on Susi! Monterey City - you got it right, and you didn't wait to see what Sacramento was going to do with AB2000 (below) before you changed your law. BRAVO.

The state of California is considering AB2000, a bill that would allow for an exemption of a rabies license with a veterinarian's permission. The facebook page of the Rabies Challenge Fund is posting updates.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Part II: The Landlord Experience. If you care about pet-friendly housing, this matters.

The pet-friendly housing shortage in the SF Bay Area and most other cities has been crushing our collective ability to keep family dogs in safe, permanent homes and out of animal shelters. Understanding the landlord experience is essential to navigating this trend, but the most recent research we could find on the topic is outdated (Firepaw Study 2005). The landscape has changed quite a bit since that study was published, so we decided to get busy over the past year by speaking with as many different property managers as we could in order to gain some perspective. In addition to phone interviews and email exchanges, we gathered responses from landlords in a twelve question survey that was shared around by local realtors and via our social media page. Our goal was to daylight some of the key factors that influence landlord decisions when accepting or rejecting dogs in their rental properties.

Participants were asked to share their insurance providers, dog breed and/or size restrictions, requirements for dogs and dog owners, yard and shared space usage and obstacles they faced (if any) when making their decisions. We also asked them to describe both positive and negative experiences with renting to dog owners. Finally, all were asked to indicate whether they would be interested in participating in more discussion in our search for solutions to the pet friendly housing shortage. (23% said 'yes,' 55% declined and 21% are on the fence.) To encourage candid survey responses, we agreed to keep landlord identity confidential.

Our burning question behind these efforts: What prevents some landlords from renting to dog owners? And what can we learn from landlords who DO welcome them?

People were very generous with their time and seemed to appreciate our interest. Their responses were rich with inside info and gave us a good grasp of some of the key factors that contribute to pet policy decisions. Here's the thing: While a small number of the participants did not allow dogs on their properties, the majority who did expressed a strong desire to improve their pet policies to ensure a better overall success rate with dog owners. Hopeful, right? We think so too. Learn from the negative, build on the positive.

Who responded?

Of the 69 who responded to our survey, 45 rent to dog owners, 19 accept dogs on a case-by-case basis and three ban dogs outright. Not surprising, the majority who allow dogs are those who rent out single family homes (37) and/or duplexes or triplexes (26). Ten participants counted their rental spaces as 'other' - which included RVs and non-conforming apartments. All but ten property owners reported having fenced yards or patios available for dogs, although a number preferred that tenants not use them as the dogs' main bathroom.

Multi-unit building managers heard from. Eleven in total. We were so happy they shared. Five told us they allow dogs, five allow them on a case-by-case basis and one does not allow them at all. Nine of the 11 multi-unit managers who responded do not have breed restrictions. They're an important group because multi-unit buildings have traditionally held the biggest resistance to pets - targeted breeds in particular. Interested to hear what their experience with pets has been? You should be! Read HERE.

Insurance Providers

Survey participants hold insurance policies with these companies: State Farm (23) / Farmers (7) / AllState (7) / AAA (6) / Liberty Mutual (4) / USAA (4) / Travelers (3) / Pacific Specialty (2) / Sadler (1) / ANPAC (1) / CSAA (1) / Encompass/Safeco (1) / “Several” (3) / Unknown or Declined to Share (6)

What do property owners worry about? ... Their property!

Hands down, the number one concern expressed by landlords came from having experienced property damage and/or nuisance noise from dogs – regardless of breed type. From our blog post 'Bad Apples' - Only three of the landlords we polled mentioned insurance as a potential obstacle to renting to pit bulls and other dogs, and only one had breed restrictions (no reason given). Almost all reported the need for expensive and time consuming repairs after dog owners moved out and/or dogs who disturbed neighbors with noise. One of the happier surprises to us was that most of the survey participants who reported negative experiences still welcome dogs in their rentals.

How are they protecting their interests? Landlords reported these requirements for dog owners. (Can we help them do better?)

  • Additional rent and/or security deposit: 39 (58.21%)
  • Pet Addendum language added to lease: 36 (53.7%)
  • Dog must be spayed/neutered: 34 (50.75%)
  • Meet and approve dog in advance: 33 (49.25%)
  • Dogs must get along with other dogs on property: 16 (23.88%)
  • References for pets from other landlords, etc. required: 12 (17.91)
  • No requirements: 9 (13.43%)
  • Proof of basic obedience training: 6 (8.96%)

Why should we care what landlords think? Read this:

I am a leasing agent and property manager for a 260 unit loft complex. I am currently researching how to create a better pet policy. We currently have a breed restriction and limit large dogs to first floor apartments. I would like to get rid of the breed restriction because I think it is ill-informed and difficult to enforce.
Here is my dilemma. When leasing at such a large scale, it is not feasible for me to evaluate each dog's temperament individually, nor am I really qualified to do so. We would like to encourage responsible dog owners to rent with us but at the same time discourage irresponsible dog owners (which there are unfortunately many of in our area).
We have to establish some sort of consistent guidelines because otherwise we open ourselves up to lawsuits. 

When we listen, we learn

We have renewed faith that a good number of landlords care about their communities and want responsible dog owners to enjoy a lifetime commitment to their family companions.  How do we identify and support them so their numbers grow? We've only scratched the surface of this topic, and it's clear we have a long way to go before more landlords feel comfortable opening their doors to dog owners.

Comments? Questions? Ideas?

Landlords, renters, animal welfare workers: Please join this conversation so we can start to meet the needs of both the landlords who want responsible tenants and the pet owners who so desperately need a place to call home.

GRATITUDE:  Many thanks to everyone who shared their experiences with us. 

More info:
  • Are landlords liable for a tenant's dog's behavior? Not usually. NOLO Press
  • Pet Addendum for use in conjunction with residential lease. Addendum (Need this is a Word Doc? Holler!)
  • BADRAP's best tips for pet owners looking for a home: Renting

Below: A little gallery of insightful feedback from some of the landlords and the pet owners who shared their experiences with us.


Friday, April 15, 2016

The housing shortage: Bad apples are tripping you up

"Landlords are greedy and they don't like pit bulls. If insurance companies would lighten up, more pit bulls could get homes." 

False. Well, mostly false.

According to nearly 70 landlords and property managers who responded to a 12 question survey we circulated recently, insurance and breed types have been non-issues in their decisions to rent to pet owners. Instead, they told us that the main obstacle to maintaining a dog friendly policy is the damage, mess and nuisance noise caused by former tenants with all types of dogs. That, and the fact that housing is at such a premium that there are dozens of qualified families without pets standing in line, ready to pay historically high rents for their hard-to-find apartments. Supply and demand, headaches vs. landlord convenience. It makes sense, doesn't it?

Only three of the landlords we polled mentioned insurance as a potential obstacle to renting to pit bulls and other dogs, and only one had breed restrictions (no reason given). Almost all reported the need for expensive and time consuming repairs after dog owners moved out and/or dogs who disturbed neighbors with noise. One of the bigger surprises to us was that most of the survey participants still allow dogs despite the headaches they outlined. 

From the survey: Have you had any negative experiences renting to pet owners? Please describe:

.... 'Dogs being allowed to mess in the house. We have had to deep clean grout & tile & replace (new) carpet because of excess dog bathroom messes.' ..... 'People were very nice and paid their rent on time, however the condo was a mess after they moved and it had a very, very strong urine odor in the carpet.' ..... 'Constant barking of pet at all times of day and night.' ..... 'Peed on, moldy carpets, all the way through the pad. Chewed baseboards. Kittens galore. Fleas. Large dog poop in the yard.' ..... 'Hardwood floors damaged from pets nails, black fur build up between carpet and trim, pet waste not picked up and neighbors complained, barking complaints' .....'Young tenants went out every night and their little dog suffered from anxiety and would howl all night till they returned and the dog pooped in my house and they would leave it' .... 'The dog caused so much damage to carpet through urination that both carpet and pad had to be replaced throughout unit AND the concrete foundation below carpet and pad had to be treated for urination saturation. Total cost $3,000 plus a lot of extra time and energy hiring contractors, arranging appointment/cleaning times, meeting with contractors, etc. I learned my lesson and went back to a No Pet policy '...

Understanding is Key

We have more info to share including the reasons some of the landlords do like renting to responsible owners of pit bull type dogs among others, but as we move forward, it seems important to point out that dog owners may not be interpreting landlord rejection correctly. Understanding the perspective of property owners is crucial if we're going to make any headway in opening more housing to pet owners. And, according to 70 (mostly) dog friendly landlords who were kind enough to speak to us, the insensitive renter who allows his dog to make a big mess of things is one of the key reasons you're facing such a big disadvantage during this housing shortage ... The exception of course being landlords who are swayed by breed stereotypes in towns and counties that endorse Breed Specific Legislation (Yes San Francisco, that includes you.)

Knowledge is Power: Be Awesome. Get Your Home!

There are strategies you can take to show landlords that you're a cut above the rest. Because if you aren't a cut above the bad apples, why should anyone rent to you?

To help on that end, we've created a 90-second video with a 'landlord approved' approach to securing housing, in English and in Spanish. All are welcome to embed this on their websites (the embed code pops up with the share button).

Shelters and Rescue Groups. You're welcome to post and print these graphic hand-outs for people in your community. HAND-OUTS

Monday, March 14, 2016

Is San Francisco ready to end its Breed Specific Discrimination?

EDIT: Jonny made new friends in SF city gov't after his meeting but as of December 2016, there has been no indication that SF wants to end its discriminatory policy and language towards blocky dogs.

SF Dog celeb Jonny Justice has an important meeting with San Francisco Board of Supervisors President London Breed on Tuesday, March 15. He's going with his adopter Cris Cohen and while he's there, he hopes to explain how SF's current designation of “pit bulls” as a special “problem” dog has been stigmatizing both the dogs and their owners and contributing to a homeless pets problem in SF and other cities. Photo right: Mark Rogers

Breed specific mandates endorse discrimination and profiling of all kinds, including and especially breed bans by landlords and insurance companies.

Cris experienced San Francisco's BSL first hand when he was out walking Jonny's sister dog Lily. He told us that, two blocks from their home in the Sunset district, "a uniformed ACO in a white Chevy Astro van, with the SFACC (San Francisco Animal Care and Control) logo on the door pulled up and stopped in the middle of the cross walk, blocking our path. He rolled down his window, and asked 'Is your dog neutered?'"

Lily was spayed back when she was a BADRAP foster dog, but if she hadn't seen the vet for this procedure yet, the ACO would have been within his right to confiscate her until Cris paid fines and surgery costs. If Cris had been unemployed or otherwise unable to afford the fees, he would risk losing custody of Lily altogether. In fact, we've interviewed several under resourced SF dog owners who had to make the terrible decision to surrender their dogs to an unknown fate at SFACC when faced with the same situation.

Targeted dog owners in SF who are resistant to the strong arm approach to neutering have told us that they just avoid walking their dogs - No training classes, limited socialization, and in a densely populated city where the need for proper training and socialization can be crucial.

Why the discriminatory law?

Back in 2005, after a dog related fatality involving a young boy whose mother locked him in their house with two very troubled dogs who were mating, San Francisco retaliated by categorizing all pit bulls as "higher risk dogs" and started targeting pit bull owners with a mandatory spay/neuter (MSN) law. They were working from the belief that a dog's behavior could be predetermined by its breed make-up, a bias that has been discredited by dog experts in several ways, including peer reviewed studies. Animal welfare organizations have long condemned MSN policies, citing a long list of reasons including enforcement problems, opting for effective, voluntary spay/neuter programs instead that focus on building safe, humane communities through breed neutral laws and owner education/support programs.

It's unclear why SF is still hanging onto to an outdated and discriminatory ordinance in light of more progressive and effective spay/neuter program examples, but just maybe a change is coming. Anti-BSL advocates have been way too polite in SF and even the progressive San Francisco SPCA has been silent on the city's policy. The nonprofit's general counsel Brandy Kuentzel told us by email that while the SFSPCA is philosophically opposed to breed discriminatory laws, they have never formulated an official statement to denounce SF's BSL due to "limited staff time," but they hope to address it in the near future on their advocacy blog. Photo right: Lance Iversen, The Chronicle Article 'SF animal shelter full as economy goes to the dogs'

Housing Shortage: Landlord Rejection = Surrendered Pets

CNN noticed SF's pet retention problem when they ran an article last summer entitled 'No dogs allowed: San Francisco's pet housing crisis.' Said to be three times worse that NYC's housing situation, they noted that, "According to San Francisco animal welfare nonprofit SF SPCA, there's been a surge in owners abandoning their pets due to an inability to find pet-friendly housing."

Pit bulls are counted as one of the top five most popular dog breeds in CA (source: Banfield) yet tend to suffer the most when renters can't find housing. As of this writing, 70% of the dogs at SF's city shelter - 16 out of 23 - are adult pit bulls who've lost their homes (source: We are hard pressed to offer realistic advice to desperate SF pit bull owners who contact us for help during a dead end housing search. The law that was meant to curb irresponsible breeding and lower shelter intake numbers has instead cast an ugly light on pit bulls, and at a time when landlords are especially reluctant to rent to dogs over 30lbs.

Vinegar, Honey or Good Old Fashioned Respect?

Being targeted as a potential criminal made a lasting impression on Cris Cohen. He said that the day he was stopped, "the ACO acted like a jerk. It really could have been a friendly positive interaction, but it was anything but."

Contrast the ACO's 'old school' approach to nonjudgmental public outreach programs that invite dialogue about spay/neuter options with under resourced dog owners. Across the bay in Oakland for example, our small but mighty spay/neuter van attracts long lines of area pit bull owners (photo: left) for free on-the-spot surgery appointments, vaccines, microchips and training help. People respond well to the welcoming vibe and pour out of their houses to join us at every event, hungry for information and resources. Even the most reluctant dog owners will sign on for neuters when presented with information in a respectful way, proving time and again that building healthy relationships with our communities can create more positive change than shaming, profiling and criminalizing ever have or will. Photo left: Kathy Kinnear in East Oakland

 VIDEO: Who shows up? 
See a typical Oakland-based voluntary spay/neuter event in action.

Please, stop the profiling in San Francisco 

It's our hope that Board of Supervisors President London Breed receives Jonny's information with an open mind. Blatant discrimination of dogs or their people should never be tolerated, especially in a world-class city like San Francisco, and especially during a pet-friendly housing crisis.

If anyone can move the needle on breed discrimination, little Jonny can.

We encourage dog lovers to show your support for ending breed discrimination in San Francisco. Brief, considerate emails can go to Supervisor Breed and other board members at these email addresses. Thank you.

SF Board of Supervisors President London Breed

District 11 John Avalos 
District 9 Dave Campos
District 3 Aaron Peskin
District 10 Malia Cohen
District 2 Mark Farrell
District 6 Jane Kim
District 1 Eric Mar
District 4 Katy Tang
District 8 Scott Wiener
District 7 Norman Yee