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Fixing the Pit Bull Problem by Embracing the Breed

Fixing the Pit Bull Problem by Embracing the Breed

As more communities adopt breed specific legislation that ban or limit the number of pit bull dogs allowed, Berkeley California has embraced the breed.  Last year their empathy for the dog earned them an award of $474,200.

 

Maddie’s Fund awarded the Berkeley Alliance for Homeless Animals Coalition (BAHAC) with their Lifesaving Award and prize money for “saving all of the community’s healthy and treatable dogs and cats” – including pit bull dogs. 

 

BAHAC is made up of three area animal welfare groups: Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society, Berkeley Animal Care Services and Home At Last Rescue.  Together they achieved a No-Kill status (not euthanizing healthy and treatable shelter pets) for the city and have maintained it since 2002.

 

The homeless dog situation in Berkeley was pretty similar to most cities around the country.  On any given day 70% to 80% of the dogs in their shelters were pit bulls or pit bull mixes.  Sara Kersey of the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society said, “People remark on the number of pit bulls we have.  Our organization is committed to taking in what’s out there in our community, and what’s out there is pit bulls.”

 

If you are wondering how the city fixed their pit bull problem; the Coalition outlined their plan in a recent Maddie’s Fund newsletter.  There is nothing magical about their 5-Step Program.  It calls for a lot of dedication, education, hard work and a little public relations.

 

Step One: PR for the Pits

The first step is to give the public the real facts about the breed and dispel the myths.  Kersey said, “How you educate people is crucial, so it’s equally crucial that you first educate your staff and volunteers to do a good job talking about the dogs.  People have a lot of misconceptions, so all our staff is trained to know the right answers to give and the best way to introduce people to these great dogs.”

 

She also firmly believes the best PR are the dogs themselves. “What people love about pit bulls is what people love about dogs: they are soft with people, and they get their feelings hurt easily, but they’re wonderful clownish dogs that everyone really loves.”

 

Step Two: Train, Train, Train

This is where the really hard work comes in.  BAHAC spends a lot of time training and rehabilitating the dogs.  Most pit bulls that are abandoned or turned-in to animal shelters haven’t received much obedience training.  They are typically young big dogs, with lots of energy and no manners.  So BAHAC rolls up their sleeves and turns the dogs into model canine citizens.

 

They enlisted the help of the Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls (BAD RAP) to train the dogs.  The organization is a leader in the rescue and rehabilitation of pit bull breeds. 

 

Step Three: Gather Pit Bull Advocates

BAHAC extended their team beyond the help they got from BAD RAP.  They also recruited dedicated volunteers, pit bull advocates, dog trainers and people who really understand canines.  

 

Kersey said, “You have to find that group of core volunteers.  What we’ve done is take what we call our ‘red dot volunteers,’ the ones who can handle any dog in the shelter, and have them mentor and train other volunteers to do the same.  That way, we can spread our web out into the community.”

 

Step Four: Adoption

This step involves finding the best home for every dog.  BAHAC’s first rule is that each adopter must be more than 25 years-old.  They believe pit bull guardians need a certain level of maturity.  Then they do an interview to get a feel about the person’s lifestyle and expectations.  Pit bulls come in all sorts of personalities and energy levels.  Some are active while others are couch potatoes, so volunteers try their best to make a good match.  And finally the coalition makes a home visit.

 

Step Five: Follow-Up

BAHAC follows up with every guardian to provide “post-adoption” advice.  New families must also take a training class with their new dogs.  Just because their dogs have been through obedience training doesn’t mean they will keep their good behavior in their new homes.  Follow-up training takes adopters through the course so they learn everything their pit bull was taught.

 

Kersey says that by the time new families and their dogs complete the course, “They are ambassadors for the pit bull breeds.” 

 

 

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237 comments

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10:10AM PDT on Mar 30, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

6:02PM PDT on Mar 28, 2013

the owner is the problem, never the dog

7:14AM PST on Jan 4, 2012

Yes, pit- bull are great. I owned one and she is a sweetheart.

8:45AM PST on Jan 3, 2012

Pit Bulls are great dogs. They are as great as they grown up. Like Children.

7:18AM PST on Nov 8, 2011

I think this is a great start I love pitbulls.

12:50PM PDT on Nov 5, 2011

Pit Bulls can be great dogs, but if more people were responsible owners and understood they should NOT be with children, the fewer attacks would take place. Give me a break, the dog was bred specifically to KILL BULLS. They would grab them by the nose, cut off their air and bring them down. You can't change the DNA and ANY breed of dog will bite if given the right set of circumstances. Be responsible and REALISTIC! As a former breeder/trainer of horses/dogs, the breed is characteristically NOT one I would recommend small children be around. Use your HEADS! You don't bring a wolf into your family and expect it NOT to have instincts bred into them for millenium! I agree, it is NOT the dogs, but irresponsible humans that insist their dog will do no harm.........until he does. Why take the chance with your CHILDREN. I don't recommend Chows, Schipperkes and many other breeds for homes with small children. Some just DON"T have the temperment or breeding.

6:06PM PDT on Oct 30, 2011

Thanks for posting.

12:05PM PDT on Oct 29, 2011

Stop blaming the breeds - blame the irresponsible and/or ignorant owners and breeders.....

5:49PM PDT on Oct 9, 2011

In areas of the country that have pitbull problems (because of stupid owners) I think more ways of positively having people and their pits interacting with each other would help alot. Instead of thugs fighting their pits, have agility or other contests with prizes as incentives, to encourage people to have well trained dogs as a mark of pride, instead of a body count.

5:56AM PDT on Oct 8, 2011

My mate & I own 2 pit bulls, both rescued.

I am 60 & have owned many breeds, but will not own anything but a pit bull now. Such sweet dogs!! They are great with my grandchildren and have no reason to believe the will be any different with my great-grandchild who will be here in February.

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