Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Eye See You

Big thanks to Sophie's foster mom, Stephanie, for taking such good care of Soph and for snapping these new post-surgery pix. Our girl is all brand new without her icky damaged eye to bother her anymore.

For those who may have missed her intro, Sophie was bred and fought most of her 11 years but found happier days once she landed in the Oakland Animal Shelter, and then to our program. I especially like the shot of her blowing little bubbles out of her pursed lips.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Halloween, Recycled

CBS recently decided to re-run this oldy moldy video report on scary pit bulls from 2005. (Pit Bull Restrictions Debated) CBS Redone

Why? My best guess is because it's a collection of Halloween-ish gore, including some sensationalistic quotes from a person-who-should-know-better at a south bay shelter. Scare tactics are perennial, so it seems - and so convenient during times when abused pit bulls, ghouls and UFO sightings make their way to into October headlines.

What bothers me the most, besides the fact that a few of us and our ridiculously friendly dogs are IN this report (Fools-R-We for participating in this trash piece) is that it's running adjacent to a report on the Vick dogs - Wha? - Despite the fact that only ONE of the Vick dogs was sketchy with people, and she was put to sleep, as was the responsible thing to do.

I know, I know. What can we expect? The media is known for acting like a bunch of scared little old ladies chittering about bogus insurance scams, and no one with any brains really cares what they have to say. But dammit! watching reports like these is like watching school bullies kick the crap out of your little brother. How do we make them stop?

Speaking of a burn, we were taken aback by a highly unethical exchange with a staff member of our own local paper, the San Francisco Chronicle. Seems Mr. Rose didn't like the fact that we were placing an an ad to promote our fundraiser Tuff Love in his paper. His out-of-left-field response to our request for ad space....

Pit Bulls can be fine animals. But I find it alarming that your organization dismissed the numerous maulings that result from seemingly sweet dogs that come from a line of dogs bred for fighting. As a journalist all my life (I'm 60 now), I can't count the number of times I've read reputable news reports about a pit bull family pet which, after a number of years with the kids, suddenly mauled one of the family.

This is not urban myth. This is a real problem.

I'd love to see a certified line of pits that can demonstrate several generations of tame breeding so that the animals could truly be trusted. I've found everything I've ever heard from the "religious" pit bull owners to be true — that they are truly beautiful and loving dogs. But until such a line can be established, they cannot be trusted.

Many pit bull owners point to the fact that other breeds have a greater history of biting. However, pits don't bite — they maul. And there's a big difference.

I think if you folks own up to the fact that there are difficulties with the breed, you might make a lot more headway. And the problems don't stem from responsible pit owners — they stem from the Michael Vicks of the work. And unfortunately, there are big numbers of these people.

Jim Rose
Production, Ad Lay Out Manager
San Francisco Chronicle

Geez. And all we wanted to do was attract people to an event that celebrates great dogs and their loving owners.

Outside of the fact that the Vick dogs were found to be people-safe (and many are A-Okay with dogs), his bigger mistake was letting the media educate him about dog maulings. Research from the National Canine Research Council comes in so handy during times like these.

I wrote to Jim and pointed out that, according to the NCRC ...

"There have been 58 fatal maulings in CA since 1965 -- an average of 1-2 deaths a year. At least 14 different breeds/types of dogs have been identified as participating in a fatal attack in California. The breeds include small and medium-sized dog (Pomeranian, Schnauzer) -- up to large and giant breed dogs (Malamute, Presa Canario)."

And, "California leads the nation in having the largest number of criminal, negligent and abusive owners receiving felony convictions after encouraging or permitting their dogs to exhibit behaviors which resulted in a fatal attack." And further, they outline ways that the media's portrayal of pit bulls has contributed to the unrelenting assassination of this one breed's reputation. (Pssst: Bookmark this website!)

Tuff Love was created, in part, as a response to media biases such as Jim's. I never heard back from him, by the way. But maybe he's busy checking his facts.

Speaking of Scary Ex-Fighting Dogs

Sophie is back in her foster home after a surgery to remove her bad eye....Thank you UCDavis. She has a permanent wink now....How fitting! (I picture her winking everytime a naysayer slanders abused pit bulls as 'ticking time bombs.')

And happier news yet ... Our little miss is going up for adoption. She deserves a home that can give her all the creature comforts a senior citizen like her has earned. We've been honored and privileged to know this dog and we look forward to seeing her relax into retirement. Her adopters should line up the toys, though....This girl is making up for years of neglect by enjoying lots of silly, happy, wiggly-butt play.

Dog bless you, Sophie. And kind thank yous to everyone who's sent toys, donations and good vibes to help her in her new life.

The Art of Dog

And finally, a slideshow of our Pit Bull Hall dogs, compliments of PBH Team Member, Maria Graizer. She sure has an eye. Enjoy.

PBH Slides

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hurricane season keeps us hoppin'

What busy times. We call the autumn months our hurricane season, since, for the past three years, they represent our busiest, craziest season. Larger rescue projects, our conference at home as well as others that we attend, and big events like Tuff Love all seem to come crashing in at the same time. ACK. Somebody throw us a lifeline.

The bigger news of course, is about the Vick dogs. Although we're not at liberty to discuss details, we can report that BR's Tim Racer flew back to VA to assist attorney Rebecca Huss in re-evaluating the dogs in order to create solid placement recommendations, and, we helped organize the transfer of 16 Vick dogs that were deemed foster care candidates to warm and ready foster homes for TLC and observation. News Report: V-Dog Updates

Rebecca is now collecting applications from 501(c)3 organizations who wish to take custody of one or more dogs. Interested orgs must jump some pretty big hoops; a good thing for the dogs.

More News and Updates

On the home front, good news and sad news. First, the good news: Dogs Dango and Harvey both found new homes this week, and Ruckus has an interested suitor already. Next step: shopping local shelters for their replacements, starting with the Oakland Animal Shelter. Shopacholics that we are, we love looking for new dogs. More...

In the Lap of Luxury

Big Headed Boris - once abandoned because he couldn't leave the shelter without his balls - traveled to his forever home this month, with new parents Jim and Patty. We always wait on those photo updates, and this family has not disappointed. Our Bubba friend has landed in the lap of laps, the home of homes, with the heart of hearts. Waddayathink - Is he happy?

Little Man, the Refuge

Little Man, our heart-throb rescue from Hillsborough County Animal Control in Tampa, FL, was evacuated just as he was settling in to his new Southern CA home. His proud person is Mike Kaviani, a Pit Ed Camp graduate and Senior Animal Care Specialist at Irvine Animal Care Center. Mike had to overnight at his shelter, ready for instructions on how to help local pets displaced by the fires - and Little Man's job was to entertain the staff and keep everyone happy during those tense hours....A fitting job for a natural clown. Go Little Man! We're happy to report that all are safe.

Gary - My Angel

I'm very sad to report that we made the painful decision to put Gary to sleep. He was our compassion case who came to our house after suckering us in with warm brown eyes sunken in a starved, skeleton frame. Gary grew to love his new life and greeted us with 'thanks' and happy woo-woo's. Unfortunately, the world outside of our home was too scary for 'Scary Gary.' We let him go to peace under a waterfall of tears.

Our final movie of Gary. We were actually saying good-bye to Little Man the day this was filmed, not realizing it would be Gary's good-bye as well. Rest in peace, my love. You were our good, good boy.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Soundbite inhibition

Everybody loves to talk about dogfighting.

Heck, people who have never met a pit bull love to talk about dogfighting, especially if talking about dogfighting is going to get them on TV or bring in some donor money or make a headline or keep viewers watching an uninsipired television show.

We're not really sure why people love to talk about dogfighting so much, but in the wake of the Michael Vick case people keep on talking. And talking.

There was a big
fight bust in Missouri this week - and kudos go to the teams that made that happen. One nice thing about the initial article is that the reporter did include relevant and positive quotes by Stoddard County Sheriff, Carl Hefner, who noted about the dogs:

"They weren’t aggressive to us at all," he said. "You could walk up to them, and they’d jump up and lick you."

Those of us who work with pit bulls regularly - often rescued from abusive or neglectful situations, including fighting rings - are never surprised to hear that dogs from these circumstances are fantastic with people and grateful for some human attention.

What is a bit disappointing, though, is that people (especially reporters) tend to try to exaggerate a "bred to be fighters" angle, as though any dog can be specifically bred for a single activity and forget that it's a dog. This isn't new - but it's getting old.

Because we've had so much success living with dogs that have come out of horrendous circumstances - including fighting situations - imagine our chagrin when a
followup article came out about the Missouri situation that included inflammatory and just plain untrue quotes from the Humane Society of the United States:

"When we are talking about dogs that have been bred to kill other dogs, you can't really rehabilitate them," said John Goodwin, manager of the Human Society of the United States' Animal Fighting Campaign. Advertisement

And, Goodwin and other shelter operators say, don't let the Michael Vick case fool you.

All but one of the more than 50 dogs in that case have been tentatively spared, in large part because the millionaire NFL quarterback is paying for the dogs' rehabilitation as part of his plea agreement.


There are so many things wrong with these statements that it's hard to know where to start, so we'll just start at the beginning. And by the beginning I mean the very beginning.

Pit bulls are dogs, and dogs are domestic animals.
15,000 years of evolution cannot be undone because some random idiot and his friends decided to purchase or breed a bunch of dogs and abuse them. All pit bulls come from the same lineage, whether we're talking about Petey and the Little Rascals or the little tan dog that was photographed after a fight bust. This doesn't make them monsters or weapons, any more than the Jack Russel (bred to kill rats!) or the Ridgeback (bred to hunt lions, the King of the Jungle!) are monsters or weapons. They're just dogs, folks.

There is a difference between temperament and behavior, and that difference is the reason that BAD RAP and other pit bull rescuers and owners have had so much success rehoming discarded dogs as family pets.

We at BAD RAP specifically evaluate all our dogs on their core temperaments, and that includes dogs that come out of fighting rings or have obvious scars from incidental fights. By and large, we find that this resilient breed retains it's wiggly-butted-love-slut nature with people, and what that means is that sparking off with other dogs is something that will become less important to a stable, normal individual dog than pleasing its handler is.

This really and truly isn't rocket science, and it isn't "rehabilitation" either. It's simply a matter of understanding normal breed traits, evaluating individual dogs and their temperaments, and putting dogs into situations with handlers who can show them what's expected of them. They're dogs, not robots.

The other ironic thing about John Goodwin's soundbite is that he's made it without mention of HSUS's fundraising activities - including an
eBay auction of Michael Vick's apology speech - that brought in tens of thousands of dollars (if not considerably more) on behalf of the Vick dogs.

Thing is, the HSUS has nothing to do with the Vick dogs. So where is this money going? If money is the true concern of HSUS and it's the gating issue preventing them from stepping in to help the Missouri dogs, why not use the funds brought in by the Vick dogs to help out?

HSUS has a
fund that specifically states that it will:

  • Provide care for animals seized in animal cruelty and fighting cases. Without this assistance, police are often reluctant to pursue cases involving large numbers of animals.

HSUS also has
200 million dollars in the bank. $113 million of their money came from contributions, grants and bequests.

Somehow, money does not seem to be the real issue here. And that is because money is not the real issue here. BAD RAP has been operating on a shoestring budget since its inception, and we still manage to find wonderful homes for around 50 deserving pit bulls a year - some of these dogs have been in fights, others abused, still more neglected. The commonality: they all retain the solid pit bull temperament.

The other commonality: there are people around willing to do something for the dogs - and that can-do attitude can start with a single shelter worker, administrator, or volunteer.

So: what about those Missouri dogs?

We recognize based on our experience with these types of cases that it would be very likely that dogs in that Missouri group may be quite fine around other animals. Every dog deserves to be evaluated as an individual, and America has said so much by making large donations to groups like HSUS on behalf of the victims.

Wouldn't it be great if those donations could be used to actually help the victims? Perhaps then, we would be able see something good come out these tragic situations.

Soundbites make newspapers, but action makes a difference.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Honey Still Works Better than Vinegar

This weekend, hundreds of pet owners from a low-income Oakland neighborhood will be lining up in a park to receive free shots for their animals at the East Bay SPCA Shots Fair Clinic. Young men like this will be greeted warmly by the diehard BR volunteers. If he needs one, his dog will be fitted with a collar and leash. After all, pit bull owners who care enough to give up part of their Sunday to do right by their dog deserve to be treated with respect.

Guys like this will also get free training tips and a chance to talk with other pit bull owners about ways to be a good steward. His dog will probably get a hug or two, and before he leaves, he'll get an invitation to free training classes and a voucher to get his pet neutered for free. If he's like more than half of the people who come to these fairs, he'll follow through and we'll run into him again at the East Bay SPCA's spay/neuter clinic.

In just two years time, over 1700 pit bull owners in the east bay have fixed their pets without needing to be coerced, shamed or threatened via mandatory measures. Instead, they get Oakland-style support, encouragement and education. We like that about the east bay; it makes us proud to call it our home.

One of the movers and shakers behind organizing BR's troops to action at the Shots Fair is Kim Ramirez. Kim's work with pit bulls and their people is a true labor of love. We were happy when Fetch the Paper asked Kim for an interview....They picked a good'un. Thank you Fetch, and thank you Kim!

Read about Kim here: "Making a Difference"

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Let's Talk About Dog Aggression

Dog aggression - or, dog-intolerance as we like to call it - is a hot topic whenever pit bulls come up in a conversation. Aren't they a dog aggressive breed? Well, some individuals can be...in the same way that people can be violent. Some of us are nasty bastards, ready to pummel loved ones or the guy who offends by stealing the last parking space. You know the type.

Maybe the warrior types had a bad upbringing, or maybe they have mean genes, or a combo of both. Your guess is as good as mine...

Thankfully, most of us are better at biting our tongues and kicking the wall instead of our co-workers. Although let's admit it - many of us enjoy amping ourselves up by watching violence. We scream and yell and jump out of our stadium seats like a leash-reactive dog spittin' fire at his neighbor. Woo! Get'em!...Hollering is such a gratifying way to charge up a life-affirming adrenalin rush. Yep, many unschooled dogs would agree.

I have a theory that some people despise pit bulls (usually, without actually having met one) because the dogs mirror us so faithfully: Our very best sides, our most outrageous sides, and in the case of the naysayers, the side of us that can be lured into battle. We are them; they are us.

At the end of the day, most of us learn to manage our hot-buttons and to suppress our warrior instincts so we can enjoy a quieter, happier life. Same is true for dogs. Especially those with good (human) parents.

Before you assign dog aggression to any one breed, take this quiz and fill in the blanks.

Which breed is being described? Link to the source of the quotes to find your answers. I think you'll be surprised.

Dog Aggression Quiz: Name the Breed

1. __X__ are often aggressive with other dogs. Same-sex aggression and aggression towards other breeds of dogs is well documented with this __X__. It is strongly recommended that no more than two __X__ (of opposite sex only) ever be permitted to stay together unattended.

2. They require a great deal of socialization as puppies, and obedience training is very important as __X__ are dominant dogs and tend to be aggressive towards other dogs, especially of the same sex.

3.When it comes to other dogs, however - especially dogs of the same sex - __X__ are not so likely to get along without incident. Dog aggression seems most common among females, although un-neutered males can also fight. Once two __X__ have had an argument, it's never over. They hold a grudge, and they will be enemies forever and can't be trusted to be together.

4.__X__are often aggressive with other dogs, for pretty much the same reasons. They tend to be picky about their friends and pack and not really like anyone who isn't part of their normal circle.

5. Some __X__ are dominant or aggressive toward other dogs of the same sex. Some have strong instincts to chase and seize cats and other fleeing creatures. If anything goes wrong in the breeding, socializing, training, handling, or management of this breed, it is capable of seriously injuring or killing other animals.

6. Some __X__ also exhibit considerable aggression toward other dogs, and prospective owners must be willing to socialize and train their terriers to curb this tendency.

Hmm. Will the real pit bull please stand up?

For info on creating healthy dog-dog interactions:

Living Peaceably in a Multi-Dog Home
Understanding Dog Tolerance Levels
Socializing Tips
Monitoring Dog-Dog Interactions

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Woo Woo! Gary

A little update on our Skeleton Man...

Finally, Gary has enough energy to show us some personality. His body is starting to repair itself and a his gums are a pale shade of pink.

The first thing he said about his fate was:
Woo Woo Woo!
Roughly translated, we think that means, "This is all so crazy! I like being alive. Can I eat now?"

Check Out:
Gary's Lil Movie

We've started considering the possibilty of finding him a foster-to-adopt home, which is a big step. A few weeks ago, we just wanted him to die in peace. But, fate might have other plans.

Gary is a simple kinda guy. He's not quite a pit bull; he seems to be his own special brand of leggy, backyard bred ghetto hound....Not that there's anything WRONG with leggy backyard-bred ghetto hounds. But, hey.

He's a bit of a Wimp and he has some learning to do: Ladders are scary and so are digital cameras (we're working on it). Strangers are happy and dogs are A-Okay, but a person carrying a phone might be worth avoiding. Clapping your hands so he doesn't lift his leg on the patio table is WAY scary. Yeah - Our boy has been around some rough people and he's got some Worry Wart baggage. Not surprising.

Stay tuned while we ruminate on the Future According to Gary. Woo Woo!

Monday, October 01, 2007

They Said It First...

We were surprised to see this leak (leak?) out into the press, but there it is....

Vick Dogs Evaluation News

For an insider's scoop on how this is even possible - Abused pit bulls with placement potential? - we'll have to refer you to Sophie: Blogs below.

Once again, doG bless the ASPCA for organizing the evals and for believing in the right for every companion animal to be treated and evaluated as an individual.