Monday, March 17, 2014

a week of firsts

A very special group of survivors arrived in CA two weeks ago. We first met them over Christmas week when our team of ten traveled to the southeastern US to provide care for 167 dogs held in a busy HSUS-run animal shelter. They'd been swept up in a dog fighting raid that saved 367 dogs - not including the pups born post-seizure. News Link.

The dogs are being released to rescue for TLC and re-homing one group at a time. We accepted seven (Monkey, Jamie, Melvin, Gwennie, Ollie, Luna, Lady Bug), and hosted Megg and Londyn for two weeks at the Rescue Barn before they left for new adventures thanks to the Seattle Animal Shelter.

Watching this lucky group experience their 'firsts' has been a blessing and a privilege.

 
 Can't see video? LINK HERE.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

a 12-step plan for Good Samaritans

People who pluck strays from the streets are unsung heroes in any community's efforts to prevent early deaths in crowded animal shelters. You may not know they're out there because they're working independently, without much of an internet presence and with little to no access to resources. But they make up some of the most motivated partners in the ongoing work to help homeless dogs move from danger back to safety.

We know how frustrating it can be to be a solo rescuer with no support and a dog that no one can absorb, including the original owner(s), so we built this little slideshow video with our favorite tips and techniques for attracting adopters to unowned dogs. (Needless to say, an unowned dog is one that was never able to be reunited with his original owner after all reasonable efforts have been made: INFO)

Please share this slideshow widely, so the strong hearted but bewildered Good Sams in your community can find a little encouragement and maybe even a suggestion that lands their foundling a new home. Thank you.

Video LINK

Sunday, January 12, 2014

2013 year end report as 2014 rises to her feet.

Our team was away for the holidays, tending to a large group of dog fighting victim dogs (news link) who are being held in a temporary shelter run by the Humane Society of the United States. It was a tough time to be away from home, but incredibly gratifying to see so much energy being poured into bringing comfort to rescued cruelty victims who now have the option of finding a second chance with rescue orgs. We anxiously await news of their release dates, which will happen one subset of dogs at a time as the (13) defendants have their day in court. More on that as news unfolds.

We returned to an incredible outpouring of holiday generosity from our donors: Year end donations, holiday cards with warm, encouraging messages and boxes of treats, toys and supplies for the dogs of 2014 were waiting to be unwrapped. What a homecoming!

We're truly grateful for the support we receive from everyone who extends a part of themselves to this important work. Archived here, our YEAR END REPORT which outlines our key activities in 2013 and our road map for the new year. Thank you all for joining us on this ongoing journey with the dogs.

My favorite Christmas gift: Days before we left town, we said our good-byes to every single adoption ready dog in our program as they all lucked into families in time for the holidays. Below, a favorite barn dog named Darla Dickens pops up to ask for a smile. Darla went home with Beetle - the little black dog in the photo - and represents the second pair of dogs from our program who found homes together (Corky & Tuffy lead the way).

The dogs' departures made room for more intakes, including survivors from the fight bust who will soon be released. And the beat goes on.

Hello 2014. It's so nice to meet you! Wishing you and yours a brilliant year.





Monday, December 09, 2013

Oakland Animal Services in Crisis

Dear Oakland residents: Your city animal shelter is in complete and utter crisis.

That’s not ‘new’ news I’m sorry to say, but things at our infamously troubled city agency just went from bad to worse when Oakland Animal Services (OAS) - a branch of the Oakland Police Department - announced that they are no longer spaying/neutering adopted animals before they go home. Instead, adopters are now required to shoulder the burden and the expense. From the OAS website:

ADOPT ***Please note our new spay/neuter policy*** Due to shelter staffing, we cannot perform spay/neuter surgeries at OAS. All adopted animals are still required to be spayed or neutered per state law. Adopters will have two weeks to have the animal they adopted spayed or neutered at a vet of their choosing, at their own expense. Our new adoption fees are $10 for cats and $35 for dogs. We hope this is a temporary measure until we hire new vet staff. 

Does OPD know that they’re breaking state law? 

Food & Agriculture Code (Div 14, Ch 1.5., § 30520. (a)) states that "no public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shelter, humane society shelter, or rescue group shall sell or give away to a new owner any dog that has not been spayed or neutered.” Link



The state makes exceptions for animals that are too sick/weak to go under the knife, or towns/counties under 100,000 residents. But Oakland is a city of 400k+ with a population of dogs and cats that will be very happy to spike the number of unplanned litters once they leave the shelter. Why? It's not an easy fix: The average cost to spay a dog is between $250 and $450 at the busy VCA Bay Area Pet Hospital. Even with the best intentions, human nature dictates and many will procrastinate making the expensive appointment until 'accidents happen.' Who really wants the bother? The added trouble and expense of adopting from OAS will naturally send dog shoppers elsewhere, driving city animal adoptions down and euthanasias up. Shelter volunteers have stepped up to sponsor adopted pets’ surgeries and others are scrambling to secure subsidized help from other non-profits including the East Bay SPCA, Berkeley Humane Society and SFSPCA. Key word: Scrambling. Shelter supporters we've spoken with have been in tears since interim director Dan Cronin made the announcement.

What gives, Oakland? 

Here’s the dirty laundry: While under the management of the Oakland Police Department, OAS has long suffered from the stresses of severe budget cuts, a revolving door of directors, staff shortages, furlough days and restrictive shelter hours, high volunteer turn over and a tenacious housing crisis that has boomeranged into a steady flow of homeless pets into crowded kennels. Meanwhile, distracted city leaders who have their hands full with other compelling PD-related problems (LINK) have let OAS’ ongoing issues fall to the bottom of their fix-it list. Unlike our neighboring community of Berkeley where animal lovers shouted their city pets to the front burner of city leaders' agendas and succeeded in building a viable shelter-based lifeline for pets in crisis, the culture of Oakland’s city government and even many residents has just never been terribly sympathetic to animal issues. Hence, our crisis - We are a very broke city with a plethora of problems affecting humans and our pets are, well,  just animals, right?

This is where the cultures clash in Oakland. To many of us, animals are our family, our comfort, our obligation. Whether they live with us in the O-hills or in the most challenged neighborhood in East Oakland, they greatly improve our quality of life by bringing joy and companionship. They are part of what makes us human. They matter and we owe them our best. Beyond the pet culture, Oakland residents face difficulties brought on by too-few animal control officers on our city streets (the city has only ten officers and is currently attempting to hire two full time and one part time officer).

Yes, the city is broke and cranky about it, but designing solutions to tough animal-related challenges is not outside of the scope of our local imagination. The SF bay area boasts some of the most motivated and solution-driven animal welfare mavericks in the country, all of whom have been wringing their hands about OAS from the sidelines, and all powerless to intervene due to - you know- city politics.

Leadership Fail 

OAS has been without a director since March 2013, and the city has been dragging feet on finding a replacement. Two candidates are said to be going through background checks right now and one would hope that the city would hurry that process along. A post on Craigslist advertising the position of shelter veterinarian is less than inviting. The new vet is expected to work as an independent contractor up to five difficult days a week tending to the needs of compromised shelter animals, help investigate and build cruelty cases and serve the OPD K-9 unit dogs. All without job security or medical/union benefits.

Without an oversight committee in place to help chart the course and implement humane policies for Oakland’s animal issues, our city pets face a losing battle. Oakland needs a humane commission made up of capable leaders and area experts to guide the city in best practices for a new age - budget problems and all. We really can’t pretend the shelter is doing well in its current state. It’s being euthanized right in front of our eyes.

Please Speak Out

If you’re a SF bay area resident, please tell Oakland city leaders that animal lovers want an immediate response to this current crisis, starting with full compliance of the state law requiring spay/neuter of adopted shelter pets and a vigorous effort to bring effective leadership to this important and badly neglected corner of our city.
Post City Council Meeting EDIT: With counsel woman Libby Schaaf leading the charge, the Oakland city council has agreed to move forward with exploring ways to move the city shelter out from under OPD management. We will update as we have news. Thanks to all who presented their views to the counsel.


The Oakland city council meets the second and fourth Tuesday of the month - this week! Please attend and submit a speaker card to get your chance to speak for one minute. Link

Deanna Santana, City Administrator: Dsantana@oaklandnet.com
Chief of Police: Sean Whent: Swhent@oaklandnet.com
Jean Quan, Mayor: officeofthemayor@oaklandnet.com
City Council Members - If you live in one of their districts, you should mention it, but you don't need to be an Oakland resident for them to hear you on Oakland issues.
Noel Gallo - (510) 238-7005 - Ngallo@oaklandnet.com (the shelter is in his district)
Libby Schaaf - (510) 238-7004 - Lschaaf@oaklandnet.com 
Dan Kalb - (510) 238-7001 DKalb@oaklandnet.com
Pat Kernighan - (510) 238-7002 - PresidentPkernighan@oaklandnet.com
Lynette Gibson McElhaney - (510) 238-7003 - D3intern@oaklandnet.com
Desley Brooks - (510) 238-7006 - Dbrooks@oaklandnet.com
Larry Reid, Vice Mayor - (510) 238-7007 - Lreid@oaklandnet.com
Rebecca Kaplan - (510) 238-7008 - Rkaplan@oaklandnet.com

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Rejection, bedbugs and a sliver of hope: Update on "About to be homeless"

An update on the ongoing search for a home that will accept Carol, Peter, their two sons and two dogs. Back story here: About to be homeless

Scoring a dog friendly apartment for a low income family in crisis? We all knew it would be difficult, but the nitty-gritty realities can be rather discouraging. On the plus side, since losing their home, Carol and Peter have avoided sleeping in their car and have been staying in a Motel 6 thanks to the incredible generosity of people who read their story on BR's facebook page. The bill has been $600 a week, and we're rounding the corner into the fourth week now.

Rocco the dog is deeply bonded with his people so did not take well to being left alone in the borrowed dog run, set up in a volunteer's yard as a holding place while Carol and Peter were away at work. He panicked and tried to chew his way out through the chain link during their absence, so rather than risk a lost dog, they've found a friend who will stay in their motel room and pet sit while they're out at night delivering newspapers. Unfortunately the room also came with some unexpected guests: a scourge of bedbugs chewed them up while they slept. The management moved them to another room and comped them one night "for the inconvenience."

By CA law, families cannot stay in a motel beyond 21 days, so they now need to move all their belongings out and find somewhere else to sleep for one night and start the cycle again, or find a brand new hotel. They've spotted one with much cheaper rates down the road so are hoping to give it a go for the next couple of weeks.

The apartment search has come with repeat frustrations. Each time they find what appears to be a workable dog friendly listing, they're asked to submit $35 non-refundable application fee. So far, they've spend nearly $400 in fees only to be rejected again and again. Despite these set backs, Carol has managed to keep a positive, upbeat outlook. She comes to Pit Ed class every week with the ever-improving Rocco and celebrates our homeless foster dogs' successes: Rhonda's new family signed adoption papers. Puddles and Nigel both moved into new homes. Harpo has a suitor. She smiles and cheers for their homecomings even though her own family is less than fortunate.

What's next? Peter is a veteran, so they've submitted paperwork for a loan to buy a mobile home so they can finally have a place to call their own. Everyone is keeping fingers crossed that they get approved. Carol's resourceful digging turned up a possible respite from the motel woes: Select veterans qualify for transitional housing which would put them in a real house until they can find something permanent. Will they get in? Another wait and see hurdle. Dogs aren't allowed here, though. Yet another problem to tackle. 

On so many occasions we hear people say "I would sleep in my car before I'd give up my dogs." Would you? Could you?

Not a job for the faint of heart.

UPDATE: Carol, Peter, their sons and dogs have bumped the ickiness of low-budget hotels and are now renting a room in a pit bull friendly house. It's tight quarters, but temporary. They're working steadily on securing a mobile home and hope to have good news to report soon ... By Christmas maybe? We can hope.
UPDATE Feb 15: Carol and Peter's momth-to-month room situation ended and they are now sleeping in their car with Rocco the dog. The search goes on for a permanent home that allows pets. Landlords: They can afford up to $1200 a month, and while their credit isn't great, they both work full time. Their dogs are calm, older and well loved. Rocco attends our weekly classes and is a first class gentleman with all. Here's hoping...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

U.S. love for pit bulls, bigger than you thought


Banfield Pet Hospitals - the largest veterinary clinic chain in the world - wants us to know that the popularity of dogs described as pit bulls has increased by 47% in the last ten years in this country. (Source) They tell us that pit bulls now rank within the top ten preferred breeds in the U.S and are the third most popular dog in California (Check your state: Source) VetStreet's data agrees, but puts pit bulls as the second most popular dog in CA. (Source

Click map to open full size.

We're not surprised. We know Americans love their pit bulls. Love, love, LOVE them. The stories and photos that flow into our inbox reflecting affection for these animals are non-stop. We get so many that they almost seem common place anymore, but this one gave me a good sized lump in my throat. What tugs at the heart more than a self-described 'fat cop' who melts into a puddle after receiving a life threatening diagnosis for his beloved pooch? Marc's big love for his girl Lilly represents everything we know to be true about the recent decade's new found love affair with the blockheads. Please send Lilly some warm thoughts for good health and spare some for her worried dog dad, too!

"The Beautiful Blue you see here is "Aloha Lilly" on FB - She Rescued me almost 5 years ago now. I grew up with many breeds and then ended up in Law Enforcement where my exposure to .... "unfriendly" Pits prevailed. I was always the "Fat Cop Trying to outrun a Pit - Film at 11 on the local news." Lilly now ("Sade" in the County Shelter) was dropped late one night in their "Safe Drop", I've pretty much put together she was raised from a pup by a US Marine living on base. He dropped her 3 nights after the "Hard Date" of NO Pits, Rotts or Wolf Breeds allowed on base - obviously he tried and tried to find someone to take her but alas with all the rental restrictions and no options he reportedly said "Goodbye" for 45 minutes.... as he drove off she tried to follow and was taken to ground by a Shepherd.




I cannot tell you how many times she's "Rescued me" in return. I have become a very outspoken Ambassador for the Breed.  Lilly is with me constantly - consequently she is exposed to outright Hatred on a weekly basis and I've grown VERY intolerant of "Aggressive Ignorance". Lilly and most Pits properly raised and socialized (and many others who are just dying to have an opportunity) are the most Sensitive K-9's I have EVER experienced in my 51 years. If I so much as LOOK at Lilly with Disapproval.... she will Pout for 10 minutes! I did not get her with any intention of being a working dog for me... that came later and at the urging from a friend who coached / trained in Utah. 
While driving home Christmas Eve Lilly came up on the box between the seats in HER 1 Ton Dodge Megacab. I was Loving on her when I felt a Lump under her jaw for the first time. I called her vet that moment. Long story short.... we sorta botched that. She'd ALWAYS been so healthy and other than the lump - nothing seemed wrong. He was out of town until New Years Eve and he saw her that afternoon.... again we decided it was a minor "Viral" infection. Two and a half weeks later.... it had exploded in size and gotten lumpy overnight.... my heart crashed! I raced her up for what HE (her Vet) said would be "just blood tests to start" but when he felt it...... I saw the color drain from his face. The next day - GREAT News! Blood work PERFECT! That was a Friday so Biopsy results would follow Monday or Tuesday "But if it were ANYTHING too serious - SOMETHING would have been off in her lab results". WE CELEBRATED Big Time! The next day - Saturday, (His sons 13th Birthday) my cellphone rang at 6:14pm - again my heart sank before I answered - when I did HE Couldn't really speak. (I've known him since he was in diapers.... I babysat him) and NOW he's telling me she has Lymphoma - a LOT of it! He'd spent 3 1/2 hours during his sons Birthday searching for something to give me hope. 


So much for the "Short Story" but she was Diagnosed with B-Cell Lymphoma and has successfully completed the CHOP Protocol. She was ruled "In Remission" but the 3rd treatment. The Biggest Challenge her Medical Team had was .... ME! Her Vet would tell me... "She doing GREAT" except she could drop 15lbs, but "YOU'RE a Mess!! Suck it up man - you're so afraid of losing her that it's going to be HARD on her".... and he was right.

Today she's in "Aftercare" and doing good, I'm doing better. Just LOTS of Stress and now the "Fallout" from diverting ALL Funds to her Treatment and NOT paying other Bills has come home to Roost as they say.... but I'd do it again if necessary!!" - Thanks again! Aloha Marc.

No, thank you Marc. We got such a boost your story today and plan to be some of your biggest fans on Lilly's facebook page.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"About to be Homeless"

On Sept 11, an email landed in our mailbox with the headline, 'About to be Homeless.' 

"To whom it may concern.
I have a pitbull that is very important to me and in need of a muzzle.  I am about to be homeless (living in my car) and i need a muzzle for my pitbull (do not want to give him up) so i can safely tackle homelessness with him.
Please call me i will give my time to  help in any way i can just call me so i can keep my dog Rocco see attached photo." - Carol

I phoned: What's going on? Why a muzzle? Carol, her husband, two sons and their two dogs were being evicted due to a landlord move-in and finding a new rental that would accept their pets was proving to be next to impossible. Rather than surrender their dogs (a 16 year old dog and seven year old Rocco) to the shelter where both may perish, they've made the decision to live in their car until they can find a new dog friendly apartment. Living in a car is damn difficult for a myriad of reasons but Carol was certain her dog 'Rocco' would have the hardest time of all. Rocco had never been around strange dogs much and when he had, his experiences weren't good. Carol told me that in their former home - a rough neighborhood in Pittsburg, CA - he was routinely aggravated by dogs and people who provoked him through their shoddy fence for the fun of setting him off. Carol was certain that, once on the streets, Rocco would have a similar experience that would result in animal control taking him away from them.  
She had a point. Homeless pet owners are more likely to be cited following complaints filed by people who assume the animals are being abused or neglected. A larger dog with reactivity issues would easily draw all kinds of negative attention, especially while he was alone in the car and they were away at work delivering newspapers.



I asked Carol if she could bring Rocco to class so we could sort out his needs and hopefully come up with a game plan that didn't require a muzzle. As it turns out, Rocco was so horribly nervous outside of his home and in the presence of other dogs, he sat wide eyed and stressed, his thighs shaking like a leaf. With some practice, he's calmed quite a bit and has learned to look to his people for information and comfort. Carol and Peter have since come to every class, and as Rocco's confidence around strange dogs grows, so does their confidence in their ability to navigate him in difficult situations.

Dog management plan - handled. But the next real problem was much bigger and harder to solve. The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that 3.5 million people in American are homeless and between 5%-10% have dogs or cats. In some parts of the country, the rate may be as high as 24%. For many, the situation is temporary while they search for new housing, but for those with larger dogs, including pit bull type dogs, the search becomes excruciatingly difficult. Carol and her family face what could be weeks or months before they land the security of a dog friendly lease in an area near their jobs. In the meantime, they would be exposed to crime, police harassment, bad weather and illness, personal hygiene challenges and the general wear and tear that comes from the stress of being homeless. Despite all that, they are still 100% determined to keep their dogs.

For more info on the realities of the mobile homeless. New York Times: Keeping It Secret as the Family Car Becomes a Home.

What to do? We can work with dog reactivity issues, but impending homelessness of an entire family? Enter social media and the kindness of strangers. With their move out date just days away, we posted a plea on BADRAP's facebook page, not really knowing how people would respond. 

Peter and Carol have raised Rocco (age 7) since he was born. They're grandparents and live with two grown sons and a second dog who is 16 years old. Tonight, due to a landlord move-in, they'll be joining over 634K people in this country who are homeless. Hard times everywhere have been especially difficult for families with blockheads. Peter and Carol refuse to give up their dogs and plan to sleep in their car with both until they save up enough to get a dog friendly apartment.
The trouble is, their dogs will be on their own while they work delivering newspapers and they know this isn't safe. They are currently looking for a place in Contra Costa County to keep their dogs for up to six hours at a time while they work. A safe yard, a garage, etc. Can you help?
While they look, they're attending BR's Pit Ed classes to help give worrier Rocco enough confidence to deal with the unknowns of homeless living. Did we mention how much they love their dogs?
Any leads for a safe place to keep Rocco and his senior pal during the day are VERY much appreciated. They hope to find a dog friendly apartment before the winter rains start, so any leads for rentals in Contra Costa County would be fantastic too.
Please share, contact us with any ideas, and send some warm wishes their way. THANK YOU! 

The post was seen by nearly 68K people and shared 850 times. From it, a big hearted couple - recent BR adopters Jill and Scott Borchardt - offered up a space in their yard to hold the dogs while the family was at work, and two others - Loran Watkins and Christine Tanner - donated a dog kennel to secure them safely. Next, the community of dog lovers on facebook donated enough to rent a hotel room for one, possibly two months while the search is on for a new home that will allow all of them.

We hope it's a quick search. We know they won't be the only families hoping and praying for a rental that will accept their dogs this year.

Wednesday Oct 16 Update: Finding a safe, affordable hotel for the interim is easier said then done. Costs can quickly exceed $2500 a month - A chunk that could be used for a security deposit for an apartment instead. The Homeless Program of Contra Costa Health Services lost their funding for hotel vouchers last year, so homeless families in our area can easily get caught in the Catch 22 of using every penny they have on a very temporary housing solution. Pet owners are then doubly challenged by hotel restrictions that ban pets. Some good news: Carol and Peter have jobs, so are eligible for a grant from a local homeless service to pay their first month's rent once they locate an apartment that will take their dogs. They are deeply grateful for the funds raised from BR's facebook community to help them during this time of crisis and are currently debating the best way to use them secure a roof over their heads. We'll report back as their difficult and all too common story unfolds.



Carol and Peter can afford up to $1200 a month in rent. Please send any leads for dog friendly housing in Contra Costa County, CA and we'll forward.  contact@badrap.org  We are always forwarding donations to help them with hotel fees during this time. Please designate that your gift is for Carol and Peter. BR Donation Page 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Summer Buzz in Photo Form

This summer has been abuzz with some the fastest turn around on available dogs we've known, busy events filled with out of town visitors, public outreach and spay/neuter work and loud and happy Open Houses. Whew! I stopped the spins long enough to post this blog for those who don't get to follow our work on the vacuum that is facebook.

Thank goodness for talented photographers who can capture in images what we've been too busy to put into words. Our tech support Tom Becker has been especially generous with his camera and offers most of the photos snapped at our outreach events.

1. First, a jammed packed two day networking/educating extravaganza event at the Rescue Barn just for dog rescuers. Rescue Jam PHOTOS.

2. Then, some adventures with our new spay/neuter van - affectionately dubbed "the Nut Truck" - as it hit the streets of Hayward. Spay/Neuter Hayward PHOTOS



3. Then another Open House that resulted in several adoptions and even more smiles. Open House PHOTOS

4. Finally, back to the East Bay Rats Clubhouse for more outreach, owner support and spay/neuter work. Our volunteers rock these events like nobody's business. And veterinarian Dr. Noe and Beth Garland RVT do the work that will reduce unwanted litters in some of our most challenged neighborhoods. PHOTOS

Why am I pulling up this photo for you? (below) It's not a remarkable photo, but it's a remarkable moment. Tim Racer befriended this dog owner, a local backyard breeder with a few too many dogs. After some discussion, Tim helped him select one dog to fix - one of his females. No coercion or trickery, just an honest offer that he accepted. One of several dogs taken out of the breeding game is not a home run, but it's a start that we plan to build on as we return with more help and resources. Miles to go before we sleep, but what a good sleep it'll be.



The best part of this work ... It's as fun as it is busy. After all, if it's not fun, it's not buzz-worthy.




Thursday, July 25, 2013

Open House Aug 3: Thank the Lifesavers, Meet the Dogs


If you've adopted or plan to adopt from either Berkeley Animal Care Services or BADRAP, or if you're curious about the workings behind our programs, there is a crew of people you need to meet. Behind the scenes, dozens of big hearts give over a big chunk of their lives to TLC homeless dogs until their ship comes in ... The Pit Ed volunteer trainers, the Foster Parents and the Barn Crew.

Please join us on Saturday August 3 from 11am-1pm to help us thank the dedicated volunteer crew in person. **Meet dogs now looking for homes. **Observe shelter dogs being trained. **Learn about volunteer opportunities. **Nosh on pizza donated by the Cheeseboard. YUM.

ALUMNI! Dogs adopted from BADRAP or BACS are invited to attend. Please RSVP here so we can alert the troops! email to RSVP

Location: Corner of Addison and Second St. in Berkeley. Across from BACS.

Friday, June 21, 2013

lessons from a dog bite

A tragic, dog related death in Union City, CA on Monday June 17 pushed every body's buttons this week and sent news outlets rushing to file fast-deadline headlines from an alert that was distributed by the local PD. Media inquiries poured in to our corners, as reporters tapped their cell phones looking for someone who would talk for or against pit bulls, "We want to hear your side of the story," they asked - as if we could divide a young boy's death into sides. Most of our readers already know that the press is keen on inventing divisiveness and playing spokes people like pawns to sell a controversy, but it's especially troubling to watch it play out so close to home.

We initially assumed that the 'Whys' behind the dog bite were so clear that no one would possibly miss them, and the public conversation would soon shift to bite prevention must-knows. We were discouraged though when this SF Gate article came out, suggesting that "both sides" believed dog bite prevention practices were altogether a useless endeavor. Did they really publish that?

What happened? No adults were nearby to see the bite, but family told police that young Nephi Selu and seven or so cousins were rough housing in the yard with a relative's dog named 'Gava' when Nephi climbed on his back to ride him "like a little horse." Except dogs aren't little horses and most are not remotely comfortable with this level of intrusion. Any stress signals from the dog were likely unnoticed because Nephi was just a child at six years old and had mild autism, a condition that inhibits a person's ability to interpret gestures, cues and facial expressions. During the rough housing, the dog lashed out at the boy with what is reported to be a "single bite" to the top of his head. (Source)

According to Union City police Commander Ben Horner, Nephi's guardians pulled the dog away without issue and decided he might need "a couple of stitches." A very bad day for all, and another statistic for the yearly tally of dog bites in this country. An estimated 4.5 million people report dog bites each year. (Source) In most cases, bites are very painful but not life threatening and leave scars, as well as lasting lessons for the recipients.

The dog's owner then left for work, expecting his nephew to get patched up and sent home from a local hospital. A few hours later the boy was dead. While autopsy results will ultimately shed light on how a single bite injury played out to be fatal, SF bay area neurologist Dr. Aimee Chagnon, MD, explains how a well placed bite on a child's head can cause such damage.

The pattern of the child's injury is highly suggestive of an intracranial hematoma (epidural or subdural).  The fact the adult present, a trained police officer, felt there was no serious injury present and went to work after the bite, adds to the evidence that there was little external evidence of trauma.  In addition, loss of life from external blood loss would not have followed the time course of this particular event as head injuries are notoriously heavy bleeders and so would have been obvious. It is well recognized that epidural hematomas are often fatal because they don't seem bad but the blood accumulates under arterial pressure, so often by the time they get to the hospital the damage is done. It doesn't take much, especially for a child ... It doesn't have to be a forceful bite, sometimes it's just really easy to tear bridging veins or, if there was a little skull fracture the middle meningeal artery can be lacerated, causing the epidural hematoma. It in no way necessarily equates with a vicious dog, it can happen with relatively mild injuries that just affect the wrong place, resulting in death. - Dr. Aimee C. Chagnon, MD

Good Dogs vs. Bad Dogs? 

Commander Ben Horner stated,"It's a mystery as to why the dog chose yesterday to bite the young man."  Not much of a mystery though to people who work with dogs on a regular basis. In an effort to prevent dog bites, the Internet is filled with materials created by dog experts aimed at helping families recognize canine body language and understand proper behavior with dogs. Nobody was on the scene at the time of Nephi's bite to recognize the signs of discomfort that escalated, but many were surprised when the dog they all trusted acted out. It's important to note that even "friendly dogs" can resort to using their teeth if pushed beyond their threshold. From the American Veterinary Medical Association:

Even the cuddliest, fuzziest, sweetest pet can bite if provoked. Dogs bite as a reaction to something. If the dog finds itself in a stressful situation, it may bite to defend itself or its territory. Dogs can bite because they are scared or have been startled. They can bite because they feel threatened. They can bite to protect something that is valuable to them, like their puppies, their food or a toy. Dogs might bite because they aren’t feeling well. They could be sick or sore due to injury or illness and might want to be left alone. - AVMA

Dogs Warn. And Yes, Pit Bulls are Still Dogs. 

Gava the dog was identified as a pit bull, news that inspired rubber necking and the usual fear based speculation on news sites around the net. Opinion from dog experts was absent from most reports, filled instead with sweeping generalizations including an incredulous comment from Benjamin Hart, Professor of Veterinary Anatomy, Physiology, and Cell Biology at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Hart shamefully announced to SF Gate readers that we could blame all the trouble on Kava's breed. He stated, "It's quite common for a pit bull to show no signs of aggression. "People will call it a nice dog, a sweet dog, even the neighbors - and then all of a sudden something triggers the dog." Dog safety seemed to take three steps back with this quote, provided by a UC Davis emeritus professor no less. We can only hope that this news article fades into oblivion as social media and credible experts work to daylight life saving dog bite prevention information that was buried with Professor Hart's comments.

Perhaps Professor Hart missed the third issue of the Journal of Veterinary Behavior back in 2008. That issue documented the research of the Institute of Animal Welfare and Behavior of the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hanover, Germany. Four authors scrutinized over 1000 individual dogs of various breeds during their research to learn if different breeds signaled their warnings differently before triggering into aggression. They concluded that "all dogs, including dogs commonly labeled 'pit bull,' signal their intent." Myth de-bunked. Study link. 

Make no mistake: Whether or not warning signs are recognized, all healthy, normal dogs signal as a way of communicating escalating stress. Canine body language. Warning signs. Dog safely. It's not rocket science, but as of this week, it has become even more important that our communities and our media acknowledge that we have the power to prevent dog bites, and all without throwing breeds under the bus.

Our sincere condolences to Nephi Safu's friends and family. Despite media reports, we are all on your side.

Resources for dog safety information:

An uncomfortable but revealing look at warning signs that say, "Please leave me alone." Video.
Bite prevention info from the AVMA.
The Family Paws Parent Education programs.
Graphics for children on how to avoid trouble with dogs. Credit: Dr. Sophia Yin. Link
BADRAP's page on dogs and kids. Link.
The Safe Kids / Safe Dogs Project
National Canine Research Council - for science on dog bites.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Where's Jonny?

Stuffed animal empire 'GUND' announced back in August '12 that none other than Jonny Justice had been chosen to be the model-dog extraordinaire for a brand new toy. (News) Who could've imagined that?

The next best thing to the big WOW that came from this news is having the toy in our hot little hands. Not that we're being impatient, but we have a party to plan darnit! When is the shipment getting here?

GUND representatives reassured us by phone that Jonny was "on a vessel somewhere headed towards the U.S." What a provocative thought: A freighter loaded with goods including untold thousands of carefully packaged Jonny Justice dolls, splashing through the Pacific on its way to thousands of hungry fans. While we don't have an exact date on his arrival (the shipment will need to be warehoused first, then distributed to the various vendors before we ever lock eyes), we were told that it will be here "soon."

Soon. Enjoy your travels, Jonny doll.

 

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Rescue Jam!


In one month, a very special event in Oakland, CA....
WHAT: The Rescue Jam is a two day conference for 501c3 rescue groups who are motivated to build a sustainable future for their organization. Join us for a busy weekend of lively discussion, field tested techniques, best practice guidelines and tricks of the trade for successful adoption programs that include pit bulls. A great place to learn, network and recharge. Both days will be busy and Saturday evening will be set aside for fun and good times. We hope you can be part of this memorable weekend!
Workshops include: Building a solid foster home team, attracting adopters, setting short and longterm goals, problem solving common behavior issues, doing dog/dog intros, making the tough decisions, developing an effective spay/neuter program, engaging your community, battling compassion fatigure, finding funds for the projects you value.
WHEN, WHERE: 9am - 5:30pm Saturday and Sunday, May 4 and 5 at BADRAP's Rescue Barn in Oakland, CA. 
We have just a few seats left as we count down days until the event. 
MORE INFO: Rescue Jam.