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Dogs Were Burned in A Barrel
Just one of many horrific details after the largest dogfighting seizure ever.
My Pit Bull mix, Shelby Pup-A-Lup.

When you heard that federal and local authorities across multiple states seized 450 dogs and arrested 26 people in the country’s largest dogfighting bust to date, what was your reaction? The dogs who were fought, of course, bore the psychological and physical scars to prove it; the dogs who could not fight suffered even worse fates. According to one Missouri prosecutor, those dogs were shot in the head, thrown in the river or burned in a barrel. That’s right. I can’t get that last image out of my head. Who are these people who could even think up such a thing much less follow through on it?

If you’re like me and have a Pit Bull or Pit mix, you’re likely already deeply involved in changing the public perception of bully breeds. But what about those of you who don’t have a Pit or know one personally? I was talking to a friend who wants to get her first dog. We discussed what kind (Boston Terrier) and from where (rescue group). While discussing different breeds, I was surprised at her comment that she will never trust a Pit Bull because they can “turn on you.” She is an intelligent, well-educated person. If she believes this myth, no wonder so many other people do, too. It’s frightening. Are there so-called dog people who think that Pit Bulls are simply doing what comes natural? Or that they don’t feel pain because they’re so "tough"?

In speaking with folks at an Agility show this past weekend, I was surprised at how most people just had passing knowledge of the seizure and just kind of shrugged. They thought it was good news, of course, but it didn’t seem to affect them or their chosen breed(s) of dog, so they didn’t give it much more thought. The people at these shows are insane for their dogs, always giving them the best food, vet care and more. Wouldn’t they want  the same for all dogs?

The longer I live with dogs, the more I (unwittingly) learn about how many dog factions there are. There are people who only love big dogs or only small dogs. Some insist on purebreds  from a breeder while others will always adopt a mix from a shelter, and both parties are emphatic that theirs is the only way to get a dog. I could go on and on. My point is that as dog lovers, couldn’t we accomplish so much more when it comes to humane treatment if we all stood united? What keeps us from coming together and forging a bond between each other that’s as strong as the one between us and our dogs?


Julia Kamysz Lane, owner of Spot On K9 Sports and contributing editor at The Bark, is the author of multiple New Orleans travel guides, including Frommer’s New Orleans Day by Day (3rd Edition). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.

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Submitted by Dianne | July 13 2009 |

I am equally frustrated by the many so-called dog loving factions out there. Some will only save a dog if it looks a certain way. Some only love a dog of a certain color or size or breed. I find the breed rescues to be the most frustrating. As dog lovers, we should care about ALL dogs. Mixed breed dogs, particularly Pit bull mixes, need a champion. These dogs have two strikes against them from the start--they are mixes and therefore not "pure" and part Pit bull on top of that. How does any of that make them less worthy??
My 2 bully mixes are doing their part to educate people. They are now 13 and 18 years old and we still have miles and miles to go.

Submitted by Leanne | July 14 2009 |

I think you don't understand breed rescue. Remember all dogs deserve rescue but no one person can save them all. There are many breeds that have specific traits and they require people that are compatible with that type behavior.

Submitted by val | July 13 2009 |

it's so sad, indifference, selfishness & ignorance are so hard to struggle. Every time i see a well cared & loved living creature my heart fills w/ content, hoping they feel the same all the way around. It's in our hands to change the misconceptions about pits, if now we are so worried about the planet why can't we do the same for our furry ones? they deserve it as much as we humans do, we domesticated them! this is a horrible way to die even for the meanest of creatures. for now not even these horrible events seems to make any difference in us, hopefully in a few.
keep up the good work!

Submitted by Leanne | July 14 2009 |

The cruel treatment of those poor animals in the fighting ring is beyond belief,all dogs should be treated with care and compassion. Unfortunately the sensationalized news is to blame for the ignorance many people have toward specific breeds. There is always some breed that is accused of being vicious. When someone told my BF that he should be careful with his 10 YO pit bull because they turn on you he taught him to turn around so he could show people how they turn on you. Pit bulls are not a breed for everyone and unfortunately there is an overpopulation of the breed. They are very strong dogs with a strong will and require an experienced person to handle them. Prejudice is a hard thing to stop.

Submitted by Krista | July 21 2009 |

I agree--I am shocked that more people aren't horrified that dogs are suffering that level of abuse. But you know what? Your blog post will help, even if you help just one person question their unfounded beliefs about these dogs. Thanks to the tireless efforts of groups like BADRAP, Animal Farm Foundation and Best Friends, I think people are starting to learn about what great dogs they are and see how horribly they are being victimized. It is just so slow. I really would like to see a massive anti-cruelty campaign reach a lot of people....a book, a documentary...

Submitted by Kathrine Konetz... | July 21 2009 |

I'm not sure that the factioning of dog rescue groups can really be avoided. I mean, of course, all dog lovers should be concerned about all dogs, but honestly, the problem of dog overpopulation and the number of foster homes available makes it nearly impossible for everyone to save everybody. If you work with a particular breed group, then it makes sense to focus on that breed. And if you are a mixed breed afficionado, then it makes sense that's where you'd want to target your efforts. Most folks who are involved in dog rescue are either individuals or small groups and they can only do so much. Does that mean that if I am a member of a breed rescue that I would never take in a dog of a different breed? Of course not, but it does make sense to try and use the resources available to the best possible advantage, and sometimes, I'm sure that would mean I can take this dog but not that one. Life is full of really tough choices; and unfortunately, it's also full of people who do really terrible things to animals and to each other. Stories like this one illustrate how warped and cruel humans can be, and my heart aches whenever I hear of something like this going on. Those of us who care must try and help in the way that's best for each of us, and ultimately, all dogs will benefit.

Submitted by Eileen | July 26 2009 |

I don't think factioning is such a bad thing, because some people have more expertise to work with some of the particulars of a breed or 'type'.

But, I believe dogs are like people, no matter what their background, some can learn how to live in this world and its circumstances and can be trained to be productive, some can't or will not.

It is sad that many do 'judge' based on 'face' value. We 'see' through our knowledge and experience....I used to think I could get along with any dog...until both my dog and I experienced a series of bite attacks (unprovoked) in one year. I have since illogically avoided these 'type' of dogs (none were pitbulls or mixes) in interactions on the road. I know this is a wrong type of prejudice, but I do it (and my dog does it too.....He turns the other way and heads home).

People in the canine community (owners, breeders, trainers, shelter staff, vets) all need to get the word out stronger that 'a good dog', whatever he/she looks like, deserves a chance to thrive.

Submitted by Lou | August 1 2009 |

I unfortunately have personal experience with a little Pit mix girl that did indeed "turn on" her owner. Her owner was my son and his wife both very educated nurses who rescured this little girl off the street when she was about 6 months to a year old (we really don't know, but young)she never spent a night alone again, never wanted for anything and had the best of care and lots of love, but last April (2008) I walked in to a grizzly sight when I went one afternoon to let their two dogs out, the other is a 9 year old cattle dog mix (also rescued from the street) these dogs had been together none stop for a year and a half since they rescued the little pit. When I walked in it looked like "hellter schelter" there was blood everywhere and the cattle dog mix lay dieing I was able to rush him to the vet and my kids spent over $10,000 saving his life (they are still paying for it)but we took responsiblity for the attack and said we should have had the little pit in a crate when alone which is what we did for a two months and things went along fine, we felt it was under control, but in June 2008 as my son and his wife lay in bed watching TV with both dogs sleep, the cattle dog got up to get comfortable and the pit jumped up out of a sound sleep and attacked him once again biting half his ear off, well my son was able to break them up and toss her away from the cattle dog, well she than turned around looked at my son and went after him, he put his hands up to protect his face and his hands were mangled, he did not require surgery, just lots of stitches and out of work for 3 weeks. They had no other choice but to surrender her and it has broken their hearts, I don't think all Pits or Bully breeds will do this, but something was broken in her and she had the ability to do a great deal of damage. Not only physically but like I said it broke their hearts as well, they LOVED this little girl. They will truly never be the same. I just think people must use care with ANY of the breeds that are that strong and capable of doing damage. People must always be aware that they can be like having a loaded gun in the house, I have a Doberman and always have had Dobie but I am very aware all of the time what he is capable of and the human MUST be the person in charge and always in control of situations, you can not COMPLETELY trust any dog, they are dogs (I love them) but we are the humans. People that own these breeds, like myself must be responsible for them at all times. I just share this because we NEVER thought it could happen to us, yet it did, and I KNOW we did not do anything wrong, however, I know people will try to explain it away. Love them but don't totally trust them for your own safety. Remember they are very strong dogs!

Submitted by Nancy | August 2 2009 |

I am thankful that there are groups responding to and making a difference in the lives of dogs when it comes to the horrific and sensational abuses that are discovered however I often find myself just as concerned with the less sensational abuses I see going on everyday. Although these abuses are not as obvious as a dog fighting ring for example, I do still find them horrific and, more difficult to find ways to help.

I'm speaking of things such as, dogs left alone in a yard for hours on end, or tethered to a chain.
A dog carried around in a small purse, for hours, without water or a cool breeze.
A dog crated from 9-5 in a small apartment. A dog with a too-tight Halti or Gentle-Leader wrapped around his muzzle barely allowed to smell the grass. A dog left in the back of the car for hours while the family eats in a restaurant. A dog never experiencing "off leash" because their owner doesn't have time.

Dogs of fashion. Dogs purchased because it was another thing to "own".
Dogs forgotten once they are old. Dogs ignored once the kids came along.

How can we address these everyday abuses that go largely unnoticed?

Submitted by Anonymous | August 4 2009 |

Judgemental people that think only THEY are "qualified" to own a dog, or that THEIR lifestyle is the only one for a dog? God forbid people w/dogs have to work. I know plenty of dogs that live in small apartments who have great lives & plenty of dogs that are dumped in shelters or ignored by people in huge mansions. I know plenty of dogs who have been left loose as puppies & were dumped in the shelter for house soiling or other destruction. For those of us who do bring our dogs along w/us, laws in pretty much every state forbid dogs in restaurants. I hardly think an hour in a car (provided windows are open, etc.) is going to kill a dog.

Submitted by R.W. | January 21 2011 |

As a dog lover-especially pitbulls-i agree with your statement. We can all unite and make a difference in how people treat dogs, let alone pitbulls. My uncle said he would rather shoot a pit on sight than let it get near him. When he said this i almost hit him in the head. I'm the "treehugger" in the family so a lot of my family know not to say things like that to me. Anyways back to the point, why should we treat pits any different than a boardercallie or blue healer. We shouldn't. What just cause they can "turn" on you. So can snakes but we treat them better than we do a loyal dog like a pit. Come on people we bread pits to be vicious and deadly its not their fault its ours. So if you get bitten just realize it was your ancestors who bread pitbulls.

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