Taking Steps in Portland

October 8, 2012  

An advocate works hard to end breed discrimination, help shelter pit bulls and change perceptions about pit bulls

Cheryl Huerta

I am a pit bull advocate. I never intended to be a pit bull advocate or any other kind of advocate, but here I am working as best I can on behalf of pit bulls and the people who have them. It all started early in 2009 when I heard on the local news that a statewide pit bull ban was being considered here in Oregon. Having two wonderful dogs, Zeus and Odin, both of which were half pit bull, I felt I needed to speak up or otherwise potentially suffer the loss of my two very well-behaved and perfectly safe pit bull mix dogs due to a breed ban.

I had started writing to every legislator in Oregon asking them not to support such a bill when I learned that the proposed bill had never even made it through committee but that another form of banning pit bulls was being suggested. The new proposed bill would make it a law that anyone having a pit bull, a dog alleged to be a pit bull or a pit bull mix, would be subject to the requirement to carry $1 million in insurance. Since the cost to most people of having a $1 million insurance bond on their dog would be prohibitive, I viewed this as a veiled attempt to ban pit bulls from our state. Again I went to work writing letters and emails to every single person in the state of Oregon legislature. I was very happy to receive many positive responses from our legislators, and in the end the bill did not pass and any kind of breed ban or restriction option was avoided here in Oregon.

Somehow during all of the email and letter writing about a possible breed ban, I found a local Meetup group online called Portlanders Against Breed Bans and joined up. Nothing much ever happened with the group beyond an event here and there over the years, but in January of 2011 one of the members posted a message suggesting that some of us meet and have a Bully Walk through downtown Portland; the purpose of which would be to familiarize the people of Portland with us as pit bull owners and our perfectly safe pit bulls. By then our Zeus had passed away from cancer, and we’d gotten a great little pit bull we named Maximus, Max for short, and were very excited about walking our dogs with a group of fellow pit bull owners.

We had our first Bully Walk on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2011 with about 15 people and their dogs showing up. The person who had suggested the Bully Walk, Katie Williams, spoke afterwards about doing it on a regular basis. I contacted Katie asking her if I could help and the rest is pretty much history. Within less than a month we had formed the Portland Pit Bull Project, started a website, a Facebook page and were coordinating our next Bully Walk. We’ve had a Bully Walk at least once a month since that February walk and have grown to several other advocacy members who are instrumental in helping us advocate for pit bulls.

As an advocacy group, we do everything that we can to support our local animal shelters, inviting them to bring their pit bulls available for adoption to walk with us, and we are happy to report that we’ve had the privilege of introducing three dogs to their forever families on our walks. We implemented a Donations of Love program whereby we choose a local shelter or pit bull rescue, invite them to walk with us and ask our bully walkers to bring donations of food, toys, cleaning supplies and/or cash for our beneficiary to the walk.

In April of this year we co-hosted a screening of the film “Beyond the Myth” at a local theater and donated all of the proceeds to a local no-kill shelter called Family Dogs New Life. We are also currently actively working on the issue of pit bull friendly rental housing in the Portland area, as we routinely receive requests from responsible pit bull owners who have been searching for a rental home but are faced with a “no pit bulls allowed” rule nearly everywhere they go. We have plans to do much more in the future and hope that someday we’ll just be a bunch of pit bull owners out on a Sunday stroll with our dogs.

Currently one of my priority projects is the Coast to Coast Bully Walk to take place hopefully around the world on Sat., Oct. 27, this year’s National Pit Bull Awareness Day. My goal for the Coast to Coast Bully Walk is to raise awareness of first who the “typical” pit bull owner is and what the “typical” pit bull is like when in the hands of responsible humans, as well as to raise awareness of breed bans and the need to end them globally, replacing them with non-breed specific animal control laws that are based on behavior and not appearance, holding the human responsible for their dogs’ actions.

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7 Responses to “Taking Steps in Portland”
  1. WOW congrats on all the of the accomplishments! This is definitely inspiring for me for one of the counties (PG) have had a pit bull  ban for the last 15 years.  Like you I did not think of myself as an advocate either.  I adopted two pitties, fostered and volunteered at the local shelter and felt I did my part however, with so much pain and suffering and discrimination against these dogs I had to do something.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think that something would be hobknobbing, hosting events to raise awareness or money for various pit bull rescues/organizations.  Today I have a meeting with the Mayor of Laurel, Maryland to discuss ways of repealing the ban in PG County.  sometimes it takes one person and many will follow.  Good job!

  2. Mrbrainsyck says:

    This is amazing, and so cool! I’m going to find out if there are any programs or events like this where I come from. I love showing off my Cocoa Bear even if he receives negative attention, because then I get to spend time educating someone who usually has been confused by bias media. Some people remain ignorant, but many are usually stunned to learn some actual facts that aren’t made up lies. Breed bans like BSL are ethnic and public safety failures. The only thing it does for the public is cost enormous amounts of tax payer dollars, and punish responsible dog owners.

    • StubbyDog says:

      @Mrbrainsyck You go out with Cocoa Bear and show them all what pit bulls are really like. Thanks for commenting and we hope you will find a program like this to take part in.

      • Mrbrainsyck says:

        @StubbyDog Thank you I intend to do my best, and I know Cocoa Bear will do his part as well. I’m happy to report that I found a group called (Seattle Pitbull Meetup). They meet once every week, and October 27 me Cocoa, and Razz will be attending our first meet up for National Pit Bull Awareness Day. =)