Why Le­high County Hu­mane So­ci­ety has so many pit bulls

The Morning Call - - TOWN SQUARE - Jacqueline Fol­som is devel­op­ment co­or­di­na­tor of the Le­high County Hu­mane So­ci­ety, Al­len­town.

Why so many pit bulls? This is some­thing I am of­ten asked as I stand in the halls of my shel­ter, where I have worked for five years. Some­times the tone is gen­uine cu­rios­ity, other times the ques­tion is steeped in dis­ap­point­ment or dis­gust.

“Well,” I say, “we do not choose the dogs that need our help. We take all the stray, aban­doned, ne­glected or abused an­i­mals that come through our doors — and many times, those hap­pen to be pit bull­type dogs.”

Folks that come to us look­ing to adopt — and not pur­chase — a new fam­ily dog will un­ques­tion­ably find a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of dogs fall­ing in this cat- egory. That is be­cause they are the most mis­un­der­stood, ex­ploited, mis­treated and dis­posed of dogs in the coun­try.

They are also the hardest to find homes for. We will ad­mit pit bulls to our shel­ter, with­out re­stric­tion, know­ing that it will be weeks, months, or more than a year un­til they leave with their new fam­i­lies. They will fill ken­nels in­def­i­nitely, creat­ing a slower turnover and less room for us to house other more “de­sir­able” breeds of dogs.

And this is why so many other shel­ters and an­i­mal wel­fare fa­cil­i­ties will turn them away, leav­ing us to pick up the slack.

These dogs truly have so much stacked against them from the day they grow out of their beau­ti­ful, blue-eyed

puppy stage. They are of­ten bred by the truck­load from moth­ers de­prived of nu­tri­ents from birthing lit­ter af­ter lit­ter. They are sold to any­one with the cash to buy them, as a source of income to the dog’s owner. Many are chained up in back­yards, kept in dark base­ments, and some­times trained to fight.

If they ever es­cape this life and end up in an an­i­mal shel­ter, their struggle is not over. Some shel­ters choose to or are re­quired to eu­th­a­nize them based on their ap­pear­ance as a pit bull-type dog. If they are not eu­th­a­nized, they may spend day af­ter day wait­ing for their new fam­ily. But even if they are seen by a lov­ing fam­ily, that fam­ily may not be able to take them home.

Any­one with a pit bull-type dog rent­ing a house or apart­ment knows how hard it is to find a rep­utable place to live that will ac­cept the dogs that are of­ten called “vi­cious breeds” by prop­erty man­agers. Those who own a home will find that their home­owner’s in­surance would sky­rocket if they re­ported own­ing a pit bull. Mil­i­tary bases and en­tire cities in this coun­try have out­lawed the breed­ing or own­ing of a pit bull.

Just the gen­eral per­cep­tion of own­ing a pit bull, par­tic­u­larly one from a shel­ter, of­ten seems to be that the dog must be not only vi­cious, it must also be ab­nor­mal, or mal­ad­justed in some way from a po­ten­tially un­for­tu­nate past and its time spent in a shel­ter.

At the Le­high County Hu­mane So­ci­ety, we will ac­cept them all, how­ever old, sickly, or in­tim­i­dat­ing in ap­pear­ance, and we will do our ut­most to ed­u­cate the pub­lic on their plight and repair their rep­u­ta­tion. We will house and care for them un­til the day they are fi­nally adopted.

Just ask Princess, an 11-year-old pit bull wait­ing for her new fam­ily since June 4, 2018. Or Ladd, a 10-year-old pit bull sur­ren­dered to the shel­ter on Sept 8, 2018. They, and so many oth­ers, have stayed be­hind to see all of their more “de­sir­able” ken­nel mates leave to their forever homes. But we will gladly take in as many pit bulls as we can care for.

We be­lieve they are in­her­ently good, just as any other breed of dog is, and that they can make lov­ing com­pan­ions and ex­cel­lent fam­ily dogs. So no mat­ter its in­tended con­no­ta­tion … it is a badge of honor for us to be “that” shel­ter, the one with all the pit bulls.

Note: Af­ter pa­tiently wait­ing, Princess and Ladd were both adopted in July.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

Ladd, a 10-year-old pit bull sur­ren­dered to the Le­high County Hu­mane So­ci­ety shel­ter in 2018, was adopted last month.

Jacqueline Fol­som

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