Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"Because it's the right thing to do."

How much do we appreciate this Washington Post article?

Best pit bull related quote of the day:

"Before, we euthanized every pit bull that was older than 6 months and did not have a history. Now, we make an investment in every dog that walks through our shelter -- because it's the right thing to do." - J.C. Crist, chief executive Montgomery County Humane Society, VA. in Washington Post article

Easier said than done. Loudoun County Animal Shelter staff is trying so hard to do the right thing for the pit bulls in their care. We met them this spring when we flew out to do a two day workshop on developing a pit bull adoption program. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place ... They have to contend with unrealistic "Save them all" advocates, and people who'd be just as happy to see every sheltered pit bull turned into fertilizer. Their job: Find common ground between the two extremes and do right by the dogs.

Visting them was a big reminder: We have it so damn easy in the bay area.

Our hats are off to any agency that tries as hard as this shelter to do the right thing for the animals in their care. Best luck to you guys.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

When the Bad Guys Look Like Us

Yep. Vick is turning out to be quite the poster child for bad boy dog fighters.

Unfortunately, abuse against pit bulls has become as All-American as domestic violence, and just as hard to eradicate. We can be horrified by the indictment details and demand that Nike pull the rest of those Number 7 jerseys off the shelves, but when it comes down to it, our outrage alone isn't going to do a damn thing to slow the violence committed against these dogs

Dog fighters are the bad guys. But what about those who've made it socially acceptable to defame the breed? Ask any pit bull owner how many times they've had to defend their pet from co-workers or family based on something horrible that was said about the breed in the news. The media condemns them regularly and labels them 'unpredictable' and 'aggressive,' the city of Denver is busy hunting them down and killing them, and groups like PeTA are big on telling legislators why they should be banned out of existence. So why NOT torture them? Don't they deserve it? Aren't they just really bad animals?

Nothing will change for the better until people chill out on these poor dogs. They've become the victims of a hatred that extends far outside the boundaries of Vick's property, and the real killer is a warped bias that's made them very convenient punching bags.

We see a lot of bad stuff in this line of work, but always prefer to let the dogs to the telling. Check out this News Report
about BR's Sadie.

Sadie (right) was originally named 'Tina' by the staff of the Oakland Animal Shelter because of some horrible injuries on her front legs. She's such an awesome dog that it's easy to forget how bad they look. Finding her a home brought up some interesting reactions: At least one applicant in Marin County rejected her when he learned about the legs, explaining that he didn't want a pet that had "seen combat." (Nevermind that she's quite nonreactive and even social with other dogs.) I spent half a day feeling infuriated for her after that exchange. Would he reject a friend who'd been beaten and mugged?

Sadie on the other hand, was much better at staying positive and looking on the bright side of things. Flash to the present: She's in a fantastic new home AND she just passed her CGC (Canine Good Citizen) test this weekend. That's like flipping a double bird at the guy who fought her and the people who would condemn her for being a pit bull, much less a chewed up pit bull. You go Sadie.

Six other pit bulls passed their CGC exam in Berkeley this weekend, and we're mighty impressed. See them here at on our Pit Bull Hall of Fame page.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Bad Newz Capitalism

In the wake of the Michael Vick dogfighting case, we've seen all kinds of outlets for news and editorials - from newspaper headlines to CNN specials to personal blogs and message boards, people are voicing their opinions. Letting the world know what you think is, after all, the American Way.

Perhaps it was inevitable that this kind of sensationalist news story would lend itself to another American icon - the T-shirt. PETA came out, guns blazing, with an anti-Vick shirt that sports a 7 in a circle with a line through it - the same art they have on their protest signs. While it's nice that the sentiment on the shirts is anti-Vick, it is somewhat ironic that PETA is collecting money on behalf of a breed that they actively call to be eliminated.

While some are questioning PETA's actions due to their anti-pit-bull stance, the worst form was demonstrated today when we received a newsletter from Busted Tees. The subject line read: "PreSale: All of Michael Vick's Dogs Go To Heaven" (No, we are not making this up.)

The content of this newsletter was this shirt, which proudly displays the name of Michael Vick's kennel:

Now, seriously: at a time when Nike and Reebok are pulling endorsements and merchandise, what kind of thought process led Busted Tees to decide to pull this stunt? And who, we wonder, would actually consider buying and wearing one of these shirts?

Perhaps Busted Tees might consider sharing their buyers with federal authorities, since clearly anyone who'd want to wear this shirt is either a criminal or someone with a criminal lack of a social conscience and any semblance of good taste.

The fact that Busted Tees is pimping a kennel name that tortured and abused animals is despicable; the fact that their marketing messaging makes fun of it is worse. But the worst thing about this ploy is, perhaps, that they're providing the world with a pro-dogfighting icon, and a way to wear it proudly. That they're profiting off the latter is the worst kind of capitalism.

Busted Tees is run by Connected Ventures. These are the same folks that bring us defunker and CollegeHumor.com. The content guy and co-founder is named Rick VanVeen, and I called him today about this shirt. Oddly, he didn't seem particularly happy to hear from me, and got off the phone as fast as possible with a "I'll pass it along."

Apparently, an office environment with a ping pong table and a bunch of twentysomethings in T-shirts looking out over Manhattan isn't a place where folks like Ricky are comfortable discussing real life tragedy.

It's a shame that the staff at Connected Ventures hasn't given a second thought to the dogs that were tortured and abused, or to the fact that the remaining Vick dogs are in custody with an unknown fate; usually, these dogs end up sitting in kennels as evidence for some portion of the trial and are then euthanized. Then again, they must have a lot on their minds; there's ping pong to be played, lip synching to record and T-shirts to sell.

Given the folks selling shirts and the messaging on them, we decided to make our own T-shirts to allow people who care about these dogs to remind the world that there are victims in the Michael Vick dogfighting case, and those victims are not Atlanta football fans. Perhaps we should send one of these to the founders of Connected Ventures, since they after all can wear T-shirts to work:

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Best Pit Bull Related Quote of the Day:

"We don't racially profile out on the roads, nor do we do that with our dogs. We don't care what type of breed the dogs are."
- Steve Gardner WA State Patrol about the pit bulls that work as drug detection dogs in their canine unit.

Thank you Steve, and thank you LawDogs. See the LAW DOGS News Clip

Best Near-Perfect Interview of the Day: Larry King Live

Question from show viewer,
John in Glendale:
"Can a dog that has been trained to fight be rehabilitated to live a normal family life?"

Answer from dog trainer Tamara Gellar:
No. The answer is no. A complete normal life, absolutely not. There are degrees -- there are degrees of how much you can rehabilitate a dog like that, which obviously, you want to teach him qualities that he should have learned as a puppy, of love and trust and connecting and being socialized, like Barbara said.

Ahh. But of course, on THIS we have to disagree.....

BAD RAP: While some of the dogs are forever ruined by their fighting pasts; driven insane by the isolation, conditioning and abuse, others survive it with sanity intact. Some are happy to never fight again, and given the opportunity to succeed, do just that.

Many of the dogs from these situations are lousy fighters. Some turn tail, or freeze up and refuse to fight. Hence, the torture of dogs that embarrass their cruel owners.

Meet Nike (from photo above) who was very happy to live a completely normal life and never see another dog fight for the rest of his days.

Just as Issues Specialist for the HSUS Companion Animals program Adam Goldfarb states in this very nice article about pit bulls ..."It's important to remember that every animal is an individual."

So true. And, thanks for saying so, Adam.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Honk if You're Ready to Change the Channel

The media is especially excited about having a reason to show dog fight footage this week. It's everywhere. If you've never seen a staged dog fight, your local station is probably very happy to offer you a front row seat.

Pit bull people can't decide if the constant barrage of fight imagery is a gift from the gods, or pure poison. Some believe the footage will inspire people to care, and others theorize that seeing dogs in battle will make them want to condemn the breed. I think we're seeing reactions from both sides of fence right now.

Speaking of battles, our impish game girl is leaving the shelter for a new home this week. Lil'Bit came to us after living with someone who let her breed and fight. Not good. She was unsocialized to dogs at first and needed slow exposure and clear direction to make sure she would make the right decisions around our personal dogs (Much of the dog-dog socializing happens in our homes with our ever-so-understanding pets). We love projects like this because, right from the start, Lil'Bit showed us that pleasing people meant more to her than any bad habits. Gooood girl.

We considered inviting news crews in to meet her before she leaves for her home. After all, this 40 pounder is the same style of dog that was found in the Vick home, and this is about as happy a story as you can get. But we thought better of it. Not this week.

Here are a couple of quick videos of Lil'Bit and her buddy Dango. Admittedly, the footage isn't very exciting, but that's just how we like it...Good and boring. Enjoy.

Lazy with Dango
Will Work for Cookies

Speaking of the 6 o'clock, Scoop Nisker once said, 'If you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own.' So true!

And this weekend, a new group of pit bull owners will be doing just that by putting their dogs through the AKC CGC (Canine Good Citizen) test. Our CGC Diva Linda Chwistek gives up every Saturday to help pit bull owners reach their goals. See some of her handiwork .

The class has been working hard to get their rescued street strays in perfect form, and we expect a lot of high fives as result. Wish them the best of bulldog luck!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I Am Not A Machine

To be honest, we held our collective breath when news of Vick's indictment first came out. Dog fighting is so often spun as the ultimate blame the victim crime, and it's typical to see fight bust headlines followed by tabloid text describing pit bulls as out of control monsters. Yee-owch. Talk about adding insult to injury.

But so far, not so bad!... Geraldo Rivera and a few others excluded, the public outpouring of empathy for the tortured dogs from the Vick home has been a most unexpected surprise. Maybe we've gotten so used to warding off myths that we started to lose faith. But we nearly cried when the country screamed in shock at the indictment details, and - who would've guessed? - when Senator Byrd made history by pounding his fists on the Senate floor in defense of the victims. In defense of the pit bull victims.

Thank you, thank you, America.

Before the spell is broken, let's bring this one home: In case you run into someone who wants to tell you how vicious these dogs are, how they're only bred for uncontrolled violence, or how they're turned into 'fighting machines,' please point them to this girl.

Amy came from an Oakland dog fighter's yard, and she's seen it all.

Far from a machine ... She's a sentient being with a sensitive nature and a weakness for belly rubs. Like all dogs, she feels pain, and she prefers the creature comforts that all companion animals deserve. She has admirable leash manners and has even decided to have a few dogs friends. She happily co-exists with a cat in her adopted home, and, she loves burrowing herself in fluffy blankets. Imagine that.

Not all of the dogs from her yard made out so well...Some were too damaged from their ordeals to start news lives, and those that stayed steady had no where to go after the shelter hold was up. But we're happy that Amy was able to get a fresh start and tell their story.

Hardly a Machine.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Presumed Guilty

What a disturbing coincidence.

Exactly 20 years ago this month, the editors at Sports Illustrated lost their minds and branded a new Media Monster with this infamous cover. This, back when the doberman fad was big and most people had no idea what a pit bull was, much less the wanna-be thugs. Many will point to this issue's arrival as the pivotal moment when the bad guys of the world decided they had to get their hands on these bad ass, scary looking dogs that everyone seemed to fear. Talk about a status symbol!

Michael Vick was an eight year old kid when this issue came out. There's no way that this cover didn't make a lasting impression on him, or any young guy that looks up to SI as the final word in what's fast, cool and worth getting excited about.

The sports world has not been kind to pit bulls, starting with this 1987 character assassination. Numerous sports figures have since been linked to dog fighting, and even the tennis shoe moguls (Nike) found a way to exploit the dogs and make a buck off of graphic fight imagery. Why treat them kindly when they're really werewolves? ....And, here we are today, reading about the unspeakable torture of mans' best friend.

We don't need to detail how horrific the crime of dogfighting is. There's enough gore spinning around the Net to cover that angle.

But, we do need to remember -- the dogs. Where are the dogs in all of this?

We started wondering when the HSUS put out a public plea for funds "to care for the dogs seized in the Michael Vick case." We're not sure how the word 'care' is being defined ... toys and treats? kuranda beds? staff help for yard exercise? (doubtful)... although it's certain the dogs will be destroyed in due time. The HSUS has been staunchly opposed to re-homing abused pit bulls and will dutifully insist that each and every fight bust dog is damaged and dangerous. EDIT: The HSUS fundraising campaign "to for care the dogs" was a scam. Sources on the inside tell us that federal government officials, angered that their case was being endangered by a brazen call for funds, delivered a cease and desist letter to pull the solicitations. More info on the campaign and screen capture.

We know the judgements levied against dogs from fight busts are not altogether true.
We have dogs like Amy, Hiro, BB, Sadie, Lil'Bit, Pearl, Doe Koo, and even Little Man (right) - all from fight backgrounds - to remind us that the soundest of dogs really can and do rise above the harshest of beginnings. Even more astounding, many somehow survive the torture and starvation with their adoration for humans still intact. Talk about optimists. I can't fathom how this breed can possibly trust despite having seen the worst side of humanity, but they just keep surprising us.

Pity the Vick dogs. Had they somehow washed up out of their pens in the storms of Katrina, they would've been made into media darlings. Volunteers would've rushed to bathe and comfort them (many quite wonderful Katrina pit bulls came with fight scars from pre-storm misadventures). Some might've ended up in shelters willing and able to temperament test and offer the best for adoption. But no such luck -- they were doubly cursed when they were sold into that VA hellhole.

As far as we know, the dogs are not destined to receive a fair trial. For the sake of those dogs who may still be sane and hopeful and willing to trust, that really sucks.


Sunday, July 15, 2007


One special dog, one lazy summer day, one big reminder why rescue dogs say 'Thank you' better than anyone.

Viva Lil'Bit!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Welcome Back

After over a week's break from shelter biz, we're back. Shutting down Pit Bull Hall and sending the dogs home with volunteers for a slice of summer has become an annual tradition.

It's a great way to give the team, the dogs, our trainer Sara and um, me, a break from the kennels. Not that kennels are bad -- we love the kennels because they help us save lives. But still. It's so nice not to wake up in the middle of the night and wonder, "Ack! - Did I remember to change Dango's bedding today? Is Peter getting stressed? And who's going to work the Thursday pm shift this week!"

So, we took a break...Lucky us. Think of all the shelters out there that can never take a break. Ever.

The ten days whizzed by. It just didn't seem long enough. But then the team posted notes on our message board saying, "I can't wait to get back" and "I'm having withdrawal symptoms." Lucky us, once again.

So, Lil'Bit, Dango, Wags and Ru filed into their little kennels today, wagging their tails and ready to make big goo-goo eyes at anyone who dared stepped inside to check out the BIG SCARY PIT BULLS.

Heh. Lucky them.

Rested and Ready,
Donna & the Crew

Sunday, July 08, 2007

HELP. I'm being held captive. Send Kongs!

Little Man is starting Week Two of his heartworm treatment. Six weeks to go. That means, no jumping, no cavorting, no prancing, no playing or otherwise expressing the 'Joy of being Little Man.'

The highlights of his day are measured in minutes now that he's in confinement: Belly rubs, short walks, de-stuffing a toy or two, dinner time and a bone to chew on give some relief. But the word of the week is definitely: Boooring.

Hang in there, Little Man. Good things are waiting for you once you kick those worms.

Speaking of keeping confined dogs happy, we were thrilled to get good news from Tampa's Hillsborough County Animal Services, where a key challenge has been a depressing building crowded full of custody dogs. The dogs are held for various owner-created infractions; some are in lock down for months on end while legal proceedings drag on. Most go INSANE and spin the day away to channel excess energy. It's an awful way to live - or - not live.

But motivated shelter workers are making changes thanks to a meeting with Corinne Dowling during their April visit to Pit Ed Camp. Corinne's Give a Dog a Bone program provides a model for keeping forgotten custody dogs from going stir crazy. She's had a lot of practice: In San Franciso, the BSL mandatory neutering law that targets pit bulls keeps SFACC's basement kennels full. Nice dogs, most of them, but uh, caught in the act of being intact. Corinne and her volunteers use a truckload of inventive techniques to keep these unlucky canines from stressing out during their hold. She's a force to be reckoned with and works tirelessly to give them a reason to wag.

(Pssst. Speaking of San Francisco's BSL, did we ever mention how many dogs are getting fixed voluntarily under the Pit Fix Program in the east bay? Or those nifty fix-it tickets in Los Angeles? Ahh...a subject for another day...)

So. Tampa is now designing ways to give their own custody dogs some kindness. This is BIG news for this overworked shelter. Helping the dogs is far from easy: Budget cuts, long work days and hundreds and hundreds of shelter animals to care for make the work exceedingly difficult, not to mention depressing. Some of the custody dogs are unsafe and most are just plain unlucky. Many will end up euthanized. That doesn't stop these guys from acting on their compassion.

They've been begging up toys, treats and dog beds to provide some comfort. One person's job is to touch the deprived dogs. Imagine how much they miss that? An extra special addition - and I'm SOOO proud of these guys for this - custody dogs are getting a play yard so they can get out of their runs to stretch their legs and feel the grass.

You want to meet someone with REAL balls? ....

Meet Corinne Dowling or the crew tackling this heart breaking work in Hillsborough County Animal Services. Even better, send them a donation to help the dogs in their care.

Hillsborough County Animal Services
Attn: Kelly Bigsby

440 N. Falkenburg Road
Tampa, Florida 33619

Corinne Dowling - Give a Dog a Bone
1200 15th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

(the Give a Dog a Bone BLOG is worth bookmarking!)


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Why Bother?

It's the third of July. I'm supposed to be getting ready for a bbq and looking forward to visiting friends and fun, but instead, I'M GRUMPY. After reviewing the third set of amendments, it's clear that the authors of AB1634 have lost their focus, and with it, the bill's original intent. Working stock dogs are still unsafe under the bill. The final straw was new language that allows pet owners to produce "just one litter" from their dog or cat.


This has become the 'Why Bother' bill and it's a heartbreaker. We've changed our original position of support and have submitted our official letter of opposition to legislators. Our reasons outlined here: BADRAP Opposes

Bleh! So much for hoping for intelligent all-breed spay/neuter legislation.

Heartfelt sympathies to all those people who'll be showing up to work on Thursday morning with a long list of cats and dogs that need to be euthanized. You and these animals deserve so much better than this.

For now? We plan to make our margaritas extra strong tonight.

Donna & the Crew