Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pit Bulls: Another Side to the Story

Not long ago, a friend of mine met a woman walking her young pit bull and stopped to talk. Dog was wearing a prong collar. Friend asked if that wasn’t cruel. Woman replied it was “normal” for pits.....

That, in a nutshell, says volumes about why most pit bulls get a bad rap for being mean, vicious animals. A pronged collar normal?? I suppose she feeds him jalapeno peppers for dinner and a crushed kitten for dessert.

I am so very sick and tired of hearing that pit bulls should be banned, exterminated, wiped off the planet. I have been around dogs all my life; have worked with dogs for years at an animal shelter and I can count on one hand the ‘bad’ pits I came across.

On the other hand, the nastiest canine I ever met was a tiny Yorkie who bit every ankle he came in contact with. I despised that dog and that‘s a sad commentary coming from someone like me.

Yet, two of the sweetest I’ve ever known was a pit bull pup named Sam and an old lady named Dolly. Two extremely gentle dogs with different owners. That ought to tell you something right there.

Meaning, it is irresponsible people who take an innocent puppy and turn it into a ferocious and fearful animal. And though it is true that some dogs have aggressive tendencies, these traits are not breed specific.

I find it truly amazing that with millions of dog bites reported every year, it is the pit bull that usually makes the headlines. Their reputation is so tarnished by bad owners creating bad dogs that it should be a no-brainer where the fault lies.

The true culprit in this sorry mess is, was, and always will be, people who - through either ignorance or cruelty - have created a monster out of this much-maligned breed. Witness Michael Vick.

And let’s just go one step further and look at Michael Vick’s rehabilitated “fighters” that are now in the process of becoming loving pets. Because the fact of the matter is that any dog will bite under certain circumstances so it is narrow-minded prejudice that focuses solely on pit bulls and other large breeds.

Something I’ll never see, but wish with all my heart, is for the day to come when it will be the owners that require a license instead of the dog. Rather than breed-specific legislation, I’d love to see a law banning rotten owners.

A law that will never allow any dog to be given or sold to anyone who fails to live up to the lifetime responsibility and commitment of providing love, care, shelter and sustenance, training and socialization for one of the most fabulous creatures on this earth…and that includes pit bulls.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff...

After reading one of my columns regarding shelter adoptions, I received a message from a lady arguing about how “expensive and time-consuming” it has become to acquire a dog or cat from a humane organization vs. the hassle-free purchase of a pet through a commercial establishment.

Naturally, being the mouth that I am, I responded at great length and I’m going to share.

Where, oh where, does this person think shelters/rescue groups get much of their “inventory?” And why?

The majority of companion animals relinquished to humane societies once belonged to possibly well-intentioned, yet ultimately irresponsible, people - many of whom bought from pet stores.

They are those who couldn’t have cared less if their pets were spayed/neutered (thereby producing litter upon potentially-homeless litter); those who chained or penned the dog in the back yard or who let their cats roam free (instead of keeping them in the house where they belonged); those who moved and dumped the dog or canned the cat just like any other disposable item.

These are the heartbreaking conditions that shelter personnel face day after day and do not want to see reoccur. Heartbreaking because those animals that cannot be “re-placed” into responsible homes will most likely be euthanized.

Although some may think that it’s a royal pain in the butt to be “screened” before adopting a shelter/rescue animal, these rules are enforced to hopefully prevent the revolving door syndrome; to ensure to the best of the organization’s ability the adoption will be a lifetime success in that the pet will be forever loved and cared for.

Obviously, you can bypass the personal questions, sidle up to a pet store counter, and plunk that platinum down. And, to be honest, you may be offering that puppy or kitten the best home money can buy.

Yet the reality is that when no one is terribly concerned where that animal is going and when the almighty dollar is the bottom line, odds are that some of those dependent creatures are headed for misery.

Shelter employees are not in the business to make things difficult for potential adopters. In fact, they’re not in so-called business, period.

Money taken in through donations and adoption fees is funneled right back through the system, one designed to provide temporary safe haven for discarded pets while they patiently wait for that special someone to show up.

All my dogs have come from humane societies and I was more than willing to pass inspection, if you will, as it proved to me that shelter personnel were not simply trying to clear their shelves for new stock.

Frankly, adopting an animal should not be an easy process. Dogs and cats are living, breathing entities that require - and deserve - a lifetime commitment.

So if any of you really think that shelters should ease up on personal questions that range from asking if you have a fenced yard to inquiring if you can afford all pet-related expenses, or that there shouldn‘t be a waiting period or follow-up visit, then I suggest you visit the euthanasia room just one time.

Believe me, if that doesn’t change your tune, the only pet you should have is a rock.