The Champions

“The Champions” should be required viewing for anyone who works, loves, or comes in contact with dogs in any way. So basically, everyone. I saw it last night at a special screening hosted by City Dogs Cleveland and Best Friends Animal Society and was once again blown away by the story of the aftermath of the dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring.

champions

Although the movie focuses on the Vicktory dogs, it’s really the story of how wrong the misconceptions about pit bulls are. The movie shares the stories of the dogs who were adopted and how they recovered from the horrible abuse they endured. Many were severely scarred, physically and emotionally, but for most of them the damage made them fearful, not dangerous. As one of the women who adopted a Vicktory dog said, “They didn’t need to be rehabilitated, they needed to recover.” If you needed any more proof that most dogs do not want to fight or hurt others, the story of these dogs should be all the proof you need. Enduring dog fighting made them fear people in some cases, but it did not make them want to inflict pain on others. Many of the dogs moved on to become therapy dogs and lead normal lives as family pets with other dogs and kids.

The story of these dogs is remarkable in so many ways, but especially because it was the first time that rescuers were able to show that dogs from this type of situation could be rehabilitated and become family dogs. Since then, dogs rescued from fighting rings are looked at differently and not just immediately killed (no thanks to awful organizations like PETA, who wanted to immediately put all of the dogs down).

I highly recommend this movie. Best Friends Animal Society has made it available for download on their website: http://bestfriends.org/champions?utm_source=homepage&utm_medium=slider

If you’re interested in the story of the Vicktory dogs, you should also check out the book, “The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption” by Jim Gorant, as it goes into a little more detail on many of the dog’s stories.

Handsome Dan, one of my favorite Vicktory Dogs
Handsome Dan, one of my favorite Vicktory Dogs

I really wish we could sit the Lakewood, Garfield Heights, Parma and Warrensville Heights City Councils down and show them this movie. Breed Specific Legislation is a fantasy and all it is doing is killing pit bulls. It breaks my heart that innocent dogs are dying because of this law. It’s time for people to wake up and realize that each dog is an individual and they should all have a fair shot.

 

Photos courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society

Pittie Party Photos

This past weekend was the 2nd Annual Bandanas for Banned Breeds and Pittie Party in Lakewood. Organized by Darwin Dogs, the 2 mile walk and after party was a peaceful protest against Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) in Lakewood.

In Northern Ohio, the cities of Parma, Lakewood and Garfield Heights ban Pit Bulls, even though the state of Ohio repealed a BSL ban in 2012 (leaving it up to cities and municipalities to decide).

Despite the sweltering heat (is it May, or July?), the turnout for the walk and after party at Quaker Steak and Lube was impressive. Around 125 people came to the walk, along with 50 dogs of all sizes and breeds. There was some concern before the parade about bringing Pit Bulls into Lakewood, so only a few showed up. Although Pit Bulls attended last year with no issues, the event got so much bigger this year that Darwin Dogs decided to encourage people not bring their bully breed dogs.

I was so impressed with how people from all parts of Ohio came out, some even driving several hours to attend. We also got a lot of support along the way from passing cars and people on the street, including an older lady who happily signed the petition telling us that her good friend has a Pit Bull and she was just down in Columbus at a rally to support ending BSL. As the saying goes, I really believe those of us against BSL are the majority. It’s only a matter of time until our voices are heard. Events like this are just what we need to push the envelope further.

The event gathered around 100 signatures for the petition and they plan to gather more petitions to get this issue on the November ballot. Kerry Stack, owner of Darwin Dogs who organized the event along with her Darwin Dogs’ partner, Danika Migliore, wrote a great letter to the Lakewood City Council you can read here: http://www.darwindogs.org/site/pit-bulls/an-open-letter-to-lakewood-city-council/ I love the idea of providing free seminars for dog owners, since the key to preventing dog bites is truly in training and education, not banning breeds.

If you’re still interested in helping out the cause, keep an eye on Darwin Dogs Facebook and website. They are planning more meetups and would like to have dogs march in the 4th of July parade in Lakewood. Also, be sure to join in on social media, posting photos of your dog with the hashtag #bandanasforbannedbreeds and #onelakewood. I posted a few of Hunter and Roscoe this past weekend, including this one of a confused Hunter after I explained that Pit Bulls were banned in our city.

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Also, follow this group to stay up to date on other efforts to end BSL statewide: https://www.facebook.com/ohioansagainstbreeddiscrimination/timeline?ref=page_internal There will be a Ohio Pibble March and Post-Rally Party on May 30 in Columbus as well.

Ok, now for the fun stuff – pictures from the parade and after party. Although it was a fun event, it would be great if next year it’s a real Pittie Party and Pit Bulls would be feel free to attend because they are no longer banned. Stay tuned!

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BSL..What Is It Good For?

Probably due to not being exposed to many types of dogs growing up, I’ve always been more partial to small dogs. As I’ve met more dogs and learned about different breeds, though, I’ve grown to love dogs of all sizes, and developed a soft spot for one particular breed – Pit Bulls.

Around Christmas I read a book that really changed how I felt about the breed – “The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption” about the dogs rescued from Vick’s dog fighting ring. Although I didn’t really believe the hype about Pit Bulls being a vicious breed to begin with, the book really exposed to me to how wrong the stereotype is. Some of the dogs were vicious because they were put into situations where they had to be, some didn’t want to be vicious at all, but a good majority of the dogs when given the right love and training were able to be normal, loving dogs not interested in attacking or fighting even after being exposed to cruelty and abuse.

Although there’s been a movement away from Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), many cities, (including one that I live in, Lakewood), still ban residents from owning Pit Bulls. Because of this ban and misinformation about the breed, Pit Bulls are the most commonly euthanized breed at shelters. And, according to numerous experts and studies, for really no good reason at all. In a study published in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association, they concluded that the majority of dog bite fatalities were caused by “coincident, preventable factors; breed was not one of these.” Here’s a great article to read if you’re looking for facts to inform your decisions on Pit Bulls: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arin-greenwood/pit-bulls-time-magazine_b_5521281.html

I really believe that all dogs are unique. Although they may have some qualities based on their breed, how they react in situations and behave around people is much more a factor of training and environment than anything else. I hate to see a dog stereotyped, and even worse, in many cases killed, because someone has an uninformed opinion about them. For Cleveland to be a truly dog friendly city, we need to embrace breeds of all kinds and support responsible pet ownership.

Also check out the movie, The Champions, if you’re interested in the story of the dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring: http://dogsinthecle.com/the-champions/

And if you still think BSL is a good idea, maybe these pics of local CLE Pit Bulls will change your mind. I know that I found these pics to be pretty scary…scary cute!