Homerun for Animals

July 1, 2013  

Chase and Jennifer Utley are on a mission to prevent animal abuse

This article was originally published on November 22, 2011.

Not only is Chase Utley an all-star baseball player and second baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies, he and his wife Jennifer are also pit bull lovers and advocates for the humane treatment of animals. StubbyDog recently chatted with Jennifer and Chase about their work to help animals and about their pit bull, Jack.

Q. Can you tell StubbyDog readers about how you got involved in animal welfare?

A. (Jen) When we moved to Philadelphia, I began volunteering at the Pennsylvania SPCA and was introduced to their humane law enforcement program. The amount of abuse and neglect that I saw come through the doors on a daily basis motivated Chase and me to do as much as we could to aid these animals and prevent future abuse from occurring.

Q. What is the mission of the Utley Foundation and how did it come about?

A. (Jen) The Utley Foundation was established to raise awareness of the increasing epidemic of animal cruelty. Our mission is to educate the community in the proper treatment of animals and to raise funds for the fight against animal neglect, pain and suffering.

Q. Can you tell us about your programs and future goals?

A. (Jen) We have just created our foundation, so we are fairly new, but our first project was with the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia on a “Kindness to Animals” mural. Basically, we chose a school in an area of the city that has had problems with dog fighting on their playground and is a “hot zone” for animal abuse reports. We helped fund a program that enlisted an artist to paint a mural on a wall next to the school. The mural was inspired by the positive relationships between people and animals. In addition to the mural, we worked with the students to educate them on humane treatment of animals and, hopefully, inspired them to take that message to their communities.

We are going to do another mural in 2012, and we just hope that our work makes a difference in both the lives of animals and the people with whom we are working.

Q. You have a pit bull, Jack, in your family. What were your perceptions of pit bulls prior to adopting Jack?

A. (Jen) Chase and I honestly did not have any perceptions of pit bulls. A dog is a dog and the way that you treat it is what matters. Jack has been nothing but a gift to us, and we are proud to say he is a pit bull when people ask us what is the breed of our amazing dog.

Q. Can you tell us about Jack? What is his most endearing quality? His favorite sport?

A. (Jen) Jack is truly a part of our family. He has a sweet disposition, loves our two cats, and loves other dogs and children. He is unaware of his size, as he genuinely believes he is a lapdog – which he is not at 65 pounds. He is very expressive with his eyes and ears, and definitely knows how to win people over.

As for sports, he loves fetching balls, Frisbees and sticks. He is a very lucky dog because Chase is a baseball player, and he gets to go to the ballpark with Chase a lot and runs around everywhere. He has mastered the art of shredding a baseball in under 10 minutes!

Q. How did you happen originally to get a pit bull?

A. (Jen) We were the subject of an article for Philadelphia Magazine about our charity work, and when it came time for the photo shoot we had an idea in our heads of having grey and white puppies in the shot with us because the Phillies colors are red, white and grey. The humane law enforcement department had recently raided a dog-fighting ring, and one of the rescued dogs was pregnant. She gave birth to 11 puppies, and half of them were grey and white. We had them at the photo shoot with us, and I fell in love with the big blobby puppy of the group, who we adopted and named Jack.

Q. What do you wish the public knew about pit bulls?

A. (Jen) That they are wonderful, loving family dogs that have found themselves to be the latest target of media drama. Before pit bulls, it was Rottweilers, before that, Dobermans, and before that, German Shepherd Dogs. The list goes on and on. Accidents and incidents do occur with animals, but truthfully, they happen with any breed. I have worked with and been around these dogs for four years, and I have seen the loyalty, playfulness, keen senses, intelligence and companionship that they can provide for people willing to let them.

Q. Many kids have experienced animal cruelty and neglect firsthand in Philadelphia. Can you talk about your unique opportunity, as a professional athlete, to reach children and serve as a role model for being kind to animals?

A. (Chase) I realize how lucky I am to do what I do, and when I can use my resources to reach kids and, hopefully, to inspire them, it’s a win-win. I have learned a lot about animal cruelty by living in Philadelphia and being involved with the PSPCA, and my goal is to educate as many kids as possible and change the cycle of animal abuse that we are seeing so much of these days.

Q. What do your teammates think of you having a pit bull? Have you been able to educate any fellow athletes or industry people firsthand?

A. (Chase) I don’t think they care about what type of dog Jack is. I have him in the clubhouse a lot, and he could not be any friendlier. Mostly I have to regulate how much everybody feeds him. Jack has figured out that if he hangs out in the clubhouse kitchen he can make out pretty well.

As far as educating fellow athletes, I haven’t ever had to say anything. Jack is a pretty solid ambassador for his breed. If anyone has any preconceived notions about pit bulls, I promise Jack will change their minds.

Photography by Amanda Jones

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