Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Partnering to Eval the Vick dogs

We're so pleased to announce that the pit bulls from the Vick property will be getting a fair trial after all. Thanks to the outpouring of public concern about the dogs' fate, the feds gave the green light to evaluate the dogs, and BAD RAP will be partnering with the ASPCA in Virginia to get the job done. Press Release

doG bless the ASPCA, whose committment to the project clearly demonstrates this very important point: Every dog is an individual and deserves to be treated as such.

While we were busy making arrangements, Murphy's Law decided to make some mischief and tear our hearts out at home. Our personal dog, Sally - who's been living with mast cell cancer for over two and a half years - decided to have an emergency today. Scary symptoms inspired a trip to the vet and x-rays. A large and funny mass in her internal organs popped up on the lightbox and spun Tim and I into a low level panic. Internal mass = Very bad news.

Nooooo. Not today, not now, not our Sally.

We practiced ignoring our stomach knots while reviewing press releases, writing to-do lists and waiting for ultra sound results....Four hours spent ruminating on how much this girl has taught us over the years about dogs-otherwise-known-as-pit bulls, and how deeply she's entrenched us in this cause. Amazing how much influence a once-lowly shelter dog can hold over her humans' lives.

Man, it really hit home today: I love this dog, I love this breed, I can't stand knowing that 50-some pit bulls in Virginia were cheated out of the kind of worry and adoration that Sally lucked into 9 years ago.

Photo Above: Pathetic shot of our girl after mast cell removal earlier this summer.

No worries for Sally! The ultra-sound revealed gastritis, and the funny mass was just fluid from a plastic toy stuck in her busy intestinal tract, soon to make an explosive appearance via the magic of Mother Nature. In all, a $750 dollar case of a dog being a dog at the worst possible time. She'll be fine.


Onward ho: Please understand that, out of respect to this unique situation and the process of giving fair evaluations, our group will not be able to reveal any details or opinions about the Vick dogs until it makes sense for us to do so. Which roughly translated means, we aren't talking until the rest of the team, including the feds, all believe the time is right.

But you can trust that we'll give them our very best....And for that, you can blame it ALL on Sally.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Jon Stewart on the NFL & Vick's Rub

Give it up for Jon Stewart:

Daily Show - Vick's Rub

'Course Jon owns two pit bulls himself - Shamsky and Monkey. No wonder we like this guy so much.

'Racial Profiling Alive in the Animal Kingdom'

Yikes. This Texas shelter's condemation of pit bulls earned them a stinging headline from the editors of The Empire Tribune

But don't let one shelter's opinions get you down. In another part of Texas - Austin to be exact - two shelters are working away to do right by the dogs and their adopters. Town Lake Animal Shelter and Austin Humane Society each sent two people to BR's week-long Pit Ed Camp last week to learn ways to make their pit bull adoption programs more successful. Anchorage Animal Control (Yes, Alaska!) and Philly sent their finest, too.

Each of the four shelters are planning new and better ways to help good dogs find their way to great homes. Viva free thinkers.

How much do we love these ladies? We had a blast with this motivated group and look forward to seeing what they come up with to turn the tide for the dogs in their communities. - Camp Photos Here -

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Slow Burn

What's harder? Reading about dogs' heads being held down in buckets of water by overpaid sports stars until they drown? Or reading agency folklore that condemns these same dogs without the benefit of a good old fashioned temperament evaluation? After all, the poor things earned their torture because they didn't have enough heart for combat.

Oh the irony: One man's shameful loser becomes another man's out of control monster.

Pity the living, breathing dogs that are stuck in the middle of these extremes.

Note to self: Reading the news is generally not a good way 1) to learn the truths of the world or, 2) to stay healthy and happy. This has been a particularly bad summer for both endeavors.

As the world ponders the fate of the Vick dogs, today seems like as good a time as any to share Pearl's story. Pearl is a former fighter, turned BAD RAP Ambassadog, turned beloved pet. Most likely, she was the brood bitch of her abuser. She's covered in scars and, perhaps because she showed some heart to fight, her owner bred the hell out of her.

Below, a scenario laid out by her person, Nicole Rattay. Nicole's a BR volunteer and an open-minded sort who didn't fall for folklore when she fell into Pearl's eyes. Pearl is her heart-dog, although ends up that she spends a lot of time defending their bond....

"Isn’t it hard to keep a dog like that?”

Do you mean, is it hard to keep a loving, silly, eager to please, smallish black dog? Nope. Not hard at all. She cracks me up with her goofy antics. After having her in our family for two years, she still makes me laugh when she jumps 2 feet up in the air like a hurdler before running down the lawn to chase a tennis ball.

Oh…Not what you mean?

Do you mean is it hard to keep Pearl because she has been bred so many times by her previous owner that her nipples will forever hang low, prompting the question, “Do you have puppies for sale?” Admittedly, this is a tough one for me. I cringe at the thought of people making the assumption that I am contributing to the dog overpopulation problem.

Oh…Not what you mean?

Do you mean is it hard to keep a pit bull? No, it’s not. I have long gotten over being offended by breed prejudice. I have three pit bulls and usually a foster or two. They are each, in turn; fabulous, frustrating, silly, loving, stubborn, dependable (you get the point) just like me and every other member of my family.
They are individuals.

Oh…Still not what you mean?

Sorry, but I'm at a loss. What are you asking me?

Aaahhh, well yes, Pearl does have scars from fighting. But to her credit she has lived under my roof for two years with two other resident pit bulls, a cat and various foster dogs without so much as a snarf. Pearl prefers the company of people to that of dogs, but so does the cat, and we just don’t make an issue of it. She is not defined by her sagging nipples and scars. She is defined, and rightly so, by her wonderful temperament and her appropriate people focused behavior."

You just go on with your bad selves, Nicole and Pearl. We get it.

Pssst.... I've got a secret

Shhhh. Don't tell anyone, but we haven't yet changed the conference registration price so if you register soon there's a good chance you can still get in for the early bird rate and save $25! You'd better hurry beacuse I have no idea when Tom, our busy tech guru, will get around to changing the form.


We've had great fun in the past meeting rescuers, shelter staff and pit bull owners - it's one of the few places that we can all get together and share information about the breed we love!


Monday, August 20, 2007

Calling All Hams

Are you a BR adopter or friend? This is just too much fun: Pet Food Express is feeling the bully love vibe and has kindly offered to do a donation match with us on their MyMutt Program. Imagine; stores full of smiling pit bulls looking down on store visitors all over the bay area. I love it. (These are mine and Tim's two dogs, by the way. Cute, huh?)

If you'd like to see your dog on a big poster like this and know that your donation to BR is doubled, dust off the bling collars and call out the dogs. Or - If you're not local but want to participate, you can sponsor one of our current foster orphans to be on a poster. Here's how:

1) Paypal or Snail Mail a check to BR for your donation amount. (Address Here)

2) E-mail Leslie and tell her your donation amount and snail mail address. Please note how many dogs you'd like included, and whether it's your own dog or if you'd like to gift this opportunity to another. If you're sponsoring a specific BR dog, please let us know which dog you'd like photographed.

3) Leslie will send you a form to fill out and e-mail to Pet Food Express, and you'll schedule your shoot with their talented photographer, Alexis (who happens to own pit bulls herself).

Ham it up, Pit bulls!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Babies Tug Too!

Pit bulls love to tug. Mine is no exception. Spencer loves to tug with his doggie pals, and he loves to play tug with his family. My husband and I play tug with him often and Spencer enthusiastically throws his whole body into the effort. Like most pit bulls, he’s an excellent tugger.

His love for playing tug with the family includes playing with our 14 month old daughter Piper. What I have learned recently is that babies love to tug too, at least our does.

Every day, one of them initiates a tug session. Usually it starts when Spencer is chewing on his tug ball. Piper sees him, walks over, grabs the ball and the games begin. She pulls, he pulls gently (a stark contrast to the wild tug sessions that Spencer has with me), she lets go and giggles. Spencer brings the ball back to her and the game repeats. Throughout the session, Spencer checks in with me to see if he’s doing well and to occasionally seek permission before continuing the game.

While I think it’s completely adorable and often hysterical, it also warms my heart. The sound of my daughter's laughter combined with the gentle way that Spencer tugs with her is quite possibly sweetest thing in the world.



Friday, August 10, 2007

Thank you, Fresno

KFSN News: Fresno police say they busted a dog fighting ring in southwest Fresno and the bloody fights were videotaped. Most of the video is too graphic and disturbing for Action News to air....

Police Chief Dyer: "These were dogs that were completely taken advantage of..."
Fresno SPCA Director Beth Caffrey: "They're exploiting attributes of animals and of human beings and they're bringing out the worst in everyone."

Thank you Fresno PD, Fresno SPCA....and to the media!

For ending these dogs' torture.
For choosing to blur out the bloody images of victimized pets.
For your obvious compassion towards these animals.
You're all heroes today.

News Story - Worth a look.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Hey Sailor, Wanna See My Etchings?

One of the upshots of slogging through the trials this work is that, at the end of the day, our crew really knows how to unwind and have a good time. With all the funk in the news, we're already setting our sights on the best party of the year: the Tuff Love Art Show on Nov 10 in Berkeley.

It's a one night benefit fundraiser that will bring dozens of artists, photographers and supporters together to taste saki, enjoy live music, bid on sweet auction items (like, a week's stay in Jackson Hole WY - YeeHAW!) and - especially - to enjoy the quality art pieces that will be available for sale. All in time for holiday gift giving.

Originally the brainchild of Ana Poe (Paco Collars), Tuff Love is a "Celebration of Pit bulls through Art." Because artists have taken on the role as the sage free thinkers in our society, we can rely on them to give us an honest, thoughtful perspective on pit bulls that you're not likely to get in the news. Last year's juried show brought great talent, including the photo documentary work of Marc Joseph, the oil magic of Eric Bailey, the wimsy of Heidi Zumbrun and the carvings of Tim Racer (below). With a little luck, this year's show will bring yet more inspired appreciation for the breed.

The event takes place in the classy tasting room of the Takara Sake Factory We love their slogan, by the way. Their website explains, "We proclaim ourselves a "Harmonist" a term coined out of our sincere desire to act proactively in creating a positive rapport between people and nature." Word.

Calling All Artists!
Calling All Donors!

We're accepting art submissions for pit bull themed art to be displayed and sold, AND for items and services for our silent auction. If you're an artist, or know an artist with an eye for the breed, please pass word along. And if you might have an item that you're willing to donate to our silent auction, we'd sure love to talk with you. More Tuff Love INFO

Oh, and the Tuff Love logo is looking mighty fine on tshirts. If you'd like your own, check out BR's Store.

Two Steps Forward, One Back

The Los Angeles City Council put a temporary hold on Animal Service's plans to allow trained parolees to work with sheltered pit bulls this week. News of the program kicked up some of the most blatant biases we've seen in print in a long time.

"Notoriously vicious dogs"..."liability waiting to happen"..."sketchy trainers desperate for jobs to work with sketchier dogs." Huh?

Deep breaths, deeeep breaths.....No one ever said breed education would be easy.

We can point to dozens of dogs, including Hemi the Law Dog and Bailey, the mascot for a special kids program (right), who are alive and well thanks, in large part, to inmates at a Louisiana prison. The Louisiana prison system doesn't kid around when it comes to putting their population to work; it's one of the main reasons they were contracted to take care of pets during the Katrina disaster (above). The fact that most of the dogs that landed in their care were pit bulls from every background was never an issue....This was the population of animals that needed help.

It's amazing what a natural disaster will do to set people's priorities straight.

We're gnashing our teeth over the flack that the Pit Bull Training Academy is getting, but Tia Torres of Villalobos is the right man for the job. She's one of those people who, when the going gets rough, just gets tougher. Best wishes to all involved in this wonderful project!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Pollarded Ears and Expensive Balls

Adoptions have been going well this summer, so we went to the shelters to look for a new dog for our program. Before going inside, Tim wondered out loud if we should look for dogs that have been fought to help more people understand how adoptable solid dogs with fight scars can be. Huh. After all, pit bull rescue is as much a political statement as anything, and every dog tells a story about myths and misperceptions. So, we looked.

No dice. In the SF bay area, the abandoned but 'clean' dogs far out number the very unfortunate fight victims. But as always, there are plenty of stories to be told in every kennel you peek inside: Dozens of nice dogs, frightened dogs, mangey dogs, lactating dogs, barking dogs, hopeful dogs, sick dogs.

We decided to take this young cutie with cropped ears home with us today. She's darling; we named her Miso.

Contrary to popular belief, she does not have a 'fighting crop.' This look is, basically, a really stupid fashion statement made by young owners who've come to believe that pit bulls' ears should be chopped, much the same way that amateur arborists think beautiful trees should be hacked - er - pollarded. Never mind what you read in the papers about fighting crops. Ask the kids who own these dogs if you want to know the scoop.

Kids around here tell us that they pay $100 for this cut, purchased through one of Oakland's shadier veterinarians. Hec, he even advertises the crop in his yellow pages ad. It would be hard for the shelter to find her a home with those ears, but we'll give it a go. Miso is not a 'fighter' or a 'bait dog.' Miso is a victim of bad fashion.

Story number two. (This one haunts.)

Handsome boy here has an owner who came in to the shelter to claim him. After all, his fad color - lilac - makes for highly desirable puppies, so she invested a pretty penny in the cute guy. She even taught him to 'shake.'

Thing is, she doesn't want him back neutered, even though the alternative is death. So she walked away from him - Left him to die and went back to her life. He's a victim of the all-too-common belief that dogs must be bred to be worth their kibble.

No fighters in the crowd, but lots of victims.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

"Pit bulls are not inherently dangerous."

That's what Ohio courts all determined in Tellings v. Toledo .

Of course, we already knew that.

So why did Ohio's Supreme Court then decide to uphold the constitution-ality of its statutes that include pit bulls in its definition of "vicious" dog? And why did Ohio's Supreme Court uphold the constitutionality of Toledo's ordinance restricting ownership of pit bulls and pit bull mixes?

The Ohio appellate court's opinion included lengthy and logical reasoning based on the entire record before it, and gave us hope that finally, the judiciary was going to stop believing the myths and unsupported maligning that this breed has endured for much too long.

Then the Ohio Supreme Court reversed, basing its rulings almost wholly on the testimony of a dog warden, and brushing over the fact that the trial court found that the breed is no more dangerous than any other breed. It's especially absurd in light of the fact that the record in both the trial and appellate courts contradicts the Supreme Court's recount of testimony. The opinion reads as if the court was determined to find a way to get to the result it wanted, as opposed to analyzing and applying the law to the evidence.

Deep, long breaths. The Ohio case was so close to being a big victory for all of us, and we are so grateful to all those who worked so hard to support Mr. Tellings.

The silver lining here is that the two of the Court of Appeals judges and the separate, concurring opinion of the Supreme Court judge took great pains to express their differing opinions, stray from the crowd, and not blindly buy into assumptions that were not supported by the record. It may not seem like much, but the dissension here wouldn't have happened years ago. The pit bull community's education and outreach efforts are making a difference. Although the end result of Ohio is a loss, the meaty middle – the part that finds the breed not inherently dangerous or vicious, and that there's no support for the proposition that pit bulls bite more frequently than other breeds – is a significant step forward for us, and a judicial concession that we should use to our advantage in the ongoing fight against BSL.

Politicians and the judiciary are recycling the same erroneous and political beliefs to support the implementation of BSL. It's a vicious cycle that has to stop. In a society that thrives on shock-value and fear of the unknown, it's surely an uphill battle. But we have to keep working to shift the public mind away from perpetuating myths and assumptions, and toward focusing on reality and facts.

The tide can turn and the time is now.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007



tr.v. re·ha·bil·i·tat·ed, re·ha·bil·i·tat·ing, re·ha·bil·i·tates

1. To restore to good health or useful life, as through therapy and education.
2. To restore to good condition, operation, or capacity.
3. To reinstate the good name of.
4. To restore the former rank, privileges, or rights of.

1. Katie Jane on intake to Oakland Animal Shelter.
Ouchy. Bad fight boo boos.

2. Katie Jane
in new home.

myth (mith) n.
1. an invented story, fictitious person, etc. 2. a belief or set of beliefs, often unproven or false, that have accrued around a person, phenomena or institution.
ie: 'fought pit bulls are dangerous to children.'

3. Katie Jane adopter report one year later:

"I just wanted to check in with you and let you know that Katie Jane is still the perfect dog. She is such a love dog. She loves being near the kids and surprisingly she listens to their commands. She has been going with us on our family walks about two to three times a day and has began to make a pretty good running partner. She listens to all of our commands, walks on a flat collar and does not pull at all. She actually walks so close that she brushes up against our legs. She is great! We are so glad that everything has worked out so well."

Most revealing pit bull related quote of the day:

Surry County Animal Control Officer James Smith about the Vick dogs, “They are in good shape,” he said. “They are not violent to humans.” - New York Times 8/1/07

Thanks for saying so, James. We thought as much.