Friday, December 28, 2012

BADRAP's year end report and two holiday miracles

How does time fly so quickly? We've been so immersed in daily dog details that we had to look to our facebook timeline (!) for help lining up the events of 2012 into a year end report, linked below. It was a very good year!

After we launched the report, we got a holiday miracle. One of our oldest foster dogs (said to be 15, but who really knows) found his forever home. Jimmy. I used to worry about him a lot because he was so aloof when he came to us, but the clouds have lifted. Lookit him now.

And just when we thought we couldn't smile any wider, BR Rep Letti de Little picked up an urgent message from two West Oakland residents she'd been in contact with. They wanted their dogs fixed asap and could we please help? A good day by most standards, but in this case, the male was a well liked stud dog who has impregnated untold numbers of females in his community. We're told that kids bring their dogs to him for the 'favor.' Imagine that.

The other dog in need was his pregnant daughter, and gosh, could we please hurry because her owner knows from experience how hard it is to find good homes for pups in this economy. So do we...We absorbed the end of one of Zeus' summer litters and are still working to place the last pup (Magpie).

Thanks to the quick response of VCA Bay Area Pet Hospital and our fantastic donors, this West Oakland neighborhood will have far fewer unwanted puppies to absorb in 2013. And Zeus' people have just become advocates for neutering and for enjoying life with a lovely ex-gigolo.

Jimmy at home, and two well timed spay/neuter surgeries. Those two bits of happy lead us to believe that the new year is going to be a very very good year. Wishing you much joy as we all march forward.

BADRAP 2012 Year End Report

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Ratty Santa - Toy drive for West Oakland kids & dogs

This holiday, we're teaming up with big hearted motorcycle club East Bay Rats to bring Santa to dog lovers in the under-served neighborhood of West Oakland. 

Ratty Santa will be taking photos with neighborhood kids and their dogs, and distributing goodies to both the two-leggeds and the four-leggeds.

Help, Please

Please help us gather up new toys for both the kids and the dogs. If you live in the SF bay area, we'll be collecting items during our class:

Sunday, December 9 from 11:30-12:30
and again during our 
Open House Adoptathon, 12/16 from 11am-1pm

Location for Sunday New Toy drop off:  During Pit Ed Class (only) in the fenced in parking lot, directly across from Berkeley's new city shelter. Go to One Bolivar Drive and look over towards the water. Dozens of pit bulls and smiling people. You can't miss it. 

If you're unable to make this drop off location, please contact us and we'll figure something out. Contact: Toy Drive  Or, to donate a monetary gift to help us buy vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries for this neighborhood, it will be well-used. Donate

Thanks for the help. We had a great time providing vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries to dog owners in this under-served neighborhood last summer, so we're really looking forward to this event.

Adoption Open House, Sunday December 16 info below. Please join us for some good gab, great looking dogs and yet more reasons why we love the east bay so much. Event info on Facebook

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

five years' worth of happy: highlights from the hoedown

Thanksgiving shoppers will get a treat if they dare pick up this week's National Enquirer during their wait in long grocery store lines. If they can brave their way past the celeb trash talk and photo eye sores, they'll find a photo-heavy spread that celebrates the five year reunion of the Vick dogs' homecoming to California. We all had a good giggle about the dogs' saucy new claim to fame, but the reunion on October 27 was so sweet and memorable that we couldn't help but be happy about sharing the occasion with millions in Safeway check out lines. Why not!

The dogs' various accomplishments are as important a story as their rescue, if not more -- So a really good, foot stompin' hoedown was a must. The event melted five years of work, fun and 'Vick dog' media fascination into one of the sweetest of gatherings we could've hoped for.

125 friends and supporters gathered at the Rescue Barn under a nearly-full moon to nosh, dance, take photos, gather autographs and enjoy. It was an unseasonably warm evening, and everyone was relaxed and downright giddy. Which meant photographer Mark Rogers had his work cut out for himself when he had to wrangle this group of giggling dog owners and their spazz-happy dogs into this now-famous photo.

Even more fun - This behind the scenes (behind the photographer's back!) video went viral on the Net with over 77K people peeking in to see what the dogs are all about. It's a must-see if you need a mood brightener. VIDEO

It was a thrill for all of us to be reunited with Hector again (top photo), over four years after he boarded a plane to his new home in Minnesota. His adopters Roo and Clara Yori drove cross country to attend. They brought their dog Wallace with them too, and an armload of books: 'Wallace The Underdog Who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage and Championed Pit Bulls - One Flying Disc at a Time.' Unfortunately Jim Gorant, the author of Wallace as well as the Lost Dogs, was grounded by Hurricane Sandy and had to cancel, but author Ken Foster attended the event to greet fans of his new book, I'm A Good Dog - although his main focus at the hoedown seemed to be kissing the dogs and laughing at their antics. And yes, he did get on the dance floor - at least once.

This slideshow highlights some of the fun. A news piece by ABC News detailed the event and faithfully told the story of a rag-tag group of pit bulls who arrived five years ago to teach the world a thing or two about dogs.


Many thanks to event sponsors Jim and Patty DiSienna and Sheriff Boris, Folio Wines, Tito's vodka, Boulder Beer Company, and our awesome crew of volunteers for putting a shine on this fantastic celebration.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Re-homing a dog: A survey offers insight, and adoption strategies

Much has been written to help improve adoption rates, and those shelters that have been putting in the effort have been enjoying the relief and the joy that comes from increased adoptions. (Linked: Animal Farm Foundation's smart 'Turbo Charging Pit Bull Adoptions' info)

A sour economy and ongoing housing challenges are harder to solve, and as the pressures they bring wreck havoc on under-resourced pet owners, the need for shelter kennels and rescue spots stays steady. Inquiries from Good Samaritans who pluck strays from the streets and stressed families with dogs they're unable to keep bring a daily pile-up in rescuers' mailboxes, and a daily heartbreak, too.

Right: This mixed breed dog was living under a truck when a Good Samaritan got involved. She told us,"I'm trying my darnedest to find him a home (facebook, contacting rescues, talking to friends) to figure it out." Her story repeats itself thousands of times a day across the country, in every mailbox in every rescue group.

To help those Good Sams and desperate families navigate the frustrations of re-homing a dog (any kind of dog, actually) we asked 2000 pit bull adopters to tell us how they came to find their dog(s), and we wove what we learned into a new webpage called Adoption Strategies. It's not for shelters - although some will certainly find it useful.  It's for the Average Joe who can't understand why rescues aren't returning his emails, and how the hec is he ever going to find his dog a decent home?

99 out of 2006 people who answered our survey have had to give up a dog. Reasons included: Landlord rejection, family problems, regional laws (BSL), unable to find pet-friendly housing (after pressures such as foreclosure and military deployment), unable to manage some of the dog's behaviors, illness/death in the family, life changes.

Some of what we learned about adoption trends...

Shelters Take the Lead

An overwhelming majority of participants reported that they fell in love with their pit bull at a city or county run shelter. This would not have been true ten years ago, when pit bulls were MIA from many shelter adoption programs. That lack of adoptables, combined with unfounded myths about the 'defective' nature of shelter dogs sucked dog lovers like a big vacuum straight to backyard breeders for unaltered pets. How times have changed.

Social Media to the Rescue

While popular spots like are helping draw a majority of shelter and rescue adopters to their new pets, Petfinder no longer allows Good Samaritans and desperate families to post dog-in-need ads. Facebook and Craigslist seem to be filling that void though, and both now serve as the onine go-to places to find a new dog, ranking just behind the adoption pages of shelters and rescue groups in our survey.

Our new question: How can we match more dog-shoppers up with homeless dogs so our communities can rely less on overcrowded shelters? Miles to go before we sleep!

Link to the SURVEY
Link to Adoption Strategies PAGE

Where to go to get homeless dogs noticed is only half the battle. Families and Good Sams have to brush up fast on marketing must-knows so their dogs stand out from the crowd ... Easier said than done when English is not your first language and feeding the kids and working more than one job gets in the way of shooting cute dog photos.

Feel free to share this info-page with your favorite non-profits who, like us, get a dizzying amount of mail from very good people asking very good questions about best ways to re-home very good pets.

Let's Discuss. BADRAP will be presenting on ways to curb the flow of incoming dogs at The Animal Care Conference in Sacramento on Monday, February 25. Please join us if you work in the animal welfare world and, like us, are ready to look at ways to prevent dogs from coming in the door.

Friday, September 28, 2012

the Home Sweet Home Hoedown - Come dance with us!

Five whole years ago this October, a soon-to-be famous group of dogs left Virginia and touched ground in California.

Come celebrate the five year anniversary of the Vick dogs' homecoming with us at our foot stompin' Home Sweet Home Hoedown on Sat Oct 27 from 5-10pm. Joining us will be noted author Ken Foster, with fab stories from life in New Orleans and his brand new book, 'I'm a Good Dog.' Get your autographed copy at the party.

This fundraiser will help us build our emergency rescue fund for 2013. Enjoy a BBQ, drinks, Do-Si-Do dancing, and a pack of the canine celebs ready to shake your paw - all at our beloved Rescue Barn in the Oakland Hills. Meet Jonny Justice, Teddles, Uba, Audie, Zippy and Amazing Grace and congratulate them yourself for five years of home-life and good PR deeds. 

Tickets HERE

This isn't a sit-on-the-sidelines kind of party, so come prepared to get on the dance floor and make some history of your own.

Door Prizes! Every ticket buyer gets a raffle ticket for cool prizes including paw-to-graphed photos and books. Grand Prize - A overnight stay in the cozy guest cabin at the Rescue Barn. Hang out with BADRAP dogs and members and learn how the group does the rescue thang!

Boris Orso is the official sponsor of this event. Rescue workers and Shelter staff on a tight budget can still enjoy the fun with a half-price ticket thanks to Boris' generosity. More info HERE.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Lessons from the Front Lines

Things we've learned on our way to helping the dogs. Photos below from our recent public outreach event in West Oakland, facilitated in partnership with the East Bay Rats Motorcyle Club and Well Pet Vet Clinic. Huzzah!

Lesson One: To really help some of our community's neediest dogs, it's better to go to the community rather than wonder why they aren't coming to us.

Lesson Two:

Listening gets you farther than talking. 

BADRAP team member Anita Joe is learning why this gentleman is unsure about spay/neuter as a healthy option for his dogs. 

By listening and then by helping him with what he will accept for his dogs (vaccinations, training advice, nail trim), we can get much more done than if we stood around preaching. Agree?

Lesson Three

Do not judge. 

Scary dog living on a chain with an insensitive owner? Wrong! 

We met this dog - named Hero - at our recent public outreach event. His owner was forced to move into Section 8 housing that does not allow dogs. His caretaker is a Good Samaritan who told us the man cried his eyes out at their good-bye. The chain leash? No big deal. We happily exchanged it for a better leash, neutered the dog and gave him his vaccinations. 

Some things are easy to fix compared to the hard stuff.

Lesson Three: 

Do not discriminate. 

We don't turn away non-pit bulls during our outreach work. This little guy (who belongs to the gentleman in the first photo) is getting a badly needed nail trim.

Lesson Four. 

Helping people help their dogs is as All American as the breed we love.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Huzzah! a Jonny Justice stuffie for every child!

Reprinted from SFWeekly Blogs Aug 27, 2012

San Francisco Pup Jonny Justice Voted Most Kick-Ass and Adorable Dog

No matter how smelly, fugly, or freakishly toy-like they may be -- all dogs are adorable if you ask us.

That said, San Francisco's Jonny Justice, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier who was rescued from Michael Vick's illegal dog-fighting ring, proved that he is in fact the prettiest, coolest, and generally most likeable pup of them all. He was crowned the winner of the GUND's Top Dog contest after thousands of votes were counted.

(Note from us: There's no way to know if Jonny's a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Although he's certainly built like one, he's your run of the mill 'pit bull' to his friends and fans.)

To honor this pick of the litter, GUND will be replicating Jonny as the next plush pooch, which means you can have your own Jonny to hug.

GUND, a manufacturer known for its stuffed animals, hosted a Top Dog photo contest on Facebook for one month this summer, hoping it would help the company find inspiration for a new plush puppy.
Jonny was no shoe-in -- he had some pretty stiff competition. More than 1,305 owners submitted photos of their pooches and more than 50,000 people cast their vote for the top dog, which included four categories: Most Beautiful Dog (Jonny won!); a Face Only a Mother Could Love (where was Mugly for that one?); Doganista; and Dog that MostResembles its Owner.
The toy company held a simultaneous competition on Pinterest, where pinners were asked to tag photos with @GUNDMostPinterestingDog and submit the pins to GUND. Finnegan, an Australian Shepherd, ousted Jonny in this contest, but that didn't stop Jonny from outscoring him in other categories. 
Aside from showcasing a slew of darling doggies, GUND's contests told emotional stories and showed how "canine companions mean so much ... to so many different people," Bruce Raiffe, the company's president said in a statement.
This alpha dog's plush toy will be available in stores in 2013. Arrf. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pssst. Oct 27. Save the date.

Saturday October 27, 2012 will mark the five year anniversary that 13 of the "Vick dogs" drove out of Virginia on their way to our corners ... Hector, Jonny Justice, Teddles, Maya, Frodo, Audie, Uba, Ernie, Zippy, Grace, Little Red, Stella and Ginger. It also marks the 2012 release of Ken Foster's gorgeous new book: "I'm a Good Dog."

To celebrate these milestones, we'll be hosting a big bad azz fundraiser party where guests can meet the dogs and the people who invited them into their family. Shake hands with history - or let it slurp you in the face. Ken Foster will be with us too, signing books and telling tales from his work with Sula Foundation in New Orleans. Who knows? - maybe he'll slurp you in the face, too. It could be that kind of party.

Got plans to visit the SF bay area? Now that you've been given sufficient advance warning, you know when to schedule your trip. Stay tuned. Our busy party planners will spill the juicy details sometime in August.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

another spay/neuter event, another reminder ...

In years past, the question was always "How do we help dog owners understand that spay/neuter is a good option for their pet?"

Those days are long gone. Now the new challenge is, "How do we meet the need!"

We just completed another Owner Support event, back in Pittsburg, CA where times are tough for under-resourced dog owners and the need is great. Every time we roll in to set up our event, dog owners are already waiting for us. In the case of this guy on the right, he camped out on the sidewalk at 5:30am with his two dogs - worried that he might miss out if he got there when registration officially started at 9am. He told us he knew how long the line could be for free surgeries and training help. It's a new day, I tellya.

And we're reminded yet again ... Accomplishing the goal of spaying/neutering dogs in our most challenged neighborhoods is as easy as pulling together the right kind of help in the right location then rolling out the welcome mat. No need for mandatory spay/neuter or other restrictive laws that alienate people from the helpers.

At this most recent event, 32 dogs showed up ready for surgery with one week's notice when their owners spotted a 'Celebrate Your Pit Bull' flyer in select Pittsburg and Antioch 'hoods. (We hit up the local mom & pop shops, laundromats, etc. and avoid using radio spots, etc, since we know that kind of exposure could attract out more dog owners than we're able to serve). Without appointments, their dogs were already fasted and waiting for surgeries: 17 males, 15 females completed and 11 more scheduled to be fixed when their balls drop, etc.

We're grateful to Well Pet Vet Clinic for doing the surgeries and to PetSmart Charities for sponsoring this event. This summer, we plan to publish information on how to get this kind of response from your community, so stay tuned. Til then, turn up the volume and enjoy...


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vick dogs: Five years post-seizure. Has the cruelty ended?

(Edit: This post was published in 2012.)

Five years ago this week, the cruelty victims with the uncomfortable label "Vick dogs" were seized and processed as living evidence in the most infamous dog fighting case in animal welfare history. Their rescue from Vick's house of horrors did not signal a happy time, to be honest. Most were relegated to small, dark cages in antiquated animal shelters - still known as 'pounds' in Virginia. Because no one expected them to survive, they were asked to endure a different kind of cruelty for several months until the court order would come down for them to be destroyed. With the exception of the very lucky 'Leo' (who scored with an enthusiastic shelter team) - most never left their kennels for walks or exercise. Vet care was spare or non-existent and enrichments such as chew toys didn't happen. Right: This is where 'Zippy' lived for several months post-seizure. 

The time period between their seizure (April 2007) and release to rescue (October 2007) did damage to many of the dogs from the case. The now-timid Ginger scampered back and forth like a scared feral cat in the back of her kennel, Frodo pressed himself to the ground when the shelter clatter finally got to him (he's still noise sensitive), and the energetic Uba paced in neurotic figure eights to relieve his tedium. Our stomachs were in knots during the months that this set of dogs was in lock down. While we waited anxiously for the courts to allow us to evaluate, and then, okay their release, we knew the damage done by their impossible conditions could be irreparable in some or all of the dogs.

Guardian Master Rebecca Huss worried too, and together we ironed out a game plan to prevent the dogs' impending melt down. Huss created safe passage for then-BR volunteer Nicole Rattay (left, with Iggy) to fly to Virginia and sit with every sheltered Vick dog and offer comfort and measured enrichments. That basic care started November 6 - over six months into their difficult shelter stay. While Nicole reported back on the dogs' progress and challenges, back at home we paced the walls and offered a thousand prayers to a hundred deities for a positive ruling from federal Judge Henry Hudson. That ruling, which allowed their survival and release, finally came to us in October, 2007. Most of the dogs would then wait several more weeks or months to be matched to court screened rescues and leave the shelters.

While it's well known that some of the Vick dogs have timidity issues, many assume that Vick's tortures did all of the damage - when frankly, conditions in the shelters took the heaviest toll on the younger dogs especially. Most of the ten dogs we received showed symptoms that mimic post traumatic stress disorder. And some - including Uba, Iggy, Frodo and even agility star Audie - still need reassurances from their owners five years later. Despite that challenge, they function well and some have earned accolades including impressive wins, all thanks to the devotion of their loving adopters - a living reminder of the strength of the human/animal bond.

Times have changed though since those nerve wracking days waiting for the dogs' official release. Thanks to the Vick dogs' many post-adoption successes, it's become common place for new victims of dog fighting situations to attract public support, kennel enrichment and rescue help during their wait. District Attorneys now have a pile of precedents and contract templates to help them educate the courts and navigate their release to rescue. In some ways, saving a dog from a fight bust has become an in vogue badge of honor for up and coming rescue groups - deservedly so.

It's still extremely important to move the dogs through the process as "evidence" as quickly as possible, but in some cases we still lose dogs -- or rather, the dogs are still losing the battle during the wait.

In Gadsden County Florida in July 2010, the conditions in a rural shelter were so horrific that while we were at the shelter trying to sort out the needs of the seized survivors of a fighting case, the dogs literally dropped from poor conditions including dehydration and died at our feet. Shelter staff shrugged - they were "just pit bulls" after all - and we had to wonder if this particular group of dogs had better odds with the dog fighter than they did with the shelter. Despite the best efforts of the responders, only three dogs survived the conditions - BR's Winnie being one. As an addendum: Both local authorities and humane reps were depressingly unresponsive to news of the suffering and conditions and the Gadsden County Shelter remains one of the most decrepit places a dog can find himself. Much, much work needs to be done in this part of the country! Right: This is one of several dogs who died of dehydration and disease due to neglect in the antiquated animal shelter of Gadsden County Florida.

Court ordered euthanasia of dog fighting victims has become much less common in this country, but dogs are still at risk in areas where authorities fall back on state law or local policies that maintain condemning definitions and antiquated disposition language. Unless rescues are watching closely and able to respond quickly when a new case breaks, the dogs tend to go down in these situations. It was a battle to save Star, for example, as recently as Spring 2011 once she was seized in Los Angeles County. On a happier note, the state of Florida repealed its law that had once designated all dogs seized in fight busts as "dangerous" thanks to the hard work of Ledy VanKavage of Best Friends Animal Society. Cruelty victims there can now be evaluated and adopted when before there was little hope due to the condemning language. (Info)

Louisiana is one place where state law regarding the disposition of fighting victims is so vaguely worded that the dogs' fates typically fall back on any given judge's personal opinion of dogs and/or pit bulls.

Tallulah, Gris-Gris, Catfish Jones and Benny are four dogs who came to our program from Richland County Louisiana this past winter after some busy exchange with local authorities, who initially rejected offers of rescue help. In that situation, the Vick dog precedent helped immensely to educate the courts, along with our written testimony on behalf of the victims and (especially) the no-nonsense game planning of well respected dog rescuer Casey Lattimer. Link: Louisiana state law regarding 'fighting dogs.'

This particular group of dogs was incredibly lucky. Because Richland County doesn't have an animal shelter, some were boarded temporarily at a vet's office and others lived in horse stalls on a volunteer's property while waiting out the court's ruling. That style of confinement and - especially - the daily interaction it provided with caretakers may be a large part of the reason all four dogs were so happy and well adjusted when they arrived in our program. We haven't noted any signs of PTSD in these victims and they are fast tracking towards new homes as a result. Right: Tallulah and Gris-Gris in BADRAP's 'barn dog program.' Every dog from this case found rescue help.

The first organization to raise a flag over the compelling issue of kennel conditions for canine victims of cruelty was the National Animal Control Association. Then director Mark Kumpf stressed the need for fast action to design the dogs' disposition in this interview: "Agencies should seek custody of any animals seized through a legal forfeiture process established for that purpose and, if custody is gained, them make prompt arrangements to evaluate each animal individually to determine if it can be placed. Other animal organizations need to be ready to immediately support these actions and assist with locating appropriate placements." More on NACA's stance on the treatment of cruelty victims.

Those words ring too close for comfort when we consider Rose - a "Vick dog" who suffered terribly during her shelter stay post-seizure. Rose was not provided with vet care to treat an internal injury (possibly a tumor - we still don't know for sure) and her health concern grew into an unaddressed crisis situation. Rather than find a new life, she was euthanized shortly after her release to end the suffering she'd been living with for so long. Her face still haunts each of us who met her. Photo: Berenice Clifford of Animal Farm Foundation with Rose.

We've learned so much from the Vick dogs, and their lessons have changed us forever. One of their biggest lessons though tends to be forgotten in the excitement of their adoption success. We'd love it if every time readers hear of a new batch of victims rounded up from a cruelty case, you would consider the Vick dogs' long and difficult post-seizure experience and ask, "What's being done to keep this latest set of dogs comfortable, vetted and sane while we wait for help to arrive?" The answer to that question could make all the difference in whether the cruelty they suffer ends for good the moment they're seized by authorities -- not several months later, after they're finally released to rescue.

NOTE: With all due respect to the incredible people who came together to seize the "Vick dogs" in April 2007, we will be celebrating the five year anniversary 'happy style' in October -- on the date that the federal courts finally waved them out of the shelters and onto freedom. What a HAPPY day that was!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Holy Toledo - Public Event April 18

Next week! A public event in Lucas County with information, discussion, dogs and an opportunity to ruminate on all things pit bull in post-HB14 Ohio.

(Click on image to biggify)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Our #13 April Fool's birthday wish: Send some love to your dog's foster home

BADRAP is turning Lucky 13 this coming Sunday, April Fool's Day. The foolishness continues. To celebrate, we're having an Open House during Pit Ed classes from 11-1pm in Berkeley.

There will dogs available for adoption from our group as well as from Berkeley Animal Care Services, and we'll be showing the newest pups for the very first time. (Left: Hugo) Please join us - these events are always a blast. Info over at our facebook page - with advance apologies to you strident non-facebookers!

OPEN HOUSE Event Info.

What do we want for our birthday?

Well, how nice of you to ask. In the past, we've asked you to take your local pit bull rescuers out for a margarita to celebrate their good deeds (here) and many of you followed through and sent great photos of relaxed and happy faces. Thank you!

This year, we're asking for something a little different to bring a smile to your local pit bull fools. We're asking that you use the occasion to contact the group, shelter or foster parent who helped your dog before you found him and give them an update and a recent photo. You will make their day!

Foster parents put so much of themselves into their projects. It's likely that the people who cared for your dog earned some gray hairs during the process of waiting for you to arrive. They probably lost some sleep those first few nights while your dog complained from her crate, and no doubt they spent some time on their knees cleaning up those beginning messes. We're sure that they shuffled their schedule around the job of building your dog's strength back with exercise, designing socializing opps with other dogs, vet appointments and trips to training class. Your dog likely did some damage at their house, too (oh the stories!) and they probably had to turn down fun invitations from workmates so they could get home in time to let him outside. With all this effort and TLC, we're fairly certain your dog will always own a big chunk of their heart(s).

Many fosters sort through medical problems as well as tricky behavior issues in their project pups. My dog's foster mom had a mess of a puppy on her hands. Beaten and kicked for peeing in his first home, puppy Elliot would scream with fear whenever he piddled on foster mom Karen's floor, which made interrupting and picking him up to go outside more than a little tricky. By the time he came to live with us, all of that was completely gone and he was more than proud to show us how he could pee-pee outside. We joked that he thought his name was "Potty!" since Karen and her family had done such an outstanding job helping him re-associate what was once a terrifying event. (Thank you Karen!)

After all the worry as well as the bond that forms from being a homeless dog's important anchor, it's almost certain that your dog's foster parents felt a slight pang of regret when you waved good-bye and drove off with your new companion. They gave you such a gift. Your updates are your gift back to your dog's foster home or shelter worker for those weeks or months of TLC. I'm guessing most of our blog readers have a regular relationship with your dog's first helpers, but you'd be surprised how many foster parents we talk with who don't hear much, if anything, from their adopters. They insist that "it's okay" - they know their former dog is safe, but you hear the longing in their voice for just a bit of news.

So please - for BR's 13th birthday - contact your dog's first helpers with a note, news and photos. Share them with us too and we'll try to post them here and/or on our facebook page.

To all the foster parents out there, "CHEERS!" We heart you.

Above: Becky and Rob fostered the timid Dobby and worked hard to give him enough confidence to go to a new home. It worked - Dobby has blossomed into a great dog - And they're thrilled that his new dad sends regular updates!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Now Taking Volunteer Apps for the Barn Crew!

... Chunk, Bouncer, Atomic Betty, Nita, Ayse, Danny, Clive, Captain Spanky ...

... They're some of the dogs who've spent time in BR's Rescue Barn since we first opened our doors in summer 2010. This modest facility in the Oakland hills serves as a halfway house for dogs in crisis - specifically, victims of shelter overcrowding, cruelty, foreclosures and emergency medical cases. .The quiet environment and natural setting have been ideal for helping stressed dogs get their bearings and allows them to be healthy, happy dogs again. As they relax, we can learn who they are and design next steps in their transition towards life with permanent families.

The handful of dogs that live here at any given time stay for a week or so until we match them up with foster homes, while others stay on for several weeks until they find their forever families. During that wait they're vetted, trained and socialized to several dogs in regular play sessions. It's like summer school meets summer camp.

Our dog handlers become an important anchor for the dogs during this time at the barn. They serve as the dogs' family and provide everything from clicker training to nose work fun to toenail trims to play parties to plain old fashioned cuddling on the sofa -- all of it is crucial to the dogs' well being and recovery. (Left: Donyale bonds with Winnie, shortly after her arrival from a cruelty case in Gadsden County FL)

In addition to meeting the dogs' daily needs, the BR crew works with potential adopters and visitors who want to learn more about the breed, both at the barn and during our weekends at Berkeley Animal Care Services. They're a wealth of information to a world that is waking up to the joy of the American Pit Bull Terrier and its mixes. Does it sound like I'm bragging? I am. This is a very special group of people who give their heart and soul to the dogs.

It's not all hugs and happies though. Cleaning up dog poo is less than glamorous, and the compassion cases that occasionally come to spend their final days with us tug at all our heartstrings. You have to learn to accept the good with the sad with this work, but the rewards are life changing, to say the least.

We're ready to expand our team and hope to add up to six new volunteer dog handlers who value this mission. We'll provide the training and you provide a long term commitment to the dogs who land here on their way to new lives. Interested?

Barn Crew Job Description

We know that your free time is precious so look forward to talking with you to see if this kind of volunteer work is a good fit. Please check out our job description linked above and then contact for an application. We'll be conducting informal interviews at our next Open House Sunday, April 1st. INFO

Thank you!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Canine Celeb Milestones

We are so pleased to announce that another 'Vick dog' has earned her stripes as a therapy dog. Grace is one of the ten dogs that came to live with BAD RAP until she found her people. She just passed her Delta Pet Partners evaluation and will be on the job in about a month. We're so very proud of her foster parents and her new family for all they've done to show the world that even dogs from bad pasts can shine with a little help from their friends.

This summer will be the five year anniversary of the dogs' rescue from Bad Newz Kennels. Grace follows several dogs from the case who've earned impressive accolades. Photo: Mark Rogers Photography

In other big news, one of the oldest dogs from the same case - Georgia - recently went home to a new family. She's been living at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary since arriving in Utah in late 2007.

She was one of our favorites so of course we're thrilled. Right: Georgia kissing Tim Racer during her evaluations with that tell-tale hanging tongue slurp that comes from having lost most of her teeth. She is a true character and impressed us with her warmth and strong sense of self. We hope she enjoys a happy and peaceful retirement living the good life.

News from Best Friends.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Repeal the Hayden Law?

There has been quite a bit of talk lately about California Governor Jerry Brown’s intention to repeal significant portions of the Hayden Law in order to save the state approximately $23 million per year to provide funding to local shelters. If you haven’t heard about this, a little background would probably be helpful.

The Hayden Law was enacted in 1998 and, among other things, requires local shelters to increase the holding period of unclaimed animals – dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, potbellied pigs, birds, lizards, snakes, turtles, and tortoises – for 4-6 days (rather than the then 3-day requirement) before the animal became the property of the shelter. It also requires these agencies to provide prompt and necessary vet care, nutrition, and shelter. Shelters must also post lost and found lists to help owners reunite with their pets. And, shelters – public and private – must keep records for 3 years on all animals it cares for, giving the dates the animal was held, the names of personnel who were involved, a description of any medical treatment, and the dates and circumstances of the animal’s final disposition.

The State determined that, in cases where the animal was ultimately euthanized by the shelter, the shelters’ cost to care for animals for an additional 1-3 days was a state-reimbursable mandate. For animals who were adopted or reunited with their owners, the cost was not a state-reimbursable mandate because owner-paid fees would offset the additional costs. According to the Department of Finance, these costs have been costing California $23 million a year, and Governor Brown now wants to repeal these mandates.

On the one hand, the state-reimbursable mandates provide horribly wrong incentives. It turns out that the shelters receiving the most State money are not the ones most successful at promoting adoptions. The shelters receiving the most State money, ironically, are the ones euthanizing the most animals.

But, right now, local agencies aren’t receiving any reimbursement because former Governor Schwarzenegger suspended the these mandates in 2009. So, why the push for a full repeal right now when the State isn’t losing any money over it? If Governor Brown gets his wish and repeals the state-reimbursable portions of Hayden, what would the law look like?

  • Shelters would no longer be required to provide animals with necessary and prompt veterinary care.
  • Shelters would be required to hold a stray dog or cat for 72 hours from the time of capture. The 72 hours does not have to include any days when the shelter is actually open.
  • After the 72 hour hold, shelters would not be required to make that cat or dog available for owner redemption or adoption.
  • This 72 hour hold would not be mandated for rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, potbellied pigs, birds, lizards, snakes, turtles, and tortoises.
  • Any shelter that contracts to perform public animal control services would no longer be required to maintain a “lost and found” list.
  • No shelter would have to maintain any records about the intake of animals, any medical treatment given, any circumstances surrounding their care, or their final disposition.

Of course, supporters of the law say that repeal of these provisions doesn’t necessarily mean that shelters will change to meet the only minimum state standards. Local shelters can continue to comply with the Hayden provisions without reimbursement from the State. But, will they? I remember in 2004 when the first lawsuit was filed alleging numerous violations of the Hayden Law against Kern County. The case went to trial, and two years later, Kern County lost. Without the law, Kern County would have continued to violate the Hayden Law.

So, considering that the state-mandated reimbursements have been, and is currently, suspended, there is no a strong fiscal argument for a full repeal. And, the idea of supporting a full repeal without any comparable alternatives for our homeless animals is inhumane.

Please, take a minute to do one or all of the following:

CALL Governor Brown at (916) 445-2841 (9 am to 5 pm)

FAX your letter of opposition to (916) 558-3177

EMAIL him (choose BUDGET as subject).

POST to his Facebook page

CONTACT him through his Twitter page

SIGN the petition.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Olive, interrupted. When a shelter's mission loses sight of its dogs.

This is Olive.

She has a bit of a story to tell: In August 2010, she entered a Southern California shelter as a stray with puncture wounds on the back of her thigh. We're assuming a dog grabbed her from behind when she was out on the streets, most likely as she was trying to get away from those teeth. It's anybody's guess what happened to her, but her shelter intake notes tell us that she was quite shaken when she arrived. Four days later, she stared pointedly at a dog during her evaluation. She stiffened, gruffed and threatened, "Back off, or else." Based on that reaction and her general discomfort around dogs, her evaluator determined that she was dog aggressive.

Because this shelter embraces a no-kill mission, she was set to live out her life in the kennels until she could be adopted. Because she was labeled as dog aggressive, it was going to be a long looong wait.

As far as we can tell, there was no game plan for socializing Olive to other dogs once she flunked that part of her evaluation. There would be no training classes, play sessions, group walks, off site visits or quiet time next to quiet dogs. A note on her intake form revealed that Olive was sensitive and flinched at loud noises. She was kenneled in the middle of the usual shelter chaos, with clanging kennel doors and barking dogs on either side of her and across from her. A half wall separated her from her neighbors, just tall enough so she could argue with them if she jumped - or, if the other dog jumped up to argue with her.

Olive was isolated in a secluded location in the back of the shelter. Because of her presumed behavior with dogs, no one was allowed to take her out without special permission. Her only daily exercise was a quick 15 minute visit to a small side yard. As the months wore on, she would flatten herself to the ground as she was moved from the kennel to the yard, shrinking from the barking along her path. She was shut down and would not return her handler's affection, but she would roll over for belly rubs. She would ignore the toys they offered her. She would then slink back to her sterile kennel and wait another 23 and three quarter hours to go outside again.

She didn't attend adoption events, and families that spotted her photo on the shelter's website were warned away because of her initial evaluation. During these months in isolation, she was only able to interact regularly with three people. She had no toys or bedding in her kennel, so she relieved her tedium by jumping up and down and barking at neighbor dogs, nearly tearing a ligament in her knee.

Olive's shelter file lacks any notes on behavior and training efforts, but is thick with info about vets visits. It seems her health suffered during her internment. She developed a rash on her belly and an infection on her vulva from sitting on a urine soaked floor. Her toes became swollen. Her eyes were constantly running. She battled multiple ear infections. She was treated for these issues and received pain meds for the knee tear. She was spayed and microchipped. The vet was alerted in big bold type to be aware that she was 'DOG AGGRESSIVE USE CAUTION.'

After nearly two years in this situation, the shelter's board started wondering what to do about Olive and five other dogs who were in the same boat. A solution was found: As part of their mission she could not be euthanized, but she could be moved to a place that would kennel her for life. A 'no-kill sanctuary' was identified just outside of Houston, Texas. For a sizable down payment plus eighty dollars a month, Olive would live in a dirt floor pen with a plywood doghouse, surrounded by similarly rejected and kenneled dogs. If she lived out her life expectancy, she would spend the next dozen or more years inside this pen. She would never leave it for training, exercise, walks, new adventures, socialization, or adoption events - but because she was still alive, the arrangement would fulfill the shelter's philosophy and monthly upkeep checks would be sent.

So long story short, Olive's five neighbor dogs were sent to Texas, but just before she was supposed to follow them, fate intervened and she ended up in our Rescue Barn.

She arrived here Jan 5th, so is three weeks into unraveling from her ordeal over the last 18 months. We've been watching her melt off stress like a snowman in July. She was initially guarded when she arrived and flinched easily. She stared our dogs down as if waiting for them to launch (they didn't of course). She ran her first zoomies in months, then tail tucked and darted away from some unseen danger. She fluctuated between being ridiculously happy and stiff and wide-eyed worried, as if waiting for the other shoe to drop. She was essentially acting like a crisis survivor with post traumatic stress disorder.

Dogs are better at letting go than we are though, and with a little support, we can help speed up the process. Within days, after a lot of sleep and some time taking stock of her new surroundings, she started greeting the on-site dogs with wags and friendly interest. Instead of loud barking, she listens to jazz on the radio, visitors' voices and the whirl of a washer/dryer now. She sleeps on a chair in her kennel fluffed with blankets. She nibbles on fresh grass. She tosses toys in the air and sparkles for her new human friends. She watches the sun rise through the barn window and as the day opens up, she peers out on the dogs' morning play sessions.

After proper intros, her first full contact (on leash) dog greet was with Elliot. She danced and wagged for his attention. She nosed small dog Blink through her kennel and softened. When she met new boy Clive through her kennel, she acted like a love sick school girl. "Squee! He's so sexy. He smells so good. I want to meet him!" A week after Clive was neutered, they had their first play date. A few days after that, she had her first play session with Blink. She hasn't been able to stop smiling.

Her play style is clumsy and awkward, but in true dog fashion, the others have been showing her the ropes. "This is how you play bow." "This is how I tell you that I want you to take it down a notch." "This is what the chase game is!" Because it's likely that Olive wrestled with her siblings when she was a pup, she remembers.

Olive's life was put on hold when she entered the SoCA shelter. Instead of finding comfort and opportunities to succeed with other dogs, she was asked to endure a very lonely, highly stressful existence that very well could've destroyed her mind. Our team is treating her as if she were from a cruelty case right now, since her initial behavior matches what we've seen coming out of these cases. Not unlike victims of hoarding and dog fighting operations, dogs from longterm kenneling situations can initially act unsettled, fearful, hyper-sensitive and undersocialized after lengthy exposure to noise and to other stressed dogs, especially with no chance to develop or practice normal relationships with dogs or people.

On a positive note, Olive loves to play and the happier she is, the more well grounded she seems to get. Whether she can get caught up with enough life skills to enjoy the bigger world is still an unknown, but we're hopeful. For now, we're just asking her to decompress and learn how to be a dog again.

The Five Freedoms

Progressive shelters follow the 'Five Freedoms' as a basis for humane care of their animals. It was originally drafted in Britain way back in the 1960's as a best practices guideline for housing farm animals. Zoos refer to it as a guidepost for their operations, as well. The Center for Shelter Dogs promotes the Five Freedoms and explains that understanding a dogs' basic needs "will enable shelter staff and organizations to not only manage the (dogs') stress, but all to improve their welfare by addressing their needs."

Five Freedoms for Captive and Kenneled Animals

1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor.

2. Freedom from Discomfort – by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.

3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.

4. Freedom to Express Normal Behavior – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind.

5. Freedom from Fear and Distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
Freedom to enjoy the company of an animal's own kind gets skipped in most busy shelters. Dogs are highly social creatures who've evolved as a species to depend on relationship for their very survival, not only with other dogs, but with humans. (Recent science tells us that their domestication started as long as 33,ooo years ago. Link) It's not surprising that behaviors will degrade when they're denied opportunities to socialize.

We need animal shelters, even though they really are one of the most unnatural places any dog can find herself. The constant stress and isolation can spiral any dog into anti-social behaviors, especially if the dog came from a bad start. Instead of blaming the dog (or the breed!), it becomes the obligation of animal welfare workers - especially those who profess to be no-kill - to work to meet all of their shelter dogs' many needs and to acknowledge when an environment is doing more harm than good. It's a challenge, for sure - This work takes an incredible amount of time, human resources and regular soul-searching reality checks. But simply kenneling dogs to keep them alive "no matter what" betrays the very mission of providing compassionate solutions to dogs-in-crisis in the first place.

Following up: The shelter that housed Olive is said to be reviewing their policies regarding their care of undersocialized dogs, and we support them in this endeavor. We hope Olive made a difference in some small way. Whether they decide to send more dogs just like her to the Texas sanctuary for a lifetime sentence is an unknown.

Meet Olive in this video, enjoying the tail end of her first play session with 'Blink.' Please wish her well. She's come a long way, and we'd love to see her go the distance.

UPDATE: Video below of Olive's first play session in a group, filmed in March 2012. And news. Olive has found a home. She's now living with a male elderbull named Zoolander and cats and a couple who are thrilled to have her in their lives. We are over the moon.

Unfortunately, the shelter where she came from continues to send dogs in their care just like Olive to the Texas sanctuary (Smiling Dog Farms). The public is not allowed to view the dogs that live there, so the conditions that they endure are an unknown.

And a VIDEO - Lessons from Olive - . that outlines the steps we took to help her learn how to be a dog again. Thanks to all who cheered her on from your corners.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cabin Fever: What your (Unexpected Pit Bull) Calendar bought!

With so many dogs in need, we learned long ago that a rescue-only focus was going to bury us quick and burn us out even faster. So our 'teach a man to fish' philosophy was born: As much and as often as we can, we share what we know with animal care professionals around the country in conference presentations, workshops, articles, mentorships and internships that we call Pit Ed Camp.

The work intensive jam sessions of 'Camp' have been especially gratifying because they give shelter staffers hands-on opportunities to work on learning projects that matter: Everything from exercises to keep kenneled dogs content and well socialized, to setting up dog play dates, to running a public training class and a spay/neuter outreach event in low income neighborhoods. Then the real fun happens - After our guests go home, we get to watch them implement lasting change in their home shelters as a result of what they learned.

Budget Challenges

With shrinking animal control budgets, covering the travel/housing costs of internships can be the biggest obstacle to seeding progressive bay area practices in other cities. In 2011, we were honored to receive a grant from PetSmart Charities to bring shelter workers here via a partnership with Best Friends Animal Society for a busy four days of instruction. But the cost to house them ate up a big chunk of the budget (over 10K) - money that could've gone to other pressing needs - like, providing more free spay/neuters for low income neighborhoods.

Enter the Unexpected Pit Bull Calendar. This generous group of dog loving photographers from organization HeARTs Speak pour their hearts into incredible calendar photos and then give 100% of the profits away to rescue groups. One hundred percent of proceeds donated!

Last year, the UPBC helped us build an addition on our Rescue Barn, which gave us laundry and allowed us to save the lives of some very special dogs including Star.

In the new year, their generosity continues. Thanks to the UPBC's vision, we've been able to buy ... drumroll please ... on-site accommodations for interns in the form of this small guest cabin! How fabulous is that? The cabin will make Pit Ed Camp more affordable and will also allow us to welcome out-of-area adopters and other special visitors. Look how cute this thing is! It will live right next to the Rescue Barn so - of course - the foster dogs will also get a chance to try out real world house skills with visiting guests. Would we have it any other way?

We're thrilled, delighted and downright giddy about the chance to continue this important work and help other communities get the info they need to help their dogs back home. Thank you Unexpected Pit Bull Calendar!

A note about internships: Although the cabin won't be here until after our winter rains end, we're happy to hear from shelter workers and rescue groups who hope to gain experience in favorite methods and polices practiced by BADRAP and our community partners. One of our criteria is that attendees have the authority and their supervisors' blessings to make changes in their shelters based on what they learn in camp. If you have interest, please let us know so we can alert you to dates in 2012.