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October 6, 2020

Life in Rescue Dog Advocacy: They killed Tater

They killed Tater. I know that they did. They just don’t want to tell me so. The reasons why matter not. I can’t prove that they are lying. I just know. Every little girl part of me who was ever lied to about the shepherd I loved on in the morning before school, who wasn’t there to roll on the floor in loving licks and playful romps when I returned home later that afternoon, just knows.

Also, I dreamed about them walking him down that corridor to the room where his young life ended.

That’s my intuition, what my gut is telling me. Upon information and belief, as they used to say in law. My opinion…

Why not call them on it? Because it will do me no good. It won’t bring him back, and potentially, it’ll adversely impact other at-risk dogs in the California shelters. If the shelter feels defensive or threatened, they might just limit the information about more dogs in the future.

In short, there’s the long-term relationship to consider. The reasons why I think they just put that gorgeously strong, vibrant and powerful brindle three-year old Pittie to sleep? It’s the tired, oft-cited reason for killing any dog in their care:

Shows aggression – can’t get along with others.

In this day and age, who isn’t – and doesn’t?

Tater was at the shelter in this particular California county for forty-nine days. After a stray hold expires (depends on who I’ve spoken with, it’s five to seven), they can put a dog up for adoption to the public if they determine he or she is safe enough to not cause the shelter to incur liability. (Owner surrenders can be killed IMMEDIATELY.) If he or she shows any indication of behavioral issues, training deficit, bite history, stress in the kennel or aggression with other dogs, they get an automatic behavioral tag, are only available for approved rescue partners, and if they’re fortunate, will be wheeled out in a hard-shell crate (again, liability thing) through the shelter doors with a behavior waiver of liability and release.

When it comes to the lives of Pitties, the perception is still that they are a dangerous liability for those entrusted to care for them. Along with systemic racism, they are strongly identified with Mexican-Americans and African Americans, despite thousands of them making it into homes as family pets and loving companions.

Thanks so much, Michael Vick.

In the meantime, there are pitbull foundations and rescues advocating for and trying desperately to save them. In other places – Denver, Aurora – there are breed bans based primarily on fear and overblown statistics, (several other breeds beyond pitbulls are responsible for bites and injury) misinformation and again – liability for any municipality wanting to limit their exposure or any mayor more interested in approval ratings than actual facts.

In the words of bully breed advocate, animal activist and friend Lauren Lee citing Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, No dog is inherently vicious, no matter [his] breed or background.

I digress. This isn’t about all pitbulls. This is about one – Tater. Who was unfortunate enough to be found out on the streets of Los Angeles, unaccompanied and protected by no one. Who for forty-nine days sat captive by people upholding and actively working in a system where all the odds were stacked against him. Who, to my knowledge, never caused harm nor injured anyone – whose sheer youthful power and majesty of breeding made enough people feel threatened that they most likely ended his young life, for fear of exposure to liability and lack of a better answer for his fate. Who were allowed to – and encouraged to take him out of life’s equation through a system in desperate need of change.

How do I know? Because they have done it hundreds of times before. And they will do it again – as long as the California shelter system is allowed to remain. It makes for a lesser, more violent world indeed, infused with fear and mistrust being spread from the top down throughout our culture. And the dogs – the gorgeous, young, healthy, strong and powerful dogs, who want nothing more than a chance at life – same as any one of us – are literally dying for it.

Namaste, and thank you for reading.

Can you do anything to help? Yes, indeed you can.

  • When issues of breed ban legislation arise in your city or town, speak out. Here’s one informational article that will guide your research:
  • Support foster-based rescues advocating for the lives of pitbulls. Here are some of my favorites: Apollo’s Arc, Woofy Acres, Polk County Bully Project, Bullies and Buddies, and Karma Rescue.
  • Can you foster? Consider a temporary stay with an animal in need. Consult with a trainer, to find out what’s needed to become an experienced foster with an at-risk dog. So many rescuers need fosters all over the country right now, it enables them to pull more dogs out of harm’s way.
  • Do you live in California? Get involved a local chapter to help begin a dialogue about shelter reform.
  • Check in your own community. Is your shelter a no-kill shelter? Support the
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