Breed Discrimination Touches a Therapy Dog

November 7, 2012  

Rocco went from the euthanasia list to a therapy dog helping kids learning to read, until it was taken away from him because of breed discrimination


By Valerie Wilson

Rocco has been featured twice on StubbyDog. First his story and then how he has helped another therapy dog. Rocco and his canine sister Sadie (who recently went to the Rainbow Bridge) were the winners of the StubbyDog Calendar Contest. We interviewed Valerie Wilson about Rocco being asked to leave their therapy program. This is the account according to Valerie.

Can you tell us how Rocco came into your life?

We got Rocco three years ago as a “Facebook puppy,” meaning that he was an urgent crosspost with his litter of six siblings. They were to be euthanized just based on their breed. Rocco was extremely fearful and shy when he was adopted at 13 weeks. I set off to help him and in doing so to help others and also the image of the breed.

How did you know Rocco would be a good therapy dog? Where was he certified?

We went to puppy, basic obedience and therapy dog classes all within the first eight months. At a year old, he was certified as a therapy dog through Dog Ears and Paws of Maryland and then Pets on Wheels. Rocco also has his Canine Good Citizen certification.

How long was Rocco working with Pets on Wheels and what’s involved with his therapy work?

Rocco has been going to the library for two years. Because he is a very mellow, sweet dog he is great for the reading program. Rocco sits very patiently and listens to the children read. He has had several children who were afraid of dogs read to him because of his calm manner. There were children who would specifically ask to read to Rocco. One family recently was taking his picture with the little girl. The mom said this was to show the dad because they thought they should adopt a pit bull after meeting Rocco.

Rocco also would visit the Ronald McDonald House. There were several families there who would hug Rocco with tears in their eyes because they missed their own pit bulls back home. When not doing therapy work, Rocco is an active member of B-More Dog. He loves to go to “Pit Bulls on Parade” to meet people and see his doggie friends. People love to meet him and see that a pit bull is just a kind, normal dog unlike what they might be hearing on the news.

Anything else you would like to tell us about Rocco?

Another of Rocco’s important jobs, he is my best medicine. You see I have Lupus. Rocco is my ray of sunshine that keeps me going even on my worst days. He reminds me that even though I may be in pain, I will get over it just like he has overcome his fears. Rocco gets me out and takes my mind off of things and that is better than any doctor or medicine could ever do for me. And when I’m too sick to go out he is the best nurse, snuggling up and watching over me.

What happened to cause Rocco to lose his therapy job?

With the Tracey vs. Solesky ruling in Maryland, Pets on Wheels started asking its members with pit bulls to change their dogs’ breed on their health/temperament certificate so that it no longer read pit bull. Being a proud pit bull owner and advocate I was not comfortable doing this. Rocco had passed all of his tests just like any other dog in the group and it wasn’t right to change who he was on the certificate.

How has this affected you and Rocco?

We were quite upset! We tried to work with Pets on Wheels stating that no one at the library or Ronald McDonald House had ever complained about his breed. Rocco continued to do a few more visits and even posted on his Facebook page about his visits.

How was Rocco finally forced to leave?

It seemed to me that the head of Pets on Wheels did not like that Rocco would get good press for his work, since he was a pit bull. Rocco was featured in a popular magazine for his work. He would post pictures of himself and his dog friend at the library and was told they (POW) didn’t want people knowing there were pit bulls at the library! We told them that the kids and the staff have always loved Rocco and they request him. The library even recently wrote an article on the PAWS to read dogs, showcasing a picture of Rocco at work. I was told “If you insist on making your point about having a pit bull/therapy dog, it might be best to find another therapy dog organization.”

Editor’s Note: You can help by doing all you can to combat breed-discriminatory laws and actions where ever you live.

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Comments

35 Responses to “Breed Discrimination Touches a Therapy Dog”
  1. ReneeMKeller says:

    I hope Rocco can continue his therapy work in a more accepting program.  I feel bad for the kids that request Rocco and now will be told he is no longer apart of the program.  
     
    Be loud and proud, your pit bull is an amazing therapy dog!!!

    • StubbyDog says:

      @ReneeMKeller @Matt.S  The really sad thing is the loss to the kids because of breed discrimination, the kids obviously don’t care what kind of dog he is. Too bad the adults can’t learn from them.

  2. mcbeth6o7 says:

    People can be so ignorant. Pitties are wonderful loving dogs.Blame the owners not the breed.

  3. Matt.S says:

    I admire your courage, Valerie. you took a brave stand on principle, and I salute you for that. Rocco and yourself are obviously victims here, but I also feel for the children who are affected by the irrational hate you face. I pray that Rocco finds a therapy dog program not poisined by hate.

    • melmac says:

      @Matt.S
       Valerie isn’t a “victim”. There are plenty of POW dogs that are pitbull mixes! My dog is a POW therapy dog and a Pitbull Mix. Her health certificate even reflects this!

  4. javabooknut says:

    Valerie,
    I admire your commitment and it was an honor to meet Rocco at the Pitbulls on Parade Event. I’ve thought London would be a great therapy dog and I’m glad you stuck to your guns. Dogs like people should be judged for who they are not their breed (race). Keep up the good work.

  5. NikkiCraven says:

    What a shame. Playing into people’s ignorance only moves us back as a society. I’m so happy though that Rocco’s mama refused to lie about his breed. We have to be unashamed ambassadors to destroy these stereotypes. Too many pits are being ripped from their families or dying in shelters for no other reason than just plain ignorance. How else will people know what wonderful dogs they are if we lie and label them as something else. Be proud, Rocco, and be loud!

    • StubbyDog says:

      So true Nikki, if people pretend these wonderful dogs aren’t pit bulls, we will never change rulings like the one in Maryland and never change perceptions of pit bulls.

      • StephMot says:

        Stubby Dog…I very much like and respect what you do. But this is a misguided article and misconstrues the true reasoning behind all of this, and you should be aware of that. I know about all of this first-hand. Pit Bulls are mixed breeds….what we need to do is remember they are DOGS first and foremost. No one denied Rocco being a pit bull. What was suggested was that we put the burden of proof on the facilities to “find the pit bulls” so that THEY could not discriminate. Everyone knows they are pit bulls, and are called pit bulls, and that is perfectly accepted…it was a paper thing to protect the dogs. That’s it. One of the blue pits is listed as a Weimaraner…its a bogus thing only for the facilities and everyone knows the real truth. Valerie instead turned this into something it is not. And that is sad, and does nothing for the dogs. I do not know her reason, but I do know what was asked of Therapy Dog handlers.

        • Matt.S says:

          @StephMot
           I respectfully disagree. In my opionion, for what it’s worth, Valerie’s choice makes sense. ‘No one denied Rocco being a pit bull. What was suggested was that we put the burden of proof on the facilities to “find the pit bulls” so that THEY could not discriminate. Everyone knows they are pit bulls, and are called pit bulls, and that is perfectly accepted…it was a paper thing to protect the dogs.” If everyone knows said dogs are pit bulls, the “paper” needs to reflect that. In regard to “the burden of proof” part, proof of what?  The phrase “burden of proof” is associated with trials involving criminal charges. Is being a pit bull inherently criminal? Again, I respect your desire to “protect” these wonderful dogs, the approach to doing so is where we differ.

        • StephMot says:

          Burden of proof is just a phrase in this sense. Here in MD even our politicians cannot agree on what makes a dog, a “pit bull.” My point was only that….let a facility decide “oh no THAT dog is a Pit Bull”…how will they do that and where is their proof? Proof for that does not exist. They are all mixed breeds. Pit Bull is also just a term for certain characteristics a dog may have….many dogs called “Pit Bull” do not even have a bully breed in their DNA. Pit Bull is not a “breed.” OF COURSE being a Pit Bull is not inherently criminal! In no way did I say that. I fight this everyday with a ton of rescue dogs. I would never imply that or anything of the sort! But people are stupid, and cannot see beyond the label of Pit Bull to see the dog. It is as if “Pit Bull” has become not a dog to some people anymore, and it is craziness. Valerie did not have to leave. That was her choice. Rocco is a nice boy and no one had any problems with him. There were other issues with her not sticking to the task of visiting with her Therapy Dog which caused some issue, and she herself decided to leave. That is not discrimination. She didn’t like the tactic fine…but she wasn’t refused being allowed to stay. That is where I take the most issue….she was not forced out because her dog is a Pit Bull. There are many Pits still in POW who are doing great work representing Pit Bulls even if their Health form says something different. It is sad it has to be that way, but that is how society works right now, we can change things slowly. If we beat people over the head, they recoil and we change nothing. If we can infiltrate and let them see for themselves, that is a win. We can respectfully disagree, but I needed to clarify.

        • ashleymarie379 says:

          StephMot, what you are describing is fraud and at the very least, immoral. Even if you believe it’s for the greater good lying about their breed gives the impression you feel you need to hide the pit bulls. I am a proud pitty owner, with 2 of my own amongst my 4 dogs, and I would have held Valerie’s stance as well. It’s a shame that you would sooner “throw her under the bus” than re-examine the situation and see if what they are asking of the PB owners to do is really the right thing. Transparency, we should all know, is important.

        • melmac says:

          @ashleymarie379
           This isn’t “fraud”. My POW dog is listed as a Staffordshire Bull Terrier Mix. What she really is, is a Staffordshire Bull terrier, Doberman, Husky mix. I have the DNA to prove it! I could just as easily list her as a Doberman Mix or a Husky Mix. Who says we HAVE to list them as Pit mixes? Who says the “pit” is the dominant breed in their DNA? Who says they are “pits”at all? Once again, my dog is a PROUD POW therapy “pitbull mix”.

        • Matt.S says:

          @StephMot
           “Pragmatist” or “Idealist” both perspectives have their own merit. I respect the passion here. You’re right about Pit Bull “Type” dogs being a group of breeds, not just one. My personal experience shaped my perspective on this issue. When my angel, Herman, adopted me, he came with a U.K.C pedigree as an APBT. I couldn’t care any less about the paper that I was handed when he adopted me, other than the effect it had on my perspective on this very debate. Herman was a Pit Bull and nothing else. More times than I can count I was told it would be better if I told people he was a ____insert “acceptable” breed here. I never did. Herman was a Pit Bull. Every individual reacted differently. Some saw a playful, loving dog. Some saw only a label. The one constant was and is my refusal to tell people anything but the facts.

        • ashleymarie379 says:

          Fraud-A person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities.
          If you have a pitty mix that you have no problem listing as one of it mix breeds that your choice. Valerie’s choice was to embrace what her dog is and she was singled out for it. Wrong is wrong, even if there was no intention for harm. The term “pit bull” may be a lumping generalization but there are breeds that the term does refer to APBT and AmStaff, and those people should be proud to have such a vilified breed doing such wonderful work. I commend all of POW for your work but it’s unfortunate how the organization would rather hide the dogs and give their owners ultimatums if they do not comply.

        • Matt.S says:

          @[email protected]
          I get that you’re commited to what you do, that’s commenable. I’m commited to the larger issue of breed discrimination. My position is not an attack on yours. Personally, I choose to openly acknowledge my angel, Herman, was a Pit Bull, the result of which is equaly open discrimination. It’s my view that discrimination of any kind is overcome only through directly adressing it in a positive way. Simply put, exposing the misconceptions with positive first-hand encounters. I’m sure your therapy dogs are doing good things. Speaking only for myself, the idea of people who know a dog is a Pit Bull, as you say the facility staff, parents & kids do, need to see open pride in the humans who have Pit Bull partners in community service of any kind. I believe that we’re being looked to as examples to the next generation. Do we want to show these kids that we handle a problem by avoiding it altogether? I understand your position. I’m not attacking the work your dogs do, I simply disagree with the assertion that it doesn’t matter what the “paper” says.

  6. StephMot says:

    This is such a bunch of crap. I have a pit mix in POW, same as Valerie did. The entire reason for the “breed” change was to PROTECT the dogs! NOT deny what they are, but so facilities cannot judge our dogs! If my Rocky is listed as a boxer mix and he shows up looking like a pit bull, they have no recourse to not allow him in their facility. End of Story. Because, guess what? They’re ALL mutts. My dogs are Therapy DOGS. That is what we do. We go, we hang out, and visit along with Goldens, Dachshunds, Labs, etc. It escapes NO ONE that he is a pit bull, and no one tries to hide it. Rocky and I have been on tv with the Executive Director, the same one Valerie is trying so hard to vilify, discussing with a newscaster how wonderful Pits are as Therapy Dogs and that POW does NOT discriminate – they ALL pass the same test! Don’t lie and try to claim you were discriminated against. YOU quit. YOUR choice. Either we want our dogs to be the same, or we want them to stand out. As a vet tech I am often asked change breed listings on dogs vet records for the very same reason…to avoid a dog/family being discriminated against, NOT as an act of discrimination itself. This claim is so absurd and upsetting. There are SO many ways these dogs are discriminated against and horribly abused FOR REAL, that to make one up when it was your choice to walk away is totally insane. I do rescue….everyday…I live with 4 or more rescued pit bulls of varying mixed bully-type breeds at any given time. I see all the crap they go through firsthand. When Rocky and I do Therapy visits, he is a dog…just the same as other dogs….people comment on him being a pit bull and are glad to see him representing so well. He does this just by being himself. What all this legislation and bad media press has done is remove the “dog-ness” from any dog of a “pit bull” type. We have to restore that. We have to bring the “dog” back. If a facility allows a “boxer mix” they’ll have to allow a “pit bull” who most likely has more boxer blood in him than “bully” blood. He is still who he is…and NO ONE wants to change that. We visit regularly with this person, and she loves Rocky…as a pit bull. Having his Health Certificate say he is a “boxer mix” means nothing. His vet records simply say “mixed.” He is still the same dog, doing the same work….and no one we meet knows what his Health Cert says anyway, nor would they care. Pit Bulls ARE mixed breeds. Get over yourself. You quit on your dog.

    • StubbyDog says:

      We completely understand the desire to protect the dogs and the program, however, with breed discriminatory legislation, we can only combat it by standing up for our dogs. We love if all dogs were seen and treated as just dogs, that is our goal, but as long as discrimination and prejudices exist, we need to acknowledge that pit bulls are great dogs doing great work and not deny what they are. Thank you for sharing your viewpoint.

      • StephMot says:

        This is not breed discrimination, not coming from POW anyway. There IS discrimination coming from facilities, which is what we are trying to change by keeping the dogs in there. If we said, ok everyone is a pit bull, then they are free to say, nope no way, end of story. Then the dogs are shut out before they can begin. These dogs ARE mixed breeds. So when they show up and are allowed, that is good for their image. The fact that they are “pit bulls” is obvious and this gets them in the door to allow them to change minds. Even the elderly patients with dementia know Rocky is a pit bull, we aren’t fooling anyone. I guess we differ in how to protect our dogs. It is just wrong to claim that she was kicked out when she was not, and there is actual breed discrimination going on elsewhere…POW IS pit friendly…and we want them to be able to visit and change minds. This is a Therapy Dog group…visiting is the point. But, I guess you only want to see one point of view. My Therapy Pit Bull still gets to visit, and get out there and have people see a Pit Bull doing good work….none of the people out there commenting on how they love seeing him at events and visits know what his Health Form says. But, Valerie walked away and Rocco misses out. There are tactics to changing things….I see this all personally everyday. You don’t like the tactics, fine, but that doesn’t make it discrimination.
        I am done arguing. Calling POW discriminatory and that she was “forced out” is untrue and might make other people think they cannot visit with their pit bull type dog which is untrue.

        • StubbyDog says:

          we were not implying that POW is discriminatory, we were referring to the BDL that exists in Maryland and other places. We completely see your point and the point of Valerie too. We are just showing how she felt, you or anyone else in the organization is free to submit a story on how you are dealing with this issue too. We agree that there are two different tactics at work here, and we have no problem having your tactic represented here.

        • StephMot says:

          Thank you Stubby Dog. BSL does exist here, and has gotten worse with the legislation. Fighting it is so hard and it made me upset to see a Pit Friendly organization that will fight for our dogs be portrayed as discriminatory just because she didn’t like how it was done and chose to leave. She made a choice and that is her right to do so, just like I made a different choice.
          I believe POW would probably like to write something so that it can be better explained. Thank you!

  7. JenD12 says:

    The truly sad part of this is that POW had to even deal with this issue. Regardless of whether or not you agree with their decision or with Val’s decision to continue to promote Rocco as a pit bull, the REAL ISSUE is with MD’s recent Breed Specific Law. POW shouldn’t have had to deal with this and neither should Val! Val works so hard to promote a positive pit bull image, using Rocco and his therapy dog – I’m proud to know both she and Rocco.

  8. Pit Bull Mama says:

    In response to the negativity and implying that what was said is untrue:
    Yes, we left. After being told
    “If you insist on making your point about having a pit bull/ therapy dog, it
    might be best to find another therapy dog organization.” and being told on multiple occasions that I couldn’t post positive press (or a national magazine running an article) on Rocco’s personal page or that of groups that we belong to. Does that sound like to anyone that we were welcome to stay??
    As for quitting on my dog, FAR FROM IT. The reason I am doing this is so that hopefully this can be prevented from happening again. I want people to stand up for their dogs no matter if they are a Pit Bull type or not. Doing nothing would defeat the mission Rocco and I have had for 3 years. To educate people and teach them the true nature of these dogs.

    • Matt.S says:

      @Pit Bull Mama
       I support your choice. A few years ago, in Minnesota, a well-respected therapy dog was banned from a hospital because she happened to be pit bull. Discrimination needs to be confronted. I admire your courage. You’ve clearly proven that you’re above meeting fighting hate with hate, while still standing firm in you’re convictions. that takes charachter.

    • Matt.S says:

      @Pit Bull Mama
       I support your choice. Discrimination needs to be confronted and the way you’ve gone about doing that shows character. Your stand is a principled one. Hate can’t be allowed to have the final word. In choosing to educate, NOT hate, you are doing something couragous. The high road is often a difficult road, and you have my admiration.

  9. buggyeyedpug says:

    Is this sort of like how it’s ok to be gay as long as you’re not gay in public? In other words, it’s not ok. At all.

    • barbaraleeanderson07090 says:

      @buggyeyedpug
       Yeah, it kinda sounds like that to me too.  Intolerance is intolerance, no matter how you try to disguise it.

  10. Matt.S says:

    In March, 2011, StubbyDog published “Ruby’s Tale”,  a story about a therapy dog in Minnesota, who happened to be a Pit Bull. In July, 2012, an article was published in the “National Examiner” about a childrens hospital that banned her for being a Pit Bull. This has to stop! The children in that hospital were denied a chance to interact with one of the most famous and beloved therapy dogs in Minnesota because Ruby was a Pit Bull. The children deserve better than that.

  11. Zsa Zsa says:

    I understand standing up for your dog and proudly saying its a pitbull and in a perfect world, we could all do that. But unfortunately, when you live in a BSL province like I do, the difference between a piece of paper saying ‘pitbull’ and one saying your dogs’ mixes means your dog doesn’t get seized and killed – which is what happens here. It’s like saying your American vs breaking down your different heritages and you’re ultimately the same person but to the government, it means you won’t die. That’s the reality I live in. It is wrong and it is unjust but where I live, it’s not a case of standing up for principles – it’s a case of, “in 12 hours, your dog is dead” and there is nothing a lawyer can do because if your dog was born after 2005 and there is anything that has the word pitbull on it, your dog is illegal and will be pulled from your home and killed. NO warrant required. Police come with squad cars, break down your door and seize the dog – for no other reason that it is considered a pitbull. No incident, no complaint, just lying in front of the TV sleeping – they will seize and kill it. That’s the power of the word pitbull where I live and when it comes to my babies’ lives, it’s not worth it.

  12. Pit Bull Mama says:

    For those of you that wish to chime with the “it’s only on paper” and my dog is listed as ……” , this is more than just that! I’m sure none of you have Facebook pages or calendars or national dog magazine which feature the work of your so called “pit mix” in it. Those things were being taken away from me. I will not have my freedom of speach taken away. Please read the article here again. Whenever Rocco was featured in these we were reprimanded for doing so. We have worked too hard and too long to help these innocent dogs to just go away quietly. People have told us that they make their choices on who to adopt because of these article and calendars. The library itself did a great one featuring Rocco and his pal Moose. They are not ashamed to have Rocco there. Why should anyone else be?

  13. BaltimoreGal says:

    Pets On Wheels should be ashamed.

  14. Vicki Rummel says:

    “In Support of All Dogs: Pets on Wheels Therapy Dogs Fight Breed Discrimination”
    We have written this article in response to a previous article put forth by a former member, who made her own choice to quit our organization. That article is entitled “Breed Discrimination Touches a Therapy Dog.” We fully understand how this is a heated issue, and are writing this to clear up any misconceptions about our organization due to this article.
    Pets on Wheels is a Non-Profit 501c3 volunteer Therapy Dog organization. Our purpose is to provide therapeutic pet visitations to nursing homes, hospitals, treatment centers, libraries, hospice, and all others who might benefit. We are an all inclusive organization. We do not discriminate against those we visit, nor the types of pets allowed to perform those visits. We accept all kinds of animals, not just dogs, such as cats, rabbits, birds, and even a tortoise. No breed of dog, or mixed breed, is discriminated against and they all pass the same exact test. If they pass, they are welcomed with open arms. We have always accepted all types of dogs, and nothing has changed, or will change.
    Last summer, a ruling was passed here in Maryland, due to the Tracey v. Solesky case, which labeled all “Pit Bulls” and “pit mixes” as “inherently dangerous.” This allowed not only the owner of the dog to be held liable, but also any landlord of the property. This understandably caused a great deal of confusion and upset. Recently, this ruling was changed to only include “pure-bred Pit Bulls.” No one quite knows what this means, and they do not even have a definition for what constitutes a “pure-bred Pit Bull.” This ruling is set to be discussed again in the session held in January 2013 and we hope our legislators will come to their senses. To those who know about dogs, none of this even makes any sense. Nothing was clear about whether this would affect the owners of the facilities we visit, but regardless, many decided to disallow any type of “pit bull” dog. Those deciding our legislature cannot even come up with a definition of “pit bull.” Across the country, there are numerous “definitions” of “pit bull,” not one being the same as another. In some areas with BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) all it takes is a head measurement for someone to decide your dog is a “pit bull” and is therefore dangerous, and can even be confiscated on this alone. It is a very scary time for these dogs we care about, and we have to protect them as best as we can. Those who know and love these dogs, know they are just wonderful mixed breed dogs who do not make up any sort of definable “breed.” They are simply an assortment of mixed breeds who share a few similar physical traits. Many of those dogs labeled as “pit bull” based on physical characteristics, when DNA tested, do not even have one of the so-called “bully breeds” in their DNA. It is a system of classification with many faults, no clear definition, and is what makes it so ridiculous to try to legislate a vast array of mixed breed dogs by simply calling them by a singular name.
    We have many such “pit bull type” dogs in Pets on Wheels. They and their handlers are valuable members of our organization. Due to this ruling, we had to fight to keep our dogs in certain facilities who decided which kinds of dogs they would now accept. We had to terminate such facilities from our program because they would not accept ALL dogs. Many hours were spent reassuring other facilities that all of our dogs pass the same test. It is a difficult situation for everyone. In the end, Pets on Wheels has no control over facility policies. Due to all of this confusion, a decision was made to have health certificates list “mixed breed” if a dog is not of known breeding. This includes “pit bull” types dogs, since unless a UKC APBT (American Pit Bull Terrier, registered by the United Kennel Club), or an AmStaff (American Staffordshire Terrier, registered by the American Kennel Club), their origin is of mixed breeding. Depending on who you talk to, there are about a dozen breeds that can be called “pit bull,” but in general, these are the main two breeds most commonly associated that would be a pure bred dog. The National Canine Research Council has a poster detailing mixed breed dogs all labeled as “pit bulls” and their corresponding DNA tests (http://www.nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/uploaded_files/publications/38862585_Pit%20Bull%20ID%20Poster.pdf). There is a growing re-emergence of going back to this system of classifying mixed breed dogs, simply as mixed breed dogs. The November issue of the JAVMA (Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association) touches on exactly this issue in their article “Exploring the Bond: Rethinking dog breed identification in veterinary practice ( JAVMA, Vol 241, No. 9, November 1, 2012) http://www.nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/blog/rethinking-dog-breed-identification-in-veterinary-practices/.” This simplifies the issue for Pets on Wheels, and gets all our dogs back to visiting facilities, which is why we are all here in the first place.
    The author of the aforementioned article, for which this responding article was written, had an issue with calling her “pit bull” a mixed breed dog. Or it could also be said that she took issue with not calling her dog a “pit bull.” That was also her choice to make and she had her own reasons. This person also decided to take it upon herself to arrange media publicity for herself, talking about anti-BSL issues. This former member certainly could discuss BSL issues with the media, just not under the auspices of Pets on Wheels. It was a simple request, but was not accepted from this member. As an organization, we cannot allow any members to have unsolicited and unauthorized media interviews. It is the same for any legitimate organization, and is not an unreasonable request. This had nothing to do with how much we all liked her dog, which everyone did and still does. Subsequently, this member sent in her resignation. She then decided to write an article about how she was fired for breed discrimination, in which nothing could be further from the truth. We have many members with “pit bull type” dogs happily a part of Pets on Wheels.

    • Vicki Rummel says:

      Rocky’s Story
      Rocky joined Pets on Wheels as a silly and happy one year old dog. He was originally surrendered to a MD shelter that does not adopt out “pit bulls,” and was slated for euthanasia, when he was then rescued by Baltimore Bully Crew and eventually adopted out to a young man. Rocky turned out to be too high-energy for this home, and they later decided they did not have enough time for him, and BBC took him back. I took him in as a foster, and after little interest in a fantastic (albeit hyper) little boy, I adopted him because we were a perfect fit for each other! I had just lost my 2 dogs, who were also POW Therapy Dogs, to separate long term illnesses, and Rocky came along just in time to help me out of my grief. Six months later he too became a Therapy Dog with Pets on Wheels, and also has his CGC. Rocky visits a nursing home, and though he is listed as a “boxer mix,” the residents all call him a “pit bull” which is fine with me and POW. We have been to Camden Yards and met hundreds of people, many of whom came over just to pet him because they “love pit bulls.” We have been on television on the morning news, promoting our big event for the year, along with other volunteers and the Executive Director, and talked on-air about stereotypes and how “pit bulls” make wonderful therapy dogs. We recently were invited to go to University of MD Medical Center to visit with the trauma staff and bring them comfort.
      I am also very involved with rescue, see the effects of BSL daily, and work hard to change misconceptions about these dogs. I also work as a veterinary technician and am very cognizant of people wanting to change their records from “pit bull” or similar to something more like “mixed breed” if their living situation warrants not labeling their dog as “pit bull” due to the ruling. I am very proud of my “pit bulls” and beam with pride when people they meet get to see that they are friendly and sweet and the same as any other dog, but I am also aware that they are mixed breeds. My own identity does not lie in “having a pit bull,” I love my dogs for who they are, not what I call them. When people come up to us and call Rocky a “pit bull” it gives me an opportunity to educate. I can tell them, yes, he is a pit bull, and they are not what the media makes them out to be (and explain why while Rocky shows them why), but “pit bull” is also not a breed. He is a mixed breed dog. Therefore trying to legislate a loose grouping of mixed breed dogs is insanity and ineffective. I can then explain the ruling a little better if they should ask. Most people do not know these things, and while they recognize that the media gives them a bad rap, they don’t have much more information. So, while out there with my dog, doing good work, I can educate when asked. Most of the education I do takes place during rescue events, since they are geared more towards such activities. When we are out doing Therapy work, that is our job. I can educate when appropriate, but mostly Rocky does a good job showing the world he is no different than the Golden Retrievers, and other breeds, right by his side doing the same work. He is part of the team, same as any other dog, and that alone speaks volumes. Sometimes we, as humans, get so passionate about a topic we want to scream it from the rooftops. While there is a time and a place for that, there are also times that screaming it from the rooftops just draws attention to something being different. We have to gauge that carefully depending on the situation. I currently have several “pit bulls” in my house, and not one is the same as another. Rocky is most likely part boxer. My youngest, Nala, who will be a Therapy Dog soon, is most likely an American Bulldog mix. It is debatable what breeds my fosters might be. Calling them “pit bulls” is descriptive, but it is not definitive. I can be proud of them for who they are, love them for who they are, and can call them “pit bulls,” but “pit bull” does not define who they are. They are all individual. They are all dogs.

      • Vicki Rummel says:

        Bea’s story
        Bea was an abandoned puppy left in a high kill shelter in North Carolina, one of the only shelters that still uses heart stick as a form of euthanasia. The organization for which we used to foster went to NC on a run to pick up a few select dogs for transport up north. Bea was not one of these dogs nor would she ever have been pulled simply for the fact that she was a pit bull type puppy. Bea was put on transport that day out of pure luck. The day we picked her up, she was a 15lb scared little bully pup and we soon fell in love. Bea taught us everything we needed to know about pit bull types—they are dogs like any other and they love unconditionally (once they’ve got theIr zoomies out!) . She had so much love to give that it led us to Pets on Wheels. We’ve been with POW for over a year now. Bea has visited nursing homes, residential treatment centers, the library, and any parade/event we can find. On our visits we have met many who have asked “what kind of dog is she?” We ramble off the mix of breeds (according to her DNA test), which always brings about the opportunity to educate if appropriate. But first and foremost, our goal has always been to facilitate a positive interaction between Bea and her fans. We love to show off how far this little bully pup has come! She has a bucket of tricks, her CGC, and a hug and kiss to match everyone. We have never felt anything other than supported in our time with POW and we are thankful for the opportunities we have been given to show how much of an impact a dog like Bea can have on the hearts of many.

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