Lucky Enough.

I’ve been meaning to write a post for Pit Bull Awareness Month and today while cleaning out my inbox I found a picture that I’ve been searching for for months and I dare say, is quite fitting for the topic at hand.  Check it out:

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Recognize that face?  This is Maggie, about a week (and a week’s worth of meals) after she was found.  That thing hanging from around her neck is what she chewed through to free herself.  Look at her ribs.  Her sunken forehead.  Her posture.  The dark, sick rings around her eyes.  This picture makes me think of Gollum from Lord of the Rings.

Pit BullAnd look at her now.  Meat on her bones, a twinkle in her eye, and a big ole goofy grin on her face.  Quite the transformation, right?  Well, I want to let you all in on a little secret:  this is normal.  That’s not to say it’s “normal” to find severely abused dogs, but what is normal, is to see these kinds of transformations in dogs once they find themselves in loving homes–and that’s particularly true for Pit Bull type dogs.  It’s been said time and again that Pit Bulls are a particularly forgiving and resilient type of dog, heck, I said it yesterday when I talked about Gracie, but I thought sharing a little visual could only help to further my point.

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Even more important than the physical transformation though, is the emotional.  After being found, Maggie was initially in boarding, then a different foster home, then she finally landed in my care.  The first foster was wonderful, and absolutely loved Maggie, but she was so terrified by the man of the house that she would lose complete control of her bowels and refused to come inside if he was home; she would hide out in their yard until he left for work.  Realizing that this was not the best environment for her, I was asked to take over her foster care.  Of course I agreed, and the rest is history.

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Now, Maggie leaps into Rich’s arms when he gets home, plays like a lady at the park and daycare, welcomes new dogs in to our home, is all around confident, silly, and very happy.  She can still be unsure of strangers, but she is getting better with every day!  Just last weekend Rich took her to Home Depot where she proudly walked around her with beloved dad and even stopped to let strangers give her a pat on the head.  If you met Maggie a year ago, you would never believe she was capable of this.  I’ll admit, I wasn’t even sure she would ever get to this point!  But true to Pit Bull form, Maggie has proved me wrong and blossomed into (dare I say it out loud?) our most well-behaved, well-adjusted dog family member.

Pit Bull I see that this has turned into a “Isn’t-Maggie-Awesome” post and that wasn’t my intention!  I honestly can’t even pick one specific thing to discuss for Pit Bull Awareness month though.  There is the obvious point of this post: Pit Bulls are amazingly resilient and have stunning transformations should them come for a bad start.  But then there are also all the myths that should debunked.  Our friend did that here though.  Or the fact that they make fantastic family dogs.  Or how smart they are.  Or how cuddly and loving they are.  The list goes on and on.  I’ll leave you with one of my favorite lines:

“If you’re lucky enough to be owned by a Pit Bull, you’re lucky enough.”

Smile, It’s Friday!

IMG_3448Thank you so much to everyone that took the time to read my super long post on Wednesday, and especially to those of you that took the time to also write letters to the people listed.  Based on some of the responses from ABC6 staff that I’ve seen, I think at the very least we ruffled a few feathers.  So, Maggie and I thank you!

Calling All Anti-BSL Folks

I became aware of this situation from one of my favorite blogs, Run A Muck Ranch.  They became aware of this through an Anti-BSL blog and then wrote about it on their blog.  All credit goes to them, I am merely doing my best to spread the word too because in my opinion, it’s shit like this that is really holding us and our beloved “bully breeds” back.  So, what is this all about?  Please watch this video:

http://www.abc6.com/Category/178006/video?clipId=8959457&autostart=true

“Son of a b*tch.  Great.  Here’s yet another negative story about pit bulls.  Why did that woman have to send her dogs to attack a reporter?!  Way to perpetuate the stereotype lady!”  I’m not proud of myself, but that was my reaction immediately after watching the video.  I’m willing to bet not many people will admit it, but it was theirs too.  And if I hadn’t taken the time to read the rest of what RAMR had to say, I would have only seen exactly what the ABC6 crew wanted me to: an innocent white lady being attacked, unprovoked, by two vicious pit bulls owned by a black lady living in the ghetto.

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Just another “vicious” pit bull, hangin out.

Let’s watch the video again and analyze it this time.  First we have the introduction: the reporter wanted to ask a “simple question” to the mother of a recently shot teen.  Wait a second.  I didn’t even really catch that the first time around because all I could think about was the “pit bull attack” I was about to see.  Ok, so we have a grieving mother on our hands.  I am only mother to my fur children and I can’t even begin to fathom the state I would be in if someone had shot them.  I can’t begin to put words to what she must be feeling.

The video starts, not as they are initially walking up to interview the mother, Ms. Lawrence, but at an undeterminable time later.  How long had they been there?  What did they say to her before they edited the video into the version we are watching?  Were they the only crew there that day?  Unlikely, since remember, this is the mother of a recently shot teen girl and the alleged shooter had just turned himself in.  So the very first clip is of the mother throwing a rock.  Then it shows the reporter walking up to the house…then it shows the same clip of the mother throwing a rock again?  Note the two dogs, sitting peacefully on the steps.  The mother is shouting, “Get away from me!” then she goes to get a bat.

So at this point, the crew had been told, by a grieving mother nonetheless, to leave her alone who knows how many times.  She threw rocks.  She got a bat.  Still the reporter was going to get her answer!  And remember, she isn’t harassing the mother of a recently convicted sex offender, drug dealer, or murderer.  No, she is harassing the mother of a victim.  The woman herself is a victim!  But dammit, Abby Niezgoda, reporter extraordinaire, has a right to know how she is feeling, and get her question answered! Ooookay.  Moving on.

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So, after yelling to “get away”, throwing rocks, and getting a bat, the mother tells the dogs to attack.  (Note that the dogs were just standing around loose up until this point, showing zero signs of aggression.)  They jump on Niezgoda, barking, and following her as she shuffles runs down the street.  There is a voiceover and Niezgoda says, “They bit my forearm.”

Ok, reverse and watch the “attack” scene again.  The dogs come out, barking, and really just trotting along.  One of them does jump up on her, and maybe nips her forearm, but then they basically just follow her.  I don’t know about any of you but the very first thought in my mind is that if the dogs really wanted to attack her, she would have been  flat on the ground the second they made contact with her.  Second, I’ve been bit by dogs before and let me tell you, I bled like a stuck pig.  I didn’t see a drop of blood, did you?  Third, and probably the most ridiculous, is Niezgoda’s attempt to run away.  She’s not moving at more than an awkward trot with those ridiculous heels on!  You mean to tell me these vicious, unprovoked dogs couldn’t catch her?!  Puh-lease.  What I see are two dogs that are reluctantly following the commands of their owner.  I like how they show the clip of her “running” and them “chasing” her a couple more times too, just for good measure.

The video ends with the reporter making sure to tell us that Niezgoda was on public property the whole time, she had to get a tetanus shot!, and there is a warrant for Ms. Lawrence’s arrest.  A warrant for her arrest.  Do I wish that she hadn’t decided to sic her dogs on the reporter?  Absolutely!  Do I think she was thinking rationally?  No.  Can I even imagine what she is going through?  No way.  Can you?  It’s funny how Niezgoda is portrayed as the innocent victim in all this, with our sympathies guided in her direction.  No sympathy for the mother of a shot teen who was just harassed at her home when she should have been left alone to grieve.

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Look, the last thing I’m saying is that what Ms. Lawrence did was okay, and yes, I do think she perpetuated some stereotypes.  Our dogs should never be used as weapons.  It is our duty to protect them at all times and at all costs.  But again, I don’t think she was anywhere near a rational state of mind.  She was provoked, how much, we don’t even know.  I think there was a hell of a lot of editing going on to produce the video that we all just watched.  Who knows what else happened that we didn’t see?  And now she is going to get arrested?  Actions absolutely should have consequences, so how about Niezgoda getting arrested too for harassment?  I think we all know that isn’t going to happen.

And what is going to happen to the dogs?  I shudder to think of the possibilities.  So, here is what I think needs to happen.

1)  The dogs in the story are the ultimate victims.  They did not randomly attack Niezgoda.  They chased her down after their owner told them to.  They also came as soon as she called them off.  I think we can all agree that these are not the actions of vicious, unprovoked dogs, and also that they do not pose any sort of threat.  If Niezgoda had left Lawrence alone, after who knows how many times she told her to, this never would have happened.  It might already be too late for these dogs, and if so, ABC and Niezgoda should be held accountable.  But it might not.  If you are in the Rhode Island area, or know someone that is, I implore you to try and contact Animal Control and speak up.  These dogs do not deserve to die over this, and should be returned to the Lawrence family who has already lost too much.

2) I think Niezgoda needs to hear from the masses that what she did was wrong.  Through who knows how much editing, Niezgoda and ABC painted an ugly picture.  They want us to believe that this is just another story of a vicious pit bull attack.  These stories need to stop!  Until the media begins to report incidents like this more accurately, our dogs are in danger.  We need to all stand up and let our voices be heard.  Yes, what Ms. Lawrence did was wrong, but what ABC did is even worse because they are endangering not just those two dogs, but all pit bulls with this kind of inaccurate, lopsided, prejudicial reporting.  So, let’s tell them what we think of their actions.  Below is a copy and pasted list from RAMR of various outlets to contact.  They are all public information so no worries there.

3)  Everyone, please, think before you act.  As the owners of “bully breeds” our actions are constantly in the spotlight.  One wrong move and you never know just how blown out of proportion it might become.  Let’s all try and take some time over the next few days to do something extra public and positive with our pit bulls.  Maybe a walk through a park.  Post a cute picture online.  Just something to show them in a good light so that we can hopefully counteract a little of the most recent damage to our breed.

Thanks for sticking with me through that incredibly long post.  Below are the list of contacts.  Go.  Now.

*This information was made available from public sources, and as outraged citizens, you are entitled to make your opinions known.  Freedom of speech, just like freedom of the press, is guaranteed in the Constitution.  Your filling of Abbey Niezgoda’s inbox can’t be any more wrong than her refusing to leave a grieving mother alone who asked her to leave.   Unlike Ms. Lawrence, who never expected to be attacked by the press, public figures such as Abbey Niezgoda should expect people to express their opinions of her freely.

https://www.facebook.com/abbeytv

Twitter:  @abbeyniezgoda

e-mail: aniezgoda@abc6.com.

Please contact the ABC6 Executive Team and tell them that Abbey Niezgoda’s self-serving, unethical and despicable behavior should cost her her job.

Chris Tzianabos

Vice President/General Manager

ctzianabos@abc6.com

401-453-8000

Michael Troiano

General Sales Manager

mtroiano@abc6.com

401-453-8024

Beth Ulicnik

MultiChannel Manager

bulicnik@abc6.com

Web/RINC/Digital

401-453-8021

John Methia

Director of Broadcast Operations & Engineering

jmethia@abc6.com

401-453-8058

Robert Rockstroh

News Director

brockstroh@abc6.com

401-453-8036

Cindy Walsh

National Sales Manager

cwalsh@abc6.com

401-453-8026

Judy Shoemaker

Promotion Manager

jshoemaker@abc6.com

401-453-8158

Anne Marie Menard

Business Manager

amenard@abc6.com

401-453-8008

Contact ABC and let them know of the unethical means in which one of its affiliates creates news. (sorry, these are form contacts, but your voice is worth the effort)

http://abc.go.com/site/contact-us?nord=1

http://abcnews.go.com/Site/page?id=3271346&cat=ABCNews.com

If you are local to the Providence, Rhode Island area, contact the sponsors of ABC6 News and tell them you have a problem with a news station that tortures victims for a story, and ask that they pull their support until Abbey Niezgoda is fired, and ABC6 has issued a formal apology to Melissa Lawrence.

The Components of Love:

Recently a friend of mine told me that she had decided to respond with “rescued mutt” whenever she was asked what breed her dogs are.  They both really are the epitome of mutts (just like mine) and I love that she has vowed to do this.  I often respond the same way when asked but I have been making a conscious effort to also respond with just “rescued mutt” and nothing more.

Regal Reagan did a wonderful job supervising the pack.

Beautiful, loyal, serious Reagan, one of my friend’s mutts, and her proclaimed “soul mate”.

After yesterday’s post about BSL it got me to thinking: What if instead of even saying “mutt” we responded with something like “50% love and 50% goofiness”?  After all, if you were going to be judged, wouldn’t you want it to be on your character rather than appearance?  I don’t go around describing myself as “German/Dutch/unknown origins”, I describe myself as “an animal lover, gym rat, outdoorsy, book worm”.  I don’t call Rich “half Puerto Rican, half motley mix”, instead I call him a “smartass, comic book loving nerd”.  So why do we do this to our dogs, who we know are so much more than their genetic makeup?

Buddy

Buddy: 30% Hard-Headed, 40% Goofball, 20% Loyal, 5% Cuddly, 5% Grouchy, and 100% my best friend.

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Tag:  30% Grouchy, 55% Loving, 10% Jealous, 5% Goofball, and 100% the easiest dog I have ever owned.

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Maggie: 10% Stubborn, 30% Cautious, 30% Silly, 5% Bossy, 25% Loving, and 100% my proudest accomplishment.

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So I’m curious, how would YOU describe your dog if you could only use adjectives like this?  And no, you don’t need to be detailed as I was…though I could have gone even more in depth 😉  Do you think that is would be a good idea if we could get everyone to participate?  Because I love the idea!

{Legal Issue} BSL Around the World

It’s been a hot minute since we did the last Legal Issue post so I figured it was time to get back to business!  This topic is one that likely hits home with at least a few of us: BSL.  A reader asked what International Laws look like and if BSL exists in other places.

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 You all remember the Lennox case, right?  In short, Lennox was removed from his home in Ireland after officials determined he was a “pit bull type dog”.  His family fought legal battles for two years, all while he was deteriorating in horrible conditions, along with support from people literally all across the world to save him–he had done nothing wrong.  You might remember seeing pictures of pit bull type dogs with the words “I Am Lennox” –this was done as a show of support.  Ultimately the family lost and Lennox was euthanized.  Up until this point, I can honestly say that I hadn’t really paid any attention to international BSL issues, but this case brought it jarringly to my attention.

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Obviously this is a huge topic that could literally fill books, so I asked Rich to kind of give us a condensed version of his research.  Without further ado, here are some “fun” facts about International Laws surrounding BSL:

You may think that our country’s unfair view on certain breeds is so far from the norm that it wouldn’t be duplicated in other countries. While this is a nice thought, the United States is far from being the only country that allows breed specific legislation to be passed by its constituent states. In fact some other countries have gone so far to enact federal BSL that touches every border of the country, and it’s not just pit bulls that are affected by these laws.

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For example, the United Kingdom has a law that prohibits four types of dogs entirely from the country. These are the Pit Bull, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, and Fila Brasiliero breeds. The good news is that the area of Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom, is not affected by this ban. But the bad news is that Northern Ireland has enacted its own ban that includes these dogs (this is where the Lennox situation occurred). In addition to outright banning these breeds the UK law encourages voluntary microchipping of dogs and imposes severe penalties on owners of dogs that attack people (including prison time up to two years).

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Australia is another country that has a ban on these breeds. Additionally they also include the Perro de Presa Canario. For those that don’t know about these breeds that are banned, for the most part they look like Pit Bulls and Mastiffs, large dogs with defined muscles. Although the Tosa does not look like either type, it is apparently nicknamed the Japanese Fighting Dog. In Australia the importation of these breeds is banned, and any dog that was “grandfathered” in by being there prior to enactment of the ban, is required to be neutered, thus Australia is attempting to let the breed die out (completely die out!) in the country.

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Finally, a little closer to home the island nation of Puerto Rico has enacted a similar ban on these types of dogs (although it doesn’t appear that Tosas are included), banning the importation, sale, and breeding of these dogs. When this law was enacted it gave owners eight months to register the dogs that they already owned to “grandfather” them in. Additionally it looks like the legislators there saw the trouble that Miami-Dade had in court defending their ban on “pit bulls” as being too vague, and the Puerto Rican law defines Pit Bulls to include specific breeds, and cross breeds between them and other breeds. Also it gives a physical description of what the banned dogs look like.

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Unfortunately this is just a sampling of the breed specific legislation throughout the world, and there’s no end in sight. Venezuela has passed a law that will outlaw American Staffordshire Terrier and American Pit Bulls in 2014. This law was passed in 2010 and the delay in going into effect is probably due to the fact that it is an outright ban and there will be no “grandfathering” in.

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Rather depressing, isn’t it?  So what can we do?  First and foremost we can use our own dogs to show what great family members these “pit bulls” and other breeds really are; we can walk the walk.  We can also take the time to sign petitions against bans; we can ask our friends to sign these petitions as well.  We can write letters to legislators and intelligently and politely make a case for our family members.  We can get involved! 

The photos from this post are from the Pittie Party.  It was a wonderful event and if you are in the Tallahassee area and looking for helping throwing a charitable event you should seriously consider checking out my friends at Hire Wire Charitable Even Planning.  They rock; more pictures to come!  And a couple of the dogs featured in this post are available for adoption, so if you are in the market and one catches your eye, please get in touch with me!

 

Preaching to the Choir

Forgive me in advance if I am not able to completely tie together the two ideas that are bouncing around my head in a coherent way that anyone other than myself can actually follow and understand.

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The always adorable (and adoptable!) Nala.

If you read my post yesterday, you know it was about on vs. off-leash dogs and liability.  Bren from Pibbles & Me commented and basically said despite leash laws, she fears that if something ever happened and her dog (while appropriately leashed) bit a dog that was off-leash, she would still be held liable because of the fact that he dog is a “bully” breed and asked for my opinion on that.  My response was:  I absolutely understand and share your fear. I don’t know where you live, so this is a general response, but normally if there were a dog bite and the “victim” (owner of unleashed dog) pursued you, it would go to a judge and/or jury to determine liability. In a perfect world, since your dog was leashed and following the law, they would find no damages against you. In the imperfect world we live in, it’s scary to say, but I think it would just come down to the individuals. We unfortunately know the kind of prejudice that is out there regarding our beloved “bullies” and it’s entirely possible that some or all of the fault could be assigned to you. Obviously this is sh!tty and I only hope and pray none of us ever find ourselves in this situation. In the mean time, I think the best thing we can do is continue trying to raise awareness about how GOOD our “bullies” are in hopes that if ever we found ourselves in front of a jury, the jury would be comprised of fellow “bully” lovers!

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How sad is it that any dog owner ever has to harbor this fear?  This fear that their dog, because of nothing more than his appearance, will be discriminated against whether or not they actually do something wrong.  It’s rare, but I have on occasion taken Maggie to the dog park because I believe that socialization (though it’s normally done in a very structured manner) is important for her.  It didn’t matter what she was doing, I was guaranteed to get at least one dirty look while we were there.  Sure, she plays a little rough sometimes, but so do 95% of all the other dogs there.  The difference is, she has a big blocky head, with a mouth big enough fit a small car in, and ripped muscles.  She’s not fluffy and (to some) friendly looking so when she pounces on a dog, the same way that adorable Lab mix just did, some people assume she must going in for the kill.

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The ONLY acceptable way to wear fur: giving your pooch a much needed break from a long walk.

So how do we fix this?  In my opinion, we do what I said in my response to Bren and continue trying to raise positive awareness about “bully” breeds and do everything we can to show them in a positive light.  Why?  Because I don’t know of a better way to change  minds than this.  But here is my problem:  I feel like I am preaching to the choir.  I can’t be certain, but I am pretty sure that my followers are already “bully” lovers.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s awesome and certainly a community I am proud to be part of, but their minds don’t need to be changed.  I started Tallahassee WalkABulls (photos from our most recent walk throughout this post) to mainly help socialize dogs in a safe way, but also to show off “bully breeds” in a positive manner.  Sure, we occasionally turn a few heads, but for the most part we walk in rural areas and don’t really draw much attention to ourselves.  Plus, as you can see, some walks we have less “bullies” than anything else in attendance.  No complaints here though, I love me some mutts 🙂

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So I’m looking for suggestions.  How do we reach outside of our little circle and touch some people who’s minds really do need to be changed?  How do we preach beyond the choir?

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Look at Maggie! Happily letting a complete stranger walk her!

Requiring Insurance? Solving Problems! Part II

Before we begin tackling the great issues that so many of you have raised, we thought it best to wrap up the idea Rich proposed on requiring insurance here.  There were rather mixed reactions on the initial idea and I again just want to say that it is merely that: an idea.  And one that I personally think at least warrants discussion.  Whether or not anything ever comes of it, I think it never hurts to discuss new ideas, think outside the box, and open ourselves to progress; after all, we all have the same end goal: happy, healthy, properly cared for and managed dogs.  I for one am open to any idea that helps us get there!  So without further ado, I give you Rich.

Roads

 Hello again THPL followers!  In the first part of this post I discussed three potential benefits of requiring liability insurance to be carried on all dogs regardless of breed or history. In this part I will present a couple of more benefits.

 First, just as a refresher the basic structure of the system that I proposed consisted of requiring all dog owners to carry liability insurance policies on each dog that they own. The only requirements of the policies would be a certain threshold coverage amount (the Tennessee bill that inspired this idea has a minimum policy amount of $25,000 though that seems high in my opinion) and that in order to insure the dog it has to be microchipped with the owner’s information (and proof of insurance).

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 Now on to the additional benefits:

 First, since the microchipping is a required part of obtaining the insurance this would dramatically cut back on the amount of legitimately lost dogs in the shelters. Additionally, as each dog is microchipped and the owner’s information is readily accessible, people may be less willing to leave their dog in a shelter drop-box, or just release their dog when their use for it has ended. Many people would not do these things if they could not do so with anonymity. Additionally, we can remove the ability of these people to do so with impunity, by requiring them to keep the insurance premiums current on any dog of theirs that ends up at a shelter, either as a drop-off or a stray, until that dog is adopted and has a new policy taken out on it.

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 While this may be hard to enforce in practice, what can be done is that the owner will be unable to receive a refund on premiums that have already been paid for a dog that ends up in a shelter. The shelter south of town here gets in a lot of Hounds at a certain time of year. The reason for this, Morgan has told me, is that hunters will get the dogs to help them during hunting season, and then at the end of the season they find it cheaper to just release the dogs into the woods than to feed them and keep them until the following year. By requiring premiums to be paid for a year at a time (a lot of car insurance companies require, or at least offer a discount, that you pay premiums six months at a time), and only offering a refund if a vet puts down the dog due to natural causes and issues a certificate stating such, we can at least keep them from doing this with impunity. Additionally with the microchipping and database with owner records, we could potentially keep track of which owners allow their dogs to go to shelters, and do not retrieve them when contacted by the shelter. Reputable breeders and shelters can then use this information in running their adoption programs. Thus owners will no longer be able to just keep their dog through hunting season and then release them with impunity; we will be able to single them out as bad owners, and refuse to let them adopt!  This would obviously extend beyond the “bad” hunters that I have discussed; they are merely one example.

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 Finally, a benefit that many may see as being the biggest of them all: ending BSL! I know, it’s a lofty goal, but I think that even if this will not end it, it will definitely be a step in the right direction. I’m going to start my discussion on this point with a little economics, so please forgive me. Currently owning any dog comes with certain externalities, namely the danger that your dog, if not properly managed, can cause bodily harm and property damage to those around you. Owning a “dangerous” or “aggressive” dog increases this danger, and many people automatically lump some breeds into that category, regardless of the behavior of the individual dogs. While the tort system has been able to transfer some of this risk back to the owner, it is not perfect: many people are “judgment proof,” meaning that they do not have enough assets to be able to pay for injuries caused by their actions. When these judgment proof people own dogs, the risk of attack is borne completely by those around them. Requiring insurance coverage transfers the risk back to the person that is engaged in the risky activity, the dog-owner.

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 Now, I think it is fair to say that BSL is caused by emotion and fear. Fear that a specific breed is going to cause damage or harm and leave the victim paying the cost. By enacting BSL, or more specifically Breed Bans, the citizens of counties (or cities) are essentially saying that they are not willing to bear the burden of the risk of having these dogs in their borders. Requiring insurance transfers this monetary risk from the victim to the owner, the one that should bear the risk of engaging in the activity. While many will argue that you cannot put a price on a human life, or disfigurement caused by an especially gruesome attack, the incentives provided by insurance companies for responsible dog training and ownership should decrease both the frequency of attacks and the severity of the ones that do happen. Eventually voters may see that BSL is unnecessary and vote to end it, or fail to enact it in the first place.

 This ends my two part discussion on the benefits of requiring dog owners to carry liability insurance on their pets. I think that the benefits would far outweigh the added costs of ownership, what do you think?

Nala

 Don’t forget!  Leave your suggestion for a post in the comments now through Thursday and Morgan will donate 1 lb. of food to Last Hope Rescue!