We continue our commentary on CBC's recent episode of The Fifth Estate titled “Pit Bulls Unleashed”. We don’t recommend watching it, but you can read our outline on Saturday’s #BSLbyte.
If you have been following our last few #bslbytes, you’ll know that there’s very little in this news piece we can agree with. But what if we told you there were a few points that did make some sense? Before you hover over the “unfollow” button, hang tight and hear us out.
There was a portion of the episode that focused on the role of shelters and rescues. The report profiled a couple of dogs who were adopted through shelters and were subsequently responsible for serious attacks. There was the accusation that shelters are so eager to move dogs into homes that they may play down behaviour problems, resulting in tragedy.
We don’t agree that this is a breed-specific issue and we don’t agree that it’s part of the “pit bull lobby” conspiracy (see yesterday’s byte), but we do agree this is a problem.
There are many families eager to open their homes to rescues, and unfortunately there are rescues out there that fail them. Some “flip” dogs for profit. Others have their heart in the right place, but skip the steps necessary to ensure a safe, successful adoption.
Rescue is about ensuring a fit between family and animal, and ensuring that both are comfortable and have the tools to thrive. This includes thorough vetting, proper decompression periods, behavioural assessments, an application process, training, and follow-up support.
The Fifth Estate accused organizations of moving “…troubled dogs out of the shelter and into your home…” implying that aggressive dogs were being placed with unwitting families through trickery. This is sheer paranoia, but we can’t deny that some families do end up with dogs they aren’t prepared to deal with. An ethical rescue does everything in their power to avoid this, because this gives the family and the animal a bad experience, and gives rescue a bad name. But certainly, an unethical or lazy rescue may cut corners and find themselves in this situation.
The documentary also used an example of a dog that assessed well in the shelter but was taken into foster care, treated for heartworm, and then began to show some aggression. Again it was implied that this was a breed issue.
Ummm….NO. It’s extremely common for sick dogs to assess one way and then show different behaviours once they recover. Often this is for the better, as they begin to feel good and return to good spirits. Sometimes it is for the worse. They may be sick and shut down in the shelter, and undesirable behaviour may be supressed. This is why a foster period and full vetting prior to adoption is ideal.
This is not a breed-specific issue. But because “pit bull” type dogs are so frequently seen in rescue, and because we still live in a world where they are under a microscope, rescues need to take their job seriously. Please support rescues that have thorough placement practices and do everything possible - before, during, and after adoption - to set their clients up for success.
#BSLbytes is a joint initiative of Hugabull Advocacy & Rescue Society and Justice for Bullies.