Thursday, January 7, 2010

Rascal Went Home!

Something I hear on a regular basis from people who don't work at HAWS is "I could never work in a shelter". While it can be sad and heartbreaking to deal with the issues we see daily in an animal shelter, seeing animals go to new homes with good families makes it all worth our while. Earlier this week our entire staff was overjoyed when Rascal finally went home after living here for 5 months.

Rascal was brought to HAWS on August 5, 2009 because his owners couldn't have him at their new place. As a Pit Bull his breed automatically made him a difficult placement. Not only are people leery about adopting them due to their bad reputations, HAWS also has additional restrictions on them. Many insurance companies will not provide home owners or renters insurance to families with pits as pets, and so one of our requirements is proof of insurance. We also do a little more scrutiny on potential adopters since we want to make sure our adopted dogs actually end up as beloved members of the family -- rather then fighting other dogs.

Unfortunately Pit Bulls get a bad rap. Yes -- they are large powerful dogs, but then so are Labrador Retrievers and Malamutes. Yes, they can cause damage when they bite, but then so can Border Collies and Dalmatians. Pit Bulls are one of the breeds that lead the lists for bite statistics, but those statistics are misleading.

Are Pit Bulls more dangerous because they make the list, or do they make the list because there are many more of them in the USA than there are, as an example, Old English Sheepdogs? It's difficult to know. The AKC lists the top 10 breeds in the USA each year, but Pit Bulls are not an AKC breed and so wouldn't be listed since they can't be registered. As a matter of fact, Pit Bulls aren't really a breed, but more of a type and include the American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers and their mixes.

One of HAWS functions is as a bite case facility -- we quarantine animals who have bitten a human breaking skin to ensure that the animal does not have rabies. Many times we have at least one or more dogs in our kennels with "bite case" signs on their cages. Very rarely are those bite case dogs Pit Bulls (we see many other breeds such as German Shepherds, Cocker Spaniels, Jack Russel Terriers, Border Collies, Poodles, etc). On the other hand it's not uncommon for anywhere from 25%-50% of our adoptable dogs to be Pit Bulls or mixes thereof.

Pit Bulls were bred to be tough dogs who could physically with stand the damage incurred by fighting other dogs. But they were also bred to be extremely tolerant of human interaction -- with aggression towards humans being bred out of them. Historically Pit Bulls have been highlighted in a positive manner. Sergeant Stubby is the most decorated dog in US military history for his work in WWI. Petey in the Little Rascals movie was a Pit Bull, as was Tige from the Buster Brown advertisements. Helen Keller had a Pit Bull as a pet, and Laura Ingalls Wilder's dog, Jack the brindle Bulldog is believed to have been a Pit Bull.

Pit Bulls are not a breed for everyone. They do have strong powerful jaws and they physically are strong animals. They should be well socialized as puppies, and go through training so that they have good manners. HAWS only places dogs we feel will be safe members of the community -- and that includes Pit Bulls who go through the same behavior evaluation that our other adoptable dogs go through.

Luckily Rascal passed our behavior evaluation. Boys from our Lad Lake program worked with him twice a week to instill some training and help him with his mental exercise. And our wonderful dog walkers made sure that he got out every day, sometimes three times a day, for exercise and attention. We would have preferred that Rascal find a home in less time than five months. However he is a great dog and we're happy we could give him a chance. We wish Rascal and his new family many years of love and happiness.


lagomorph said...

That's great!! And a handsome lad he is too!

Anonymous said...

It is a shame that this dog needs a choke chain on it's neck as this represents a dog that is not only managable/trusted but is indicative of the use of aversives,force,and punishment.

please send more positive energy and help rid the stigma of Pit Bulls/mixes (or any dog for that matter) needing this type of handling/control management.

thanks for consideration

Hopefully you will not choose to keep this comment from seeing the light of day..because that would be indicative of something also..


HAWS said...

I can understand your confusion - but Rascal is not wearing a choke chain. None of the dogs at HAWS wear choke chains. Some of the dogs at HAWS do have a chain collar attached so that it is solid (not a slip design) with the only purpose being to hold their ID tags.

HAWS dogs wear martingales, and starting soon volunteers will be using Easy Walk Harnesses on most if not all the dogs when they are being walked.