Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tellin' it like it is, no apologies.

RPB is a teeny tiny org with minimal funding. Ok, I say this not to whine and moan, or hint that we need donations (even though we do, *hint hint*). I say this because when fundraising or promotional opportunities arise, ones that could get us some exposure, perhaps generate some donations, and also raise awareness for the breed, that's pretty darn cool!

Those opportunities don't come along very often, however, for RPB.

RPB is a fairly no-nonsense organization. We advocate hard for responsible breed caretaking, and talk a lot about what it’s REALLY like to live with Pit Bulls; we don’t just lean towards the "cute and cuddly" stuff. We also discuss some of the things that aren’t so fuzzy about the breed that people need to be aware of before they decide to bring one home. We don’t rewrite history (the breed wasn’t originally the “nanny dog” or bred for hunting or herding or farm work). There are “easy” Pit Bull temperament traits, and there are “not so easy” temperament traits. There are things about the breed that make them super easy dogs to call your own, and things that make them rather difficult – we tell it all, like it is.

RPB is called The REAL Pit Bull because we don't sugarcoat, make stuff up, or twist facts just because sometimes facts aren’t so pretty. Marketing goes a long way in the nonprofit world - same as in the world of for-profit corporations, make no mistake. Nonprofits need to market to fund their organization’s efforts. That’s part of life. But RPB's concern has always been first and foremost the dogs, the people who interact with them, and bringing the truth to light. The REAL Pit Bull - as in the breed, the American PIT BULL Terrier - isn't a product to sell to the masses, it's not Coca-Cola, or Starbucks, or the latest must-have smart phone. We DON'T want everyone to "buy" our product. We want smart decision-making, educated consumers, and people to realize that hey, maybe these aren't the dogs for their particular homes. So we don’t market to the masses – we market to the truth-seekers, the fact-finders, those who have a true interest in the BREED.

We also promote nondiscriminatory dangerous dog laws. We believe we have the right, express that we have the right, and fight for the RIGHT to choose whatever breed we think is the best match for our homes. We each have a RIGHT to become caretakers of the American Pit Bull Terrier if we so choose. A person's right to own a Pit Bull - or ANY dog - should come into question ONLY when such a person has proven themselves to be irresponsible, abusive, or criminal - putting other people and/or animals in harm's way.

We fight Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) because it tramples our rights, hurts the innocent (dog and human alike), and assumes guilt before any act has even been committed. We argue against BSL on principal, using logic. BSL penalizes innocent companion animals and their families, costs tax payers money for no good reason, and gives the public a false sense of security.

RPB does NOT fight BSL by sugarcoating or hard-selling the Pit Bull. We feel such a methodology does more harm than good. We never use tactics that include falsifying the history or temperament of the American Pit Bull Terrier, denying it for what it truly is, or promoting it as "America's dog, the dog for everyone, the dog that can even babysit your kid!"

Popularity is this breed’s downfall. Ignorant, uneducated, negligent and outright criminal people who mishandle the Pit Bull are causing its demise. Promoting the breed – even when intentions are good – is one of the worst things you can do to the dogs. As we like to say, “We promote education and responsibility and if you decide the Pit Bull is the right breed for you, then we encourage you to rescue one.” We do NOT promote the breed itself and we do NOT encourage any average person who may be thinking about getting a dog to run out and adopt a Pit Bull. The last thing this breed needs is to become more popular. While some people get all giddy and excited to see a Pit Bull portrayed in some big way in a positive light, we cringe – we know that kind of exposure, not coupled with education, will only lead to more well-intentioned yet potentially harmful situations.

I suppose all of this doesn't make our organization or our "product" as "consumer-friendly" or as marketable. But we're ok with that.

Recently a documentary was filmed and put into circulation, meant to be used as a tool to combat BSL. We’ve watched as, over the past year, organization after organization has hosted screenings of this movie, benefitted in some way, and helped to spread the anti-BSL message. Pit Bull advocates are raving about it. Earlier this year, before practically anyone had seen this documentary, I contacted the moviemaker and asked if RPB could receive a copy to check out the movie, make sure it was preaching a message we could get behind, and then possibly host a screening. The email we received in reply stunned me. The gist of the reply? “No.”

RPB was told we were "not a fit" for this movie because we, as an organization, hold the position that the Pit Bull is NOT the breed for everyone. Um…..what?

Let me restate this loud and clear: THE PIT BULL IS NOT THE BREED FOR EVERYONE! No breed is. THE END. We don’t apologize for this position. In the right hands a particular breed could be awesome; in the wrong hands it could be a disaster. This isn't a Pit Bull-only caveat - it's an across-the-board thing that applies to ALL BREEDS. I dare you to find one reputable sanctioned breed club or ethical rescue that says, "EVERYONE SHOULD GO OUT and get 'This Breed' because OMG it is just SO AWESOME, the best thing EVER, the perfect match for every home, and so so so cute, and great, and wonderful, and you're an idiot if you don't have one!"

Yet here RPB was being told that no, we couldn’t get an advanced copy of this movie. The moviemaker even went out of their way to tell me that yes, they do allow organizations to view advanced copies to make sure the movie meshes with their individual missions. But nope, sorry, RPB wasn’t gonna get one. Because apparently we don’t pimp out Pit Bulls? The moviemaker was not amenable to even discussing the matter. I was told that if I wanted, I could pay to go so some other organization’s screening, and IF I liked the movie, the moviemaker and I could “revisit” the idea of a benefit screening for RPB at a later date. I was so blown away, baffled, and frankly insulted that I just threw my hands up and said, “Oh well.”

Neither I nor anyone else at RPB has seen this movie. We haven’t “revisited” anything with its creator. We’ve sat by quietly as what feels like every other Pit Bull organization in the country has hosted a screening of this film, and RPB – one of the oldest and most outspoken advocates for the Pit Bull, an anti-BSL 501(c)3 nonprofit charity – was told we weren’t allowed to see a copy because the moviemaker wasn’t “comfortable” sending us one due to “conflicting viewpoints”.

Over the past year, from so-called Pit Bull organizations, we’ve seen less and less breed-focused material, and more non-specific material aimed at pushing Pit Bulls or dogs labeled “Pit Bulls” out of shelter doors with minimal if any breed-specific education given to the adoptive homes, and organizations working at convincing people to adopt Pit Bulls when those individuals haven’t done any breed research. Talking about breed traits has become taboo. Suggesting that Pit Bulls or “pit bull type dogs” are not the dogs for everyone apparently gets you blackballed from certain segments of the Pit Bull advocacy community. Fighting BSL has become all about denying breed idiosyncrasies, promoting and getting MORE Pit Bulls into the spotlight (in other words, INCREASING their popularity), insisting you can’t ever assume breed (and hence assume breed behavioral traits) just by looking at a dog, and calling every dog or breed remotely resembling a Pit Bull a “pit bull type dog” (including breeds with completely different histories and temperaments).

The popular tactic of "fighting" BSL and "helping" Pit Bulls has become a game of dodge ball, where the goal is to avoid addressing REAL issues and instead use semantics and deny, avoid, and twist truths.

We don't play that game.

RPB will keep chugging along and doing what we do. (We’ve been doing this work since 1997. I’ve personally been living with, loving, and devoted entirely to this breed since 1994.) We will keep counseling guardians with Pit Bulls who got in over their heads when a rescue or shelter placed a dog into a home without any breed education. We’ll preach responsible guardianship until we are blue in the face. Breed traits WILL be talked about. Historical fact will be promoted and fallacy will be shot down. We’ll fight BSL and offer alternatives, show up at town hall meetings, distribute information and work to save homeless Pit Bulls.

What we won’t ever do is turn our back on our breed, the American PIT BULL Terrier – no matter how difficult the struggle becomes, no matter how difficult it is to face facts and even if it means we don’t always get to hang with the “cool kids” or miss out on some fundraising opportunities.

And for all you truth-seekers, fact-fiends, the curious, the confused, and even the on-the-fencers – we’re here, for you, to help and guide and educate. And we’ll always be real with you.


Legacy said...

Excellent post!!! More organizations should be honest with people.

Liz Henderson said...

While I agree with just about everything you wrote, you cannot assume that the hosting organizations of the documentary "financially benefitted" from it. For us the cost of ticket sales went to cover the cost of hosting the screening. It was not a fundraiser for us. I cannot speak for other hosting organizations.

Mary said...

Hi Liz, from what I understand and have heard from other organizations, hosting screnings have been opportunities to bring in some funding or at least get exposure for their organizations. But I'm sure you get that this isn't about making a few bucks at a fundraiser. There's a bigger picture that needs to be seen.

StardustSavannah said...

Well said- they sure aren't the dogs for everyone...glad I'm not the only one who has big enough balls to admit it:)
I still love them- and I will to the bitter end. Its what people who love the breed stand by them.
I've had good ones, and not so good ones. They're like people- not all of them do you want creeping around your home in the middle of the night.
As a pit bull owner and advocate, I completely see your point.

I'm looking forward to reading more-
Nice to meet you.


Sedona said...

Well put, Mary. Should be required reading for all the new "pit bull type breed rescues" popping up. And some longtime rescuers would do well to review this, too.

EmilyS said...

the whole: "you're trying to make people get "real" about pit bulls and therefore you're as bad as Michael Vick" thing is just appalling and disgusting. Most of these newcomers have next to zero experience either living with or rescuing APBTs. And even those that do select the calmest easiest ones to rescue (or the sad, fearful victims of bad breeding or extreme abuse)... limiting their knowledge/experience even further.

Really, one of the most prominent promoters of the "no such thing as a pit bull" is someone who, AFAIK, has never owned one, and the dog she has been promoting she herself says is not a pit bull. What's up with that? How do people like that suddenly become experts?

In a world where any signs of personality other than total acceptance of every other living creature in all circumstances is called "aggression", where dogs are killed for displaying natural prey behavior towards other small animals (dogs or cats), the classic highdrive "chip on its shoulder" APBT is doomed.

Well, that's true of dogs of that sort of ANY breed... it's only worse for the APBT because of their reputation and because there are so many of them.

superpuppy said...

I recently presented an adoption program at my local library. Included for pit bull awareness day a good amount of tellin it like it is pit bull info. all attendants of program new very little or nothing at all about pit bulls. But they have seen my dog before who also attended. They definitely found the info acceptable, informative and believable. I think if I went with the sugar coating they would think I am full of crap. I also stressed that regardless of what breed of dog or cat you adopt. The most important thing to do is research breeds learn their behaviors. learn positive training and successful programs like 2 week shut down and NILIF research dog history. All dogs are individuals. Yes I have a perfect pit bull. He is smart well behaved and loves the company of people and dogs. However I believe he did not come this way, yes he had a good temperament, but it takes work and the best trainer I ever went to once said "this dog is lucky to have found you. in the hands of others I believe some of the behaviors (silly and goofy) could have put him in and out of shelters." I have to thank the forums and people like Mary for telling it like it is so that I had the opportunity to learn and teach without expecting my dog to just become what he is today.
Thank You for Tellin' it like it is.