Saturday, December 31, 2011
Hey, it's almost 2012, which means Doc is 9 years old, give or take. Can hardly believe it. That means that I've finally had him living with me for more than half of his life ... getting a dog like Doc, who was passed around a bunch before he finally came to live with me, is sort of an odd and humbling experience. You realize the dog has lived through a lot of things that, if he were human, might have broken him. Homelessness, living on a chain, learning to negotiate new relationships, learning new languages, abandonment ... and yet he's as unflappable as ever. A little scarred, but not disfigured. Cautious at times, but not untrusting. Kind of amazing, really. I should resolve to be more like Doc for the new year.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
This past weekend, the AKC held its national championship practically in our backyard. The Orange County Convention Center in Orlando was converted, temporarily, into a massive dog show – conformation events, dock diving, obedience, agility, vendors, demos, a huge RV camping/parking area where serious travelers could camp out for the weekend. I've been to plenty of smaller dog shows – regional UKC and AKC shows, ADBA shows, AADR shows – but nothing quite as massive as this one.
I'm a pit bull person, and since the AKC doesn't recognize the American pit bull terrier as a breed, I immediately went looking for the closest thing the AKC does recognize: the American Staffordshire terriers and the Staffordshire bull terriers. There was no booth for Amstaffs in the (huge) showcase of breeds, but we quickly found the SBTCA booth and met this cool little guy:
We also got to see some salukis lounging ...
Setters wandering the halls ...
The last dog in the video above is the adorable and sweet and super-sleek Mr. Peabody, owned by Emily Sieger. I've been acquainted with emily via internet forums and blogs and whatnot for a while, and I finally got a chance to meet her and her lovely dogs, Lulu and Mr. P, in person.
Here's a nice shot of Mr. P:
You heard me, Doc. No more laying around in the sun. Time to get back to work.
Monday, December 19, 2011
One of the dogs from the Michael Vick case, Leo, has died. Leo, who was taken in by pit bull rescue/education group Our Pack in California, worked as a therapy dog for cancer patients.
According to Our Pack's posting on Facebook, Leo suffered from a seizure disorder.
Rest in peace, Leo. You made a lot of people happy.
Monday, December 12, 2011
I love getting fun pit bull-related mail!
Just got these great bumper stickers from My Pit Bull is Family to post all over the place! The goal of the organization is to end breed-specific housing and insurance discrimination. An issue near and dear to my heart, as some people might remember from posts I made last year when I was planning our move to Florida. Since so few (and quite possibly, no) national companies are writing new policies for homeowners insurance in this state, it's notoriously difficult to find an insurance company here that will write you a homeowners or renters policy if you have pit bulls, Rottweilers or other breeds that are often blacklisted by insurers.
You can get policies from smaller companies that will exclude your dogs, and I've heard tell of a few people managing to get coverage through some companies I'd never heard of (or through companies that insure you if you fall into a specific category – veterans orgs or insurance through AARP), but the choices down here are exceedingly spare – moreso than in places where you can get State Farm or Farmers or Nationwide or so forth. (Though recently, I'd heard through the grapevine that some State Farm reps are giving people some difficulty about their dogs ... sigh).
If this is an issue that concerns you (and if you own a pit bull, Rottweiler, German shepherd, Doberman pinscher, Alaskan malamute, Great Dane, chow chow or any of the other breeds that seem to be increasingly blacklisted by insurers), you should go check out mypitbullisfamily.com.
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
I was watching the local news channel the other day, and they did a segment on an organization that appears to be based in the Tampa-St. Pete area called Pit Bulls 4 Patriots. The organization got its start pairing shelter pit bulls with veterans suffering from PTSD and helping train the dogs to become assistance animals for their human partners. The dogs and training are available completely free of charge to the participating veterans, who are expected to take part in training the dogs.
Here's a cool video from the P4P Youtube channel, showing some of the training in progress – a group of handlers and their assistance-dogs-in-training working in a shopping mall. I love this.
I have no idea whether the organization has any presence in Orlando yet, but I thought they might since they were featured on our local news, so I sent them an email to see whether there's any way I could get involved. Such a cool idea for a program – and a great way to get suitable dogs out of the shelter and into situations where they can be put to work doing something they can excel at.
There are no rules in this house, Tucker. Just go ahead and put your chin on the table. Maybe help yourself to something you like up there.
Tonight the boys got a package full of gifts in the mail ... early Christmas! Tucker was more interested in the edibles I put up on the table. Doc and Button, meanwhile, obsessed over things to chew on and tug with and chase.
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
Looks like Cumberland County decided last night not to solve its pit bull problem by preventing people from adopting pit bulls, chows and Rottweilers. Sounds like good news, but hopefully the stricter adoption rules they come up with for dogs of all breeds are sensible and well-thought. And hopefully they'll come up with a better way of punishing the people who own the 89 dogs that allegedly attacked people in the community in the past five months, according to the video below. That'a a lot of dog attacks, and I'm thinking this isn't a sheltering problem but an effective animal-control problem.
Monday, December 05, 2011
Just found this TV news piece on the Cumberland County, N.C. proposal to stop adoptions of pit bulls from its shelter. It was fantastic to hear them say "the shelter just needs to do a better job of screening people who are adopting." I agree wholeheartedly.
So over the time I've written this blog, I've mentioned multiple times that I don't think that shelters should just send any and every dog to the first home that comes along. Some dogs need more screening than others, and I just don't think it's in the interest of the dog to see it set up to fail by sending it to an inappropriate home. High-energy dogs that need exercise probably shouldn't go to homes with people who prefer a sedentary lifestyle. Dogs that are frightened by children shouldn't go to homes with people who have lots of small kids coming and going all the time. No dog should go to a home where it's forbidden by a landlord to have it on the premises. Every adopter should get some basic information on properly introducing a new dog to the home and ideally, a bit of breed education as well. Some breeds are notoriously prey driven, others protective, some difficult with other animals. Some dogs will exhibit common breed traits to a T; others not at all. But it makes sense to make a potential adopter aware of what they're adopting. Common sense, I think.
But instead of doing what they should do for dogs, some shelters prefer to take the easy way. Just don't adopt out any dogs of certain breeds at all. Too much alleged liability, they say. Too much work is probably more like it, since we know that so many shelters adopt out dogs of any and all breeds and they make it work without putting the public in harm's way. How? Proper screening probably plays a role in it.
The Animal Control Board in Cumberland County, North Carolina wants to take the easy way out. They want to ban the adoption of certain breeds of dog completely. And not just the usual breeds – pit bulls, Amstaffs, American bulldogs – either. They're proposing banning the adoption of any pit bull, Rottweiler, chow-chow, Presa canario or mix of those breeds. If any dogs deemed to be one of those breeds comes through the doors, they want to have the dog euthanized if it's not claimed in 72 hours. Dogs of those breeds returned to the shelter would be put down immediately. No second chances, no matter how nice or adoptable the dog.
"We're looking at a list of animals used as attack animals," County Commissioner Charles Evans is quoted as saying in the Fayettville Observer. He goes on to say that an inordinate number of complaints about pit bulls comes in to Animal Control each day. My guess is that most of those dogs aren't dogs adopted out by shelters using smart screening for good homes looking for pet dogs and equipped to handle the animal they're being given. They're probably being purchased from Craigslist or a breeder listing dogs on hoobly.com or some other such indiscriminate source.
So how does killing all the good dogs that land in shelters through no fault of their own solve the problem of too many complaints about pit bulls coming through to Animal Control? I'm guessing it won't. Many shelters that used to refuse to adopt out pit bulls have actually reversed their policies and are, at the very least, releasing some of the most adoptable pit bulls to rescues ... if not just improving their placement policies and adopting the dogs out for themselves. They've managed to create safe, smart adoption programs in some of the most challenging urban environments in the nation – Oakland, Calif., Baltimore, Md., Washington, D.C. – and rescued pit bull dogs aren't causing problems in those cities any more than they were before shelters started sending them to properly screened homes. So Cumberland County, North Carolina can't find a way to improve its practices and adopt some of these dogs out responsibly? I think that's a lot of nonsense and excuses. And laziness. And pretty backward if you look at where sheltering trends have been going lately.
This one's still in the proposal phase, so there's time to work with Cumberland County on a more reasonable solution than "kill 'em all." Maybe someone who's got experience with a safe, responsible pit bull placement program at a local shelter could pass on some tips.
Saturday, December 03, 2011
|Button likes it when the windows are open, thank you very much.|
If we were doing this in Wentzville, Mo., we'd be breaking the law right now, because breed-specific laws currently on the books there prohibit pit bull owners from having their windows open or allowing their dogs free access to fenced yards. Instead, if your dog is a pit bull, it's supposed to be confined to your closed-up house; when outdoors, it's supposed to be kept in a securely locked kennel or on a leash with a muzzle – even on your own property or in your fenced backyard.
Don't believe me? Here's a recent news story about someone whose mixed-breed dogs have recently been targeted by officials because she wasn't following the rules.
Fortunately, the city is considering altering its breed-specific restrictions ... hopefully in favor of smarter laws that target irresponsible ownership practices rather than breed of dog. On Dec. 7, the city is holding a work session to discuss the law, and a group of pit bull owners in the Wentzville area are circulating petitions to present to the city showing support for elimination of breed-specific laws. You can sign an online petition, if you're interested in showing your support, by clicking the link below. Local signatures are, of course, most important and relevant to city officials, so if you're living in or near Wentzville, Mo., please sign and ask any friends or family living in the area to sign as well.
Even if you don't own a pit bull, breed-specific laws don't make communities safer – they're a placebo designed to make people think they are safer from dangerous dogs, even though breed-specific laws fail to protect the public from the people who create the dangerous-dog problems communities face. People who don't care how their actions affect others aren't going to be bothered doing the right thing if they have a truly dangerous dog of any breed ... and they're the ones laws need to target. And remember, even when communities restrict ownership of a particular breed, making it too hard for idiots to own those particular dogs, the idiots can always go out and find a new breed of dog to cause trouble with. Breeds that aren't covered by the limited interests of breed-specific laws.
Anyway, sign the petition below and help the responsible pit bull owners of Wentzville make their voices heard. http://www.change.org/petitions/change-breed-specific-laws-in-wentzville-missouri