Sunday, July 18, 2010

ASPCA's "Operation Pit" Promotes Pit Bull Adoption

By Amy Lieberman, Zoo Too

By shining a spotlight on pit bulls and pit-mixes, the ASPCA seeks to decrease the number of homeless pets in New York City.
An ASPCA first-time initiative, dubbed “Operation Pit,” launched this past Thursday, is an effort to decrease the rate of approximately 50,000 homeless pets that enter New York City area shelters each year.
“Anyone that walks into an animal shelter in the U.S., particularly in the Northeast, will notice that dogs tend to be overwhelming Pit and Pit-mixes,” said Louise Murray, DVM, Director of Medicine of the ASPCA Bergh Memorial Hospital in Manhattan, where “Operation Pit” is being headquartered.
“These are great dogs and we wanted to do something to help with that situation.”
Pit Bulls tend to have litters of 10 to 11 at a given time, unlike Chihuahuas, for example, which might have just one or two puppies in a litter, Murray says. That can increase the number of unwanted puppies, making them more susceptible to entering a city shelter.
The ASPCA already offers six mobile veterinary and spay/neuter clinics that move around New York City, which is also home to other initiatives, like the Toby Project, which also provide complimentary spay/neuter procedures to pet owners who can’t necessarily afford to take their dogs to a private veterinary clinic.
But “Operation Pit” is designed to “literally invite Pits into our doors, saying ‘Please come, we’d love to have you,’” Murray told Zootoo Pet News.
Spaying and neutering dogs has multifaceted benefits, besides providing a fool-proof method of birth control and standing to curb rates of unanticipated, and potentially unwanted, litters. Spaying a female Pit or Pit-mix can help prevent them from developing an infected uterus or breast cancer, two diseases common in this particular breed, Murray says. Male Pits tend to be more prone to enlarged prostates – if they are not neutered, this can lead to difficulties in urinating and defecating, as well as vulnerability in contracting Parvo virus.
“In addition to helping prevent Pit and Pit-mixes from becoming homeless, fixing your dog can help prevent some of these health problems,” Murray said.
A vasectomy for a male Pit is also another option for owners who choose to enroll their dog in “Operation Pit” – the less invasive surgery won’t work to prevent health issues in a way that neutering a male will, but it will still serve as an effective form of birth control. It will also not alter a male’s physical appearance, which some pet owners are wary of doing when considering fixing their male dog, Murray explained.
All Pits aged between three months to six years are eligible to join the ranks of “Operation Pit,” which won’t require them to stay at the ASPCA hospital for more than one day. Dogs first receive a complimentary check-up by a veterinarian, and then in addition to being fixed, will get vaccinations and a microchip, a result of the ASPCA’s partnership with the organization Home Again for this initiative.
The brave dogs will go home with military, camouflage “doggie gear,” including bandanas and tank tops, demonstrating their strength and resilience throughout their mission.
Owners have been very enthusiastic about the military theme to this initiative, Murray says, really responding to “the nice feeling of community and that this is a team effort.”
The ASPCA isn’t aware of any other like Pit-geared spay/neuter/vasectomy initiatives across the U.S., but the overwhelming dominance of Pit and Pit-mixes in city shelters is a nationwide problem, Murray says, predominantly concentrated in urban and suburban areas. Misperceptions of Pit Bulls as naturally aggressive dogs don’t help their ability to find permanent homes, either.
“There definitely is this view by some members of the public of these dogs as frightening, and a lot of that just comes from urban legend, but it is very important for Pit owners to be very responsible, since they are big, strong dogs,” Murray noted. “Any time you have that dogs are capable of inflicting harm or developing behavior issues if they are not handled correctly. But they are really great dogs if they are, like all other dogs, raised properly and socialized.”
For more information about Operation Pit, visit www.aspca.org
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