Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lufkin shelter two years into policy of not adopting out pit bulldogs

By Larissa Graham, The Lufkin Daily News

Officials at Lufkin facility believe they lack resources to assess temperament of breed that has a bad reputation

About two years ago, Lufkin Animal Control officials decided to stop putting pit bulldogs up for adoption at Kurth Memorial Animal Shelter. Instead, they chose to send adoptable pit bulls to other shelters or rescues that can better assess each individual dog’s temperament to see what kind of home it needs.
“When we did adopt pit bulls, not many were adopted. Now, the ones that we would have thought could be adopted are sent out to rescue,” said Animal Control Director Rhonda McLendon. “We’re usually successful.”
When a dog is taken into a rescue, McLendon said, it is usually sent to a foster home, where its personality is assessed to determine if it can be in a home with other pets or children. It’s difficult to assess a dog’s personality while it’s in the shelter because it tends to be a noisy, stressful environment.
“Most dogs don’t act the way they would at home,” McLendon said.
In addition, rescues often have the manpower to perform screenings on potential dog owners to make sure the dog will be cared for. That might even include a visit to the potential owner’s home.
Because pit bulls have a reputation as a tough, fighting dog, it is important to ensure that the owner plans to treat the dog right once it is in their care, McLendon said.
“Some people who want pits want them for the wrong reasons,” she said. “And Animal Control can’t do home inspections or as thorough a screening.”
Unfortunately, McLendon said, pit bulls, Labradors and mixtures of the two are the most common dogs that come in to animal control. That overpopulation means not every pit bull, lab or mix will be able to stay, simply because Animal Control doesn’t have the room to house them.
At the same time, not every pit bull that comes to animal control is adoptable. They might have health issues, or they might have been used in dog fights or have been bred for aggression.
“A lot of the time you could tell they had been breeding for aggression,” McLendon said. “We have a lot that come in with temperament issues, or they have health issues or scars from dog fights.”
Pit bulls as a breed need human attention, McLendon said, and should not spend their lives on a chain.
“They need to be properly socialized with humans and other animals as puppies,” McLendon said.
“Potential pet owners need to ask themselves whether they’ll have time for obedience training, and if the dog will get along with kids, cats or other dogs.”
Blue, a pit bull mix, was picked up by Animal Control in Lufkin on Monday and was transported to Nacogdoches Animal Control, where he has a chance at being adopted. Nacogdoches Animal Control Supervisor Jamie Shelton said someone has already expressed interest in adopting him. When he was brought out of his holding pen, Blue acted like any other rambunctious puppy, grabbing pine cones off the ground and begging for attention from Shelton and anyone else who happened to be close.
“We love pit bulls here,” Shelton laughed, referring to the handful of pit bulls vying for attention in the adoption stalls.
For more information on how to get involved with fostering, contact Kurth Memorial Animal Shelter at (936) 633-0218 or Nacogdoches Animal Control at (936) 560-5011.

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