Friday, September 28, 2012

Star of ‘Pit Boss’ promotes bull terriers in book signing, events this weekend

By Patrice Wilding, from The Times-Tribune

Shorty Rossi, the star of the hit Animal Planet series "Pit Boss," will make appearances at several area stops Saturday and Sunday to espouse the value pit bulls can have as therapy dogs and family pets.

He'll also encourage spay and neutering while promoting his book, "Four Feet Tall & Rising."

The timing couldn't be better for the breed, as recent news reports of a dog attack in Olyphant in which a woman was severely injured and her small dog was killed by a loose pit bull, that was subsequently shot and killed by a neighbor, have perpetuated ill will toward the canines.

Upon hearing about the attack during a recent phone interview from Los Angeles, Mr. Rossi acknowledged that reports of run-ins with pit bulls can undermine his message, but it's nothing he isn't used to.

"People don't understand these dogs were bred to be very powerful, and when you have a very powerful animal and don't train it right, bad things can happen," he said. "These dogs are high maintenance.

Same old story

"No matter if it's the owners' fault, (media reports of attacks) always backtracks us, and a lot of times the story is not what it seems," Mr. Rossi continued. "Dogs need to be well secured in (their) backyard. Some things will never change as long as there's people with stupidity in this country."

One of the biggest misconceptions most people have about the breed, he added, is that the dogs are more likely to attack innocent people and animals than other types of dogs.

"You have a one in 15 million chance of being bitten by a dog, and only 6 to 8 percent of that is a pit bull," Mr. Rossi said. "People need breed awareness of pit bulls.

"That's why I bring Hercules, to show he is a well-mannered dog," he explained. "It does make an impression to let everyone see (him) and see how much of a docile dog he is."

Hercules, of course, is Mr. Rossi's pet pit bull and his main therapy dog. The animal has gained its own fan base by being the focus of the show in which Mr. Rossi works to provide support and awareness through his business Shorty's Pit Bull Rescue. Mr. Rossi also manages and owns a talent agency for other little people like himself in the entertainment industry called Shortywood Productions.

Mr. Rossi's life wasn't always so constructive, as detailed in his book, he said. He left his parents, who were dwarfs, when he was a teen due to a combative relationship with his abusive father. Then, at the age of 18, Mr. Rossi was involved in a gang-related shooting and convicted of several felonies, which led to a stay in a youth facility and a term at Folsom State Prison that stretched 10 years, 10 months and 10 days.

After he was released, Mr. Rossi found work as an actor and at events calling for a little person. Throughout all of his ups and downs, pet pit bulls were a constant in his life, and helped him weather many difficult times.

Turned it around

His own story of redemption is not unlike theirs, Mr. Rossi said.

"No matter what happens in your life, you can change," he said. "You can turn it around.

"People need to give back something to humanity, and my redemption is my pit bulls," he said. "They, like little people, are misunderstood, so we have a bond."

When they're not filming, Mr. Rossi and his dogs travel around the country for autograph and book signing events and to help local pit bull groups. He also makes appeals to the government for stiffer penalties for reckless dog owners and to further the cause of spaying and neutering to cut down on dog overpopulation.

This year alone, he and Hercules have logged more than 11,000 miles on the road, he estimated, but it's all well worth it, Mr. Rossi said.

"I think he's happy traveling with me and always (being) by my side," he said. "I think the show itself has done a lot. We've made some changes, made shelters reconsider policies on euthanizing pits. Or when you meet people all across the country who say, 'Because of you, my father let me get a pit bull,' it's a good thing.

"It's very much impacted not just the U.S., but Canada and Latin America, too," Mr. Rossi said. "But there's a lot more to go."

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pleasantville family disputes police account of pit bull shooting

By Anjalee Khemlani, from Press of Atlantic City

Christina Salcedo said she has questions about why her father’s pit bull, which attacked a small Yorkshire terrier last week, was fatally shot by responding officers.

Jose Salcedo, 56, was issued three complaints: for letting a dog run at large, for a dog biting, and obstructing the administration of law by refusing lawful commands by two officers, according to police reports.

The police report stated the dog threatened the responding officers in the Sept. 20 incident and that police attempted to separate the dogs.

An officer “attempted to break the pit bull’s bite by placing my baton in between his jaw (and) throat area, but he wouldn’t release,” the report stated.

After more attempts, the dog was finally shot three times before it ran away to the rear deck of the house where it died, police said.

But Christina Salcedo, 29, is upset with that account of how the pit bull, Mamita, was killed.

"They didn't do anything," she said of the responding officers.

The incident began when Christina Salcedo was in the kitchen with her father, while the pit bull was outside running around the yard. Both suddenly heard "Stop! Stop!" and ran outside to find that Mamita had a grip on Pauline McKinley’s terrier just outside the fence.

Police officers arrived after being flagged down by McKinley, 80, according to the police report.

At first, Christina Salcedo said, they tried to calm McKinley, who was screaming, “He’s killing my dog!”

Salcedo said they explained that she was clearly trying to separate the dogs.

The police report said one witness said the pit bull jumped the fence and attacked McKinley’s terrier.

“The gate wasn’t locked, that dog did not jump over a fence,” McKinley said.

Christina Salcedo said officers tried to coax her away from the dog as she was on the ground trying to pull the terrier away from Mamita. She told her father in Spanish, "I don't want to let go because they will shoot her.”

The police kept yelling orders to let go, and Jose Salcedo screamed out, "Ay, no lamate!" which means don't kill her, Christina Salcedo said.

Eventually, Salcedo’s father convinced her to let go, she said.

“As soon as I let go, he shot her,” Salcedo said.

The police report stated: “The pit bull was pulled slightly away from the smaller dog for a split second and then unprovoked went after the injured small dog and the female holding the dog.”

Neighbor Reynaldo Soto heard four shots and watched the pit bull run back into the house. Moments earlier, while Salcedo was still struggling with the dog, he screamed out to the officers to use pepper spray.

McKinley said when her dog was released from Red Bank Veterinary Hospital this week, she was told he had one leg that would never function fully again.

Based on the report, the officer felt threatened by the dog, and in such situations it is standard for the officer to fire a shot, said Randall Lockwood, senior vice president of ASPCA Forensic Sciences and Anti-Cruelty Project.

Typically though, using pepper spray, a baton or physically grabbing the dog to try and separate it are encouraged methods, Lockwood said in a phone interview.

The Salcedos grew up with pit bulls from when she was at least 12 years old, she said, and they have always been normal, friendly and loving dogs.

“They are not vicious. I know sometimes people train them, and those are the wrong ones,” Salcedo said.

No one knows what instigated Mamita to attack the small terrier, but McKinley said she is now afraid to walk by the area with either of her dogs.