Monday, November 21, 2011

Our therapy dog workshop

On Saturday, nine Pit Bulls and their owners participated in Chako Pit Bull Rescue's therapy dog workshop in Sacramento. What an awesome group of dogs and handlers. Chako's very own Ozzie was one of the participants. We're so excited to see one of our rescued Pit Bulls taking the step toward becoming a certified therapy dog. Take a look at our photo album for more photos of our therapy dog workshops, and if you are interested in finding out about more Chako events, sign up for our Meetup!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Meet Henry: The Pit Bull pup who has gone through hell and still wags his tail happily

This is Henry. He came to Chako on September 26th after a kind couple found him wandering a parking lot in South Sacramento. A very large, oozing wound around his neck tells the tale of a collar (most likely) that was never removed as he outgrew it and ultimately embedded itself into his flesh. At some point, the collar probably broke, allowing Henry to break free.


Henry also has a serious case of what is likely demodectic mange, with probably secondary skin infections. His age is hard to estimate, given his condition, but his teeth are pearly white and brand new, so it's obvious he's still a pup.
Henry exists in agony. His skin is on fire. The gaping wound on his neck oozes constantly, and he shakes his head and paws at his face, giving a low, pathetic wail of a whine. Then, he passes out, asleep.

Right now, Henry is at the Missouri Flats veterinary clinic in Placerville, being cared for by Dr. Randy Robinson, a dog lover who has a soft spot for Pit Bulls. Chako is currently seeking donations to help us get Henry the care and treatment he needs (and his course of treatment will no doubt take months).

Visit Henry on YouTube to see his kind eyes and wiggling/waggling little body.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pit Bull Friendly Toys

We're often asked what kind of toys are good for enthusiastic chewers like most Pit Bulls, and we're including a list and brief review of some of the best toys out there for Pit Bulls. Keep in mind, of course, each dog is an individual, and some dogs might be more merciful to their toys than others, so not all Pit Bulls need the strongest, toughest chew toys out there.

But if you have one that does, here's a list! Remember, always supervise dogs with chew toys, and inspect the toy frequently. If you have a multi-dog household, make sure dogs are given their toys separately, away from each other, to avoid a fight.

Plush Toys
  1. Tuffie Toys are strong, reinforced plush toys. They are not indestructible, but they do come with toughness ratings that indicate their durability. We've found even those rated 8-10 usually only last an hour or so if left as a chew toy, but the more grabbable ones do make decent tug toys.
  2. Stuffingless toys make a great present for dogs that like to disembowl stuffies. While dogs still need to be properly supervised (as with any chew toy), the lack of stuffing yields a smaller mess and less chances of intestinal blockage (though of course dogs can still rip and swallow the fabric itself, which could lead to an expensive vet bill).
  3. Sherpa Toys with Chew Guard Technology last about fifteen minutes for determined chewers, but a bit longer for less serious plushie slayers.
Non-Plushie Toys
  1. Nylabone Galileo Bones come in different sizes. The Wolf size seems to work nicely for the average sized Pit Bull (40-60 pounds), but many dogs also like the Souper size. These last a few days to a few weeks for most dogs, and the edges wear down, allowing you to see when it's ready to be thrown out.
  2. GoughNuts are fantastic toys that even the most serious chewers usually can't put a dent in, and if they do, there's a color coded interior lining that lets you see when the rubber is compromised. These are expensive, but worth the price since you probably won't have to replace it for a while. Be careful, though. These are generally heavy toys, so you shouldn't throw one at your dog.
  3. Hurleys are another rubber-like toy that stand up fairly well to heavy chewers, though they aren't as durable as the GoughNuts and Galileo Bones. They last a few days to a few weeks for most Pit Bulls, but they are a staple around here. Dogs like the soft toys, they are easy to throw (and much lighter than the GoughNuts), and the company will replace one if your dog destroys it (but you have to pay shipping).
  4. Black or Blue Kongs are generally decent options for chewers, but many dogs can tear through a black kong (especially if they find the "trick," which is to start at the big hole and work the rubber until pieces break off). However, black kongs are stronger than red kongs, and they are easy to stuff with natural peanut butter or other goodies to keep your dog occupied. Blue kongs have the advantage of being radio opaque, meaning if your dog swallows a piece, it'll show up on an X-Ray. Kongs come in different sizes -- Large or X-Large generally works best for most Pit Bulls.
Want more great tips and information geared specifically for Pit Bull owners? Check out our Pit Bull Owner Guide.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Getting a dog and cat acclimated to one another

We've had lots of questions about how to acclimate a dog and to a cat, and we frequently refer people to a wonderful link on a great forum called Pit Bull Forum. It's just so much easier when someone else has taken the time to lay out all the information, complete with photos. We did get permission from the author (known as "Red") to post the information, and we're including a link back to the original post (which is a member-only area).

We employ a very similar method, including using firm verbal corrections if a dog shows aggression to a cat. We communicate firmly to our dogs that aggressive behavior toward the cat will not be tolerate while rewarding the appropriate behavior.  The original Pitbullforum post is linked at the end of the article. I highly recommend that you check it out, and if you still have questions about it, then email us!

Recently I have been reading of folks having difficulties with their dogs and cats. I had experiences like that with a few dogs and especially Tigger, now mine but came here as a foster dog. Tigger tried to kill my cat on the second day she was here. I do not do any interaction so soon, my husband left the laundry room open and the cat got in Tigger's face. The only thing that saved the cat was a furniture. Both me and my husband had trouble holding Tigger and we were on top of her. She was in lalaland, all she cared about was to get the cat.

So I thought of sharing my experience and what I did, for what is worth. It was about 9 months of work, it did not happen overnight and no mistakes. Maybe it can help someone and avoid a dog to end up kicked out of the house and a dead cat. This is especially for foster homes since we are responsible for the dog we take in and our own pets.

The first rule is to know the risks of bringing home an uknown dog. Your evaluation at the shelter, AC of whatever the dog comes from is only a little snapshot of the personality, habits and genetic of the dog. Once the dog is in a different environment all the "problems" show up, things might change. If the injury or even loss of a pet (it can happen) will buy the foster dog a ticket back to the pound or worse then don't foster. It is a risk, plain and simple, but good management and commitment can save troubles.

After the accident I kept Tigger totally away from the cat for about 2 months. She knew it was in the house but I did not allow her to see it. This is to try to take her mind off of it a bit and get to know the dog.

Then I started to show the cat to Tigger trough a baby gate and not knowing if she would jump it she was also on a lead. I had treats and solid hold of the lead.I was waiting for the moment she looked at me, to praise her. The first time it took 40 minutes for a quick look. Tigger knew no commands so before this I started teaching "watch me". I like positive training to teach commands but I am also not very positive when it comes to house rules. The cat is something the dogs here cannot touch and I enforce it. I don't get physical and hurt the dog but I make it clear that they cannot eat the cat. Tigger was "corrected" with voice and pulled back when she lunged at the cat.

When Tigger looked at me the first time she got her treat and the cat was put away. I started doing this every day. Tigger would see the cat for 5 minutes every day.The beginning was quite frustrating and things looked less than promising.There was lunging at open mouth, screaming and major fits. A strong and determined dog trying to do something can be an hassle. I kept insisting on it.

In the meantime I found out that she was very food motivated so I would do the "cat sessions" before a meal.

To one look a few more followed. After a few months the baby gate came down and I would have the cat loose and Tigger on lead and I would walk her around the house. By then she knew "watch me" and associated lunging at the cat with trouble while looking at me would bring treats and ball time.

I decreased the distance very slowly since she was still trying to see if there was a way she could get a hold of the cat. That meant taking a step back and work from distance.

Tigger also saw the cat when she was crated and treats were thrown to her when she laid down and ignored the cat, along with vocal praise.  When she finally stopped to lunge and pull toward the cat and I saw her focusing on me and the food I let her loose behind the baby gate and watched her, while the cat was on the other side of the gate. Tigger ignored the cat and walked away from the gate when asked.If she seemed too interested I would say "nah-ha" and she would step back and go lay down on her bed.This was around 5 or 6 months after she came here. Her body language in the cat's presence was starting to relax and she was able to play with her toys or chew on a bone behind the baby gate. With some experience we can read a dog before something happen and anticipate it and use postures to tell us what is going on.

Then Tigger was brought in the kitchen loose with the cat and me there, for 10 minutes or so each time. My husband was there also in case of problems.I had a bunch of treats and kept asking the dog to stay next to me. Each time she looked at the cat she was re directed with the voice and a treat was popped in her mouth.

Three months after that, Tigger was allowed to be loose in the living room and every room of the house with both me and the cat there.I would still offer treats and kept calling her to me but by then she wasn't showing dangerous interest in the cat.The cat was also relaxed around her.

At that point I felt that Tigger was ready to be with the cat without major problems so I increased the time they interacted.

This is how things are today, two years after the day she tried to kill my cat.Here she is asked to ignore the cat:

The same excercises were done with Jack who also try his best to get a hold of small animals. It is a year and one month that he has been here and it is about 2 months since he is allowed to be near the cat.

There are 4 dogs in this room and the cat is on the bed. Each one of them, except the little one, has prey drive and can't be trusted with any other small animal outside my house. If I leave the room the cat is not safe any more. I am very aware of it. One dog alone might not hurt the cat but with 3 of them it takes very little to get over excited, especially if the cat decides to move fast.

All this been said there is no guarantee that the dogs will never try to do something. Tigger will get any cat outside of the house, even mine. If my cat runs in the yard she will get it. Prey drive is something that cannot be eliminated on a dog. The rules only apply in my house and they are the result of months of work. I do not expect the dogs to "learn" not to be aggressive towards small animals but I do want them to follow some rules in my own house. Some dogs will never be able to be in the same room with a cat but I believe that many can get to that point, with the resident cat at least. forgetting that the way they behave inside the house is not going to affect their instincts. Outside the house it is fair game.

There is always a chance of accidents and someone can get hurt. My husband spent 4 days on IV and morphine for an infected cat bite. He had the cat in his arms and made the mistake to let him see Tigger, as he was walking outside. The cat remembered that same dog and bit my husband, trying to run for his life.

This is my experience and the way I approach foster dogs with high prey drive. It works for me, so far, granted I am willing to be patient and careful. It might not be the same with the next dog and there might be a serious accident. I am not telling anyone that it will work for you, but it is worth to give it a try at least. Mistakes can and will happen, to everyone. They teach us what we probably did not know how to manage. Sometime it is just bad luck so we have to be sure that we are ready to deal with things before we get ourselves and our own animals in trouble. And time, lots of time.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Heartguard Plus Lawsuit: Fired for Protecting Dogs or Disgruntled Employee?

Findlaw published an article today detailing a lawsuit against the manufacturer of Heartguard Plus that alleges the company fired her after she discovered "the company had intentionally utilized improper data analysis methods to ward off an FDA investigation."

She's not just any former employee, though. She's Dr. Kari Blaho-Owens, the former Global Head of Pharmacovigilance, which means she oversaw the collection and analysis of adverse reactions to drugs the company manufactured. Her lawsuit alleges that she discovered Heartguard Plus is not 100% effective, despite the company's claims otherwise, and that she was instructed to destroy documents that were relevant evidence in a class action lawsuit against the company.

Of course, her allegations are just that -- allegations. However, there are a few shady facts staining the company's reputation, including two FDA warning letters (one in 2007, available here). You can also read the earlier class action lawsuit against the company here.

Another article (scroll down) tells that when one dog contracted heartworm disease after being on Heartguard Plus, the company paid for the dog's treatment after investigating and finding that the owner's compliance with giving the preventative to her dog was substantial.

Monday, May 30, 2011

When a Cane Corso Becomes a Pit Bull: Tragedy in New York

The New York Daily News reported on Saturday May 28th about the tragic death of a Brooklyn boy mauled to death by the family's Pit Bull. On Sunday, it changed the headline and story, complete with a photo, to identify the dog as a Cane Corso. The headline, which originally read, "Brooklyn boy mauled to death inside his apartment by 'violent' pit bull, chaotic scene follows" was changed to, "Brooklyn boy mauled to death inside his apartment by 'violent' mastiff, chaotic scene follows." (We note the url still includes 'pit bull').

The original first sentence of the story read, "A 4-year-old boy died after he was savagely mauled by a pit bull inside his Brooklyn apartment Friday night, cops and witnesses said."

The revised first sentence now reads, "A 4-year-old boy left alone for a minute by his mother was killed when a family dog savagely mauled him as his two terrified brothers watched helplessly, cops and witnesses said." Not until the seventh paragraph does the story identify the dog as a Cane Corso.

This reporting demonstrates not only that the media is quick to report a dog mauling as being perpetrated by a Pit Bull, but that news organizations will report differently on the same story based solely on the breed of dog involved. If the reporter believes the dog to be a Pit Bull, Pit Bull is in the headline and the first sentence. If the dog is not a Pit Bull, the reporter won't mention the breed until several paragraphs into the story.

Unfortunately, knowing what breed was involved here doesn't help the boy, who has lost his life. Nor does this story demonstrate that Cane Corsos are inherently dangerous dogs. What this story demonstrates is that any breed of dog, in the wrong hands, can be dangerous. There is no doubt this dog demonstrated dangerous propensities before this incident, and the family chose to keep the dog in the home with several young children.

I would like to make a point here about a correlation the sensationalized news story seems to erroneously make. The story reports the "killer dog" reportedly killed the family's rabbit earlier, presumably as evidence that such an act proves a dog to be dangerous to people. Educated dog people know that not to be an accurate assumption. Dogs are prey-driven animals, as are cats (who frequently kill birds and rodents when left to roam). Each dog has different levels of prey drive, but many dogs chase cats, squirrels, rabbits and other small animals, and this instinct to chase and catch/kill small animals does not indicate a dog is a danger to humans.

Certainly a dog CAN be be both aggressive to small animals and to humans, or it can be aggressive to people and not animals, or vice versa. And it is true that SOME dogs may view small children crawling on the ground as prey. Some dogs, not all. Many dogs love kids of all ages at first sight and recognize them to be youngsters of the human variety. Other dogs are more unsure, some are downright frightened of young children and others view them as a potential toys or prey. At any rate, that particular behavior would have been obvious before the mauling if the parents were paying attention and, regardless, it is never a good idea to leave any dog, especially a large one, alone with children (but even small dogs have caused death and serious injuries to young children).

Whenever stories like this make the news, the factors are almost always the same and include a young child left unsupervised with a dog capable of causing him or her serious harm. Often, the family is uneducated about dog ownership and, more often than not, outright irresponsible about owning such dogs. Large dogs are popular as "guard dogs," and those who seek out guard dogs are usually looking for dogs that WILL bite someone (presumably to protect the family's home).

But dog owners should be aware that dogs with a low bite threshold (meaning it takes very little to make them bite a stranger) are also much more likely to bite harm a member of the family.

We don't really know much about what happened other than what the story reports (and this particular news agency hasn't given me much confidence about its dedication to accuracy. However, we do know another child has lost his life because of poor parental supervision.

No doubt, the Cane Corso enthusiasts are disheartened by this story. Is the Cane Corso the next breed to be misused and misbred by irresponsible people wanting a tough, aggressive guard dog? Let's hope not. Too many good dogs and great breeds have been devastated by these dangerous humans.

[Link to the story]

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dog Safety Tips for National Dog Bite Prevention Week

May 15-21 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, and in its honor, I'm giving away free tidbits of information to help you and your family interact safely with dogs.

Don't approach a strange dog unless you're willing to get bitten. When you see a loose dog on the street, you may feel the need to round the dog up and try to find its owner. Good for you! Just realize there are RISKS involved in doing so. The dog may be disoriented, frightened, and much more likely to bite in defense than it would had you encountered it at the park playing happily with its owner.

Obviously, not all strange dogs are going to bite. Many are perfectly happy to meet new people. Some will even happily jump into your car in glee at the prospect of going somewhere fun and exciting. But if you do try to play the hero to some lost canine soul, be careful about it. Try to entice the dog to come up to you rather than cornering it (though I did once corner a little dog running in traffic and snatched her up; I did so knowing full well that if I got bit, it would be my own darn fault).

Be mindful of the dog's body language. A fearful dog is much more likely to bite, and fear can manifest in different ways. Ears back, unusual panting, head bowed, shying away, cowering, hackles raised--these are potential signs a dog is anxious or fearful. Use caution!

Dr. Sophia Yin has a free poster for download on fearful dog body language.

Don't tolerate rude or challenging behavior from your dog. Your dog growls if you or your child goes near his bowl, so you learn to leave him alone. Well, guess what. Some day, your dog will have a snack, a toy, or something of value and you won't have your eyes on your child and the dog at all times. Child strays near dog. Child gets bitten. It might be your child or the neighbors or even an adult such as an unwary pet sitter.

Yielding to bad behavior encourages it. The dog growls. You back away. The dog's guarding behavior is reinforced so when someone doesn't properly heed the warning, the dog's only recourse is to yield or bite.

Please don't take this to mean you should storm right up to a dog that's growling to defend its food or toy. If you start with a puppy, make a habit of playing the "trade" game so the dog gets used to you and members of your family trading awesome goodies for whatever he or she has and then giving the original item right back. So, if the dog's eating, stroll casually up and drop in some fresh, warm chicken. If the dog has a toy, show him some steak and let him take it as you take the toy, then give the toy right back.

You can do this same technique with an older dog, and it works nine out of ten times. For that one time, you will need to seek professional help to work on the problem, but in no case should you ignore the behavior or yield to the dog's bad manners.

Supervise all children around dogs, both for the sake of the children and the dog. Kids often hurt dogs, and dogs can easily hurt children. Do both a favor and make sure each is safe from the other. If you can't supervise, contain one is a secure, safe area away from the other (be aware most child protective agencies will likely frown on you crating a child, though most children seem to think they make the best play pens).

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ohio, Here We Come!

I'm traveling to Ohio with Savvy, my Pit Bull service dog, for two screenings of the documentary Beyond the Myth, produced by Libby Sherrill. The getting here was tough. It involved a four hour flight from Sacramento to Atlanta--hich I learned on the flight over is the "busiest airport in the world." Oh, lucky me! To think I could've gone my entire life without discovering--much less experiencing--that.

Savvy's flight over was more miserable than my own. I got a coach class seat. Savvy, on the other hand, got to spend the four hours stuffed under a small seat, with me constantly readjusting him to avoid carts and feet crushing his toes or tail.

When the coast was clear, I'd let him stretch just a bit (but he couldn't block the aisle).

A pleasant surprise on the flight ended up being the passengers in the first class row in front of mine. Savvy was situated under a gentlemen's seat, and the man glanced back and down at Savvy, smiled, and asked, "Pit Bull or mix?" I said, "He's a purebred" to which the passenger asked, "Amstaff?"

Few people call a dog an Amstaff unless they know something about the breed, so with a pleasant nod, I said, "Yes," and he proceeds to whip out his cell phone and show me a photo of his two. I asked if he shows them (because of the "Amstaff" remark and the fact that the two dogs looked more like the show type). He said he used to, but it got to be too much.

A woman's voice next to him asks, "Is that Dawn?"

Huh? I wondered if suddenly I got famous and no one told me! She peeks around and says, "It is you! We have Clyde and Zsu Zsu!"

Oh my goodness! Now it all comes back to me, and I recognize both of them. I know them, they've been to my house. What a small world! So, I got to spend some time chatting with fellow Amstaff lovers!

We had a changeover flight in Atlanta, as I mentioned, which would take us to Louisville, Kentucky, our final destination for the night. I would've had an hour and a half to take Savvy outside the airport for a potty break, but since our flight was delayed a bit in Sacramento, I had less than an hour to get all the way across the airport, outside, and then back through security and across the airport again. I tried. I made it outside only to find a concrete jungle without a spot of dirt or grass anywhere.

I let Savvy mark up one of the huge planters that were out of the way and rushed back inside (hoping "number 2" wasn't on the horizon anytime soon for my canine companion). At least Atlanta has a train that gets you from one end of the airport to another, but it's not what I would call dog friendly. The only warning you get before the train takes off at light speed is a "warning, train is about to start." We humans get either a seat or a pole to hang onto. Savvy only had the leash and collar attaching him to me as he was propelled toward the opposite end of the carriage at warp speed.

Neither he nor I had eaten anything all day. By the time we got to our Louisville connection at 8:35 p.m. Atlanta time, I was starving, and I knew he was, too. I grabbed a Chevy's to go wrap from the vendor who was conveniently situated five feet from my gate (the plane had already boarded). I rushed on board and got Savvy situated and out of the way (since there was an empty space between me and the other passenger in this row, he got to stretch out a bit more).

I scarfed down my wrap at record speeds, offering Savvy a few morsels of the chicken and tortilla. The passenger in the other seat was a dog lover, so she was delighted to share the row with Savvy.

We finally landed in Louisville. Savvy was just happy to finally be outside again!

Libby and friends picked us up, and we made the drive to her friend's house where we'd get to crate and rotate dogs. I got to see Joey, a dog Libby originally adopted from us a little over a year ago when he was only about 4 or 5 months old. My how he's grown! His tan and white face finally filled out, and he looks like quite the handsome man. Then there's Fern, Libby's first rescued Pit Bull, and Sarah, the Labradoodle (owned by Gina, the host). Tanner, not seen, is Gina's Lab mix.

Poor Savvy got a potty break and then ended up stuffed in a crate to decompress and be kept separate from the other dogs (I was in no condition to do dog-dog introductions at that point).

We got up the next morning and made the three and a half hour drive (oy!) to Columbus, Ohio for the screening at Ohio State University. We stopped in Cincinnatti on the way and got something to drink at Panera while taking advantage of their wi fi network. The entire state of Ohio declared Pit Bulls to be "vicious dogs," and Cincinnati has its own anti Pit Bull law, but even though the law doesn't say it, service dogs must be exempted under federal law. So, I took Savvy inside Panera with me -- the place was packed, and we got quite a few admiring and curious looks! Although, to be honest, I still felt like a fugitive who should be in hiding, and part of me kept an eye out for police and animal control officers as I mentally prepared to pull out my lawyer sword.

Fortunately, House Bill 14 is working its way through the state legislature. If passed, it would remove the term "pit bull" from the Ohio Revised Code's definition of vicious dog. Visit the Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates for more information.

We arrived in Columbus just in time to get our merchandise table set up. Savvy got a brief potty break. Libby, Savvy, and I were all starving. We'd only had 8 people buy advance tickets, so Libby was a bit concerned about what turnout we'd get, but the theater filled up nicely and seating became scarce.

Savvy and I were seated in the back row, by the door, so as folks came in, they stopped to pet Savvy. A few realized his service dog vest meant, "Please don't pet me," but for that night, I let him go up and say hi and unwind a bit. He enjoyed all the attention. In fact, when one guy offered Savvy a piece of popcorn, Savvy was more interested in licking him then taking the popcorn (though he scarfed it down as soon as the nice man left!)

I found the movie just as powerful this time around as I had the first time I'd seen it. Afterward, we engaged the audience in a one-hour question and answer session. Molly of Buckeyes for Canines and Babes for Bullies was on stage with Libby and me to answer questions.

Some of the questions were, "Should we call our dogs Pit Bulls when asked?" and "How have things changed since 1996? (when Chako started)?"

In answer to the first question, Libby said it's really up to each individual. I gave my perspective and talked about how Denver went through its animal control database to round up Pit Bulls when the ban first went into effect. So, when licensing my dog or having his/her records at the vet, my dog is a terrier mix -- which is actually true since Pit Bulls are mixes of terrier and bulldog. Folks who get their dogs from rescues or shelters really have no idea what the dog might be, so it's best not to try to label the dog and just state its breed is unknown.

One very astute woman raised the point that that may scew the statistics when legislatures say there are few Pit Bulls in comparison to the number of Pit Bull bites (meaning Pit Bulls seem more likely to bite). In fact, the percentage of dog owners who actually license their dog is pretty small in comparison to the number of dog owners. Further, the number of folks who will label their dog as a "terrier mix" when it's a purebred APBT or AST are even smaller, so statistically, the percentage won't be scewed enough to make any kind of difference in that argument. Finally, since just about every shelter says their kennels are filled primarily with Pit Bulls and mixes (and have a tendency to slap the Pit Bull label anything that looks remotely like a Pit Bull--if you have just the right lighting and squint--it's easy enough to get the shelter to produce its intake records and show that Pit Bulls and mixes make up--according to the shelter--a large percentage of the community population).

As to the second question, that was a longer answer, but basically, the media coverage of Pit Bulls has intensified, the dogs have become even more popular--especially with irresponsible owners--and of course social media has (as one woman pointed out) has changed the landscape even more proufoundly.

Afterward we signed posters, Savvy got to loosen up a bit and walk around the closed theater. We munched on some left over pizza that they'd put up for sale in the lobby (about the only real food we'd had all day), and even Savvy got to enjoy a few morsels of pizza. Then, we packed up and made the three and a half hour drive back to Louisville.

The gals from Babes for Bullies and Buckeyes for Canines with me (above) and Libby (below) (and, of course, Savvy).

Now, I'm off for another three and a half hour drive to Knoxville, TN. Next weekend, it's back to Cincinnati, then home to Sacramento! I'll need a vacation from this trip!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Beware of Irresponsible Dog Owners

News10 reports that, on Friday night, a Pit Bull belonging to a young man attacked his girlfriend's toddler and then attacked the mother when she tried to intervene. The mother got herself and her son locked into a bathroom, away from the dog.

The most important part of this story is that the toddler, while seriously injured, will make a full recovery, but of course he may bear some psychological scars from the attack.

Let's take a look at the factors involved in this attack. First, the child was left alone, unsupervised, with a dog. Secondly, the dog was not neutered (apparent in a photo of the dog displayed by News10). Of course, intact dogs do not, by merely being unneutered, present a danger to people. However, people who are not showing or working to obtain titles on their dogs and who nevertheless leave their dogs intact generally are not the most responsible dog owners. Of course, a dog might have a specific health issue that makes it dangerous to place the dog under general anesthesia, but it's a rare dog that cannot be put under for surgery.

The owner of the dog, who did not want to be identified, allegedly stated the dog showed no prior signs of aggression. Unfortunately, owners of dogs that end up causing serious injury almost always claim their dogs never showed any prior signs. Who wants to admit, when facing potentially serious criminal and civil liability, that their dog did show prior signs of aggression, and they ignored those signs or, heaven forbid, encouraged them? Of course, we don't know what happened in this particular situation. We don't know much about the dog or the dog owner, since the dog owner has not been identified.
Since Will Frampton, the reporter in this case, came to interview Chako volunteers, we did have a chance to find out a bit more about the incident. Frankly, no one is truly clear about what happened. The reporter told us a few things that we wish we could publish (let's just say he smelled something specific in the house when he visited it to report on the incident), but many facts are "unverified" at this time.

The only facts that seem clear are (1) the child was left alone unsupervised with the dog, and (2) the dog was not neutered. We don't know where the boyfriend was (since she was visiting his home with her child and apparently had to get the dog off the boy herself and then lock herself in the bathroom). Firefighters had to come to rescue her.

So, where was the boyfriend? Why did he keep an intact dog? Was he showing the dog? Working it toward obedience titles? Had he even attended obedience classes with the dog? How well socialized was the dog, and where did he get the dog? We can be pretty sure, since the dog was intact, that he did not get the dog from a shelter or rescue that screens their dogs. Shelters and rescues in the Sacramento region (and throughout most of California) almost always spay and neuter dogs before sending them off to their new homes.

So, let's drill down a bit deeper on the set of facts here:
  1. Child left alone unsupervised with a dog
  2. Dog likely is not being shown or worked toward obtaining titles, yet is unneutered. (Why?)
  3. Dog not adopted from a shelter or rescue that neuters them before placing them
  4. Dog highly likely to be a product of indiscriminate back yard breeding (was not bred by someone who obtains show and/or working titles on the dog, performs full health testing -- including hips, thyroid, cardiac, and ataxia--and breeds only the dogs that have demonstrated the best temperament).
And, of course, this person just had to own a Pit Bull. We love Pit Bulls. Of course, we do. We're a Pit Bull rescue. We love them so much, we really wish these woefully irresponsible owners would just never be allowed to own a dog of any breed, period, until they fully wised up on the harm they cause, not just to the human victims of their irresponsibility, but to the canine victims, as well.

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