26 February 2015
By Joanna Dunn Samson, FOTAS Vice President
Dante is one handsome guy. He sports a sleek blue-gray coat and a dashing white mask that spreads over one eye and down his neck and chest. He is a gifted athlete. Quick and nimble, there is no Frisbee too high or ball too fast that escapes his grasp.
Dante is a hit with the ladies. At the shelter, they vie for the honor of escorting him to the play yard to throw the coveted Frisbee. They love to stroke his muscular body and pop juicy treats into his mouth. Mesmerized by his charisma, they rub his belly for long periods of time. He accommodates their attentions with good humor and patience. Can he help it if he’s irresistible?
So if Dante is handsome, healthy, athletic and affectionate, if he is so adored by FOTAS volunteers and shelter staff, then why has he been on the adoption floor at the Aiken County Animal Shelter for close to 30 days?
Because Dante, through no fault of his own, through a random act of pure fate, was born a pit bull, and pit bulls make people nervous. Why is that?
“It’s their reputation and history as fighting dogs,” says Jerry Lyda, the President of Southern K9 Solutions and Veteran’s K9 Solutions, “yet pit bulls are not inherently dangerous or aggressive; in fact, just the opposite. They are generally people-lovers – eager to please and easy to train. We use them as service dogs all the time.”
Like any dog, their disposition and personalities are a direct reflection of the people who care for them. Sadly, the “bully” breeds are the most abused dogs on earth – most likely to be bred indiscriminately, starved and neglected on the end of a tether, or mistreated by criminals or cruel owners as a senseless demonstration of machismo and power.
“The fact is,” says Lyda, “pit bulls, like all strong, intelligent dogs, need to be properly socialized and trained by responsible owners, and when they are, they make extraordinary pets and companions.”
At the County shelter, all dogs, but especially the bully dogs, are carefully screened by staff for aggression to people and other animals. No dog is released to the adoption floor unless staff is certain it will be a safe companion. Once cleared for adoption, the dogs are scrutinized and handled by volunteers and trainers virtually every day.
Moreover, because of the unfortunate bias against the bull breeds and the high number that populate open admissions shelters like the County shelter, it takes longer to find a home for dogs like Dante. But here’s the good news: the longer they stay at the shelter, the more time, effort and attention they receive. So much so that by the time they are adopted, FOTAS volunteers and shelter staff can say with certainty: this is a good dog.
Dante is a good dog. He needs a home – badly. The inevitable stress of shelter life is beginning to wear on him. He’s a little stir crazy. He’s dropping weight. His tail bleeds from thumping anxiously against the kennel wall when someone walks by. He desperately needs a person to love and a place of his own to run and play. His time is running out.
Please don’t wait. Dante’s life – all their lives – are in our hands.
BY THE NUMBERS
2/5/15 — 2/25/15 ten day period
In supplementing the County Shelter’s local adoptions, FOTAS organized 6 transports, transferring 43 dogs who now can have forever loving homes.