BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA - Jada the pit bull is doing her part to change perceptions of her breed as a newly-certified therapy dog for the Humane Society of Broward County. The 5 year-old American Staffordshire Terrier was rescued as a pup living in deplorable conditions at a breeder and now spreads the love that this breed was well known for a century ago.
Did you know that pit bulls were once the most respected breed in the U.S? Known for their gentle, loving, stable temperament, pit bulls were even nicknamed "nanny dogs" for their affectionate nature towards children. For generations, pit bulls were owned by people like President Roosevelt and Helen Keller and even 'Petey' of The Little Rascals became an American icon.
Today, dogs like sweet Jada have to overcome enormous prejudice, discrimination and even Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). BSL often bans pit bulls in certain municipalities and was nearly enacted in Broward County recently until the motion was rejected by city commissioners and dismissed.
Jada, as a newly minted therapy dog, is a shining example of her breed. After her rescue as a pup, she was spayed, vetted back to health, and began training. First came general obedience and manners and then training by HumaneK9 Dog Training, which led to her becoming a certified member of the Animal Assisted Therapy Program at the Humane Society of Broward County. In its 28th year, the program provides therapy dogs to schools, nursing homes, hospitals, mental health facilities and libraries.
"Like sugar melting in your hands" is how Marni Bellavia, Director and Evaluator of the Animal Assisted Therapy Program at HSBC, describes Jada. "Jada epitomizes the breed and she is a great ambassador in the community. We want to educate people on pit bulls and change the perception of this breed," she added.
Bellavia and Jada are well-recieved as they visit area schools to educate children from pre-K through high school age about adoption, spay and neuter, responsible pet ownership, and the true nature of pit bulls. One child recently said, "Jada is so cute and sweet. I don't know why anyone would want to ban this breed. I love her!"
So how did pit bulls fall from grace? Even Cesar Millan, the renowned 'Dog Whisperer', says, "It's people who should be blamed, not the breed. Pit bulls get a bad rap because of irresponsible owners."
Pit bulls have become the most abused, tortured and abandoned breed as well as the most euthanized. An estimated 93% of pit bulls that enter municipal shelters are put down, with only 1 in 600 finding a home. Over 2,800 are euthanized daily, with over 200 a day in the Los Angeles area alone. About 33% of all shelter intakes are pit bulls and they make up 40-65% of intakes in large cities.
Irresponsible owners have devastated this breed. Their use in dog fighting rings is well-publicized. Add to that the fact that irresponsible owners do not spay / neuter the dogs, thereby making them one of the most prolific breeds.
Jada and many other pit bulls are changing minds, one person at a time. Even some of the abused pit bulls rescued from Michael Vick's dog fighting operation have gone on to become therapy dogs. Apparently this breed's loving nature also entails amazing forgiveness.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has stated, "Controlled studies have not identified this breed group as disproportionately dangerous." On temperament tests given by the American Temperament Testing Society, pit bulls came in second after Golden Retrievers.
Articles can be written singing the praises of pit bulls but nothing can change a mind and a heart like a lick on the face from gentle Jada as she helps educate the next generation in south Florida schools. After all, they will become the next wave of advocates for this loving breed! You go, Jada!
Click on the hyperlinks in this article to read more about each topic. Contact Marni Bellavia at the Humane Society of Broward County for more information at (954) 266-6853, 2070 Griffin Road, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
ALWAYS....Adopt, Spay or Neuter, Tag and Microchip, and love your pets for life!
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