The In-between-ers

I just love, love, LOVE when someone asks me what my favorite breed or “type” of dog is. Those who know me well enough know that I am super biased towards pit bulls, so this is usually the type of answer one would except. But I get different reactions when I answer that hands down, my favorite type of dog is the 100%, purebred American Mutt. Eh. So.. it’s sort of a complex. But whatever.

Don’t get me wrong… I’m not hating on those purebred dogs whose mom and dad were of the same kind. Also, don’t mistake me for obsessing over the “designer” mutts (you know, the yorkie-poo, the labradoodle, the shishihuahuaweeweepoo, etc.) I know that there are reputable traits that are typically associated certain breeds (i.e. the herding ability of the border collie, the retrieving ability of the Labrador, etc). I understand that, ideally, if everyone were responsible breeders and pet owners and pet overpopulation wasn’t what it is today, I would certainly be able to answer that my favorite “breed” is the American Pit Bull Terrier. I love watching the AKC dog shows, because I’m able to see the beauty and reasoning behind domesticating man’s best friend.

Unfortunately, while dog breeding is out of control, I cannot truthfully answer the “breed” question without thinking of the underdogs. The less-than perfects. The easily passed up. The mixed-breeds. The mutts.

Shelters are chock-a-block full of these in-between-ers because of accidental, unwanted, and out of control breeding. (side note-there are tons of purebred dogs in shelters, also-they are usually sent to rescue).

With that being said, I do have a favorite type of mutt.

If you are familiar with dog rescue, you must know that pit bulls are a bit of a tough sell in today’s pet adoption market with people attempting to sort through the fact and fiction surrounding our four-legged, not-so-bully, bullies. One of my favorite quotes about pits is “If you don’t love pit bulls, you simply do not know enough about them.” Pit bulls have to jump through many more hoops than other dogs just to prove themselves worthy of living in today’s communities.

So what could possibly be an even harder sell than a pit bull?

What type of dog is the most frequently impounded in our shelter? What type of dogs are euthanized more frequently when adoptions are slow and space is limited? What type of dog is most likely to be passed up by potential adopters? Duh. The answer to all of these questions is those dogs who (no matter how creative you try to get) can only be labeled as none other than a pit bull mix

Not pit bull enough to be pulled by a rescue, but just enough that it has to be labeled that way. The mutty pit. The pit mutt. Whatever you want to call these lovable misfits.

Real life example.

I introduce Calvin. The most wiggly of them all. I mean seriously…this little man’s booty does. not. stop. He’s perfect in all ways–dog/cat friendly, heartworm negative, knows his basic commands, is crate trained, and is just all around good pup! Calvin attends numerous adoption, training, and socialization events, but just can not gather interest. He has been sitting in foster care–not because of behavior issues or any of that nonsense– but because rather than being seen as a well-rounded family dog, he is passed over as an ordinary pit bull mix. So. Lame.

Calvin2CALVIN #3704Calvin

These are the dogs that have my heart. These somewhat “in-between-ers” if you will.  Even if you aren’t a huge pit-bull fan (I get it, some people just prefer other dogs for some strange reason tehe), if you are an animal lover, these dogs should matter to you. Errm. Why? Well–stay with me here–as long as these pit mixes are the most prominent “breed” pouring into our shelters, euthanasia rates cannot go down without **newsflash** getting them out of the shelters.

Pit bull mixes like Calvin will never make it without a little help. He can sit, and lick, and wiggle as much as he wants, but he can’t speak up for himself. If you can’t adopt a pit mix, foster one. If you can’t foster one, sponsor. If you can’t sponsor, volunteer with them. If you can’t volunteer, donate. If you can’t donate, advocate, share, crosspost, and maybe most importantly, EDUCATE!

I challenge you to open your heart a little more. Because, seriously. The in-between-ers need all the help they can get.

P.S. Here is Calvin’s pet finder. You need this dog in your life, and you can make that happen by clicking here. http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/26891304/

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BSL: In the Dog House

Mickey pool

Mickey. That’s the name of my most recent foster dog from Companion Animal Alliance. This dog has the gentlest soul you will ever find, tolerating just about anything. He is housebroken, loves to cuddle with cats, and is about as out-going as a pet rock. Mickey is the perfect dog for any family, right? Wrong. Mickey is shunned by most because, unfortunately for him, he came into this world as an American Pitbull Terrier- the dog breed once on the covers of our country’s war posters as symbol of pride that is now shamed, and even banned in some areas.

Having fostered multiple bully breeds from our local animal shelter of East Baton Rouge Parish, I know first hand that the vast majority of these so called “bullies” have incredible temperaments, most of them just as well-behaved, if not better, than your average, beloved Golden Retriever. It breaks my heart when, at adoption events, mothers tell their children to “not pet that pit-bull”, while my Mickey would have greeted them with only love and affection. My personal favorite is when people are playing with him and say, “This is such a great dog. What kind is he?”, and then shudder at my response as if he has suddenly morphed into a vicious monster right in front of them. I encourage anyone who has not met a “bully” to take a trip to their local shelter, mine being Companion Animal Alliance, in order to formulate a first-hand opinion, rather than living in the façade that all pit-bulls are a danger to society.

Upon hearing the horror stories associated with “bully breeds”, many citizens develop a powerful disgust and fear of these dogs. Breed specific legislation (BSL), is the attempt to use laws to regulate and restrict dog ownership, focusing on banning a number of different breeds, mainly American Pit Bull Terriers- type dogs. In order to do this, breed specific legislation targets and eliminates specific breeds as a whole, using a system based simply on how similar a certain dog looks to a banned breed.  BSL has been discussed in many areas in Louisiana, such as my hometown of Terrebonne, LA, and has also already gone into effect in certain parishes, such as St. Mary’s parish. What supporters of BSL fail to recognize, however, is that dog attacks are the result of multiple factors, not breed culpability, and there are alternative and more effective ways to decrease the number of dog attacks and amount of dog fighting in an area rather than simply banning and discriminating against entire breeds.

If I were to live in a parish enforcing BSL, my Mickey would be taken from me simply because of his larger-than-most head and wide-set jawline. This is absurd. Many well-known organizations, such as the American Kennel Club and the Obama administration, have stated their disapproval of BSL, rather, supporting the enactment and enforcement of breed neutral, dangerous-dog laws that identify dangerous animals based on behavior. There are precautions all dog owners should take to lower the risk of one’s dog becoming aggressive, such as socialization, limiting territory, supervision around children (about 80% of fatal attacks occur when the child has been left unsupervised), and fencing one’s yard rather than tethering (chaining a dog which limits its movements and makes it significantly more likely to become aggressive). As an animal-science undergrad, this is basic “dog ownership 101” type information, that many owners fail to recognize, as it is not certain dog-breeds themselves that are dangerous, but rather, other adverse factors which create dangerous dogs. Unfortunately, there are no current regulations prohibiting tethering in East Baton Rouge Parish.

We must push for these stronger animal control laws, which could include leash laws, tethering- prohibiting laws, mandatory spay/neuter laws for animal shelters, increasing penalties for violations, and targeting habitually irresponsible dog owners. Mickey and all other “bully breeds” should not have to suffer for lack of responsible dog ownership in southern LA. No sensible person wants dog fighting and canine attacks to occur in areas close to home; however, discriminatory laws based on breed rather than temperament is unjust, and quite frankly, an ineffective way of dealing with the issue at hand. We must push for suggestions and regulations that pertain to all dogs, because dog attacks are the result of multiple factors, not just a simple breakdown of breed culpability!

Mickey