Friday, August 28, 2009

Lest we forget....

With dog fighting and Vick all over the media, it is very easy to lose sight of what the modern day APBT is really about - family friend, service dog, partner. The breed was once held in very high regard in American society. Today, it is extremely popular as a companion animal.

Unbalanced emphasis on abuse and illegal activity - as if the dog fighters, criminals, animal abusers are the only ones who own the breed - can backfire. Organizations such as PETA have used examples of widespread abuse as reason to ban the breed. The general public, although sympathetic to the Pit Bull's problems, see no cause to keep the breed alive. It is too bad that more focus isn't placed on the typical Pit Bull, living in the typical home, and doing typical Pit Bull things. Perhaps when society begins to see these dogs in a more realistic light, we will make some real progress.

Chako's new America's Dog campaign is a great step in the right direction.....

Thank you to Chako for a great vid!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Blancing Act

Beliefs on Pit Bulls are often extreme. Whether you are berating them as vicious monsters, or cooing that they are as sweet and gentle as baby bunnies, either way, your opinion is likely to be very strong. Even in groups consisting only of breed advocates, you will find harshly contrasting ideas about what, temperamentally, the APBT is at its core, particularly when you hit on the subject of dog-directed aggression.

Over the past 15 years that I have been involved with this breed, there has been a gradual shift towards more sane, *balanced* thinking about Pit Bulls and the behavioral issue of dog-directed aggression. We're (the Pit Bull advocacy world) moving farther away from that extreme end of the spectrum that says, "This breed is dog-aggressive, PERIOD. They are born that way and will always fight!" and instead looking at the breed from a more reasoned, scientific place.

I think it's rad that people are thinking and experimenting and giving the DOGS a chance to tell us who and what they are. The old battle cry of "Never trust a Pit Bull not to fight" has been outdated for a while now (not sure if it ever was really useful, period) and everyone's coming up with new and better ways to educate and represent our dogs.

My hope is that we can stay balanced as a movement (Pit Bull education and rescue), and not - in the process of defending our dogs - move too far in either direction and end up misrepresenting what they are. I've heard from many people who have taken offense to this or that on the RPB website; usually it's in response to something about Pit Bulls oftentimes having issues with other dogs. We've actually had people come at us as if we were the enemy, that, somehow, by suggesting the breed was prone to certain (undesirable) behaviors, we were insulting their dog and the breed as a whole. In some ways, I can understand this. When your breed has been brutalized and discriminated against, it is easy to be sensitive and work a little harder than you should to paint a picture that is perhaps overly rosy.

The other end of the spectrum is still a problem too - I recently heard from a person who thought I was crazy and an animal rights extremist because states that it is a myth that Pit Bulls 'love to fight', and that given the opportunity to learn to display other behaviors, are more than willing to mingle peacefully with other dogs. This person was nearly irate that we dared make such a bold statement. "They DO love to fight! That is why Poodles run away from a fight, and Pit Bulls run towards it". As a dog trainer, I can assure you, any breed can and will move towards another dog in an effort to attack, and aggression is always based on a desire to make the target go away. It's not a want or a love, it's a perceived need to get that target AWAY that drives aggression: in Pit Bulls, or ANY breed. We still have such a long way to go in the education department.

Pit Bulls are just dogs; they display dog behavior. There is nothing a Pit Bull does that every other breed in the world hasn't done at some point or another. They are also a unique breed (isn't every breed unique?) and because they are a breed, certain generalizations about their temperaments and oft-seen behavioral issues can be made. I hope we don't lose sight of the fact of what we actually have in these dogs. I also hope we can keep probing and asking questions and seeking truth and balance so we can help the breed flourish and prosper - conservatively, with the RIGHT guardians.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


As an organization, The Real Pit Bull has avoided coming out with an official statement regarding Michael Vick. RPB already has an official statement on dog fighting - zero tolerance, no excuses. In one sense, Vick is just another dog fighter. He was caught, he was prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, served his time.

Vick is now a free man, signed with a new NFL team, and gearing up for his first game. You might say this story has run full circle, and as Pit Bull advocacy organizations, perhaps we should all just "move on”.

Oh? Move on?

What makes the Vick case different from other dog fighting cases - keeps it in the spotlight and emotions surrounding it high - is Vick’s celebrity and the especially brutal torture and death of the dogs who never made it out of Bad Newz kennels alive. For many, the torture is what cannot be "moved on" from. What drives the continued protests. What keeps so many from forgiving a man who hasn't convinced them he is truly sorry anyway.

When the news broke that Vick signed with a new team, a collective cry of renewed outrage arose. This outrage was immediately met with an attitude of, "He served his time, leave him alone". Vick has a legal right to pursue employment - and he has. The NFL is within their perfect right to reinstate him - and they have. Any NFL team can sign him right up - and one has. Poor Vick, right? Oh just leave him be!

Vick actually seems to be doing just fine. In fact, huge numbers of people seem to be willing to just forgive and forget. What most strikes me is the quickness with which so many look past Vick's actions, or dismiss sadistic abuse on animals with a simple, "But he paid his dues - he went to prison". I recently read an email that said in part, "We shouldn't judge Vick. Besides, I don't think Vick was even directly involved. He just bankrolled the kennel." It is a common misconception that Vick wasn't directly involved. He was. He used his own hands to kill dogs. Vick's dogs were routinely, systematically, tortured than killed. And Vick not only paid for it, he helped do it. As for not judging....Humans make judgments every day. About what to wear, what to drive, what to buy, what to eat for dinner, what organizations or companies to support, and what people to associate with. We have an ability to judge right and wrong and to recognize that our behavior will shape others' judgments of us. Judging a person based on good deeds is no different from judging a person based on bad deeds. Just like Michael Vick was judged as a football player prior to his arrest and conviction, so is he now judged for his severe abuse of dogs.

And here's a judgment football fans will have to make: whether or not to give money to an organization that now employs Vick, allows him to pick up right where he left off, and pays him a hefty sum to do so. All before any actions to back up the few apologetic words Vick has so-far spoken.

If the NFL and the Eagles have a right to embrace Vick and allow him to return to the fold with nary a stipulation placed on him, those who have NOT forgotten the abuse, have NOT been able to simply "move on" have a right to protest, to let their feelings be known, and to take their money elsewhere.

Caution: This collar can be hazardous to your dog's mental health!

Photobucket Not too long ago, website feedback came in from a person who had an issue with our anti-shock collar and anti-punitive training stance. In a nutshell, this person claimed there was no negative fallout from shock collar usage, and that it was a fine tool for training that didn't cause pain to the dog. I responded with many valid, scientific reasons why RPB does not advocate use of shock collars, and why I as a certified trainer actively work to dissuade people from using such devices on their dogs. (I never received a reply....)

    "There is never any reason for pets to be shocked as a part of therapy or treatment…There are now terrific scientific and research data that show the harm that shock collars can do behaviorally." - Karen Overall, PhD

What I found most disturbing by this person's email wasn't that she used shock collars to train dogs, but the fact that she obviously considered herself an educated trainer and yet still lacked even a fundamental understanding of how and why shock collars work. I'm not sure if this person was self-taught, or had learned from other shock collar trainers. But what I am sure about is that a person presenting themselves as 'educated' was spreading misinformation about a training device that could do some serious emotional harm to a dog, not to mention the physical pain it could cause.

The truth is, there is lots of bad and misguided training advice out there. Dog guardians are often misled - purposefully or ignorantly, even innocently - by those who stand in an authoritative position. One aspect of RPB's mission is to educate and guide Pit Bull guardians in the humane, practical training and behavioral management of their dogs. We as an organization are often in a very good position to steer people towards valid, scientific sources of information on dog behavior and training. Pit Bull parents can learn hands-on in my positive clicker classes about teaching their dogs new behaviors, and solving common behavioral issues in a humane, pain-free way.

No guardian wants to physically hurt or cause emotional stress to their beloved dog. I wouldn't think for a minute that shocking a dog sounds good to any sane individual. Sometimes people *just don't know*! That's where RPB comes in...

Here is a great article from Dog Sports Magazine on shock collars and why they can be problematic. It is important, before you use any device, to understand it. Don't take a professional's word for it. And always trust your gut!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Vick Signs With the Philly Eagles

Source: ESPN.

And HSUS' odd partnership with Vick is taken to the streets.

Some days you just gotta wake up, hug the dogs, and move on.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

When the Past & Present Collide

With all the talk about fighting dogs recently – the big busts, for instance, and the finally-wide-spread realization that fighting dogs are actually victims that deserve a chance at life – we thought we’d talk a little bit about breed history, and how it relates to the dogs today: both those rescued fighters AND the typical Pit Bull that shares a home with humans as a companion dog.

Pit Bulls as a breed were originally created to fight other dogs in the pit. This much we know as fact. Something else we know as fact: Pit Bulls from the very beginning have also been…Companion Dogs! The scrappy, brave fighting dog also a family animal? You betcha! The APBT breed has historically walked parallel paths – one of fighting dog, one of family, farm, and companion dog. Through the course of the breed’s history, these two paths often crossed and at times they were barely distinguishable from each other. A fighting dog might be a companion dog might be a fighting dog; and sometimes a dog was just a companion, sometimes just a fighting dog. But the breed had two distinct roles and it often hopped from one to the other.

Eventually, the fighting path began to fade away, grown over with the thoughts and ideals of more humane, enlightened attitudes. What was left for the APBT? The job of purely companion dog within the modern dog fancy. People continued to keep the breed as a pet, a show dog, a working dog. Hey! These are the jobs these dogs are REALLY good at, anyway. There is a reason that the breed has flourished since the outlawing of the so-called ‘sport’ of dog fighting.

When people ask, “Why are Pit Bulls good companions when they were bred to fight other dogs?”, the simple answer is, “But they have always been companion dogs too! We just eliminated one crappy element: the dog fighting!”

Well, not REALLY eliminated. Because despite its felony status, dog fighting still continues on today. Pit Bulls, although legally freed from the cruelty of dog fighting, are still in reality subjected to this brutality.

RPB has always recommended that rescued Pit Bulls be treated the same, regardless of their backgrounds: dog dumped by someone who lacked the means to care for him, or dog rescued from a fighting bust. A Pit Bull is a Pit Bull is a Pit Bull. A fighting dog isn’t so different from the companion dog snoring on your couch (gawd we love those bulldawg snores!) It’s just that one dog had the misfortune of being born into a dog fighter’s yard. The other landed on your couch.

And sometimes....a dog goes *from* the fighter’s yard TO a savior’s couch!

This has been happening more and more as of late, due to new attitudes about the rescued canine victims of fight abuse. Dogs being confiscated from dog fighter raids are starting to trickle down into rescue on a greater scale. And guess where they end up? In new homes, as companion dogs. Wow!

In a sense, times have changed little. Some Pit Bulls are still companion dogs. Some Pit Bulls – sadly, tragically – are still fighting dogs. And some Pit Bulls are just lucky enough to be given the opportunity to make that leap from fighter to companion dog.

We hope and pray to doG for the day when NO Pit Bull will ever to be placed on the path to fighting dog. But until that day comes, the way is paved for the rescued victims to cross over onto the path of loved, cherished, family companion.

The majority of Pit Bulls today will never be within sniffing distance of a fighting pit. But they are still playing one role they've always played throughout their history, in good times and bad: loving, intelligent companion, partner, best friend, and family member. And these dogs are so good at what they do that we think their future in this job is pretty much nailed down.

To learn more about breed history and dog fighting, visit our fresh page, Dog Fighting: Then, Now.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

In the wake of multi-state raid, still more bust dogs...

Who could deny that raids removing dogs from the miserable world of fighting are a reason to celebrate? Especially now that bust dogs are actually getting a chance at moving into rescue instead of being slaughtered en masse once they are 'saved' from the dog fighters. But after the initial "Whew, glad those dogs got outta there!" jubilation, a whole new reality sets in: very often, the dogs hit a dead end after they are confiscated.

What will happen to the dogs, where will they go? Will rescues be able to find room? Will an already incredibly burdened system be able to deal with such large numbers of dogs coming in all at once?

Many are still reeling from the news that the largest dog fighting raid in history meant confiscation of nearly 500 dogs.

Then we heard the news that Indiana netted another 100 dogs from yet another raid....

It becomes rather overwhelming, doesn't it? All these dogs, very limited resources. In the coming months, Pit Bull people are going to have to be on their toes and ready to go to the aid of these dogs. Lining up to be a foster, donations of money, goods, or time, are ways you can help. RPB will continue to post information on the organizations involved in helping the MoBust, Indiana, and other bust dogs.

The people helping the Pit Bulls need help to do their jobs. Let's collectively be there for them, and all help the dogs TOGETHER.

A Bust Dog's Thoughts

Meet Smiley King Elvis, one of the dogs rescued by HSMO and Mutts N Stuff in St Louis, and one of the Stoddard bust case happy endings.


I cannot believe it is over a month that my family been at the secret bunker. When the Stoddard dog-fighting bust happened in 2007 right after Vick, I had to stay a year before my old "owner" would let me go. I was very fortunate that HSMO and MuttsnStuff did not forget about me. I received treats, basic obedience, and wonderful massages. This kind woman at HSMO use to take me on walks and feed me part of her chicken sandwich. We would talk about the day, I would listen her voice her frustrations over the current laws that watched over me. I always gave her soft kisses telling her it was okay and that I understood. What she did not realize that I never had it as good as I did with her.

Since my case, the laws have changed and I am hoping my family will be release soon. The dogs from the Missouri Dog fighting Bust have to be kept in the secret bunker until they are released by the courts. All of the dogs from that bust are still being held. Please send positive thoughts that all the dogs will be released and that loving rescue groups will help the dogs that can adjust to living in a home.

Let's lighten the mood and let me tell you a funny story. My brother Willie Jake from the Stoddard bust is such a hoot. Willie had the hardest time understanding glass patio doors. Of course being chained up in the middle of the woods, we never saw such a thing before. He could see through to the other side so he could not figure out what he kept stopping him. I would snicker from my crate and would smile each time he hit the glass. You know how brothers can be to each other. One day, Willie got it. His foster mom jumped with JOY and patio door is now safe from Willie Jake. So then Willie Jake went to a tennis court and guess what...yep you guessed it...he ran into the net. Oh boy, I am glad its not genetic.

I am signing off for now. If you have any question, please ask! My life changes could fill a computer about the transformation from a victim of dog fighting to couch potato. Time to have an energy bar and pass out on the couch.

Smiley King Elvis

Official MoBust Press Release

Wanted to share this. RPB is directing those who wish to make donations to send them to HSMO. HSMO is the org housing the 400+ dogs as the legalities are being worked out. Eventually these dogs will be released to the below orgs.

Rescue Groups Work with Humane Society of Missouri to Give Rescued Pit Bulls a Second Chance


August 12, 2009

* Original PRWeb article: Rescue Groups Work with Humane Society of Missouri to Give Rescued Pit Bulls a Second Chance Read the original story

- Rescue groups nationwide are working with the Humane Society of Missouri (HSMO) to care for the more than 400 dogs rescued in connection with the largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history. The dogs were seized in a multi-state raid by federal and state officers in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi. The fate of the dogs will be decided by the federal courts in forfeiture proceedings separate from the criminal cases.

Several rescue groups that have experience with the breeds of animals rescued have offered their help to care for and eventually receive some of the dogs. Groups involved so far in these efforts include Mutts-n-Stuff, based in Missouri; Our Pack, based in California; Broken Hearts, Mended Souls, based in Missouri;, an online rescue resource; Brew City Bully Club, based in Wisconsin; Dumb Friends League, based in Colorado; and New Hope Pit Bull Rescue, based in South Carolina.

'We are very grateful that these groups have stepped up to help us care for and eventually give some of them a second chance,' said Debbie Hill, vice president of Operations for the Humane Society of Missouri and incident commander for the emergency temporary shelter. 'We hope to place as many of these dogs as possible, so we need more groups and individuals like them to contact us offering places for these deserving animals.'

At least two of the organizations have experience successfully placing dogs that came from high-profile dog-fighting cases into new homes. Mutts-n-Stuff Pit Bull Rescue helped care for and socialize ten of the 22 pit bulls rescued by HSMO in a raid in Stoddard County, Mo. in 2007. 'Mutts-n-Stuff is committed to helping HSMO care for and place these dogs,' said Gale Frey, the rescue group's founder. 'We were there for the Stoddard County animals; we will be there for these dogs, too.'

Our Pack Pit Bull Rescue also took in dogs from the Stoddard County case and from the notorious Michael Vick case in 2007. According to Marthina McClay, founder of Our Pack, 'In our experience, many of the dogs from these cases can shed their sad history and be adopted as family pets. Some have even been trained to become therapy dogs.' Her proof, she says, is Leo, a dog rescued from the Vick case who she trained to become a therapy dog in just five weeks. 'These dogs have big, big hearts, and all it takes to change their outlook is someone to love them back.'

Groups or individuals interested in receiving some of these animals should immediately contact the Humane Society of Missouri at 314-802-5712.

Media Contact:
Our Pack, Inc.
Marthina McClay

Copyright © 2009 PRWeb, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bust Dog Business

RPB is following the MoBust case carefully and we are so excited by the outpouring of support for these dogs. We'll post more details as we are able.

In the mean time, Our Pack, Inc. recently posted a lovely blog with some insight. Please check it out:

Missouri Bust Update.