By Kristie Wood
I have been involved in rescue for the last 12 years. I’ve volunteered with all breed dog and cat rescues, breed specific pit bull rescues, and even ferret and rabbit rescues. I’ve been a part of Ambassador Pit Bull Alliance (APBA) since the beginning, and two and a half years ago, I started volunteering at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter. That’s where I was able to see things that I never got to see in rescue.
For me, being in rescue made me feel kind of jaded towards people who surrendered their pets to animal shelters. I asked myself week after week, when the rescues I volunteered with announced their new arrivals, how anyone could dump their pets like garbage. How could they live with themselves after ridding themselves of animals they promised to love forever, but now found to be inconvenient? It made me so angry, especially if the animals I cared for as a foster and handled at adoption events were old, or sick, or old and sick.
What I learned at the shelter is that the average pet owner who surrenders a pet doesn’t actually WANT to do it. Most times they just don’t see any other option. Some examples of reasons for surrender are:
- They’re moving and can’t find affordable housing that will accept their pet
- They just had a new baby, and the pet isn’t adapting to the change as well/quickly as they should
- Their house was foreclosed and they have to move in with family who won’t allow the pet
- They’ve fallen on financially hard times and can’t afford basic care
- Their pet is sick/injured and they can’t afford treatment
More often than not, I also witnessed the anguish and tears from the people, and the confusion and anxiety of the pets as they parted ways. It actually made me feel kind of ashamed of myself for being so angry for all those years.
I started wondering if there were resources out there that could help keep people and their pets together. After a lot of research, and after taking a lot of classes offered at the shelter, I discovered that there are, but in order to use them, a person has to know where to look.
APBA gets a lot of emails from people looking for help. These are people who love their dogs, but don’t know how to keep them for many of the reasons listed above. All they know is they don’t want to surrender their pet to the shelter. And so, I started answering these emails and pointing them towards existing resources. I have referred them to trainers that I personally know will use positive reinforcement. I have found pit bull friendly realtors to help them find housing. I have visited their homes with another volunteer to assess behavior and offer safe management advice. And, sometimes, if there really isn’t another option, I’ve been able to assure them that if they surrender their pet to a shelter, their pet will be safe. Volunteering in the shelter system has taught me which ones are on board with finding homes for the majority of their animals and which ones aren’t. Luckily, in this area, most of our shelters are progressive. Still, if an animal can stay with his or her family, that’s always the best outcome.
I’m so excited about the launch of APBA’s Pet Owner Support program. Making it known to the pit bull loving public that we are here and we want to help is a dream come true for us, and we hope will be a lifeline for those who need help, but don’t know where to look.
If you or someone you know in the DC Metropolitan area is looking for resources to help them keep their pit bull, or is looking to rehome their pit bull, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org