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08/16/2012 07:19 PM
Good Information is Good for Dogs
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08/16/2012 07:19 PM
Welcome to the new website! Our team has been working non-stop to put together the very best site possible for you: our readers, adopters, supporters, fellow animal professionals, and dog caretakers. All of you were at the forefront of our minds as we collected, re-worked, and developed materials to support you, your dogs, and your work.
Throughout the project, as we determined what should be included on the new site, we continuously referred to the following questions:
1. How does this information support our mission to secure equal treatment and opportunity for any dog carrying the label “pit bull”?
2. Is the information we’re passing on to our readers accurate and free from speculation?
They may seem like two very obvious points, but these twin guideposts helped steer us towards the best, most accurate website we could possibly create.
Unfortunately, much of the information we see across the web, in print, and being passed along verbally, regardless of the subject, doesn’t meet these same standards. Sound bites, stereotypes, myths, generalizations, and plain old guesses are floating all around us, packaged or perceived as facts.
Animal welfare groups and even individuals with good intentions pass along speculation (aka guesses). And because they are perceived as the experts on animals in their communities, this speculation is perceived to be fact. Whenever we speak on behalf of the dogs and use speculation as our knowledge base, it becomes a serious problem for the dogs, with real life consequences.
Here’s a recent example of how speculation nearly cost a dog her life:
A Good Samaritan found a badly injured dog alongside the road and brought her to the vet. The vet reported that the dog had been beaten by something baseball bat-like. The Good Samaritan spent over two thousand dollars to nurse this dog back to health at the clinic and, when she was ready to leave, he tried to figure out what the next step was for this homeless “pit bull”.
His first stop was a website that he found which shared expert “pit bull” advice. The experts from this site proceeded to scare this responsible, kind hearted man senseless. It stated that a female pit bull could not live with another dog of the same sex – it was not safe. This was a problem, because the Good Samaritan had a female dog at home, and being a responsible guy who didn’t want to ignore expert advice, there was NO WAY he could bring this female “pit bull” dog into his house!
So, the experts helped him relocate the dog off to the Spindletop Refuge. We all know what happened next.
When we discussed what led him to bringing the dog to Spindletop, it all went back to the advice he had gotten from the first group that had assisted him. The one that told him same sex pairings aren’t safe. So we asked him what the “pit bull” dog had done at the time to indicate it would be unsafe for her to live with another female dog. He said “Well, nothing. We never let the dogs meet each other”.
He never let the dogs meet, because the “experts” told him it wasn’t safe.
Despite his anger with animal welfare organizations, he is now working with us to reclaim the dog. This is the second time he has stepped up to save her life. Due to all the fear mongering and bad information he’s received, he’s a little afraid of her. But he’s a stand up guy, intent on doing right by this dog, so he’s pushing past his fears for her sake.
And in the end, our team evaluated this dog and determined that she’s a pretty laid back, easy going gal. Too bad no one took the time to get to know her as an individual the first time around. It might have saved her and this man a lot of suffering.
Can you see how speculation almost killed this dog? An animal welfare “expert” passed along the “fact” that a female pit bull can’t live with another dog of the same sex. That may be true for some dogs. But it’s not true for all dogs. It was a guess. And this guess, based not on the actual individual dog, but rather on a stereotype, served the dog poorly. It robbed her of a chance to live with this Good Samaritan. And it almost got her killed.
Now, how would this scenario have turned out, had the “experts” relied on accurate information, rather than speculation based on breed and labels?
What if, instead of counseling him that same-sex pairings are a recipe for trouble, they had discussed how to properly introduce two dogs, of any breed or sex, to each other? What if they had carefully explained how to set a new dog up for success in its foster home through careful space management and training?
What if they had been honest and said, we don’t know your individual dog, but here is some excellent information from trainers and behaviorists that applies to ALL dogs and will help you integrate this dog into your home safely? What if they had connected him with a local trainer or rescue group that could support this owner as he continued to commit himself to the hard work of fostering, managing, and caring for a new dog – any new dog – rather than guessing that, based on her breed and sex, there was no way for this family to make it work.
We don’t know the answers (that would be speculating!). Maybe it wouldn’t have worked out. Maybe the two females would not have gotten along. Maybe he would have crated and rotated while he found her a new home. Maybe he would have chosen to bring her to Spindletop after all. But in that case, he would have done so based on accurate information derived from real life experience, rather than generalizations and guess work.
More so, what if it had worked out just fine? This particular dog, who recently had such nice evaluation, didn’t do anything to trigger any concerns the first time he met her – she was just a female “pit bull” and some bad information cost her a chance at being introduced into this good Samaritan’s home. What a shame.
Back to the big picture: We owe it to the dogs to recognize them as individuals and speak accurately, free of speculation, on their behalf. This doesn’t mean we ignore problems, behavioral or otherwise, when we see them. It doesn’t mean we act carelessly and fail to properly advise the public on how to be responsible dog owners. It simply means we do not pass along speculation as fact.
Putting the focus on accurate information means that we stop pretending that we know how a dog will act in the future based on how it looks and, instead of throwing around guesses in the guise of facts, we speak honestly about what we know for sure. In this example, what we know for sure is that all dogs need careful introductions and proper management and that there are tools to help people do this. That’s accurate and it would have given this female dog a fair and equal opportunity at a new life.
So when we created our new website, providing accurate information was our True North.
As we strive to meet our mission, to secure equal treatment and opportunity for “pit bull” dogs - we must speak accurately on their behalves. We will best serve the dogs, not only the ones labeled “pit bull”, but all dogs and their guardians, when we free ourselves from speculation and recognize that all dogs are individuals. Here at Animal Farm Foundation we are vigilant in our language choices, even when that means admitting we were wrong in our past approaches. And we are mindful of how what we say might be misunderstood in and outside of the animal welfare world, resulting in serious, real life consequences for the dogs and their people.
We hope that you find the new website helpful in your everyday lives and in your work with “pit bull” dogs. We deeply appreciate your commitment to the animals and are grateful that you’re here with us, on this path to a better future for all dogs. As you go forward in your lives and in your work, we ask that just as we do, you use this question as your guidepost when you speak on behalf of the dogs: Is this information accurate and free of speculation?
In other words, is the information you’re passing along part of the problem or part of the solution?