Monday, June 09, 2008

Not Thugs

A Shots Fair client with his beautiful little pit bull girl, yesterday in Richmond, CA.

Richmond is a struggling city on the bay with a rep for high crime. It's also the former home of a convicted drug dealer whose dogs severely mauled a little boy in 2001. After attending a Public Safety Commission meeting in '01, we promised the city that we'd return to help, but it's taken us a LONG time to honor that promise. Refreshed with new resources (Thank you supporters!) we finally got our butts up to Richmond to begin looking at best ways to help the dog owners that live there. Of course , it's impossible to know what a community needs without getting to know it first. These fairs give us a great opp to meet our neighbors and learn about their issues and challenges.

Despite biases some might hold about inner city dog owners, the fair's attendees were 1) not thugs 2) not dog fighters 3) not "too poor to properly care for their dogs" 4) not opposed to spay/neuter.

On the contrary - as is so often the case - they are 1) typically under-served by veterinarians (area vets were horrifically reluctant to help us with low cost spay/neuter vouchers) 2) they tend to have an adversarial relationship with animal control due to the heavy law enforcement focus of this agency, 3) they have no local humane orgs to look to for responsible ownership guidance, (the nearest humane org is miles away and caters to middle class adopters) 4) they're unable to access positive/motivational training resources (Note: Personal protection trainers fill this training void - Yikes!) --- however 5) these Richmond dog owners - pit bull owners especially - were extremely grateful to receive support, information, collars/leashes and free spay/neuter vouchers. We even recruited some new volunteers for our Oakland Animal Services project. Nice.

Shots Fair organizer BR diehard Kim Ramirez gives a blue pup owner some insights on dealing with skin issues and dog-dog management.

All in a day's work. On 6/08/08:

188 dogs served.
42 dogs - Approx 23% - appeared to be pit bull or pit mix.
18 of the 42 pit bulls were under six months old.
40 dogs attending were already altered.
148 dogs not altered (mostly CHIHUAHUAS!)
20 pit bull owners received free spay/neuter vouchers.
Dozens of ragged collars and leashes were exchanged for properly fitted equipment

How hard was that? We hope other dog-centric groups join us in reaching out to their local communities. If you're struggling with BSL concerns and would like info on how to set up a Shots Fair, please let us know!


Alexandra Amaya said...

This is so amazing! 40 dogs altered! If only San Francisco would take notice but I don't think that would ever happen. ;(
This such an inspiration it really brightens my day. Thanks Donna!

Anonymous said...

What great body language the cute little pit bull gal shows towards her dad. What a priceless photo!!

Bravo! for assisting the folks in Richmond who are in such desperate need of guidance and services. I hope things continue to improve for this struggling community.

Your website always brings such inspiration and hope for those of us that continue the fight for this noble breed. Keep up the great work.-----------------W

Donna said...

Thank you pitbullfever and W.

Community outreach is really THE most important work that we do. Everything else pales in comparison to the impact of bringing resources, information and SUPPORT to dog owners in under-served communities.

We really hope that these little reports inspire other locales to get busy. It's not hard to get something going and it's the most rewarding work any dog lover can do.

Anonymous said...

21% already altered is amazing considering bias #4 is standarded parroted info out there - and in a city with scarce services. I've seen it at the VOLUNTARY S/N clinics in KC - yes, there is a section of the population that won't s/n but if you "make doing the right thing easy", most people will.

Another nuget of info you alluded to in the pic but didn't quite spell it out: Not all black men that own pit bulls are thugs!!! Even a lot of "pit bull" people buy into that myth. I don't know why its so hard for people to believe that all walks of life love pitties for the same reason we do.

Donna said...

I'm glad you brought up race Michelle. Prejudice runs in 20 different directions with this topic and it puts up the weirdest of road blocks. We need to blog about this later....but we had an experience regarding race during this last fair that had all colors of the rainbow slapping their foreheads.

Meanwhile, the dogs apparently think it's all wonderful ... maybe because we all smell like dogs. LOL

Anonymous said...

I am consistently amazed, humbled, and incredibly thankful for the work of BAD RAP and all of its friends. I have only been a member of the Pit Bull fan club for 2 years, but already know that it is a love that will last a lifetime. My two pits are the best friends anyone could ask for, and I am lucky to be able to provide for them in the manner that they deserve (2 ACL surgeries and countless family vacations later!). BAD RAP is enough to make this East Coast girl emigrate! Keep up the good work and know that we are doing are best also to spread the good word.

Donna said...

Well, get out here, anon! Or better yet -- get yourself a posse of people in your locale to do good works with. It's the best way we can think of to say 'thank you' to the bully gods that blessed us with these beasties.

Enjoy your new love affair!

Anonymous said...

"2) they tend to have an adversarial relationship with animal control due to the heavy law enforcement focus of this agency"

I think your take on this issue is rather one sided ... animal control has a heavy law enforcement focus dealing with inner city dog owners in this area (Richmond)because for the most part ... they HAVE to. They deal with irresponsible and ignorant dog owners of potentially dangerous animals in Richmond (not all are Pits but many are) on a DAILY basis. They need to hold owners accountable for their animals behavior and actions for the safety of the animals and the people in the community. For BADRAP to make a blanket statement suggesting that Animal Control is doing the wrong thing by enforcing the law - which is part of what they are paid to do by the county - is unfair and irresponsible. Animal Control has a very difficult and daunting job on their shoulders. The safety of the community is nothing to sneeze at. If an inner city dog owner is a responsible one who abides by all ordinances regarding their animals, then they probably would never even have contact with Animal Control. I could see how a dog owner would have an "adversarial" experience with AC if say, their dog: a)attacks another animal; b) attacks a person; c) doesn't license their dog. etc. etc. I say Animal control does a great job and they need to be recognized for the wonderful job they do in our communities and not villified by your organization based on what some dog owners (who you don't personally know) have to say. If anything else, before publishing such a statement on your blogs, you should at least get AC's side of the story. I think that it's ironic that you guys believe that Pit Bulls get a BADRAP when that's exactly what you're giving Animal Control in this blog entry. Shame on you!

Donna said...

I appreciate your comments anon, and we recognize that AC has a big job to do in Richmond -- and any urban town for that matter. But we do speak from experience -- dog owners in Richmond do not see their their AC as "friends," pit bull owners especially. I could cite dozens of examples (our membership extends to Contra Costa counties including Richmond) but this blog was not intend to bitch about AC, but to highlight certain realities that are affecting pet ownership in very real ways.

The human-animal bond is strengthened when ACs can work to build good PR and a positive relationship with their community, and then use that to support pet owners while influencing more responsible ownership, safe containment, humane care, bite prevention, -- all proactive efforts that can prevent* the kinds of problems that you outline in your post. This hasn't begun to happen in Richmond. There's a LOT of room for improvement - let's just put it that way.

Oakland Animal Services sets a good example for extending itself to its community, yet even they admit they need to make big improvements. If we want people to do right by their pets, then all agencies need to work towards creating ways to be a positive resource as well as a role model *in addition to* law enforcement duties.

Please keep your eye on our blog as we work towards this goal in Oakland. It won't be easy, but easy is boring, right? ;-)

By the way - one interesting thing to note - the Richmond mayor's office, city council and the local AC were all invited to attend this event. AC was not able to send a representative and we never heard back from the politicos. How sad is that?

Anonymous said...

Wow Donna. You're a lot nicer than I am. "they tend to have an adversarial relationship with animal control due to the heavy law enforcement focus of this agency" is a statement of fact - you're not making judgements. AC may just be doing what they've been tasked with by the city but that doesn't mean people have to like it. And we all know how the rules get applied differently between wealth/poor neighborhoods across all city services.

Anonymous said...

We would love to know more about setting up a shot fair! A few of us A Rotta Love Plus peeps live in No. Mpls, Mn - an impoverished urban area sorely in need of community outreach. And living there I can attest to the fact that the people of No. Mpls love their dogs!

Christine said...

Hey Lara,

Great! I'd be happy to talk to you about starting up a shot fair event! Shoot me an email at