On a Wednesday afternoon, Animal Control Officer Karen Wood brought out a 2-year old pit bull from her kennel at the Gastineau Humane Society to get some fresh air.
Scully, the grey-colored female, excitedly jumped up, ready to meet new people and show off her ability to sit still for treats. As Scully wagged her tail and sniffed about her, Wood said while Scully has food, shelter and volunteers to walk her and the other pit bulls, which there are about six, just living in a kennel is not an ideal situation for any of the dogs. They all need to find their forever home, but right now, it looks like there aren’t many people looking to adopt pit bulls in Juneau.
Scully has been at the shelter the longest — since the end of June. She was taken in at the shelter when her previous owner could no longer keep her since their landlord didn’t allow large dogs at the rental.
Another pit who got introduced, Helena, is a small, dark-colored, 10-month-old. She had been left wandering around Home Depot, and her owners never came to get her. Then there is shy Augustus, or “Auggie,” a 10-month-old who was dropped off at the shelter because his owner had too many responsibilities to care for the energetic dog. The other pits came from what Wood said was an “irresponsible breeder.” The common theme was that whoever previously cared for these dogs was unprepared for the responsibility of owning the attention-demanding dogs.
Wood and deputy director Samantha Blankenship said they really just want to find the right owner for the right dog. Usually, the process doesn’t take as long as it has been, mainly because of lack of applicants, and they both think it’s because the dogs are pits.
Pit bulls, also known as bully breeds, are the hardest to rehome, Wood said. Some people tend to keep away from the breed because it is often stereotyped as aggressive.
“We’re trying to combat the stereotypes,” Wood said. Animal Control receives get reports of dog bites from every breed, she said. The breed and size has no bearing on if a dog will bite.
Both she and Blankenship repeatedly emphasized that a dog’s temperament is largely a product of their environment, treatment by their owner and consistency of training.
“Any dog can be dangerous, any dog can be sweet,” Blankenship said and mentioned how pit bull attacks are highlighted in the press, especially because with larger dogs, their bites can be more severe due to their strength.
“A lot of owners I talk to say they are just the best with their kid,” Blankenship said. “They become part of your pack.”
“That being said, these dogs are large,” Wood said. “They need a special kind of owner, an owner who will understand that the public is going to look at them differently.”
Wood listed off some desirable qualities a potential owner would possess, such as being assertive, knows they need to become “the head of the pack” and has the time and energy to train and exercise their dog.
It’s a strength thing too, Wood said. “We wouldn’t place one of these dogs with an elderly couple who have only had toy poodles their whole lives. They need somebody who can handle them and get them out because they are strong, muscular dogs.” On the flip side, they also don’t want somebody who want a pit bull because it’s a status symbol or makes them feel “macho.” They just need to find their forever home.
Wood and Blankenship believe those owners are out there.
If anyone is interested, they can come by and visit the dogs. If they later find they wish to adopt, then they just have to go through the Humane Society’s application process, which is really quite simple, but Woods added, yet thorough.
Besides filling out basic screening information, the Humane Society will check to see if the applicant’s place of residence is a rental, and if so, do they allow for dogs. Also, they will call the applicant’s three personal references who have witnessed them around dogs to see if they are a suitable candidate. The Humane Society takes up to three applications per dog to review for adoption, though if they only get one for a dog, they will still review that application.
“With these young dogs, we do extensive behavioral assessments,” Wood said. “They all passed with flying colors. They’re highly trainable…. Now would be a great time to adopt these guys.”
The Gastineau Humane Society can be reached at 789-0260. For more information, go to ghspets.org.
• Contact Clara Miller at 523-2243 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.