Looking Back on 2015: Service, Play, and Innovation

Looking Back on 2015: Service, Play, and Innovation

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

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

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.

photo credit: Humane Society for Hamilton County (Indiana) and Smiling Dog Photography

“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

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.

pep

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!

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!

In Praise of Normal

In Praise of Normal

Normal. In a world where we’re all jockeying to stand out from the crowd, being normal gets a bad rap. We confuse normal with ordinary and boring.
 
Those of us that love, live with, and advocate for “pit bull” dogs naturally see our dogs as anything but ordinary. In our minds, “pit bull” dogs are uniquely adorable, lovable, and loyal. They’re extraordinary and the world needs to know it!
HSHC-Majority - 10 small

Indiana Family. Photo credit: Humane Society for Hamilton County (Indiana) and Smiling Dog Photography

 

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The Majority Project: New Tools To Stop “Pit Bull” Dog Owner Discrimination

The Majority Project: New Tools To Stop “Pit Bull” Dog Owner Discrimination

When Animal Farm Foundation put out a call for photo submissions from everyday “pit bull” dog owners we never imagined that a little over a year later we’d have a (still growing) collection of hundreds and hundreds of photos.

The Majority Project is the result of those photos, submitted from families around the country who stepped up to help challenge incorrect stereotypes about “pit bull” dog owners.

I am an advocate

I am an advocate

You might be wondering: Why do we need to bust stereotypes about “pit bull” dog OWNERS? Isn’t it the dogs that are being discriminated against?

It’s both. Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) singles out dogs based on physical appearance and breed, but anytime we discriminate against a dog, we are discriminating against the people who share their lives with them as well.

I am a 911 Police + Fire Dispatch Officer

I am a 911 Police + Fire Dispatch Officer

 

And to be frank, sometimes BSL has little to do with the dogs at all. Targeting the dogs is simply a way to profile and discriminate against people. For example, on numerous occasions, policymakers have commented that BSL isn’t necessary because the dogs are dangerous, but instead they believe (falsely) that BSL is way to to keep gang members and criminals out of their communities.

Colorado: Aurora, CO, City Council member Bob Fitzgerald, “We don’t want ‘those people’ here.”

 

Massachusetts: Councilor-at-Large Michael J. Germain, “Germain said that common sense tells us pit bulls are the choice of gang members to intimidate. ‘The issue isn’t dogs. The issue is gangs,’ he said.”

 

California: Mayor Rex Parris, “I want gangs out of Lancaster. I want to make it uncomfortable for them to be here. Anything they like, I want to take it away from them. I want to deliberately harass them…It’s really like [gangs] having a weapon that they are allowed to display and intimidate people. If they have a Pit Bull, they may as well put a sign on their head saying, ‘Come get me.’…If they move on to cats I’m going to take their cats.”

I am a cat

I am a cat

 

Experts know that stereotyping and discrimination fails to address the real issue: criminals and reckless dog owners must be held accountable for their actions, no matter what kind of dog they choose to own. It is never necessary or effective to use discrimination as a tool to address crime and reckless dog ownership.

Enacting and enforcing Responsible Dog Ownership laws which apply equally to ALL dog owners, along with laws addressing non-dog related criminal activities, is the path to safety.

Great communities don’t resort to ineffective policies based on stereotypes and discrimination.

I am a police officer

I am a police officer

 

This kind of human stereotyping also worms its way into shelter polices and is used to justify banning “pit bull” dogs from the adoption floor or restricting adoptions. The “logic” is that if only “bad” people want them, then “pit bull” dogs are better off dead than in their hands. Where would shelters get the idea that good people don’t want “pit bull” dogs? From animal welfare organizations.

ASPCA: “Pit Bulls often attract the worst kind of dog owners —people who are only interested in these dogs for fighting or protection.”



PETA: “…people who have good intentions rarely come to a shelter to adopt pit bulls; almost without exception, those who want pit bulls are attracted to the “macho” image of the breed as a living weapon and seek to play up this image by putting the animals in heavy chains, taunting them into aggression, and leaving them outside in all weather extremes in order to “toughen” them.”

I am a public safety officer + I am an early childhood professional

I am a public safety officer + I am an early childhood professional

 

So what does this have to do with The Majority Project?

The false assertion that only reckless individuals, criminals, and gang members want “pit bull” dogs continues to fuel the fire of restrictive adoption policies, breed specific legislation, and other discriminatory policies.

From law makers to shelter policymakers, the stereotype is that “good” people don’t want or live with “pit bull” dogs. That’s simply not true.

I am a Sunday school teacher

I am a Sunday school teacher

 

The fact is that dogs labeled “pit bull” are one of the most popular dogs in this country, overwhelmingly owned by normal, everyday families who have value in their community. “Pit bull” dog owners are our co-workers, friends, family, and neighbors.

It’s time to put an accurate face to the average “pit bull” dog owner, so that stereotypes about “pit bull” dog owners can no longer be used as justification for discriminatory shelter policies and legislation.

We are a family!

We are a family!

 

The everyday “pit bull” dog owners who took part in The Majority Project stood up to say that they are not the exception, they are the rule. You can meet them all here.

We want YOU to use The Majority Project to stand up against discrimination and prejudice in your community. And we’ve got some new tools to help!

  • Our brand new handout shows off just a few of the fabulous families who submitted photos. From doctors and deacons, to grandmas and voters, the handout shines a light on them all. The foldout combines their family photos with text to help everyone understand why great communities don’t discriminate. You can request the handout here. 
majority photo foldout

Advocates and animal welfare organizations can receive free handouts here.

 

  • To help you share The Majority Project more effectively, here are Talking Points to use in your communications. You can download and print the one sheet from this blog or from our website here.

 

  • Our newest eBook on Communications and Media is also here to help. This primer on communicating with elected officials and the media – from TV interviews to testifying at city council meetings – was designed to assist you in speaking confidently and effectively about the issues that matter.
I am a blessed mom

I am a blessed mom

 

Of course, you can also use the Flickr Album and videos. If you know an organization or an individual that needs to meet the majority of “pit bull” dogs owners, you can share these tools and introduce them to the majority. They may be AFF’s photos and videos, but they’re tools you can all use, so please do!

I am a security guard

I am a security officer

 

Finally: Keep the photos coming! Tell your friends to send in their “I am the Majority” photos. We’ll never stop accepting new photos. The more we collect, the more impact this project will have. Learn how to submit a photo here.

Help us put an end to the stereotypes that fuel the fires of discrimination. Stand up with The Majority.

2012: Proof Positive

2012: Proof Positive

 

Animal Farm Foundation: 2012 Pit Bull Dog


On the final day of 2012, let’s celebrate a year filled with positive and progressive changes for “pit bull” dogs.

 

In 2012 we saw a growing trend of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) being repealed, rejected, and overturned. Ohio removed statewide BSL by signing HB 14 into law. Massachusetts enacted a preemptive ban against BSL. The American Bar Association urged the repeal of BSL.

Shelters around the country stepped up for “pit bull” dogs by changing their adoption policies. Organizations that formerly banned them from the adoption floor are now opening up kennels for “pit bull” dogs. Shelters that were already adopting out “pit bull” dogs, but with heavy restrictions, are now removing cumbersome policies that stood in the way of adoptions. More organizations are evaluating dogs as individuals, including “pit bull” dogs rescued from cruelty cases, such as fight busts. Advocates are reaching out to provide owner support, education, and resources in under-served neighborhoods.

The media and advertising world caught on that “pit bull” dogs are family and published books (Ken Foster’s I’m a Good Dog), print and online articles (Martha Stewart Living Magazine “Adopting the Right Dog” and many more), and countless catalogues, product advertisements, commercials featured “pit bull” dogs. Individuals and families are stepping up to claim their place as The Majority – telling the world that stereotypes don’t apply here!

We believe that this wave of positive progress is only the beginning! We hope that, despite any challenges and setbacks we may still be facing, the successes of 2012 will buoy us all as we move forward in our work to create a better world for “pit bull” dogs and the people that love them. We’re so excited about the coming year because we know that, with your help, things are going to continue to improve for “pit bull” dogs and their families.

 

Happy New Year everyone and welcome to 2013: The Year of the Majority!

 

Holiday Photo Challenge: Help Us Make 2013 the Year of the Majority!

Holiday Photo Challenge: Help Us Make 2013 the Year of the Majority!

With Thanksgiving behind us, Hanukkah beginning this weekend, and Christmas and New Years on the way, the holidays are on our minds! Plans for family get-togethers, office parties, and adoption events are filling our calendars.

It got us thinking that with all of this socializing on the horizon: it’s time to launch a holiday photo challenge!

We want you to help us DOUBLE the number of photos in our Majority Project between now and January 1st.

That means we need 325 photos in less than four weeks!

Can you help us reach our goal?  The bigger our photo collection, the bigger the impact it will have on the folks who need a perspective shift in 2013. Help us change the minds of policy makers, in animal shelters and in public office, by doubling the Majority Project photo collection!

Here’s how to turn this holiday season into a Majority Project Party:

1. Print out a pile of “I am the Majority” signs and take them to an upcoming event or holiday hot spot:

  • adoption event
  • new year party
  • local fundraiser
  • family dinner
  • shelter lobby
  • office holiday party
  • local pet store

2. Gather up all the folks who share their lives with “pit bull” dogs.  Give each person a blank “I am a ____” sign to fill out.

Ask them to fill in the blank with a  word that describes their valued role in your community or in your family. For example: I am a Mother, Student, Bus Driver, Business Owner, Tax Payer, Husband, Volunteer, Teacher, Voter, Coach, Homeowner, Grandma, Mentor, etc.

caitlinpaddy

3. Take a photo of them with their “pit bull” dog and a sign. If their dogs aren’t present, just take a photo of your fabulous neighbors, friends, and family with their signs.

If you’re not heading to any events this month, you can still send us your photos! May we suggest hosting an online photo party? Encourage friends and family to snap a photo and join Majority Project with you!

4. Finally, collect as all the photos you took and email them to us at: info@animalfarmfoundation.org by midnight on January 1st 2013

The person or rescue group who sends us the most* photos between now and January 1st will win a prize pack from AFF that includes t-shirts, posters, and copies of: I’m a Good Dog (signed by Ken Foster), Melissa McDaniel’s Pit Bull Photo book and The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant!

Remember that this photo collection is available for any organization or individual to use, so it benefits all of us to expand the album. We want this tool to make a difference in the work you’re doing. With your help we can turn 2013 into the Year of the Majority!

*To qualify, each photo must include a different person. In other words, sending us 200 photos of you and your dog doesn’t count (even if your dog is super cute).

Download the sign here!