2008-04-02 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets . . .

by Joanne Anderson

Pit Bulls have no natural coat to withstand a life chained outdoors; some enter shelters, their Waldorf Astorias, as living skeletons with multiple gashes, mange, ears cropped hedge clipper style, and imbedded prong collars. In a life proverbially "going to the dogs", being reincarnated as a Pit Bull is the ultimate in bad K-9 karma.

Besides bearing the scars of abuse and poor press, their sheer numbers make responsible/loving homes for Pits a scarce commodity. An informal survey shows that at least 75% of all dogs in LI town shelters now are Pit Bulls and Pit mixes. City shelters are packed with Pits too. Dog demographics were different 10-15 years ago. We used to see variations on the Shepherd or Lab mix theme.

To address concerns about the overwhelming number of Pits in municipal shelters, shelter directors and rescue volunteers recently met at 2 brainstorming sessions. The immediate result is the Long Island Pit Bull Predicament Conference, sponsored by Last Hope, Inc.-Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation (www.lasthopeanimalrescue.org.), to be held Sat. May 3, 2008 from 9 am to 5 pm at Suffolk Community College, Lecture Hall at the Health, Sports and Education Center of the Grant Campus in Brentwood. The conference (631-425- 1884) is open to all. Advance registration (which includes lunch) is $20; at the door is $25.

The Pit Bull situation is extremely complexsocio economically, culturally, legally, ethically. Breed specific legislation (BSL), both illegal and unfair, is not the answer. The goody two-shoe days depicting a Pit Bull as mascot of Buster Brown are long gone- RCA's "His master's voice and Petey from Our Gang. Like it or not, there is an underground economy of dog fighting and drug dealing with Pits as pricey pawns. Unfortunately the breed often appeals to the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Towns walk a fine line when they discriminate against adopters. We're yet to see if the aftermath of Michael Vick will impact positively or negatively.

Town shelters must take in all stray dogs. Pair the Pit surplus, with the trend toward "no kill" and municipal facilities are becoming holding tanks for dogs, some cage crazed, that are going no where. Private rescues can selectively pull a few, but these Pits still wait months before finding the right home. Granted many are dogs with sound temperaments, but often the strength and canineto canine aggression in others make them too much dog for many of us.

The Pit Bull Predicament Conference will focus on workable solutions to curtail irresponsible breeding and to enhance the breed's public image and adoptability. Stopping rampant breeding is the first priority. Presently mandatory spay/neuter at shelters only applies to adopted pets. Intact dogs claimed by owners continue to breed. Shelter directors are exploring creative ways and incentives to deal with this issue.

Scheduled speakers at the May 3rd Pit Bull symposium include Adam Goldfarb of the Humane Society of the US and Jane Berkey from Animal Farm Foundation, who will address the history and myths of the breed. Jane Hoffman of the Mayor's Alliance will debate dangerous dogs versus irresponsible owners while Jacques Lynn Schultz, senior outreach director for the ASPCA, will explain how to care for Pit Bulls in shelters. Linda Klampflof Almost Home Animal Rescue will discuss Training Wheels, the amazing outreach program she administers in Wyandanch. (See "Pets" online archives 11/2/06; 11/22/07.) In the last session we will develop short and long term plans to address the Pit Bull plethora.

Sorry if you detect frustration, but I've seen the extreme cases. Way before Vick's victims, plenty of dog fight rings were raided in Nassau and Suffolk. The living evidence of man's inhumanity toward his supposed best friend languishes in shelters while courts decide their fate. These battled dogs, tolerant of handlers, are bred and taunted to tear each other apart if given the slightest opportunity, and sometimes they get that chance.

Last month the SPCA seized a skinny blue-nose Pit puppy left alone for days inside a home with 3 sick kittens, one dying from something neurological. They brought the neglected pets to a town shelter. A dedicated volunteer lined up a great home for the pup. He could have had a wonderful life, but it was not to be.

The owner returned with excuses galore plus a bill of sale. He was referred to the SPCA and police. His buddy tried to re-claim the pup too. Since I'm always eavesdropping when I shouldn't be, I heard him say: "it was abandonment only if you left the animals alone outside". Hard to believe, but law enforcement let the pup go back to the neglectful owner.

...Just one more Pit story without a happy ending. The LI Pit Bull Predicament Conference offers hope. It is a step in the right direction to end needless suffering. If you care about dogs- all dogs, please attend.

Oyster Bay's Pilot Feral Cat Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) Policy: Beginning this month Oyster Bay has enlisted the help of All About Spay Neuter, Inc., Joe Rachiele, and Last Hope, Inc. to implement their free TNR program. Requests from Oyster Bay residents for feral spay/neuter or help trapping are being relayed via the shelter (516-677-5784) to one of these 3 agencies. This plan is different from the Babylon Town program described here last week. Remember Babylon residents can pick up their free feral spay/neuter vouchers this Sat. 4/5 at Phelps Lane Annex from 11 am to 1 pm.

Oyster Bay Shelter Adoptables: "Yokie" #926, shown here playing on the shelter's slide, is our "Poster Pit". This 3 yr. old small mix plays well with others. You can see her romping in the yard with "Dee Dee" in the shelter's new video feature on Petfinder. "Socks"#1129 is a "purrsonable" tortoiseshell cat. Come visit these gals and other potential pets at the Miller Pl., Syosset shelter, right off the LIE Exit 43N.

Dogs: "Dee Dee" #933- "Yokie's pooch pal; "Milan"- #218- male Toy Poodle; "Gustaf"- #59- Swiss Mt. Dog mix; "Chestnut" #1116. The last 2 guys play with Yokie also.

Cats: "Spackle" #207- white & black big guy in the lobby; "Randy"- gray tabby in the showcase.

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