I remember the first time I heard the Plastic Bag theory. It spread like wildfire, this idea that people who were fighting dogs would spend their time driving or walking through nice neighborhoods peering into backyards, searching for animals that were left unattended during the day, hoping to find that perfect specimen. When they found that special dog, they would strategically tie a plastic Grocery Store bag to a tree in the front yard of that residence, thereby signaling to their dog fighting bretheren that the animal in the backyard was chosen for theft. I laugh out loud every time I drive past a house (or any location to be honest) that has a piece of garbage stuck in a tree (especially when it’s my house). The idea that someone would nonchalantly walk through a neighborhood and tie garbage bags to trees so someone can come back later to take A Yorkie or Labrador puppy for fight training was a bit far-fetched to say the least. But I think it did make a small percentage of the population sit up and take notice about how leaving animals outside unattended for long periods of time is really not a good idea. Sometimes creating panic work wonders, even if it’s not for what was originally intended.
I remember the first time I heard about trunking. Word spread far and wide about how dog fighters were becoming more creative with how they fought their animals. Instead of finding an abandoned house, setting up a plywood enclosure, they would instead place two dogs in the trunk of a car, confining them in that small space while driving around with the radio loud so people could not hear them fighting. When they finally stopped the car and opened the trunk whoever was still alive was the winner. I never understood why fighters would willingly destroy the trunk of their car like that. When these dogs fight, to the death, there’s a lot of damage done, the aftermath is serious to both the visual and olfactory senses. I never understood why someone would voluntarily destroy the trunk of their car in that manner, it seems like a lot of work to clean it up. Unless perhaps they stole the car, which would be feasible I guess, because why stop at one felonious activity right? In all my years I’ve yet to find verification from a fellow officer that this style of fighting actually occurs. But it sure angers a lot of people implying that it does.
And then there’s that infamous picture of the two black and white kittens, they couldn’t have been more than 2 or 3 months old when they were found with marker all over their little faces and bodies. One was green and one was purple, I remember it very clearly. Two cute little black and white kittens that look like they’d been colored on by a small child. But how could that possibly be the explanation, that would be too simple right? So it was determined by someone…and then the entire public… that these tiny kittens, who probably weighed less than 2 lb, had been strategically colored in by dog fighters (adults mind you), and purposefully tossed into a small space with a vicious bloodthirsty fighting machine. Their friends would wager on which colored kitten would survive being mauled by an animal 30 times their size. Mind you, neither kitten had a single scratch on them in any of the photographs shared, but it was widely and readily accepted that this had been their chosen fate, and that a special someone had stepped in to rescue them. Furious anger ensued, as if people who purposefully fight animals for entertainment needed another push down the population ladder. Someone…just push the ladder over already, right?
It’s very easy to spread stories on social media. A couple screenshots and some random vague information can produce swift and serious results when it comes to getting a point across. People blindly believe whatever is thrown at them, the more outrageous the better, and readily run with it, not even realizing what the repercussions of what they’re sharing as truth may produce. Which brings me to the newest hashtag… the Pitbull Drop Off.
The original story, as I read it over a week ago, is that random people are adopting or purchasing pitbulls online, via social media or online marketplaces, and immediately turning around and delivering them to their local animal shelter where they will be promptly euthanized. The story revolves around the idea that these individuals despise the breed so much that they are purposefully attempting to exterminate them one by one. How they accomplish this is by impersonating compassionate breed advocates while taking unwanted dogs from people who dump them, sell them, or ‘rehome’ them online. They then either owner surrender to open admission facilities (they refer to them as kill shelters, more on that later) or more likely deliver them as found strays. Their satisfaction comes from knowing that they have signed the death warrant for this unwanted animal, and it will be euthanized. If they can gather enough people to do this across the country, they can exterminate the breed one by one. You can imagine the anger that this idea would arouse from bully breed advocates. The story spread far and wide like wildfire, but the outrage it has ignited has me a bit disturbed.
Let’s break it down. Person is giving away animals online. How many times have we heard over and over again how important it is to not give away animals online to strangers, because you don’t know what’s going to happen to them. After a while people decided that charging a ‘rehoming fee’ was the only way to ensure an animal would end up in a responsible home. So people started giving away animals online but asking for $10 or $20, like that’s going to guarantee the animals going to a responsible home. But if that makes you feel better, then absolutely sell your animal to a stranger online for less than the cost of date night at the local matinee theatre.
In this day and age animals can change hands multiple times over the course of their life span, for various reasons. The idea accepted by many that an individual who is desperate to rid themselves of the responsibility of animal ownership would be absolutely truthful with a complete stranger about the who what where when and why details is a bit of a stretch, but people still do it. And these same people believe wholeheartedly in whatever story the ‘adopter’ gives them. After all, they’re shelling out a whopping $20 for this animal, so they must be honest, pure, and responsible right? Dogs are not used clothing or coffee machines, and shouldn’t be randomly traded, bought, or sold in parking lots. And that brings me to shelters and rescues being involved when it comes to unwanted animals.
I am an advocate of unwanted animals being dropped off at shelters. Whether it’s the original owner who delivers the animal or not is irrelevant to me. As far as I’m concerned, the safest place for an animal that is no longer welcomed in its own home, regardless of breed, is a rescue or shelter. Open admission facilities across the country have made leaps and bounds over the past decade saving unwanted animals and providing them with second and third chances when humans fail them. Shelters take in animals and treat their medical issues. They provide food water shelter and attention, sometimes more than the animal received while it was in its previous home environment. Shelters work tirelessly with rescues to transfer, rehabilitate and rehome animals that need extra care and attention. We tell people that surrendering to the facility should be a last resort, because yes, we do have to euthanize animals due to behavior and space. But think about all the things that shelters and rescues offer that “free to good home” does not.
Shelters have contracts, many of them can enforce laws on responsible pet ownership. Shelters require legal identification to adopt, and many keep records of citizens to navigate who should and shouldn’t be in possession of animals. Shelters provide spay and neuter and microchip and vaccination services to the animals to keep us on track towards controlling the pet population. With the money from adoptions shelters and rescues do outreach and education, providing low-cost services to the public and assisting those who need help keeping their animals happy and healthy. Shelters and rescues are, second only to responsible pet owners, perhaps the most intrical part of the Animal Welfare equation.
And that’s the part of this pitbulldropoff that bothers me the most… the implication that anyone can walk into a facility with a dog, lie about where they got it, and walk out the door feeling confident that the animal will be put down regardless of age, personality, or health. This is ludicrous. Shelters simply don’t do that anymore; if this was 30 years ago, then perhaps, but the amount of facilities that still euthanize either a majority of their intake or push plungers solely based on breed are dropping drastically. If all we did was euthanize Pit Bulls and the like, shelters wouldn’t be full of them… kennels would be sitting empty waiting for schnoodledors and maltiyorkahuahuas. It has been a very long and hard road, that is still heavily traveled, to get to this point, and yes we still have a long way to go. But spreading stories like this, although the main focus is supposed to be directed towards the people who are delivering the animals, is still rooted in that prehistoric underlying notion that all we do, as shelters, is euthanize animals. By expressing disdain and anger towards the idea that someone is bringing unwanted animals to a shelter with bad intentions, many are actually affirming the assumption that these animals will automatically be killed. And that notion does more harm than good; what’s spreading like wildfire now is the underlying message that these (or any) animals are not safe at shelters.
Without the tireless effort of open admission facilities, these ‘kill shelters’ that everyone loves to scrutinize, pitbulls and the like would have been facing extermination a long time ago. Animal shelters across the country are full of bully breeds; they are the most commonly overproduced, irresponsibly owned, and delivered or dumped breeds today. We are full of them because we make space for them and we work tirelessly towards giving them the chance that they deserve, along with every other breed that walks through our door, regardless of where it came from. When I see people express anger that someone is delivering an animal to a shelter, it saddens me. We need people to believe in us, believe that we are focused on doing the right thing, believe that we are the good guys and we are here to help. We need the public to support us, to offer resources and assistance when these unwanted animals come to us, so we can continue to save the lives of these unwanted and overproduced animals.
Brings us your pits, your chis, your poms and your labs. Your sheps, your rotties, your dobes, your weims. But remember, regardless of what you bring with four legs, your two legs are what can make the difference. Volunteer, Foster, and donate, to help us save more lives.
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