Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Heroes among us - An award for a brave group in Ohio

Last winter, we learned about an incredible crew of people who make up the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County Ohio. There are shelter staff all over the country doing great things for animals. This group is extra special because they showed the world how to save dozens of pets including 162 dogs - most of them pit bull type dogs - after a horrible hoarding case in the midwest. The kicker was, AWL is sitting smak dab in the middle of BSL-hell in Ohio, where dogs that look like pit bulls are labeled "dangerous and vicious" based on nothing but appearance. So helping a large group of homeless pit bulls would be no small feat ... especially for a tiny org that operates on a shoestring budge in an antiquated facility.

AWL proved to everyone that doing the impossible is possible, and created safe housing for all the dogs, organized their vet care, evaluation and promotion, reached out to rescue groups around the country, and celebrated each dog who made his or her way to a new life. As a result of their resolve, they were selected for one of three awards presented by Partners in Shelter Services for outstanding efforts in 2010. Partners is a collaboration between BR and Animal Farm Foundation, and focuses on helping shelters get the information they need to build solid programs that support pit bull type dogs in their community. Each of the three award winning organizations will receive a monetary gift to help them advance their work with pit bulls.

One of the dogs they took in from the hoarding case was a boy they named Buck. Before he was Buck, he was known as Niko, and he lived with another dog and a man named Scot. Scot loved his dogs dearly but fell on hard times and was unable to care for them, so brought them to a place - called "Humane Sanctuary" - that many said was safe. He was no fool - even desperate animal control officers in Ohio have told us that they brought dogs to this place rather than have to put them to sleep in their own shelters. Desperate times. Unfortunately the sanctuary turned out to be a hell-hole for animals, as we reported back in March.

Top 3 Photos - Buck's intake photos on the day AWL rescued him.

Scot told us: "I took them there because it was the only no kill shelter that I found and there was no way I could care for them safely anymore. I still have both Sam, and Niko's bed, pillows, blankets, and a few of their toys. The Shelter said I should keep them because what they had there was fine and the bed would just get messed up. I love these two. They where my only friends."

When Scot learned that the sanctuary had been shut down by authorities for cruelty/neglect, he feared his dogs were dead or on their way to being dead. You can just imagine his relief when he read in the papers that every surviving animal had been rescued and was being re-homed by AWL. Who does that in Ohio? Scot followed their progress, found out that Buck had come to live in CA, then tracked us down so he could tell us Buck's story. He didn't want us to think that he was a bad dog owner for taking his dogs there or that he didn't care.

When we connected, Scot outlined the dogs' life story to us; their likes and dislikes and the training he had done with them. "They where both accustomed to Nutro and one nice high protein whole meat treat once a week. Two medium meals a day. 3 walks. 1 hour of play/workout time. With about a handful of treats in moderation. Bath time every two weeks and sleeping in bed. King size is best. Niko runs in his sleep and tends to kick. Sam just sleeps. They were well socialized with adults, kids, and other dogs in social environments, forests, dog run parks, and in city streets. They both walk on the right side normally. Sam doesn't pull, Niko does. I am so happy Niko is ok. I am wondering about Sam because he has had the harder life. they are both great dogs." (Note: Sam also found a home thanks to AWL)

When Buck arrived here to join BR's adoption program, he had the good fortune to find a foster home with Jaime Allen (Standing, right). Some might remember her as the adopter of 'Buzz' - the big bodacious blue who helped Jaime present hundreds of programs as part of the Humane Society Silicon Valley's humane education mission. Jaime was still hurting from the loss of Buzz when Buck arrived, and fostering him offered a sweet distraction from her grief. She noted the good manners that Scot had already built into the silly pit mix and shined them up enough to do demo work during summer camps for teens at the shelter. During training, the kids learned about animal welfare topics like overpopulation and adoption, proper care of pets, and practiced teaching some of the activities they will do with their campers. Buck helped with a special dog program called “My Dog Said What?” In this program, students are introduced to the importance of learning how to “read” your pet. Buck’s job was to not only entertain the kids, but also to show them how a well-behaved, happy, trained dog should act. Kids got to practice commands like “sit,” “wait,” “shake” and “down” with him.

Jamie told us: "My job as a humane educator is to give kids opportunities to practice citizenship, responsibility, and compassion because I believe doing that in a structured way can help save animal’s lives. Buck’s story is a perfect example of this – when we show compassion, beautiful and profound things can happen. The kids were amazed at how calm he was and that he had a “glass-is-half-full” attitude. They connected with Buck’s story, and they were imagining what it would have been like for their dog, and I think that was scary for them. If Buck hadn’t been rescued, no one would have been able to experience his gentleness, his silliness, and his ability to help kids understand what empathy looks like and how it feels."

Congratulations to the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County Ohio for earning the Compassion for Ohio Victims of Cruelty Award. We can't thank you enough for setting such a strong example and spreading the joy by saving the animals from the 'Humane Sanctuary' cruelty case. Ohio's animals are so lucky to have you on their side! Below: Buck gets into the swing of educating on his very first visit.

More photos of Buck at at work at camp. And, just being silly when he's not working. Compliments of photographer Tom Becker.

With many thanks to Jaime Allen and Buck for reminding us how important it is to let the dogs tell their stories.

According to the Animal Rescue League's website, the owner of "Humane Sanctuary" was found guilty of a second degree misdemeanor of animal cruelty with five years probation, fines, a ban on pet ownership for five years and a mandatory psychiatric evaluation. Hoarders are typically treated as people with a mental illness. More info including photos of the conditions of the sanctuary.

Ohio's statewide law that condemns pit bulls and dogs that look like pit bulls as "dangerous and vicious" at birth is still on the books, and dog owners like Scot who fall on hard times are currently left with only the most heart breaking of options for their pets. A sign of hope: Toledo, Ohio recently stepped out in front of the crowd by overhauling its dog regulations with new rules that do not discriminate by dog breed. The country holds its breath in hopes that the rest of Ohio follows Toledo's enlightened example.


Dianne said...

I'm hoping what we are seeing in Ohio is the start of the "tilt" that will change the future of America's dog. Thanks for recognizing them for their bravery. We need more pioneers like AWL.

J.M. said...

What a great story and happy ending.Congrats to all and a special shout out to Scot for tracking his dogs down and telling you their history.I hope the ending has helped somewhat to ease the pain of having to give them up.

Unknown said...

What a great story! Not only because of all those involved with Buck's happy-ending but also BR's coverage of the event. Information and education one story at a time. Bravo!

Kirsten said...

What a great story to come out of that horror. His before and after photos are amazing. :D

Anonymous said...

Absolutely humbling and awe inspiring! Makes an old woman proud to read of the valiant efforts and heroes in those parts of our country throughly entrenched in BSL. Thanks Bad Rap for acknowledging these wonderful people and organizations. Gives us hope.

Lynn in N. Cal

Debbie D said...

I was one of the volunteers in Ohio that helped in the care of these 162 rescued dogs. Its changed so many of our lives forever. You can't imagine the noise level where we had to temporarily house these scared, starved, hurt babies and with each dog we would look in their eyes and wonder what their story was. Thank you again for recognizing our efforts. You're the best!! Debbie D.

chris said...

Beautiful story.
Bravo Scot !

Love-A-Bull said...

Hopefully Toledo will set the example for BSL in Ohio. This was such a great story, Buck is beautiful! It's efforts like this and the dogs that succeed in these most unlikely situations that begin to change minds!