Sunday, November 30, 2008

Houston - Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

"All 187 dogs seized in the large bust that led to the mass indictments earlier this month, Smith said, were euthanized because of their aggression — an all-too-common end to a life of suffering."

They did it. They went for the all-too-common easy out: The most convenient, economical way to deal with an unwanted excess of abuse victims. Instead of assessing the animals or asking for help, they decided to blame the dogs and make them go away. "Euthanized because of aggression." .... Surely, America will believe that every single one of those 187 was dangerous, because, pit bulls are just freaky scary, right? Who can blame them? Evil, evil pit bulls.

Now that the dogs are 'officially' dead, Houston authorities are planning a campaign to curb the fighting they say is on the increase in their counties. "But the crime is more commonly found here among kids or young adults who spontaneously engage in the activity — referred to as "bumping" — on street corners, in parks or near school grounds." - Assistant DA Smith.

Before they start, Houston might want to look at what's been helping to make it so acceptable among the kids who do it.

Recipe for Increasing Kids' Interest in Dog Fighting:

1. Devalue pit bulls through agency policy: Ban all shelter adoptions. Stand firm against helping any impounded pit bull, no matter how adoptable. Reinforce the public's belief that the dogs aren't worthy...'Nice people don't want pit bulls.'
2. Alienate young people by blaming popular culture for devaluing pit bulls. Kids looove when adults disapprove of their music.
3. Use the media to stereotype. Categorize dogs as "aggressive" and indicate to bored youth that, after all, the dogs were "bred to fight."
4. To separate out from acceptable shelter dogs, reinforce the pit bulls' lessor status: "They are not pets." - Assistant DA Smith
5. Where possible, alienate further by implying that dog fighting is a stain on the lower classes. "I really want to get the word out, especially to the low-income students" - Assistant DA Smith.
6. Indicate that pit bulls are better off dead. "This is a point where death can be a gift." - Houston SPCA veterinarian Harkness.

Finally, Lucky 7. If your audience still doesn't get the message, demonstrate by killing every single pit bull you get your hands on.

That'll teach'em, Houston.

Photo above: Vick dog 'Shadow' during evaluations.

Friday, November 28, 2008

BAD RAP Gossip

In a new pending home tonight: Once adopted, then bounced back due to a move to Australia: Roller! ... Dogs that are one step away from going home: Kinzie, Harley, Jelly Roll Jones ... Now in a new foster home: Squeeks ... Now being courted by new applicants: Grace, Piglet (fingers crossed) ...

.... Still waiting to be claimed by Obama or other ... Bob the Dog (above). Bob is living at the Oakland Animal Services as part of BR's Ambassadog Project.

Other gossip... BR's Vick dogs will be in a major publication in time for Christmas. Good stocking stuffers for the dog fans in your circles. And, Jonny Justice is about to make an appearance on a popular show. Stay tuned for juicy details.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Dogs remind: Life is good. Even better if you get your feet wet.

Thanks to all the dogs out there who inspire us to push past our comfort zones and into some of Life's happiest adventures.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Let's get this party started! - Wanted: Fun for dogs

22 hours a day in a kennel is a looong time to wait for fun. This holiday, please consider giving to the sheltered pit bulls - either those in Oakland's kennels or closer to your home - or both! All toy donations go to BR's foster dogs, especially the kenneled Ambassadogs now living at the shelter. We also share around with the many, many other pit bulls that come in. Even the dogs that are under custody hold (below) and/or those that can't be adopted due to health or behavior reasons deserve some kindness before they go 'home.'

Our Wish List:

For downtime in the kennels...
Used blankets and towels for better naps.
Goods to freeze inside kong balls: Peanut butter, healthy wet dog food
Cans of unsweetened pumpkin to curb diarrhea
Healthy chewies: Bully Sticks, white shin, tibia or knuckle bones Link (no rawhide, pigs ear or smokey meat please since they tend to upset our sensitive divas' bellies)
Grizzly salmon oil to rebuild our dogs' health
Multi-vitamins for the same
For play time...
Used stuffed toys for rowdy fun (bagged thrift store stuffies are great)
Old soccer balls, basketballs, footballs - YES! and tennis balls, too.
Strong (long) tug ropes
Tuff toys - oh WOW do they love these. Tuff Stuff
Treadless motorcycle tires for fun tug & toss games
For our training room...
Washed dog beds for quiet time
Cleaning supplies: Nature's Miracle for those inevitable accidents!
Healthy training treats (liver treats, Natural Balance loaf, etc)
Handsome 16"-22" collars to look pretty for dog shoppers

Please send items to:
BAD RAP Ambassadog Program
c/o Oakland Animal Services
1101 29th Street Oakland 94601

Or, let us know where we can pick up your donation.
Thank you, Thank you!!

BELOW: Bob, Harley and Piget have a great play date with a ... Goose? heh. (btw, we don't recommend tug games between all dogs. Know your dogs' limits! More info)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Achieved Purpose?

A couple of years ago San Francisco city leaders spearheaded the movement to pass SB861, the state legislation that permits municipalities to enact local BSL for the purpose of controlling overpopulation. Since that time, the city has remained the only one in the Bay Area and one of very few state-wide to avail themselves of this option. The city’s ordinance requires pit bulls, as determined by Animal Care and Control, over the age of 6 months to be spayed/neutered unless granted an exception. The fines collected from those who fail to comply are to be utilized not to provide low cost or free pit bull S/N, but rather to fund the ‘pit bull breeding permit program’ – a system for issuing permits to those who would like to breed their pit bulls.

You may be asking yourself ‘what’s the problem?’ After all, we all generally agree that we would like to see a dramatic decrease in pit bull breeding and an end to casual backyard breeding. Beyond the fact that we know voluntary S/N programs work best, and BSL comes with horrible unintended consequences like difficulty finding a rental that will accept your dog, San Francisco has enacted what politicians like city mayor Gavin Newsom rail against the state and federal governments for – an unfunded mandate. In this case the mandate is imposed by the city on the citizens.

While the rest of the Bay Area encourages and supports pit bull owners in their efforts to do the right thing and S/N their dogs through low cost and free services, San Francisco’s efforts are limited to fining those unable to afford to do the right thing. Take for example, a nurse I spoke with recently. A city employee and native, she’s spent her professional career devoted to treating incarcerated youth. A dog lover, she’s only owned rescued dogs and does not discriminate by breed. Are you getting the impression that she’s a good person and responsible citizen yet? A few weeks ago, by way of a friend of a friend, she came into possession of a young female pit bull puppy. When the San Francisco SPCA would not accept the dog, she stopped by SF ACC where she got the distinct impression the dog’s chances of survival were slim. Though she has 2 small dogs already, she decided to try to find the puppy a new home herself. Since then she’s been crate training, house training, exercising the energetic pup for hours every day and searching for a place to spay her. At about 6 months old, the dog is required to be spayed under SF’s ordinance. The unintended rescuer wants to comply, wants to be responsible and doesn’t want to pay a fine, but she cannot find an affordable spay clinic in San Francisco. The prices quoted for spay of a dog over 40 pounds range from $350 - $450; euthanasia is substantially cheaper. Local rescues can probably get a cheaper rate through their arrangement with vets based on their non-profit status, but because SF still has an overpopulation problem despite their BSL, San Francisco rescues report that there’s ‘no room at the Inn’.

One bright spot in the S/N situation in San Francisco is the FREE mobile S/N service offered twice a month by the Peninsula Humane Society. PHS provides the service that SF based organizations should be providing. Unfortunately, the need is far greater than the space available and from what I hear, people routinely line up at 5am for the first come, first served program and it still often takes several weeks before actually getting in for service – a burden, even a barrier, for residents with full time jobs and families.

The fate of this pup remains to be seen. If only the Good Samaritan lived in the East Bay, South Bay, on the Peninsula or even in Sacramento, she could easily do the right thing for the dog and the community. If only she had morning after morning to wait in line for weeks. Unfortunately she lives in San Francisco, works a full time job with a shift that ends at 8am, and as a result, may be unable to save this dog from euthanasia after all. If the purpose of San Francisco’s BSL S/N ordinance is to decrease the city’s pit bull population, in this case, I guess maybe it worked.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Take me to your (competent) leader

People often ask us how we learned to work with pit bulls. We've had some good teachers: Our husky mix taught us everything we know about preventing dog/dog issues and keeping pack harmony (most pit bulls have nothing on a drivey, ball possessive nordic breed). But some of our most important lessons about animal handling came from this lovely lady.

Pam Hessey is a gifted master falconer who showed us how to convince winged predators that sitting on your wrist was in their best interest - Not easy, considering the alternatives that Mother Nature offers. Tim and I studied under Pam years ago while working downed raptors at a wildlife center. We used falconry equipment and techniques to handle the birds and strengthen their flight muscles. Falconry is more than a cool hunting sport: At its best, it's an amazing art of cooperation, trust and ego-less leadership. True falconers understand that taking a bird from the wild (via permits acquired from Fish and Game after a long and arduous apprenticeship and accreditation process) steals something very precious away from that animal: its freedom. So in return, the bird is offered the exchange of ready meat, meticulous care and a chance to fly and hunt - under the direction of a human teammate who knows how to do magical things, like, flush game out of hidden places. Yum.

Falconers' birds fly free, by the way...they can go AWOL at any time during their hunt. Amazingly, that doesn't happen as often as you'd think. So, why would a raptor choose to put up with a two legged anchor and not disappear into the sky? The answer has everything to with the falconer being very aware of the bird's needs and motivations (food) and staying a respectful, competent handler with a reliable focus. The birds are still very wild, but come around to believe that these huge predators with their leather jesses and pickup trucks and crazy ways are worth accepting. And that's nothing short of a miracle and testament to the ability of humans to motivate our fellow creatures to achieve that zen-like state of mutual cooperation.

Of course pit bulls aren't wild animals, so the line drawn between handling raptors and handling dogs is admittedly rather fuzzy. But I find myself drawing on our lessons learned from the hawks again and again when working the dogs. Dogs want what the raptors wanted from us: A game plan.... A reason to believe that working as a team is in their best interest. Not for the avoidance of pain or an endless parade of treat bribes, but for the pay-off that helps each animal fulfill its destiny. With hawks, that destiny is to succeed in the hunt and survive. And to highly social animals like dogs, surviving involves flourishing as a pack animal, preferably, with a truly awesome leader who'll call the shots and make life enjoyable. Having a great leader is so, well, gratifying! - especially to this intelligent working breed. Pit bulls thrive on it. Most will drop bad habits, even dramatic bouts of leash reactivity when their person finally offers them something better ... direction.

Learning to become a good leader takes some real effort. Without that relationship, many dog owners let their pets make their own decisions, and that's a huge responsibility that dogs just can't handle. They may love their pets completely, but indulge them like children, begging for their compliance. There's nothing sadder than this: "Sit. Sit. Sit. Siiiit. Come'on now. Siiiit." Imagine how confusing it is to a dog to see his human beg! Lacking structure, dogs are more than happy to invent exciting games, like, "Woo! I wanna fence fight and revel in that adrenalin blast - Feels GREAT!" And so shelters fill up with dogs that are rejected simply because they never had a leader to show them the joy of behaving beautifully. It's sad when society demands that dogs should be born already knowing what we want them to do.

One of our greater challenges in teaching new dog handlers is helping them find their inner leader, women especially (and in men, quite often the challenge is toning down their inner dictator. I'll leave that topic for another blog!) In short: remember that your treat bag is not your dog's leader. Your clicker is not your dog's leader. YOU are ... or at least your dog wants you to be. Be fair, be upbeat, be consistent and decisive and clear in your direction, and your dog will fall over backwards to work with you.

Below. The unmistakable glow of a dog who adores her leader. Sally owned by Sheri Cardo, captured by Ali Talley on CGC Day.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ginger! - Another Vick dog heard from.

On the heels of the messy dog fight bust in Texas, we present Ginger, one of the lessor known Vick dogs that trekked cross-country in the pit bull crowded RV trip to start a new life with the folks at SPCA for Monterey County.

This is the same shy little sprite that appeared in the video with Tim, leaving her VA shelter kennel for good. The road wasn't easy for Gingerette. She was one of the more timid dogs that came this way and she forced her foster mom to downshift big time so she could perform a modern day version of the patient art of soul retrieval on this little lost girl ... (Hey, it IS California, after all)

We were thrilled to hear from her foster-mom turned forever-home in an email update, along with this beautiful PHOTO SERIES outlining Ginger's evolution.

Bless you Stacy...You're an inspiration!

From her update: "Our early days and months were not easy - her clinging to the back of her crate for hours on end as I cried and wondered if we would ever be friends, her fleeing from any attempt at a gentle touch, refusing to eat for days as I tried a variety of techniques to prevent her from wasting further goes on and on and has probably been experienced by many a person fostering an abused animal ....

.... It has been such a pleasure watching her evolve into a happy and loving dog. She loves running about the yard, playing with toys, treats, riding in the car, snuggling on the bed (how a 35lb dog takes up the entire bed I do not know), and did I say treats? Her exuberance (or perhaps clumsiness) at times has unfortunately led to her crashing into many a wall, tree, piece of furniture, my shins, etc…she shakes it off in that bully way even as I am still muttering various expletives thinking that must been painful and surely this will be a visit to the vet .... It is a delight every day to see how happy she is when I get home, to see her sprinting up when I whistle for her or like now, to simply have her curled up at my side snoring away..."
- Stacy Schmidt

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Houston, you have a problem

For your files, letters to editors or general need-to-know info, here's a printable PDF update outlining the Vick dogs' current status.
* * V-Dog UPDATES * *

Proof in the Pudding.

Please share it with Texas this week. Up to 200...two hundred (!) dogs have been gathered up in a large scale fight bust, involving 55-some arrests. Suspects include an English teacher, employees of the oil industry, felons - you nameit. Big catch. Apparently Texas likes itself some dog fights.
"My guess is that the majority will have to be euthanized. Some of the dogs may be people friendly, but the question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you'd want your 3-year-old child around the dog." ....Sgt. P Leone, Houston Humane Society's Rescuing Animals In Danger Education Resource Program

Before we start hearing too many tired myths about bust dogs, let's write to remind Houston news sources of lessons learned in 2007-08. 1) Bust dogs are victims, not perpetrators. 2) Dogs are individuals, not cookie cutter stereotypes. Blanket statements like "bred to kill" are obsolete, disproven, antiquated. 3) Kenneled dogs deserve the decency of vet care, enrichment, compassion - an evaluation. (How many sick dogs like Rose were confiscated? And do they get a warm bed tonight?) 4) Dogs that can't be saved suffer from lack of resources. And that's a human shortcoming; No blame to the victims of these sad times.

Don't forget to offer the news crews some pudding.

You Dirty Dawg

It's lazy Sunday. Today's agenda: Eat toasted cinnamon bread, wear pajamas until noon and give that dirty dog a bath! The best Sunday morning inspiration ever comes from this old classic "Luke the Dog" ... from days back when dogs were allowed to be dogs. Love it, love it.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Mr. Rogers would've dug Pit Ed Camp

Our homeboy Mr. Rogers had the pit bull optimism thing all figured out. I'll never forget his most brilliant advice to parents after the Oklahoma City bombings in '95: A committed optimist, he told horrified parents to steer their children's focus to all the helpers who were on the scene. It was a great plug for keeping the faith during difficult times. With that generous lesson in mind, it's easier to believe in a better day for pit bulls. This week marked our 9th Pit Ed Camp and we're floating happy after spending time with some truly big hearts and great 'helpers.'

Shelters San Diego Humane Society, Longmont Humane (CO), Chicago Animal Care & Control, Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society and Hillsborough County Animal Services sent key staff to Oakland to hang out with the BAD RAP crew and study up on all things pit bull. Imagine being able to discuss dogs for days on end without seeing eyes glaze over - that's Dog Dork Heaven! Some earned extra credit by sneaking our shelter dogs into their hotel rooms for slumber parties (YES!). All hope to use lessons learned to improve shelter policies for pit bulls back home. After spending six great days with this crew, I don't doubt that some of their changes will be noteworthy. What a satisfying week - Thanks, guys! Photo: Campers below.

Awards for Camp Alum
Several alumnae have raised a high bar for other attendees. Three were recently recognized by BR's sister group Partners in Shelter Services for work they did for the breed before or after the Camp. We're proud to know them! * * AWARD NEWS * *

Postcards, At Yer Service

For those who wanted postcards of Bob's nomination for White House lap dog (see blog below). This large size file will print as a 5x7 POSTCARD. If a certain November camper doesn't adopt Bob first, we may have to let the Obamas adopt him.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Bob 4 Obama

Dr. Mr. President Elect

Thank you for being brave and steady and for persevering in your goal to lead our country. You give us hope that we didn't know we were allowed to have anymore.

There are a million things the world will demand that you fix. And your choice of dog is pretty darn trivial compared to the mammoth decisions you'll soon be called to make. But, as keepers of some of the nicest dogs in this great country, we respectfully submit for your consideration:

Bob. Bob the Dog.

Not the bouncy puppy you imagined. Better.

Young Bob - short haired low-allergen Bob - is a symbol of the Real America that's been lost in this age of bad clich├ęs (lipstick? please) and hurtful biases. He's sensitive and resilient and kind and he's an eternal optimist. And he's good as gold - the kind of dog that will adore your children and charm your distinguished guests and tender your heart as you morph into the untouchable president that you need to be.

No doubt you'd encounter mountains of outrage for selecting a dog that looks like Bob. But we have a feeling that you'd weather that just fine, and even turn Bob's story around to illustrate a new world's vision to everyone: Prejudice is obsolete. Good hearts rule and a true friend's loyalty is ultimately more important than a fluffy photo op.

If we could give you anything that would help you and your family with the trials ahead, it would be Bob. Truly. But whichever type of pet you end up with, we hope he brings you a sense of peace and calm and HOME as only a good dog can.

Our best to you, Mr. President.
Bob's devoted caretakers.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

$ Foreclosure Sale $

........ Am I worth a dollar? ..........

Too many really nice pets are losing their homes, so What the hec .. We're giving them away. Pit bulls adopters are getting the red carpet treatment at Oakland Animal Services during the month of November. With any luck, a few of OAS's best will be in new homes begging for turkey trimmings come Thanksgiving.

* Dollar-A-Dog Days at OAS * 

Your help needed. Got any favorite bulletin boards around town? Please help us spread the good word by posting this flyer around town, and we'll report back with any good news. Thank you!