It is a staggering statistic. In the ongoing effort to find families for homeless animals, more than 24 percent of dogs entering shelters in central North Carolina are pit bull-type dogs.
But 46 percent of the dogs euthanized are pits.
One way the SPCA of Wake County is trying to improve those numbers is to educate and to show a little personality with “pit bull pinups” that show the dogs in a different light.
That approach worked for Molly, who was part of the SPCA of Wake County’s Pit Crew program. The Pit Crew is an all-out effort to restore the reputation of pits and find them loving families.
SPCA volunteer Chris Thomsen decided Molly was “adorable.”
“I got to know her through the Pit Crew classes that we do every week there,” Thomsen said. “I had taken her on some outings.”
Molly even did an overnight with Thomsen to see if she was a good fit.
She was. And now the SPCA is looking for more of its pit bulls to go home for good.
The SPCA’s Darci VanderSlik said the pit bulls “are amazing pets.”
“They will be great with a family,” she said. “And we really want to show the softer side of them.”
VanderSlik said far too many dogs brought into shelters are pit bull-type dogs. Many are euthanized because too few are adopted.
Allowing prospective families to get to know them, and to see their cute side, helps.
“Instead of just glancing by as another pit bull-type dog, they take a second look – like, ‘Hold on, this dog has a really sweet hat on. He's smiling at me. Maybe he would be a good fit for our family,’” VanderSlik said.
All dogs at the SPCA go through a behavioral assessment. The Pit Crew goes a step further.
That approach helped Molly, who was found on the streets with her four puppies, find a loving home. She is now at home with her rescued brother Lazarus, who is also a pit bull.
Thomsen said the program helped deal with the stereotypes of a pit bull being a vicious dog.
The stereotype, she said, “kind of fades into the background” when a potential owner knows more about the dog.
She said seeing stories about pit bull attacks “is very devastating.”
“I always tell people every dog is an individual,”she said. “You need to know each dog as an individual and not group them into stereotypes.”
That’s why the SPCA is educating prospective families and showing pit bills in a new light.
Dogs like Patches are full of energy and playfulness and Patches was adopted a few days after her patriotic Fourth of July snapshot. And pit bull mix Scooby also was adopted.
Volunteers take the homeless dogs to weekly obedience classes, on field trips and play date to help the dogs learn social skills and become more adoptable.
Thomsen is hoping other families will see pit bulls not as guard dogs but as a possible family member.
“I think a true pit bull is a dog who wants love,” she said.
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