Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pride, not prejudice!

This past Saturday, a motivated group of Bad Rap volunteers lined up with the dogs in silly costumes and marched in San Francisco's annual Gay Pride parade.

The crowd was awesome this year, with lots of people cheering loudly for us and petting the dogs. We handed out 1000 informational postcards to folks asking for them, we got to take a nice walk with the dogs, and word has it we made television coverage this year. Yay!

My own personal highlight was a flamboyant television host of an undetermined station stopping me in the middle of the parade and asking me if Gunther would sniff his butt.

Of course, who could blame him? Gunther was indeed looking mighty fine in his leatherdaddy duds (and didn't even mind the Doggles squishing his eye too much)...

This parade is such a great opportunity to get out there in the sun, have some fun with the dogs, and show our support for a community that's all-too-familiar with having to face social stigmas, misunderstandings, unfair legislation and - unfortunately - hatred, fear and bigotry.

It's a time to march and hope for a more tolerant world - one not so prone to knee-jerk judgements based on prejudice and anger - and the dogs are more than happy to participate.

So down Market Street we marched, with about 15 dogs and 20 people, one vintage pickup truck, 20 balloons and 1000 postcards.

This year was a particularly lovely and not-too-hot day, and the highlight of the parade was actually the after-party that happened on the patio of a local bar after the Giants game got out, at which point there was an influx of fans who suddenly got to hang out with real live pit bulls.

Foster dog Peter was the star of this encore show, and charmed the heck out of a local family with three kids who couldn't pull themselves away from him.

All in all, everyone had a lot of fun, and the dogs did their work but just being out in public and letting a lot of people see real live pit bulls in real live situations (and silly costumes).

Thanks to all the volunteers that worked so hard to pull this off yet again!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Book Smart

We sent Pit Bull Hall dog Holly to her new home this weekend, and filled her people up with training protocol, lists of quality kibble to look into, and guidelines for keeping the peace between dog and cat.

One of the most important things we can offer them though, is advice for talking with the family and co-workers who are set to panic when they learn that Holly's a pit bull.

It's just awful that we have to arm our adopters with ways to counter the negative crap they're going to hear from perfectly intelligent people, but such are the times.

This book is one of the best new bits of sanity to hit the shelves:
'The Pit Bull Placebo:
The Media, Myths and Politics
of Canine Aggression'

Karen Delise's science is impeccable and her writing style is no-nonsense. Get this book!

Delise's project: The National Canine Research Council.

By the way, we're happy to report that Miss Holly - who has no need for books or arguments - is settling quite well in her new home.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Heavy Metal to the Rescue!

We were so bummed: Our golf tournament fundraiser - the event that was supposed to kick off our Nemo Fund for emergency medical costs - was cancelled when too few people signed up to play. Boo hoo!

It's hard to know if golfers aren't big on pit bulls, or maybe pit bull people just don't do golf? Or maybe we're just really bad at advertising?

No worries, because Heavy Metal came to the rescue last night. Five bands played their hearts out for the pit bulls at Gilman Street and donated all costs to the cause. By the time security kicked in their fees and show goers emptied their pockets, the Nemo Fund was alive and well. Woot!

Worhorse came up from Los Angeles to do their good deed. They were in the line up with Attack Disarm Takeover, Arise, Wendol and Chromium Six. Our deaf dog Honky Tonk had no complaints about the loud music - He loved it!

Big thanks to Laura, Bryon, Jay, Rusty, and the Boys with the Noise for your big hearts

...and we can't forget BR alum Gypsy, who decided not to be car-sick so she could get up to Berkeley and make sure everyone was having a good time last night.

Lesson learned: Golf is great, but Heavy Metal hits harder faster when pit bulls need quick help.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Paper Trail: A Rant

Those of us involved in rescue know all-too-well the kinds of breeders that refuse to acknowledge that any worthwhile dog (read: papered) could possibly end up homeless.

Of course, such a notion is ridiculous. Papers are frighteningly easy to get in any registry, and as registries and breed clubs don't have ethics committees or any limits on the number of puppies any one breeder can register (at all or per stud/dam), you end up with unbearably prolific breeders selling and studding dogs, and winning the occasional ribbon (not hard, given the numbers of dogs produced) and blaming all the breed's problems on "the backyard breeders," as though these breeders have conjured up foundation stock out of thin air.

For whatever reason, many members of the show community most irresponsible about their lines are the first to deny the trickle-down effect.

Well, hear it now: papered dogs are in fact contributing to the overpopulation crisis we're having.

How so? A few ways...

Here's an e-mail I received today, forwarded from someone because their friend is giving up his dog:

Name: Respek
Born: April 28, 2004
Blood: Half Blue Nose, Half Red Nose
-The mother was papered but I'm not into that.
Coat: Blue-grey with an orange sheen
Tricks: Sit, Stay, Shake (both hands), Speak, Come, Get Your Toy, House Broken
Neutered: Yes
Cost: Free to a good home.

Here's the thing: when breeders sell off intact puppies to people after charging a lot of money for them, a lot of these people are going to breed that dog and sell off more puppies to recoup their costs, or because they think it's the thing to do, or because puppies are cute and their cousin wants one. Papers aren't really important unless they help jack the sale price (or have a picture of Ben Franklin on them).

And yet, I've spoken with more than one "good" (read: papers their dogs and shows some of them) breeders in this exact situation - i.e. one where a dog they sold off has been bred and now one of the pups is in the shelter or about to be - and not a single one of them has taken responsibility for the dog, claiming that it's not their problem, that they didn't breed the dog, that oh dear oh well so sorry, but that's not their dog, too bad.

One classy gal – who does indeed actively show in the UKC - told me that "I tell my buyers I can't take dogs back, I don't have the room and I don't know what they did to the dog. What if that dog is aggressive? I don't want it back."

When I told her the homeless dog was spayed, she was horrified and said, "I don’t understand why anyone would neuter a show dog. It’s just ridiculous." I pointed out that these dogs weren't being shown whatsoever (this one wasn’t even papered), but that didn't sway her opinion. Of course, it wasn’t her fault that this litter was sired from an unpapered dog – she just sold the dam.

I then pointed out that neutering her pet-quality animals before she sold them would cut down on people carrying on her lines so sloppily. Her reaction to this was volatile and less-than-accepting.

So, apparently an unpapered dog with a paper trail is a "show dog" who deserves to be intact and bred as long as that dog isn't in a shelter, at which point it's backyard bred, isn't worth anything and isn't the responsibility of the person who started the breeding chain. Hmm...

The bottom line is that without show breeders being more responsible about educating their buyers, being proactive about spay/neuter programs and education, and being more responsible about who buys their dogs and how many they make, this breed is going to continue in the downward spiral of overpopulation that is threatening to get it banned for good.

In the same vein of passing the buck and ignoring what anyone with two good eyes can see at the local shelter or in AKC/UKC/ADBA registration numbers, registries and breed clubs are very quick to jump to action to defeat any bill that's going to try to curb rampant overbreeding, but not so quick to be proactive about instilling the most basic of controls from within.

Why don't registries limit the number of puppies that any one breeder can register? Why don't breed clubs have ethics committees? Why don't these groups institute spay/neuter programs and education? The AKC lists 112 million dollars in assets for 2006, with 86 million in Net Assets - surely they can find room in their budget to get spay/neuter vans out there in low-income areas all over the country.

So why don't they do this?

The answer: it's someone else's problem, of course. Let the rescuers and shelters deal with social change; the registries are busy having beauty contests and defeating ear-cropping bills and hiring expensive lobbyists to ensure that their business model - which is entirely dependent upon making more and more puppies - remains protected.

These kinds of programs might also be seen as an admission that we're actually having an overpopulation crisis of epidemic proportions (which we are), and as the registries continue to deny that there's too many adoptable animals out there dying, I don't suppose that spay/neuter programs fit into their mission statement, PR messaging or marketing segmentation.

It really is unfortunate when animal organizations/companies and fanciers turn their backs on the neediest of animals - in this case, the adoptable millions dying in the shelter system every year. If real change is to happen for the homeless animals out there, the folks at the top of the food chain need to step up and lead by example.

And that example needs to be set yesterday.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Real World Camp

We just finished another Pit Ed Camp last week. What could be better than spending 6 days with a small group of committed dog nerds; talking about pit bulls, brainstorming around pit bulls and playing with pit bulls for days on end? Well, maybe if we added a day to canoe and toast marshmallows.

The people that sign up for these camps always impress me. They're all animal care professionals with very busy lives, and they travel from as far away as Delaware with one thing in common: There are too many pit bulls in their shelters and not enough ways to help them right now. They trek across the country because they want to learn how they can make a difference.

I learned how dedicated they really are when three of the Campers showed up an hour late for our morning session. They weren't sleeping off their jet lag, they were at the side of the freeway, stopping traffic and flagging down help for a pit bull that had been dumped like yesterday's trash. I had to laugh... There they were on 880, divising a plan to capture the overwhelmed dog, all of them wearing pro-pit bull t-shirts. What a sight for the rush hour commuters!

Later in the week, we met a little female who came into the shelter with bite wounds. Lucky for her, one of the Campers was trained in collecting dog fight evidence, so we puzzled together over how her history. (By the way, watch for this dog's arrival in our Coming Soon section. )

We were so fortunate to be able to get Michelle's perspective on the dog's history and condition. Even better was watching her tender manner with the sweet beast. The devotion we see in these shelter workers gives us hope.

Maybe, with enough people willing to make a difference, this breed can finally find the help it deserves.

Many thanks to Holly, Jaime, Michelle, Mike and Rhonda for being one of the good guys.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Damned if we do, Damned if we don't

This blog was written by Christine Allen, our ever-diligent Legislative Affairs Director. Christine has been too busy lobbying on behalf of shelter animals to get signed up as a registered BR Blogger. We'll forgive her. We don't envy her job.

Late last night, California's proposed mandatory spay/neuter bill barely passed out of the assembly by getting the minimum required number of votes. Since the introduction of this bill, we've been excited and hopeful about the bill's intent and goals to reduce overpopulation by mandating spay and neuter of all cats and dogs with exceptions for responsible owners. CA Healthy Pets Act AB1634

Sure, the bill wasn't written perfectly and had some snags, but most bills go through amendment after amendment before getting it right and officially making it into the books. By the time the bill reached the senate, the kinks would be worked out.

Sigh. Still holding my breath.

For weeks now, we've been lobbying for better and cleaner language in the bill – both substantively and facially. And, while there have been several versions of the bill that have gone through the entire assembly process, it continues to have some serious issues that haven't been addressed. Or, even worse, have been addressed but miss the point.

Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. What started out as a potentially great law that could make a real impact is turning into a hodge-podge of words and sentences that look like English but don't make much sense.

So, now what do we do? Oppose the bill because it's still poorly drafted, even though the initial proposition was sound? Abandon the best opportunity we've seen at reducing the euthanasia rates of "adoptables" and "undesirables"? Or continue to support the bill because the initial proposition was sound, even though it's still poorly drafted? Hope for the best?

I still have a glimmer of hope that the authors are open to listening to reason, willing to fix the language, and are going to get it right before too much longer, but I'll admit that my optimism is wearing thin.

Christine Allen
Legislative Affairs Director BAD RAP

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Somebody -- Give that man a LEASH!

Four times a year, we have the wonderful opportunity to meet pet owners from some of our most challenged neighborhoods in Oakland. This happens at the Free Shots Fairs, which are sponsored by the East Bay SPCA.

We love doing this event. It's exciting, tiring, fun, depressing and gratifying all at the same time.

One of the first things we do when we see people walking their dogs in on chains or ropes is to offer them a proper leash. Then, we show them how to use it so their dog can be under good control. Like magic, 300+ dogs can stand in line peacefully even though most have never been outside of their yard. Pet owners smile, dogs wag. It's a good day for everyone.

So...What's my point? We need leashes! With the Shots Fair only one week away (Sunday, June 10) we're frightfully low on our supplies and only have half of what we need.

We would love to make sure that every dog walks home on proper equipment. If you can donate a leash and/or collar, we can guarantee it will make a huge difference. We especially need strong leashes and medium sized collars - 18'-22' - for our pit bull friends. Prong collars are great too for the bigger, rowdier canines.

If you can help, please deliver them to the East Bay SPCA: 8323 Baldwin Street Oakland, Ca 94621 - or - to the Oakland Animal Shelter 1101 29th Ave. Oakland, CA 94601

Thank you Thank you!