How Sign Language Helped Bella The Deaf Pit Bull

Did you know that dogs can be taught to understand sign language? Moreover, dogs are being taught to sign right here in Nebraska at the Central Nebraska Humane Society in Grand Island. The shelter took on their first deaf dog in 2014, and since then have continued to develop their program of teaching sign language to deaf dogs. One of the most recent dogs to benefit from the program is Bella, a young pit bull mix. CNHS Volunteer Tracie Pfeifle and Bella’s adoptive mom shared her story with me.

Bella_PJS

Two-year-old Bella came from a small rescue in Oklahoma. She’s mostly white with patches of brown and cream. Her distinguishing feature is her eyes which appear to have eyeliner around them. Those who know her say that Bella has special “looks” that she’ll give to communicate her moods, whether she’s displeased or relaxed. She’s also described as boisterous but gentle.

When Bella came to the Central Nebraska Humane Society, she immediately bonded with anyone who gave her attention. What helped develop her personality more is when she learned the basic signs for: “Good girl,” “Sit,” “Down,” and “Roll over”. And what helped her further cement bonds with staff is when they began to use her signs. Soon, if Bella didn’t receive the attention she craved, she’d demand it with howls and glares.

Bella won the hearts of CNHS staff with her cute ways. Tracie recalls that when Bella would be in the outside pen and the weather was nice, “she would howl at me if I did not come and see her and then take her for a walk. No amount of telling her to be quiet would help. She would then turn her face away when she did not want to see your hands giving her commands.”

In addition, when Tracie would put Bella back in her kennel, Bella “would squeeze out and dash to the door that ledBella_Bed to office area of the building. She had the orneriest/happy look on her face I have ever seen. She never showed any shame.”

In terms of Bella’s likelihood of ever being adopted, her breed was just as much of a disability as her deafness. Bella had come to the right place by being placed at the Central Nebraska Humane Society. According to its website, CNHS serves an area which produces many unwanted pets and stray animals, with a higher number of them being pit bulls. CNHS believes that pit bulls possess many great qualities and make for great, life-long companions.

CNHS was also the right place for a deaf dog. In 2014, Central Nebraska Humane Society started a program to teach deaf dogs sign language so they can better communicate with their owners. The practice began when the shelter took in two hearing-impaired dogs for the first time. According to Nebraska TV, Tracie modified American Sign Language to develop a one-handed sign language that allowed her to communicate with a dog using one hand and hold onto the leash using the other hand. After realizing the process wouldn’t be much different than teaching basic obedience to dogs who can hear, which requires lot of repetition and positive reinforcement, Tracie made this her special project. Her expertise has benefited more than one dog, the latest being Bella.

Bella_BabyCNHS’s commitment to Bella paid off, and a woman expressed interest in adopting her. But by this time Bella had bonded to Tracie and found leaving her to be hard. In addition, Bella can be stubborn. A sign that Bella is now in the right home is that her new pet mom has looked Bella directly in the face and repeatedly told her, “I am more stubborn than you”. However, Bella has faced challenges and simply continues to grow from difficulties that come her way.

Her new family includes two children (a one-year-old and an 8-year-old) and a 9-year-old doxie/lab mix, and various other family members that come and go all of the time. They love Bella dearly, and Bella’s new pet mom says Bella “fits in well with our quirky little family”.

Thank you to Laurie Dethloff, Central Nebraska Humane Society executive director, as well as Tracie and Bella’s mom for sharing her story. The fact that the Central Nebraska Humane Society has a program to work with deaf dogs was exciting news to me, and I’ll be following up with them for more stories and perhaps even visiting the shelter. Keep reading LAA Pet Talk for more stories from Lincoln and greater Nebraska.

Bella_DogAnyone wishing to help pit bulls directly can take advantage of LAA’s special offer to get a pit bull fixed for a reduced price. Until June, the cost is only $25. As the average spay/neuter can cost between $100 to $200, depending on the breed and the vet, the savings to an owner is obviously substantial. Also, please help LAA reach as many dogs as possible by sharing the Mighty/Tiny Project link and by donating to help cover costs. Let’s all work together to help the cause of pit bulls.

Finnegan and Gus: Pit Bull Buddies

When Duana adopted Finnegan in June 2014, he was “a little spitfire” but otherwise a “well behaved dog”. Because she’s active, she’d wanted an energetic dog, and Finnegan fit the bill. Then he hit six months, and Finnegan started chewing. Everything. Especially when he was left home alone. Before she’d adopted him, he had been left tied up as puppy in the woods, and so Duana believed Finnegan experienced separation anxiety. Now making sure she’d burned enough energy to keep his chewing to a minimum “became quite the chore”. Not only was Duana taking Finnegan to the dog park at least three or four times a week, but she was taking Finnegan for LONG walks on the days she couldn’t squeeze in time at the dog park.

FinnGus_WindowInstead of giving up on Finnegan, Duana decided to try the bold approach of fostering another young dog who might serve as an outlet for Finnegan’s energy. She’d fostered before and had found it “a great experience to see the change in a dog when they met that perfect family”. She put in an application with PawsUp and, in April 0f 2015, the group set up a meeting for Finnegan and another pit bull named Gus.

I really wish I had that first meeting on video, because no one would ever believe it.

The dogs had completely opposite reactions to each other. “Gus was a sweet guy, but he was NOT having anything to do with Finnegan.  He didn’t even want Finnegan within a few feet of him.” In contrast, “Finnegan has always been the determined stubborn type though and he was going to make Gus like him no matter what it took!  Even if that meant slowly Army crawling towards Gus.” Sometimes determination fails; other times perseverance is everything. “After about two hours, Gus finally decided maybe he’d give in and Finnegan wasn’t so bad.”

About a week later, Duana took the three-year-old pit bull home to foster. The minute she walked in the door, Finnegan showed his pleasure in reuniting with his new friend. “They immediately started wrestling and then after Finnegan gave Gus a tour of the house he took him outside to show him the ins and outs of the yard.”  Within minutes, Finnegan had Gus crawling around under the porch deck, one of his favorite spots to hang out.

FinnGus_WaterBefore long, Duana felt comfortable enough to leave the two dogs alone together. And that’s when the real bonding adventures began. “You could tell Gus was learning things from his younger brother that he’d never been lucky enough to experience, like how to chew on a bone or an antler.” Gus had originally been scared of water and Finnegan taught him how to swim. In fact, the dogs forged such a strong connection that they began to create mischief together. “I started coming home to blankets that were just shredded! I had no idea what was happening until I was sitting at the sewing machine one night thinking they were just wrestling but when I turned around they were playing tug with a blanket…. After that I decided I would need to leave them in a room with nothing that they could destroy!” One day Duana came home to the frightening discovery that the dogs’ rough play had resulted in injuries. Being at wit’s end, she considered returning Gus to PawsUp. But, perhaps sensing Duana’s frustration, the dogs learned their lesson and played safer in the future.

I was convinced at this point that Gus needed to be adopted and there was no way I could keep him. He deserved a home where he could find peace without a bonehead younger brother constantly picking at him to play.

Despite the rapport between the two dogs, Duana felt the time had come to find a permanent home for Gus. Granted, after six months of being together, the dogs might have their moments of acting like siblings, but they were also still so very different. “Gus is an old soul and is very ‘chill,’ while Finnegan is angsty and whiny much of the time. Gus is very territorial and will charge the fence at the neighbor dogs, which is one of the few times he shows much energy.  Finnegan just wants to play and have fun and would allow any animal into his yard! It took about 4-5 months for Gus to actually sit up in the car and smile on the way to our destination. He’s learned that we go fun places when I take him in the car like to the dog park.  Finnegan loves going anywhere in the car and would run to ‘his room’ when I picked up my car keys or when he could tell I was getting ready to leave. And while Gus likes the FinnGus_Floordog park and has learned to interact with other dogs, he sometimes has a hard time there because when Finnegan is playing he feels he needs to jump in and protect Finnegan…. Finnegan just wants to chew on his bones until bedtime and then he needs to ensure he’s the one sleeping right at my side.” The list went on, right down to how the dogs differed in their reactions to Duana. “Gus is my protector and likes to cuddle.  He wants mom’s attention as much as he can get it.  Finnegan just wants to chew on his bones until bedtime and then he needs to ensure he’s the one sleeping right at my side.”

EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE was telling me that I just HAD to keep Gus.

By September 2015, Duana was starting to weigh her options. “Gus had a few potential adopters ask about him and reality was setting in that he might be gone.” Having fostered before, Duana knew letting go could be a challenge. But Duana also knew she had to make the decision with her head, not her heart. Financially, taking on a second dog would be a hard. She also knew that Gus would be okay without Finn because he could have peace and quiet. What she didn’t know is how Finn would do without Gus. It was time to see.

Duana asked a friend to take Gus for the weekend. “Finnegan became more of the Finnegan I had known before: whinier and more angsty.” While Duana knew she could convince herself that he’d eventually adjust to life without Gus, “what I couldn’t take away from him was how excited he was when Gus came back home. Finnegan was just beside himself with joy and I decided that for him I needed to keep Gus.” An unexpected bonus allowed her to pay off her car, which meant she could afford the extra expense of providing for a second dog. She adopted Gus in October.

FinnGus_SofaSince then, the two dogs have “become even more inseparable”. However Gus reacts to a new situation such as a visitor at the door, then Finnegan has to follow suit. They play tug together and chew on the same tennis ball. A normal evening starts with Finnegan chewing on a bone and Gus taking a nap, but then they’ll turn to wrestling. At night, they’ll sleep with Duana on her bed, and the next day Duana will find them together on the couch. Duana often takes the siblings to the PawsUP Microchip clinics so they can see everyone there and get their nails trimmed. “If Gus leaves Finn’s side, Finn is just a whiny mess the entire time! The fact that they are so opposite seems to balance them out.”

I love hearing those who say “your dogs are the best behaved dogs here and they’re pit bulls”.

Duana remains happy with her decision to keep Gus. People think the dogs are related and she receives many compliments about the Finnegan and Gus being a gorgeous pair. It makes her chuckle when she meets people who can’t believe a “female owns two male pit bulls”.

Anyone wishing to help pit bulls directly can take advantage of LAA’s special offer to get a pit bull fixed for a reduced price. Until June, the cost is only $25. As the average spay/neuter can cost between $100 to $200, depending on the breed and the vet, the savings to an owner is obviously substantial. Also, please help LAA reach as many dogs as possible by sharing the Mighty/Tiny Project link and by donating to help cover costs. Let’s all work together to help the cause of pit bulls.

LAA’s Project to Help Pit Bulls

Did you know that, according to Petfinder, the dog breeds with the highest numbers available for adoption are pit bull terriers (over 17,000) and Chihuahuas (over 13,000)? Other than the Labrador retriever, which also runs around 17,000, the closest that any other breed numbers is 5,000 or less.

My heart sinks to see those astronomical numbers. Some other breeds, such as English shepherd, Irish setter, and Japanese Chin each have fewer than a hundred in need of adoption. It’s difficult for me to envision how thousands of pit bulls and Chihuahuas could possibly get adopted.  And yet there’s something that all of us can do to help.

What we can do is take advantage of LAA’s The Mighty and the Tiny Project, through which owners of pit bulls and Chihuahuas, can get their dogs fixed for only $25. These two dog breeds are most at risk for relinquishment and euthanasia.

LAA’s Mighty/Tiny project is made possible by a grant from the Best Friends Animal Society. Who is the Best Friends Animal Society? Why have they awarded this grant? Nearly 30 years ago, this animal welfare group helped pioneer the no-kill movement. At that time, more than 17 million pets were being killed annually in our nation’s shelters. Through the implementation of spay/neuter and trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs to reduce the number of pets entering shelters, and through the increase in the number of people adopting pets from shelters, these numbers have been reduced to around four million deaths per year.

Four million is still too many. The Best Friends Animal Society, along with many other animal welfare groups, are committed to reducing that number to zero. One way they are working to achieve this goal is through their No More Homeless Pets Network partner program with local shelters, which includes Lincoln Animal Ambassadors. Another way is through their national initiatives that focus on animals most likely to enter America’s shelter system. Currently, these are: cats, castoffs from puppy mills, and pit-bull-terrier-type dogs.

The sad fact is that more than 9000 animals are killed in our nation’s shelters. That’s seven animals per minute. More pit bulls are euthanized than any other dog breed. Sadly, pit bulls were once considered a great family dog; now, thanks to a reputation for being aggressive, they are often banned through Breed Specific Legislation. The rest of this week, LAA Talk will share a few personal stories I’ve received about local pit bulls.

The grant that Lincoln Animal Ambassadors received from Best Friends will run out this June. So far, LAA has spayed/neutered about 60 pit bulls and about the same number of Chihuahuas. Please take advantage of the special offer to get a pit bull fixed for $25. As the average spay/neuter can cost between $100 to $200, depending on the breed and the vet, the savings to an owner is obviously substantial. Also, please help LAA reach as many dogs as possible by sharing the Mighty/Tiny Project link and by donating to help cover costs. Let’s all work together to help the cause of pit bulls.

MightyTiny

 

Experiences of Dog Rescue Groups with the Mighty/Tiny Breeds

As the recipient of a grant from the Best Friends Animal Society, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors created The Mighty and the Tiny Project whereby the group will spay/neuter Chihuahuas and American pit bull terriers at a cost of only $25 per dog. These two breeds are most at risk for relinquishment and euthanasia in the United States. This fall, as part of helping to promote The Mighty and the Tiny Project, I reported on my research into both breeds and even included interviews with two of their owners. To wrap up my coverage for 2015, I’ll highlight below what other local animal welfare groups shared with me regards their opinions of and experiences with these two breeds.

Yes, I think that Chihuahuas and pit bulls are the most difficult to place.—Carol Wheeler, Hearts United for Animals

Pit bulls are harder to place than Chihuahuas. Partly because of size and breed restrictions where people live. Young Chihuahuas have found homes through us fairly quickly, but the older ones have taken longer.—Holly Harpster, Nebraska No Kill Canine Rescue

To start my research, I sent out emails to various local dog rescue groups. Groups that responded noted varying experience. For the Chihuahua, some groups either had little contact with them or limited difficulty placing them. In contrast, for the pit bull, some groups either had just started working them or outright didn’t even accept them.

The two animal welfare groups I chose to interview were Nebraska No Kill Canine Rescue and Hearts United for Animals. Nebraska No Kill Canine Rescue, a group dependent on fosters and adopters, is a non-breed specific dog rescue. Hearts United for Animals, a no-kill shelter near Auburn, has rescued almost every breed that is commonly known in the United States. My thanks goes to Holly Harpster and Carol Wheeler for taking time to answer interview questions.

I asked Holly and Carol about their experiences placing Chihuahuas and pit bull terriers. Both women confirmed that these two breeds have been difficult to place. Holly also added, “With any breed, the personality of the dog has a lot to do with the ease of placement. A dog that is small, fluffy, house-trained, and loves everybody will quickly find a home. Throw in ‘non-shedding’ and we’ll have multiple applications in a day!”

Why have Chihuahuas and American pit bulls been such a challenge to place? With Hearts United for Animals the biggest challenge in placing Chihuahuas, Carol frankly stated, is that they can often be unfriendly to would-be adopters. “There are people who know the breed well and understand its nature, but a lot of people do prefer a dog that shows some regard for them at the first meeting.” Carol also pointed to the sad fact that Chihuahuas are way too numerous. “The worst breeders have pumped out litters onto society without a speck of conscience from knowing that there are way too many of them. People will buy the tiny dogs but, when there is difficulty with them, they don’t keep them.” According to a recent check on Petfinder, over 13,000 Chihuahuas need homes.

For pit bulls, Carol referred to multiple issues. First, she pointed out that the breed has an earned reputation for not getting along well with other dogs. “Pit bulls are terriers and share some attributes with other terriers, like Yorkshire terriers and Jack Russell terriers, but they’re bigger and far more powerful. When there is a spat between a pit bull and another dog, it can be a bad one.” Second, there is always concern about insurance coverage that may not be available in a home with a pit bull. “I think the problem for pet parents can happen when there is some incident involving a pit bull, and they receive notice that their insurance is going to be cancelled.” Last, there is the pit bull overpopulation issue. According to a recent check on Petfinder, over 17,000 pit bulls need homes.

With Nebraska No Kill Canine Rescue, the biggest problem in placing any dog has always been simply having a foster available to work with the dog and get the dog ready for a new home. “Especially with the pit bulls, there are so many people looking to give them up that rescues are flooded with them.” If the group does have a foster, the next problem is screening potential adopters. Naturally, the group is looking out for the best interest of the dog and so a lot of questions are asked on the application to better understand the lifestyle of the potential adopters. “With the bully breeds, we have to check city ordinances and look for any apartment/condo/duplex restrictions that could keep them from adopting the dog.” An additional complication happens with military families, because of the chance they could be transferred overseas. “Because many countries do not allow bully breeds, we need to know if they have a plan for the dog if that happens.”

This is really how most Chihuahuas act, although maybe not as adamant as Turbo. They might not welcome someone new, but they’re very loving to their own people.” —Carol Wheeler, Hearts United for Animals

My best memories of pit bulls are their big smiles and happy eyes when they’re with their family.—Holly Harpster, Nebraska No Kill Canine Rescue

Despite challenges with the Mighty/Tiny breeds, Hearts United for Animals and NE No Kill Canine Rescue have had special moments involving both breeds. Carol told the tale of Turbo. “He is adorable with ears almost as big as the rest of him. He has been living in the Central Care Room of the Homeward Bound Building and built quite a reputation by nipping at the legs of almost everyone who is new that enters the room. However when Chico is out of that area, he becomes most amiable, and so we know he is simply protecting his environment. Anyway, he is most loving and precious to those people that he knows.”

She also shared the story of Axel, a pit bull who was brought in by a city official. “Axel was running the streets of a small town causing some havoc.  I knew from the first look exchanged with Axel that he is a profound fellow, full of love and loyalty, so anxious to give his heart to someone who would care about him. The more I have learned about him, the more I find that to be the truth.”

Turbo_HUA

Holly affirmed, “There have been a lot of memorable Chihuahuas and pit bulls during my four years in rescue.” She told the tale of Marley and Cuddles were two Chihuahuas who came from the same home. “We thought they might need to be placed together, but tested them apart and found that they were just fine. Cuddles was an energetic young Chihuahua who was placed very quickly. Marley was an 8-year old with a wonderful, friendly personality who had the energy to play, but mostly loved to sit on your lap.  We had Marley for 8 months before he found his home. As it turned out, Marley was waiting for a special home and that is exactly what he got.  His new mistress is a quadriplegic who is comforted by having a dog on her lap and Marley has been her constant companion since they met. He even lets her mom know if he thinks there is a problem and persists until she’s checked on his mistress. He is a 10-pound package of love and loyalty and very happy now.”

Marley&Cuddles

She also told the story of Reja and Jewels, a bonded pair of pit bulls who were adopted out together. “They’re two of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever known. They love everyone and really enjoyed going for car rides.  Their preference was to sit in the front seat and with both of them trying to ride on one of my front seats, they kept setting off my seat belt alarm.”

Jewels-and-Reja

Holly emphasized that Nebraska No Kill Canine Rescue’s adoption process covers a lot of information and the group coaches new pet parents on how to best acclimate their new dog to their home. “We have been very successful in placing both Chihuahuas and pit bulls in homes that they thrive in. We stress that dogs we place need to become part of the family. A dog who alives inside with his family and takes part in their daily activities is usually a smarter and happier dog.”

Korra is a Pit who we had for 2 years before finding the perfect home. She had been in several foster homes prior to finding the home that had everything she needed.
Korra is a Pit that Nebraska No Kill had for two years before finding the perfect home. She had been in several foster homes prior to finding the home that had everything she needed.

Celebrity dogs, aka designer dogs, are very popular with puppy mills. They’re the latest trend and they can get high prices for them.—Holly Harpster, Nebraska No Kill Canine Rescue

No discussion of Chihuahuas would be complete with addressing the issue of celebrity dogs. According to Mill Dog Rescue, largely due to media influences the Chihuahuas accounted for 2.4% of the dogs offered for sale or adoption by 2010. Yet sadly overbreeding has saturated the demand for these tiny dogs. When I asked Carol about her opinion of celebrity dogs, she didn’t mince words with her reply, “Promotion of celebrity dogs is irresponsible because it lures people into seeing only the glamorous side of pet ownership without the responsibilities that go along with it, and the most irresponsible people are susceptible to that.”

Holly was just as outspoken. “If you want a designer dog, I urge you to actually see the place they were bred. Websites will always look good and are NOT an indicator that your dog isn’t coming from a puppy mill. If you aren’t allowed into the facility or allowed to see both of the pups parents, that should be a red flag. Ask lots of questions, get health and vaccination records, and be prepared to walk away if things don’t feel right.”

I think breed specific legislation needs to specify what every dog needs and not promote an outright ban.—Carol Wheeler, Hearts United for Animals

No discussion of the American pit bull terrier would be complete without addressing the issue of Breed Specific Legislation, a rule which animal welfare groups tend to not support. Carol is of the belief that, “Dogs that are kept safe and comfortable don’t cause a problem. They have a human house to live in and a securely fenced yard that protects them and protects the public from them.”

Holly stressed that, “BSL is not the way to prevent dog bites.  The way to prevent dog bites is to place the responsibility and accountability of people’s dogs on the people who own them.” To decide for yourself about this issue, please check out my article on the topic: Is the Pit Bull One of the Most Aggressive Breeds?

Focusing specifically on the pit bull, Holly added that she doesn’t believe that the pit bull breed is any more dangerous than other breeds. “Any breed of dog that is not properly socialized and trained can bite under the right circumstances. Understanding the characteristics of a breed is key to getting a dog who fits your lifestyle and if you aren’t willing to put in the time to train and socialize your dog, don’t get one.”

I think it’s a great thing that LAA is making the low cost spay/neuter possible for dog owners of these two breeds.—Holly Harpster, Nebraska No Kill Canine Rescue

You have now read the highlights of what local animal welfare groups shared with me regards their opinions of and experiences with Chihuahuas and the American pit bull terriers. In previous posts published this fall, I reported on my research into both breeds and even included interviews with owners of Chihuahuas and of American pit bull terriers. Armed with all this information, the question remains: What can the average person to do?

If you have an unaltered Chihuahua or a pit bull, please take advantage of the below offer from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors. As the average spay/neuter can cost between $100 to $200, depending on the breed and the vet, the savings to an owner is obviously substantial.

If you don’t need to have a Chihuahua or pit bull altered, please help LAA’s The Mighty and the Tiny Project reach as many dogs as possible by donating. Let’s all work together to reduce the number of unwanted dogs.

Also, should the cute stories and photos make you interested in owning a Chihuahua or pit bull, please educate yourself first to determine whether the breed is right for you. Then contact your local shelter or one of Lincoln’s numerous rescues.

They’re all dogs!  They all have their own individual personalities and quirks and they all need good homes. Some breeds are more popular to adopt than others, but Chihuahuas and pit bulls are not hard to find in rescues. There are plenty available for adoption! –Holly Harpster, Nebraska No Kill Canine Rescue

Life with the “Mighty” Breed

Pit bulls are in great need because of people’s perception of them.—Dina

According to the United Kennel Club, the essential characteristics of the American Pit Bull Terrier are confidence, strength, and enthusiasm for life. Due to extreme friendliness, even to strangers, UKC does not recommend the breed as a guard dog. In addition, UKC notes that American Pit Bull Terriers make excellent family companions and have been well-noted for their love of children.

On the flip side, UKC cautions that most American Pit Bull Terriers can exhibit aggression. Few can deny that the history of the breed includes blood sports such as bull-and-bait and, when that went out of style, dog vs. dog. Indeed, because of its powerful physique, the American Pit Bull Terrier requires an owner who will carefully socialize the dog and train it to be obedient.

Extremely friendly, but aggressive. And thus the controversy over the breed. Having limited familiarity myself with the breed, I spent hours in September researching and reporting on the debate over pit bulls. I also contacted local pet owners and animal welfare groups to ask them about their personal experiences with these dogs.

Dina & Nala: "When I have been gone too long, she lays on top of me to keep me home."
Dina & Nala: “When I have been gone too long, she lays on top of me to keep me home.”

Dina Barta owns two pit bulls. Both were in danger of being euthanized. Her first, Nala, was taken off the adoption line because she scared a volunteer. “Nala is a talker with a growly bark. She barks to be fed, she barks to play, she barks when she wants you to follow her.” Dina explained to me that many pit bulls communicate like this but it takes time for those unacquainted with pit bulls to understand and become comfortable with it. “I’ve entered houses with pit bulls to do photographs, and the foster/owner will ask me if I speak pittie. I laugh and say I am fluent.”

Her second, Renny, was picked up in Salina, Kansas, which is a Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) town. One of Salina’s restrictions on pit bull ownership is it will not allow anyone in the state to adopt their pit bulls and so the dogs have to leave the state. “I was just supposed to foster, but it only took a couple of days to know she was not leaving. She is the comic of the house.”

DinaBartel_PitBull1
random pit bull photo, Dog Bone Photos

I asked Dina about her most touching moment as a pit bull owner. Dina replied that with so many pit bulls she’s had many. One occurred at Capital Humane Society, before she had her own, and when she felt truly terrified of these dogs. “I had to photograph a pit bull named Hoss. I was so scared to get him out of his kennel, but I did it. We went into the yard and he leaned so hard on my legs. He laid down and ‘frog-legged’ (putting his rear legs straight back), and wagged his tail at me. My heart melted. I was never scared again. Hoss taught me.”

Obviously, Dina has had many touching moments with her own pit bulls too. “Nala hugged me so tight the first night I brought her home, I did not think she would let go. Renny slowly crawled into my lap her first night here. She tried to make herself into a tiny ball, like I would not notice her snuggling.”

Every breed is different with different traits. I am so happy I have taken two pit bulls into my home.—Dina

To have a basis for comparison between breeds, I inquired about Dina’s other pets. Dina shared that she’s always had dogs in her life, ones of mixed breeds and purebred hunting dogs. Currently, she has a black lab mix named Marco. She is a Labrador fan, stating that these dogs are usually happy and friendly.

random pit bull photo, Dog Bone Photos
random pit bull photo, Dog Bone Photos

As for pit bulls, Dina says this breed is very in tune to their owner’s emotions. “I’ve never seen anything like it before in a dog. I do believe it’s what gets pit bulls in trouble. If you’re stressed, they feel this and become stressed too. If you’re calm and happy, so are they.”

Using her own two as examples, Dina described Nala as wanting “nothing more in life but to take care of me. She guards the door of every room I enter. She needs to know that I’m safe. If I have a disagreement with my boyfriend, Nala begs us to stop. She goes back and forth between us making small grunts asking us to get along. If I’m sad, Nala recognizes this and covers my face with kisses. She is not happy unless I am happy.” As for Renny, she too wants to please. If she has done anything she thinks Dina will be upset about, she begs for forgiveness. “And then there is Marco the lab. He watches all of it in quiet amusement!”

My biggest initial challenge was getting over my own crazy uneducated fear of these dogs. My biggest challenge now is staying calm whenever anyone says something uneducated about the pit bull breed.—Dina

Because of the stigma connected to pit bulls, I wondered what challenges Dina faced as an owner of two of these dogs. None of her answers suggested that she has ever faced any behavioral issues. Instead, Dina stressed that her biggest challenge has come from other people, who often view her as crazy for owning pit bills. “People do cross the street as I approach with one of my dogs. I have come to accept it. It even makes me smile now, knowing that I get to have the experience of these great dogs in my life. I am happy to not be the person afraid of these dogs.”

We really need legislation on all dog breeding! If dog owners had to obtain a license before their dogs could breed, and if they paid taxes on the sale of those dogs, maybe we could slow down the backyard breeders.–Dina

Part of my interest in pit bulls came from the decision by Lincoln Animal Ambassadors to target them with their The Mighty and the Tiny Project whereby the group will spay/neuter Chihuahuas and pit bull terriers for only $25 per dog. As the average spay/neuter can cost between $100 to $200, depending on the breed and the vet, the savings to an owner is obviously substantial. LAA chose these Chihuahuas and pit bull terriers because they are the most difficult breeds for shelters to place.

random pit bull photo, Dog Bone Photos
random pit bull photo, Dog Bone Photos

As an animal lover, I also became concerned about the pit bull welfare after learning about their poor outlook. A study by the organization Animal People Online reported that in both 2011 and 2012, pit bulls accounted for 30% of the dogs admitted to U.S. animal shelters and 60% of the dogs euthanized. Of eleven major shelter systems providing pit bull data, the average pit bull death toll among the 11 systems was 80%. The study also shared that there is only a 1 in 600 chance that a Pit Bull who even manages to find its way to a shelter will find a forever home.

When I asked Dina about why she thought the pit bulls were among the breeds most in need, Dina brought up the issue of irresponsible breeders, who are trying to make a quick buck and selling to people who do not have the time or energy for pit bulls. We also talked about how some people want to own these dogs because of their tough image stereotype. The reality, however, is that these dogs are huge lovers. “We need to continue to educate people on the breed. Pit bulls are high energy athletic dogs. They need exercise and mental stimulation. They can become destructive if they become frustrated without an outlet. We need responsible ownership.”

Many animal welfare groups believe that one solution is to spay and neuter. They contend that the biggest risk factors for dog aggression are malicious or neglectful dog owners, as well as dogs that have not been spayed or neutered.

Best Friends Animal Society believes so strongly in spay/neuter as a solution, it offered a grant for these purposes. Lincoln Animal Ambassadors is one recipient. If you have an unaltered pit bull terrier, please take advantage of the below offer from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors. If you aren’t in that situation, please help LAA’s The Mighty and the Tiny Project reach as many dogs as possible by donating. Let’s all work together to reduce the number of unwanted dogs.

Also, should the cute photos make you interested in owning your own American Pit Bull Terrier, please educate yourself first about whether the breed is right fit for you. Then contact your local shelter or one of Lincoln’s numerous rescues. A pit bull will be waiting there for its forever home!

random pit bull photo, Dog Bone Photos
random pit bull photo, Dog Bone Photos

Life with the “Tiny” Breed

I am very grateful to have my dogs. I love them very much and they are truly the most important thing in my life. I enjoy all dogs but I have a very soft spot in my heart for the tiny ones.

Abby & Aishan
Abby & Aishan

Described as “a graceful, alert, swift-moving, compact little dog with saucy expression and with terrier-like qualities of temperament,” the Chihuahua is ranked as the 24th most popular breed by the American Kennel Club. At the same time, Petfinder reveals more than 13,000 Chihuahuas are in need of homes at the time of this article. Over-breeding has saturated the demand for these tiny dogs.

Lincoln Animal Ambassadors has created The Mighty and the Tiny Project, whereby the group will spay and neuter pit bull terriers and Chihuahuas at only $25 per dog. LAA chose these two breeds because they’re the two most difficult breeds for shelters to place. As part of my research for the project, I decided to better familiarize myself with the Chihuahua by talking to people who own them.

AbbieA friend I know from the Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, has long loved Chihuahuas. Kathy was raised in southern Colorado where there exists a large Hispanic influence and many people have Chihuahuas. Kathy’s best friends growing up were a Mexican family that always had a pack of Chihuahuas. “When my West Highland Terrier Colleen died in 2002, my family member, Carmen, said she had a dream. Colleen came to her in the dream, and told her that we should get a Chihuahua and name her Olivia. This is how I got my first Chihuahua.”

When I asked Kathy about her most touching moment with Chihuahuas, she replied that she couldn’t limit to just one because several happen throughout the week. “My therapy dog and the joy she brings to little children who read to her, my humorous Elisa who does silly things on a daily basis and makes silly facial expressions, Olivia who was only 1.5 pounds when I brought her home and could not find a sweater or coat small enough to fit her, some of them remembering how to do the agility obstacles after having not done them in some time, the dogs helping me to teach beginning obedience classes at the dog club, these are just a few examples of touching moments with my girls.”

AishanWe also talked about her other dogs. Kathy owns a Chihuahua-Dachshund that likes to “tree squirrels, chase rabbits, birds, dig holes in the dirt, and roll in very dirty stuff she finds on the ground”. Kathy also owns a Hairless Chinese Crested. This dog “is not as intense or does not seem to be as concerned with what is happening within her environment. She wakes up in the morning when she wants to, and eats when she feels like it.”

Despite their differences, each dog is very bonded with us and very affectionate toward us.

Next of interest to me was what challenges, if any, Kathy faces by being the owner of Chihuahuas. She shared that living in Nebraska, as opposed to a region with a climate that is warm year round, offers the dilemma of winter and “how to adequately exercise a 4 pound dog outdoors on a daily basis when the temperature is 20 to 30 degrees for three weeks in a row, and the snow on the ground is higher than the tips of my dog’s ears”.

For any dog, the most important thing is the animal’s welfare.

SkylarAfter swapping stories about our pets, I raised the more serious topic of celebrity dogs. She noted first how dogs that participate in movies or TV programs, and are well cared for and trained by qualified animal behaviorists, may still be in a stressful situation in the movie production business. Then she addressed a second negative side effect. “Extreme focus on certain breeds in movies and TV leads the general public, some of whom may know nothing about the temperament and various needs of a certain breed of dog, to assume that if they purchased such a breed, their dog would act as the celebrity dog acts. This often results in specific breeds ending up in animal shelters after being relinquished by owners who are unsatisfied with their chosen breed.”

Indeed, according to Mill Dog Rescue, largely due to Taco Bell advertising and other media influences, the Chihuahuas accounted for 2.4% of the dogs in 2010 that were being offered for sale or adoption. Over-breeding has saturated the demand for these tiny dogs. One creative answer to Chihuahua overpopulation has come from rescues in the United States and Canada that are redistributing the breed from locations with more supply than demand to ones with more demand than supply.

How can the rest of us help the Chihuahua, labeled by the AKC as “graceful, charming, and sassy”? If you have an unaltered Chihuahua, please take advantage of the below offer from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors. If you aren’t in that situation, please help LAA’s The Mighty and the Tiny Project reach as many dogs as possible by donating. We can all work together to reduce the number of unwanted dogs.

Also, should the cute photos make you interested in owning your own Chihuahua, please educate yourself first about whether the breed is right fit for you. Then contact your local shelter or one of Lincoln’s numerous rescues. A Chihuahua will be waiting there for its forever home!

How Can You Help Pit Bulls?

If my research into the pit bull controversy has persuaded me of anything, it’s that instead of arguing about which dog is the most dangerous, we need so start focusing on how we can make all dogs safer. In this article, I will pose suggestions that coincide with the topics covered to date: fear, aggression, and breed-specific legislation. Then I’ll end with some general sound principles.

FEAR

In addressing public fear, proponents of the pit bull encourage people to remember the past. Although I’m still in the process of finding more information about the history of the pit bull, several sources do suggest the pit bull used to be perceived as a family dog, working dog, and celebrity dog. History then should serve as evidence that the problem is not the breed but how the breed is mistreated.

AGGRESSION

The National Canine Research Council recommends that rather than discriminate against select breeds, communities should take responsibility for dog ownership and management practices. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA) both recommend an approach to dog bite prevention that focuses on “improving the quality of human-canine interactions and the care of all canine species”. The AVMA provides online information about bite prevention and hosts Dog Bite Prevention Week. Dogs and people have hundreds of billions of daily interactions. Multiple studies of dog bites to children recommend education about safety around dogs, both for the parents and for the children. According to the AVMA, there are many ways the public can avoid dog bites, ranging from proper training and socializing of dogs to how to approach a dog.

Leerburg Enterprises are among many dog-training groups who contend that an aggressive dog “does not just rear its ugly head one day and become a monster.” Rather, throughout a dog’s life, it has displayed warning signs that it’s not a normal friendly pet. As such, a pet owner has the responsibility to learn how to respond to these warnings. On the Leerburg Enterprises web site is an article about the different types of aggression that dogs will display and how owners should deal with the problems related to those particular types of aggression. According to the article’s author, “understanding where aggression has its roots will help people understand the methods used in controlling the problem.”

BREED SPECIFIC LEGISLATION

Senior Director of Legislation & Legal Training at the ASPCA offers a couple of concrete suggestions regarding Breed Specific Legislation. First, DNA blood testing should be used to determine a dog’s lineage. The DNA-based breed identification tests currently on the market are not yet accurate enough for widespread use, nor are they cheap or quick. At the same time, DNA testing is sometimes the best solution a pet owner has. One well-cited example is of a man in Kansas who won his eight-month legal battle with the city to keep his dog, after DNA testing proved Niko wasn’t a pit bull. The dog was housed at animal control for the entire eight months, but has since returned home after the ordeal.

Second, behaviorists should be allowed to evaluate suspect dogs. Senior Director of Legislation & Legal Training at the ASPCA gives the example of the American pit-bull terriers that were seized from Michael Vick. Some animal welfare groups were actually calling for the dogs to be euthanized, under the assumption that pit bulls used in dog fighting were beyond saving. A judge eventually allowed the ASPCA to lead a team of behaviorists to evaluate the dogs. The team concluded that only one dog out of 49 had to be euthanized due to temperament. The remaining 48 dogs were dispersed to rescue groups and sanctuaries throughout the United States, where they now thrive. You can learn more about their sojourn at Bad Rap or Best Friends Animal Society.

RESPONSIBLE OWNERSHIP

All of us can practice responsible pet ownership practices. Simply providing veterinary care, proper diet, socialization, and training is reported to decrease animal bites.

Following leash and licensing laws also falls under responsible practice. Ireland actually mandates that any dog on its Breed Specific list must be kept on a strong, short lead by a person over 16 years of age who is capable of controlling it. Given that one European study, described by National Canine Research Council, also found that all of the bites to children from unfamiliar dogs outside of the home could have been prevented by simply leashing the dogs, Ireland’s law seems reasonable for all dogs. The editor of an online publication called City Journal noted that the Canadian city of Calgary, which had a problem with dangerous dogs in the eighties, cut aggressive incidents in half through strict licensing enforcement.

If you don’t own a pit bull, the web site Real Pit Bull, recognizes that the breed isn’t for everyone. Moreover, it’s typically not the best fit for the first-time dog owner. Pit bulls are energetic, intelligent, and strong-willed dogs who need consistent leadership from their owners, along with a commitment to their training, daily exercise and socialization. Owning any powerful breed of dog comes with this additional responsibility.

If you do own a pit bull, Mutts Matter Rescue notes that you need to be prepared for negative comments and bias towards your dog, and ready to respond to them in a positive way and address them in a positive way. You must also lead by example and make sure your dog is an ambassador for the breed. Actually, what surprised me is how realistic many pit bull groups seem to be. They often recognize that the pit bull (among many other breeds) has the potential to be aggressive, and therefore call to properly prepare for ownership of one. Groups such Pit Bull Rescue were also blunt about how adoption, fostering, and spaying/neutering are essential to the breed’s survival.

SPAY/NEUTER

In regards to spay/neuter, Pit Bull Rescue quotes one rescue in California as saying, “The pit bull population has now risen to 40% of all the dogs in 12 shelters in Los Angeles. That means that almost half of the entire Los Angeles dog population is pits or pit mixes! Most are strays, tossed out like dirty laundry. It’s heartbreaking.” The rescue then puts forth the emotional statement, “Anyone who sees these statistics must agree that not neutering an animal is irresponsible!”

Perhaps a little more objectively, the site STOP BSL writes, “considering the strong correlation between intact dogs and dog bites, it seems wise as a preventative measure to encourage spay/neuter.” The site goes on to note many other benefits to spay/neuter too. For example, those who provide the spay/neuter could use the opportunity to educate dog owners about their responsibilities, discourage the use of dogs for guarding or protection, and provide additional resources for owners who are dealing with a dog’s behavior problems. At the time of spay/neuter, dogs can be reframed as a valuable companion requiring an investment of money and time, rather than a cheap disposable toy.

Best Friends Animal Society believes so strongly in spay/neuter as a solution, it offered a grant for these purposes. As a recipient of this grant, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors has created The Mighty and the Tiny Project whereby the group will spay/neuter Chihuahuas and pit bull terriers for only $25 per dog. As the average spay/neuter can cost between $100 to $200, depending on the breed and the vet, the savings to an owner is obviously substantial. LAA chose these Chihuahuas and pit bull terriers because they are the most difficult breeds for shelters to place.

The tragic fact is that the majority of euthanized dogs are pit bulls. If you have an unaltered pit bull terrier, you owe it to your canine friend to take advantage of the below offer from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors. If you aren’t in that situation, please help LAA’s The Mighty and the Tiny Project reach as many dogs as possible by donating. Let’s all work together to reduce the number of unwanted dogs.

MightyTiny

GENERAL INFO

SOLUTIONS INFO

Should We Fear the Pit Bull?

Should we fear the American Pit Bull Terrier? At the heart of this question is the contention that the pit bull used to be the most popular dog in America, and that media hype rather than reality is the true reason for our fear. One frequently-posted article (the origin of which I’ve been unable to track down) states that the first pit bulls were brought to America by English and Irish immigrants before the Civil War as prized family possessions. General purpose herding and working dogs, they earned their keep as herders, hunters, guardians and household pets.

According to this article, by the 1900s, the pit bull had risen to fame. It was embraced as a family dog. Because of their loyalty and temperament, the pit bull even earned the nickname “nanny dogs,” entrusted to watch over and protect children while parents worked on the farm. In addition, the breed was embraced by popular culture, with highly-respected companies using the pit bull in advertising and as mascots. The beloved dog with the ring around his eye from The Little Rascals was a pit bull. It is also the only breed to have appeared on the cover of Life Magazine three times. Finally, the breed became a symbol of American pride. Pit bulls were used in posters to recruit soldiers and sell war bonds, and a Pit Bull mix named Sgt. Stubby was the first dog to be awarded Army medals.

One opponent of the pit bull, the Dog Bites web site, claims that no sources are ever cited to legitimize the pit bulls’ right to the title of America’s sweetheart dog. Dog Bites states that in 2006 the publication Animal People tested this claim. By searching the classified dogs-for-sale ads between 1900 to 1950 on NewspaperArchive.com, despite “generously” searching for pit bulls under three different breed names, Animal People discovered that the husky and the St. Bernard were the most popular dog breeds during that period; pit bulls ranked 25th out of 34.

Whether Dog Bites is right or wrong, I do find some flaws in its logic. For example, proponents only contend that the pit bull was popular in the 1800’s, noting that the pit bull’s popularity began to decline after World War II as other breeds came into favor. Thus, it seems unfair to say that no evidence can be found of its popularity between 1900 and 1950. In addition, I don’t necessarily accept that the study was skewed. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus of the origins of the pit bull, with the ASPCA even describing today’s pit bull as being a descendant of the original English bull-baiting dog, and so using multiple names seems natural not generous.

Proponents recognize that only a century ago the pit bull breed had a mixed history in Europe. Pit bulls were being misused for savage sports (an act that was outlawed in the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835) just as they sometimes are today. However, proponents also contend that pit bulls were being used as working dogs to protect the family and field. This falls in line with the opinion of the ASPCA that behavioral variation exists among individuals in all dog breeds. Thus, while I understand how individual pit bulls (just like many other types of dogs) could become dangerous in the wrong hands, I still remain puzzled why the entire breed receives such terrible press.

GENERAL INFO

The “Tiny” Breed

Ranked as the 24th most popular breed by the American Kennel Club. Described as “a graceful, alert, swift-moving, compact little dog with saucy expression and with terrier-like qualities of temperament.” At the same time, targeted as being one of the most at-risk dogs for ending up in shelters and euthanized. Meet the Chihuahua, one of the two breeds that falls under the scope of The Mighty and the Tiny Project, whereby Lincoln Animal Ambassadors will spay/neuter Chihuahuas and pit bull terriers at only $25 per dog.

A search of Petfinder reveals more than 13,000 Chihuahuas are in need of homes at the time of this article. In light of the positive description of them by AKC, why are animal shelters being overrun by Chihuahuas? Through my research, I found these main reasons: popularity in the media, over-breeding, and uneducated owners.

CELEBRITY STATUS

Time and time again, articles pin the blame for the Chihuahua’s predicament on pop culture. The movies Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Legally Blonde, as well as Taco Bell commercials, have been blamed for contributing to the breed’s popularity. Celebrities Paris Hilton and Miley Cyrus are also believed to have played a role, by fueling the perception that small dogs make adorable fashion accessories.

Is it true that media exposure of a breed can bestow a breed with celebrity status, increasing its popularity with the public? This question interested me enough that I decided to do some digging. Turns out, public perception is correct. A study by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health found that movies do significantly increase the popularity of breeds they feature.

What’s wrong with movies and commercials and celebrities increasing the popularity of certain dog breeds? As I’ll explain, the problem is that increased popularity leads to increased demand and over-breeding. And the problem with that is that much of the increased demand is based in ignorance, which results in a lot of unwanted dogs being dumped on shelters.

OVER-BREEDING

An independent magazine dedicated to the companion animals and their caretakers, Pets in the City, offered the opinion often voiced by others involved in animal welfare, “Backyard breeders and puppy mills produce as many puppies of the popular breeds as possible for income. They don’t care who purchases the puppies, let alone do any health, temperament or genetic testing on the sire and dam. This results in dogs having health, temperament, and genetic issues, as well as dogs going to the wrong homes.” Many animal experts note that over-breeding also often happens because of the failure of owners to spay and neuter. The sad consequence of all of the above is that animal shelters and breed-specific rescue groups become inundated with these fad breeds.

What I found most intriguing about the over-breeding issue is that it seems regional. Nationally, Animal People, an independent newspaper providing original investigative coverage of animal protection worldwide, found that Chihuahuas were 18.5% of the June 2012 U.S. open admission shelter dog inventory, with a whopping 93% of them located in California. Moreover, according to the shelter operations manager at the Arizona Animal Welfare League and SPCA, Chihuahua were one of the most common breeds euthanized there. Most recent available statistics show that in 2013, the two largest shelters in Phoenix received 10,535 Chihuahuas and euthanized 2,100.

Although the over-breeding of Chihuahuas seems greatest in the southwestern United States, Chihuahuas can be found in high numbers elsewhere. In its Spring 2015 issue, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors reported having spayed or neutered 1,715 pets. Of those, Chihuahuas were the most represented breed.

As noted in its Summer 2015 issue, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors received a grant of $3,750 to be used toward providing alterations for the “Mighty” dogs of this project, pit bulls and pit bull blends, allowing LAA to provide spay or neuter procedures for pit bulls and pit bull blends for just $25 per dog. Lincoln Animal Ambassadors decided to also include the “Tiny” dogs of this project, Chihuahua and Chihuahua blends, for the same low price. Your donations will increase the number of dogs LAA’s The Mighty and the Tiny Project can reach.

HIGH MAINTENANCE

The downside of turning a breed into a fad that everyone must follow is that many of those caught up in the fad don’t bother to research the health, temperament, or energy level of the breed. Many owners expect their newly-acquired dog to behave just like it did in the movies and, when it doesn’t, they discard it.

Hollywood tends to depict Chihuahuas as cute portable dogs that can owners can cart around as if they were dolls or even purses. They don’t talk. Nor can they perform amazing tricks with no effort from their owners. Like all dogs, Chihuahuas need to be fed, groomed, and housebroken. They need to be taken outside to potty, played with, and more.

Chihuahuas may also have additional needs, as several dog forums describe the breed as high-maintenance. Some agree with the AKC that Chihuahuas are very bright, very social, and very protective of their people and territory. To obtain these positives, however, requires extra effort. Owners must establish routines, check in on their dog throughout the day, and recognize that Chihuahuas will act reserved around strangers.

Although Chihuahuas can be high maintenance, the guilty parties are those owners who choose them for the wrong reasons and fail to take the breed’s characteristics and their own needs into consideration. When that happens, the Chihuahua ends up at an animal shelter or put up for adoption.

One should put the same amount of care into deciding on a pet as one might a car, house, or even marriage partner. You’re investing in a living creature with individual needs, traits, and personality. No pet should be purchased on a whim because of its celebrity status, but rather should be obtained only after thoroughly educating oneself. With that in mind, check back later in the month for a post where I interview those with more experience than myself with Chihuahuas.

SOLUTIONS

One creative answer to Chihuahua overpopulation has come from rescues in the United States and Canada that are redistributing the breed from locations with more supply than demand to ones with more demand than supply. Senior vice president of the ASPCA adoption center in New York City told NBC News, “We never have enough supply for the huge consumer demand for small dogs”.

How do the rest of us best help the Chihuahua, labeled by the AKC as “graceful, charming, and sassy”? If you have an unaltered Chihuahua, please take advantage of the below offer from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors. If you aren’t in that situation, please help LAA’s The Mighty and the Tiny Project  reach as many dogs as possible by donating. We can all work together to reduce the number of unwanted dogs.

MightyTiny

The Mighty and The Tiny Project

Did you know that according to Petfinder that two of the dog breeds with the highest numbers available for adoption are Chihuahuas (over 13,000) and pit bull terriers (over 17,000)? Other than the Labrador retriever, which also runs around 17,000, the closest that any other breed numbers is around 5,000.

My heart sinks to see those astronomical numbers. Some other breeds, such as English shepherd, Irish setter, and Japanese Chin each have fewer than a hundred in need of adoption. It’s difficult for me to envision how thousands of Chihuahuas and pit bulls could possibly get adopted. Yet there is something that all of us can do to help.

As the recipient of a grant from the Best Friends Animal Society, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors has created The Mighty and the Tiny Project whereby the group will spay/neuter Chihuahuas and pit bull terriers at only $25 per dog. LAA chose these two breeds because they are the most difficult breeds for shelters to place. We can support their efforts.

Who is the Best Friends Animal Society? Why have they awarded this grant? Nearly 30 years ago, this animal welfare group helped pioneer the no-kill movement. At that time, more than 17 million pets were being killed annually in our nation’s shelters. Through the implementation of spay/neuter and trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs to reduce the number of pets entering shelters, and through the increase in the number of people who adopt companion animals, these numbers have been reduced to around four million deaths per year.

Four million is still too many. The Best Friends Animal Society, along with many other animal welfare groups, are committed to reducing that number to zero. One way they are working to achieve this goal is through their No More Homeless Pets Network partner program with local shelters, which includes Lincoln Animal Ambassadors. Another way is through their national initiatives that focus on animals most likely to enter America’s shelter system. Currently, these are: cats, castoffs from puppy mills, and pit-bull-terrier-type dogs.

Over the next two weeks, I’ll overview the reasons why Chihuahuas and pit bull terriers are most at risk for relinquishment and euthanasia, and I’ll talk to rescue groups and owners of these breeds. For now, let me leave you with some stats from the Best Friends Society (and others) and a copy of Lincoln Animal Ambassadors’ The Mighty and the Tiny Project flyer.

The sad fact is that more than seven animals per minute are killed in our nation’s shelters. That’s 9,000 per day and 4 million per year. The majority of euthanized dogs are pit bulls. Sadly, pit bulls were once considered a great family dog; now, thanks to a reputation for being aggressive, they’re often banned due to Breed Specific Legislation.

The breed coming second to the pit bull in numbers euthanized is the Chihuahua. According to Mill Dog Rescue, the Chihuahua population has increased as rapidly as the pit bull population. By 2010, largely due to Taco Bell advertising and other media influences, the Chihuahuas accounted for 2.4% of the dogs offered for sale or adoption. Yet overbreeding has saturated the demand for these tiny dogs.

If you have an unaltered Chihuahua or a pit bull terrier, please take advantage of the below offer from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors. If you aren’t in that situation, please help LAA’s The Mighty and the Tiny Project reach as many dogs as possible by donating. Let’s all work together to reduce the number of unwanted dogs.

MightyTiny