We all want to decrease euthanasia rates, encourage responsible pet ownership and support the human-canine bond, but mandates about spaying and neutering dogs aren’t necessarily the way to achieve those goals. That’s because mandatory spay/neuter laws criminalize dog guardians who want to provide good care for their pets but cannot afford it.
It should go without saying that this damages the human-canine bond. (more…)
Guest post written by Stephanie Filer, Manager of Special Gifts & Partnerships, Animal Rescue League of Iowa.
The other day I received a call from a city councilperson in Randall, IA who needed our help. They were reviewing their city ordinances and she knew about our work to help cities strengthen their dog ordinances, so she reached out. Specifically, she wanted to remove some 10+ breeds from their banned list and instead, strengthen the enforcement for dogs of all breeds. (more…)
From movie stars and public service announcements to service dogs and play yards, Animal Farm Foundation has enjoyed a productive year working to secure equal opportunity and treatment for “pit bull” dogs and their families. As 2015 comes to a close, we wanted to take a look back at the highlights from this year.
We’re very pleased to report that the positive trends we’ve shared with you at the end of 2012, 2013, and 2014 are still in full effect! Towns across the country are continuing to veto and repeal Breed Specific Legislation, states are passing preemptions, shelters are dropping blanket restrictions from their adoption policies, and community advocates are busy connecting under-resourced communities and families with much needed pet services.
This continual positive shift for “pit bull” dogs and their families has allowed us to commit even more resources in 2015 to working with a variety of shelters, individuals, and communities on projects such as:
Assistance Dog Program
In 2015 we trained and placed two new assistance dogs, which brings our program’s total to nine rescued “pit bull” dogs who are now working as service dogs around the country. This year we oversaw the placement of two fabulous new teams: Josh and Koda in New York and Fionna and Tonka in California.
Koda is trained to assist Josh, a veteran, with a number of tasks including retrieving objects, helping Josh transfer into and move his wheelchair, seeking help if Josh falls, and interrupting and helping Josh when he’s experiencing anxiety. They just took their first airplane trip together to visit a friend in the Rocky Mountains and also recorded a song with Mary Gauthier!
Joe and Zen
Tonka was recently placed with Fionna, a medical fitness trainer who has Multiple Sclerosis. Tonka is trained to help counter balance Fionna when she’s walking, doing stairs, and standing, and applies pressure to help her when she’s experiencing tremors.
We also saw increased coverage of our program, such as People’s interview with Matthew and his assistance dog Jericho and this terrific piece from NBC News about Joe and his assistance dog Zen. Zen attends school with Joe, a former Marine, helping him to feel calm and comfortable in social settings. Joe says that Zen “always watches his 6” when in public. They, like the rest of the teams, are perfect partners!
AFF has five dogs who are currently in training and we look forward to seeing the good work they do in 2016!
Detection Dog Program
This year Animal Farm Foundation formed a collaboration with Austin Pets Alive! and Universal K9 so that rescued and sheltered “pit bull” dogs can be considered for Detection Dog work. Potential detection dog candidates are selected from the Austin Pets Alive! shelter system to participate in training led by Universal K9, located in San Antonio, Texas.
Once there, Brad Croft founder of Universal K9, trains and places the dogs in police departments around the country at no charge. Animal Farm Foundation provides a sponsorship to Universal K9 to help cover the costs of the officer training.
K9 Loll and the Chief of Barlette Texas PD
In 2015 a total of eight “pit bull” dogs were trained and placed in police departments around the country, from Georgia and Texas to right here in our own backyard of Poughkeepsie, New York.
There has been a ton of positive buzz about the dogs and many of the K9s have their own Facebook pages with growing fan clubs! Along with the others, K9 Kiah has received wonderful media coverage, helping to further dispel the myths and misconceptions surrounding “pit bull” dogs.
The Majority Project
In 2015 we relaunched The Majority Project (TMP) with a new website, Facebook page, and a series of Public Service Announcements starring actor Jon Bernthal. The PSAs were aired around the country on radio and television and by mid-November our message had been broadcasted almost 7,000 times with nearly 500,000,000 impressions!
Along with the great news coverage about Jon’s involvement with TMP, this adds up to a very big spotlight on our project. Millions of people got the message in 2015 that the families who live with “pit bull” dogs are everyday people living with everyday dogs.
The thousands of new photos we received in 2015 illustrate the many ways that “pit bull” dog families from around the world are making valuable contributions to their communities and families.
“I am a NICU Nurse and mom.” photo credit: Humane Society for Hamilton County (Indiana) and Smiling Dog Photography
The PSA is empowering dog owners to stand up against discrimination and breaks down the myth that only criminals and reckless people want “pit bull” dogs (a harmful stereotype that leads to restricted adoption policies, breed specific legislation, and other discriminatory policies). With millions of people meeting The Majority through our PSA we know that this misconception is finally on its way out.
And we’re always accepting submissions on our website, so print out a sign and join us!
Dogs Playing For Life
Dogs Playing for Life manual
DPFL kicked off the year with the release of their play group manual which was created with the support of a grant from AFF. The unique manual, which provides shelters with detailed instructions for running play groups, can be downloaded for free from the DPFL website.
To support this life-saving program, AFF awarded more than $30,000 for play yard construction in 2015. Allegany County Animal Shelter in Cumberland, MD, Animal Foundation in Las Vegas, NV, Humane Society of Adams County in West Union, OH, and Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control in West Palm Beach, FL were the main recipients of this year’s play yard grants.
Since 2012, AFF has invested nearly $200,000 for the construction of play yards at 18 shelters across the nation. We believe that play groups change perceptions, save lives, and are a critical component of progressive and humane animal sheltering. We’re proud to fund the construction of spaces that allow these programs to flourish and to support the DPFL team as they travel coast to coast to train shelters in implementing this game-changing program.
Grants and Awards
In 2015 AFF awarded approximately $425,000 in grants to shelters, rescues, and organizations who are committed to providing equal treatment and opportunities for all dogs. We’re thrilled to support innovative work, like the Pets for Life program, as well as the work of many others, such as:
Dogs Out Loud: based in Austin, TX, DOL works to provide training and behavior support services to address the needs of medium and large breed dogs in their local shelters. With help from our grant program, DOL created an innovative new enrichment and training program at Austin Animal Center called The Thinking Walk. Designed to make training and enrichment easy and accessible to all dogs, volunteers, and staff, the walking stations are set up along the front courtyard loop at AAC, a frequently traveled path for canine bathroom breaks and walks.
HeARTs Speak: a global network of photographers, artists, writers, designers, and advocates who work to save homeless animals, HeARTS Speak was awarded a grant from AFF to print one-of-a-kind field guides designed to help shelters boost adoptions. The Shelter Photography Field Guide is now available for purchase with 100% of the proceeds going towards funding HeARTS Speak’s Perfect Exposure Project which provides hands-on photography and marketing training for shelters. Full of inspiration, tips, and tricks for positively promoting pets in shelters, it’s the new must-have shelter resource.
Pit Sisters: based in Jacksonville, FL, Pit Sisters got creative with their pet owner support services and created a Mobile Training Program. By offering free dog training in targeted areas, the program helps to keep pets in their homes and out of shelters. We awarded multiple grants to Pit Sisters for their collaborative, compassionate, and effective work for pets and people in their community, which was extended at the end of the year when they took over the TAILS Program (Teaching Animals and Inmates Life Skills). Now Pit Sisters helps shelter dogs and inmates learn the skills they need to succeed!
Our grant application process begins January 1st, so now is a good time to take a look at our website and familiarize yourself with our grant programs. We look forward to supporting more of you in 2016!
Dutchess County SPCA
Our yearlong collaboration with our local shelter, the Dutchess County SPCA, has focused on helping them move into their new facilities and revamp their adoption program. To support these efforts our shelter staff transferred over to working directly at the DCSPCA on a daily basis as adoption counselors (for both dogs and cats) and provided support with marketing and outreach. Today, our community collaboration continues, but the time has come for our staff to return home to the Farm!
Are you ready to meet your BFF at AFF? Check out just a few of the amazing new dogs here on the Farm!
We are once again accepting dogs into our own adoption program and currently have a group of wonderful pups – “pit bull” dogs, small dogs and many others – that have recently arrived. We’re looking forward to seeing them and the DCSPCA dogs go home with adopters for the holidays!
We hope that, despite any challenges and setbacks we may all still be facing, the successes and progress made in 2015 will provide inspiration as we continue to move forward in our combined work to create a better world for “pit bull” dogs and the people that love them. We’re excited about the coming year because we know that, with your help, things are going to continue to improve for all pets and their families.
Happy New Year everyone and welcome 2016!
Every October, groups around the country host a variety of “Pit Bull Awareness” events. These are positive, educational events. However, we know that language shapes how we perceive the world and, as animal welfare evolves, it’s important that we occasionally stop and take a critical look at how we frame “pit bull” dogs with our words.
So now seems like the right time to ask: How do we influence public perceptions of “pit bull” dogs when we ask people to be “aware” of them? Does this inspire them to adopt or think differently or does it continue to frame “pit bull” dogs as different than other dogs or a problem (“we have too many of them!”) that needs to be fixed?
Since Pit Bull Awareness Day began nearly a decade ago, there has been tremendous progress for “pit bull” dogs and the issues that affect their families. The simple truth is that, thanks to the tireless work of advocates over the past couple of decades, today things are truly better for the dogs labeled “pit bulls.”
For example, a decade ago, many animal shelters maintained discriminatory policies which banned any dog labeled “pit bull” from their adoption floors. Or, the dogs labeled “pit bull” were allowed on the adoption floor (sometimes a special locked section!), but only available to adopt under heavy blanket restrictions.
Today, as we travel around the country working with animal welfare organizations, we want you to know that these kinds of shelter breed bans and blanket policies are now the exception to the rule.
Do some shelters still implement policy based on breed labels? You bet. But the numbers are fading fast. Things are getting better every day for “pit bull” dogs at shelters.
A decade ago, “pit bull” dogs rescued from dog fighting operations were routinely held as evidence then euthanized, without evaluation.
Today, these victims of cruelty are recognized as individuals. Around the country, law enforcement and humane agencies are working together to serve the victims of these crimes. Increasingly, the dogs are receiving fair evaluations and the opportunity for adoption.
Furthermore, we now recognize that the overwhelming majority of “pit bull” dogs in our shelter system and communities have never been exposed to dog fighting.
A decade ago Breed Specific Legislation was on the rise and many communities were implementing poorly researched, ineffective, and discriminatory laws that banned any dog that was identified as a “pit bull”, regardless of the arbitrary label.
Today, BSL is on the decline with communities rejecting and repealing BSL at a higher rate than they’re passing it. Nearly 20 states have passed BSL pre-emptions at the state level.
Are there still communities that ban “pit bull” dogs? You bet. We still have work to do to ensure that every town, in every state, passes fair, effective laws that focus on responsible ownership, not breed or physical appearance. But have no doubt about it, we’re winning this battle.
In short, major changes have happened since Pit Bull Awareness Day began and the changes are for the better!
Today, we know that “pit bull” dogs are one of the most popular dogs in the country, living with everyday families who love and care for them responsibly.
Today we know that the public is open to adopting “pit bull” dogs and, in many shelters, there is no delay in sending “pit bull” dogs home. The public wants to adopt them. The “only 1 in 600 pit bulls find a home” myth has been busted.
Today we have the scientific research and studies that document that all dogs, including “pit bull” dogs, are individuals. There is a far greater understanding of the fact that physical appearance and breed labels are not accurate predictors of behavior.
Today, we have statements from The White House to the AVMA to the American Bar Association stating their opposition to BSL.
Today the media is peppered with positive, accurate stories of “pit bull” dogs who contribute to our families and communities and win awards, as well as those who simply share their lives with the families who love them.
Perhaps it’s time, given all the changes in the past few years, to refresh how we talk about “pit bull” dogs every October so that it reflects how far we’ve come and invites the public to get in on the fun!
“Pit bull” dog advocates have done an amazing job of raising awareness about the unfair treatment and misinformation surrounding these dogs. And there is much work to be done in the years to come. But the successes are just too great to ignore.
We need to allow the wonderful progress that’s been made to influence our approach to how we talk about the dogs and the way we engage in public education.
So, as we continue to educate and work for fair shelter polices, non-discriminatory laws, housing, and insurance for “pit bull” dogs and their families, let’s invite the public to join us in the positive direction we’re already moving in.
2014 is a good time to reframe the way we call the public’s attention to “pit bull” dogs and their families every October. Rather than using this time to lament struggles, ring alarms, or ask for sympathy, we can shift the focus to how wonderful life is when we share it with our pets, including “pit bull” dogs. Let’s ask the public to join us in Pit Bull Celebration Days!