HAWS Kids 'N Critters Camp will be starting soon, and I spend a good portion of my day lately fielding calls and talking to parents who drop in to ask questions about camp. Understandably they want to know what the children will be doing during their time here, and what types of animals they will get to interact with.
A few weeks ago a mother stopped in at HAWS and asked to speak with me before she submitted her child's camp registration form and payment. She wanted to know what kinds of dogs her daughter would see -- specifically she wanted to ensure that her daughter wouldn't interact with pit bulls.
I think she was disappointed that I wasn't willing to make that guarantee. I explained to her that I choose the dogs by reviewing the profile the previous owner submits, looking at the behavior evaluations our staff does on each dog, and that I spend a little time with each dog before I submit a list of approved dogs to my camp counselors. Breed, size and age has no determination in which dogs I choose or don't choose - my determination is based only on whether or not the dog will be safe with the children. Sometimes the only dogs I feel will be safe around campers are pit bulls or their mixes.
The mother wasn't happy with my explanation. She went on to tell me that "those dogs" are all vicious and that she didn't want her daughter around them. And I went on the explain that unfortunately bully breeds are victims of the media looking for exciting stories about mean looking dogs, and that any dog breed can and will bite. I also told her that in my 7 years of working in a shelter and handling hundreds of dogs the only dog bite I'd ever had was from a cockapoo, and that as a bite quarantine facility for Waukesha County we almost never quarantine bully breeds.
I'm not sure the woman was convinced, however she reluctantly left her child's application and payment with me and her daughter will be coming to camp this year. Someone I related this story to told me that I should have told this woman we didn't want her daughter at camp given the attitude. But then we wouldn't have had the opportunity to educate this family's next generation, would we?