Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rescuing High Profile Dogs

The opinion mill is stirring now that the dogs seized in the raid of Wildside Kennels have been killed and the cries of grief are being heard from rescues, sanctuaries and individuals. While many groups wanted to go out of their way to save these dogs, there is another side of the fence that is saying something doesn't seem right or fair when rescues and other organizations make room for these 'big name' dogs when just as many if not more typical, everyday Pit Bulls are dying locally every day.

RPB's stance is that a group should work within its home base state to rescue dogs and not spend unreasonable time, money, and resources trying to bring dogs in from all over the country because some dog somewhere else has some special appeal. It is the duty, afterall, of a rescue to look after the welfare of the Pit Bulls in its own area.

However, Pit Bull rescue people are in a unique situation, because of the prejudice our breed faces. Sometimes, bending over backwards to accomodate a nice dog from a far-away shelter that hasn't exactly been Pit-friendly up to this point ends up helping more dogs in the long run. The power of a successful adoption and team work between organizations - even across states - should not be underestimated.

In these fight bust cases, the overall message that gets sent when these dogs are given a chance is that Pit Bulls, regardless of where they came from or what their breeding is, are worth something and are dogs that can live within society; they aren't the monsters of media infamy, nor do they deserve to die just because HSUS or PETA says they do. The success of the Vick dogs surely has made some people stop and notice. What if no one stepped up to help those dogs? We would be short a heck of a lot of really powerful media that would have never been generated by rescue of those 'everyday' dogs. One reason RPB joined the other groups that had filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Vick dogs was specifically to help future bust dogs - big name or not, here in NJ and beyond - get a chance. If the Vick dogs could get a lot of positive press, proving that fight bust dogs could certainly make wonderful pets, what could that do for other dogs down the road? And the Pit Bull breed in general?

Although from the vantage point that allows one to see the grand scheme of things, the BYB bred dog whose owner just got sick of and dumped at the shelter is worth the same as any of the Vick or Faron dogs, rescue people need to make difficult decisions about rescuing some dogs over others. Every ethical rescuer asks themselves before making these decisions, "Which action ultimately has the most positive, far reaching effect on the breed as a whole?"

On a more everyday, mundane level, rescues make choices like this all the time - when they choose the happy, correct, friendly Pit Bull over the adorable, sweet, but extremely fearful or reactive Pit Bull. Why? Not because one dog has more or less worth, but because rescue is NOT just about *that dog, in the moment* - it is about all future Pit Bulls that are effected by the actions of every rescue, and the actions of rescued dogs.

Pit Bull rescue isn't straightforward. All dog rescues deal with issues of money, limited time, and limited resources. But additionally, Pit Bull advocacy groups must deal with breed image, public scrutiny, anti-breed laws, and the powerful large-scale humane organizations like HSUS and PETA often preaching very anti-breed rhetoric, all as they juggle their ultimate goal of helping as many dogs as possible and reclaiming the dignity of and a future for the APBT.

Rescuing a Pit Bull is never just about rescuing 'a dog'. It is about saving all Pit Bulls that come after; it's about saving a breed. And the actions of ethical Pit Bull rescuers reflect that reality.


New Hope Pit Bull Rescue said...

Thank you for posting this blog Mary! This is something that we've been wanting to say for a very long time, but as a rescue feel the need to choose our words carefully. Being in the public eye, we often find ourselves being questioned and accused of not caring about these dogs because we DO have to say no sometimes when we would love nothing more than to say yes.

The reality is that as a responsible and ethical rescue, we aren't doing these dogs or the breed any favors by taking in more than we can reasonably care for. That means always staying on top of our finances to make sure that we don't over extend ourselves. We rely on public donations to help cover the costs of caring for the dogs in our program. We also have to consider the number of foster homes available to us and the animals they already have in their care. In that too, we must take in to consideration the experience of each foster home and the type of dog they can handle.

There is SO much to think about when rescuing this breed. More than what I've talked about here, that many of you already know. Ultimately each decision we as rescuers make HAS to be thought of in terms of the future of the breed. After all, isn't that what Pit rescue is about? Saving lives as well as the future of the breed?!

Our Pack said...

Wow, well said!!!! Very true...and difficult at times!

Anonymous said...

"... rescue is NOT just about *that dog, in the moment* - it is about all future Pit Bulls that are effected by the actions of every rescue, and the actions of rescued dogs. "

In a nutshell (again!). Brilliant post, Mary.

Though isn't it a tragedy that we have to think of rescue that way. When will "pit bulls" allowed to be just "dogs" again???