Say, “pit bull,” and you find most people have strong opinions about the breed, and more often than not – at least among the people I know – their opinion isn’t favorable. In fact, it’s downright hostile. Mostly, it’s because pits get bad press. They’re in the news for attacking someone or for being the canine of choice in dog fighting rings.
Some people would like to outlaw the breed and are working at different levels of government to make that happen. I’m not at all sure that’s realistic. Are we going to round up every pit bull for mass euthanization? (It’s kind of like the immigration debate. Can we round up and deport all undocumented immigrants? The undocumented are here; the pit bulls are here. We’ve got to work with the facts as they exist.)
This past weekend I met several members of the Luzerne County Pit Bull Owners Group (LCPO), a nonprofit out of northeastern Pennsylvania committed to educating people to be responsible pit bull owners, and to rescuing and re-homing homeless pit bulls. The work LCPO does on behalf of these misunderstood and often mistreated dogs is truly inspiring.
I arrived at Alana Rickard’s Wilkes-Barre-area home a little before one on Saturday afternoon, so I could be on hand for the arrival of ten Tennessee pits – a mom and her nine ten-week-old pups. A shelter in Blount County, Tennessee, had reached out to the group’s founder, asking her to help them help the dogs.
Waiting with me was a team of volunteers ready to care for – and to socialize – the puppies until permanent homes can be found for them. Alana planned to foster the mom, who was thought to be one, maybe two years old – practically a puppy, herself.
Adopting any dog is a major responsibility, but the responsibilities that come with adopting a pit bull are magnified a hundred-fold because of the burdens these dogs carry. Responsible owners can make the difference between a pit that thrives and a pit that ends up on the evening news. And that’s why LCPO offers anyone who adopts a pit bull, or owns a pit bull, assistance, training, and education.
LCPO is an all-volunteer organization that runs on donations and a network of about fifty foster families in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut. Despite being only two-and-a-half years old, they’ve helped several hundred pit bulls. You can read all about LCPO at their website; you can like them on facebook. Also check out Leroy and Company, a blog written by Casey Heyen, the group’s Director of Volunteers. Casey took home a pup on Saturday, named it Marshmallow, and is already recounting Marshmallow’s adventures.