The Pit Bull canine breed just might be the most misunderstood of them all. From news (horror) stories about Pit Bull attacks to their tragic use in dogfighting, the Pit Bull breed has a stigma that can be hard to overcome. San Francisco's BadRap (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls) is on a mission to educate, rehabilitate, and, in a roundabout way, rescue as many Pit Bulls as they can.
Q: Why Pit Bulls? What drew you to them?
A: I'm a Husky girl at heart, but the Pit Bulls had some plans for us that we didn't see coming. My husband Tim and I got involved in rescuing the breed in the late '90s after realizing how absolutely horrible things were for these dogs.
At the time, the shelters in the Bay Area were putting most or all of their Pit Bulls down -- illegally, actually. Nobody much cared. San Francisco even went so far as to exclude the breed from their Adoption Pact, which was written to save adoptable shelter dogs and make San Francisco a so-called no-kill city.
The poor Pit Bulls didn't have a hope in the world ... they were total outcasts. It was hard to see this injustice and know that the dogs were completely alone, so we met up with a handful of other people who were feeling the same angst and brainstormed ways we could pool our resources and try to create some changes. We only meant to help a few local dogs here and there, but the response to our project knocked us over. We had unknowingly signed up for a life's time of work both at home and around the country, and it's not slowing down.
Q: How do you help overcome the Pit Bull reputation?
A: The happy thing is, we don't have to do anything to help the breed's reputation but enjoy the dogs, shine a light on them, and tell their stories. They make it really easy on us since there are so many exceptional Pit Bulls and loving families out there.
True dog people know and understand this, but it's the non-dog people who need to get this information. We help them get it by being very public with our dogs; they're marching with us in parades, hanging out with us at cafés, doing important jobs like therapy work, competing in dog sports, or just being gorgeous and photogenic.
Q: What’s the adoption process like via your rescue group?A: You must be 21 or older, be local to the area, fill out an application, provide references (your current vet, if you have one, as well as others who can vouch for you), you must own or have landlord approval, pass an interview, show you have an understanding of the challenges of the breed, agree to a home visit (and pass it), and sign a legally binding adoption contract.
Q: Initial adoption cost(s)?
A: Our adoption fee is $150. That includes free training and support for the life of the dog ... and we love when people take us up on that offer.
Q: What type of household/family is best for a Pit Bull (are they good with small kids, in apartments, etc.)?
A: Pit bulls are individuals, and like all the other dogs and dog breeds that are out there, you'll find a wide range personalities.
Dog shoppers should do a very honest personal inventory on what your lifestyle is like, including the amount of free time you expect to have over the next 12 years, and then commit to a careful search for the right dog.
There are tens of thousands of Pit Bulls and Pit mixes looking for homes, so it's fairly easy to find a good match for your wish list -- including compatibility with cats, young kids, and tiny apartments, if that's your style.
The toughest part of owning the breed isn't finding the right dog -- it's learning how to wear a thick skin to fend off the breed bias that you'll get hit with. Someone once told me that they thought coming out and being publicly gay was going to be hard, but it was a cake walk compared to what people thought of her for owning a Pit Bull.
It hurts to be told that your family member should be shot in the head, and yes, you'll hear that. Can you imagine? But the more we have solid and proud Pit Bull owners out there willing to set the example, the more the haters will be silenced, and the more our dogs can enjoy being a part of a compassionate society.
Q: How many Pit Bulls have you rescued to date (both in the group and personally)?
A: We've lost track to tell you the truth, but we're working toward 500 dogs rescued over an 11-year time frame. We're not a rescue group though! So many people think we are. Our main function is education and advocacy work.
Q: When did you start?
A: Our official jump off the cliff and into the unknown date was April Fools' Day 1999.
Q: What are the names, ages, and personalities of your current personal pack?
A: We have four personal dogs whose job it is to keep us laughing. Our golden girls are Pit Bull Sally and mutt girl Lola -- both 12 years old and not slowing down. Honky Tonky is our deaf Pit Bull. He's snow white, in case you're wondering, and he's about 6 years old. And our brand-new "baby" is a Husky mix named Elliot we adopted from a rescue in Idaho. He's just 6 months old. Gotta have a husky in my life to keep me balanced.
Thanks, Donna, for sharing about the Pit Bull breed!
My two cents -- I'm of the "don't blame the breed, blame the owner" mindset, and I think that 9 times out of 10, if there's an issue with a Pit Bull, the owner is at fault.
What do you think -- would you give a Pit Bull a chance?