Noreen Ford knew Poncho needed her help when she noticed the Pit Bull Terrier chained to a tree outside, forced to endure the cold winter conditions. She asked Poncho’s owners if she could take the dog into her custody and fortunately they conceded. Ford quickly realized that no shelters would take Poncho because of his breed, and she knew something had to be done, “I realized these dogs really needed my help,” she says. This was Noreen’s introduction to the world of Pit Bull rescue.
After taking Poncho home, Ford noticed his aggression towards her mixed-breed dog Yogi. She decided to do research and learn more about Poncho and Pit Bulls, so she joined PitbullL, a mailing list for Pit Bull lovers. Ford was then asked to volunteer for pbrc.net (Pit Bull Rescue Central), where she would screen applications for those looking to adopt. Later, she started volunteering at Baypath Humane in Hopkinton, where she was responsible for finding homes for Pit Bulls.
At Baypath, Ford renovated the adoption process and established a criteria that she uses today. This criteria ensures that dogs find homes with owners that suit their needs. Some of the requirements include that the potential adopters are over twenty-one years old, home owners, and own no other dogs or one dog of the opposite sex. If the application is acceptable then they call the references on the application. This is followed by a phone screening and a home inspection to ensure that the standards of the living conditions are met.
Noreen then started finding Pit Bulls homes on her own with a group of volunteers, this evolved into PittieLove Rescue. PittieLove is a Massachusetts based only organization that takes Pit Bulls from animal control or from shelters that have a regressing Pit Bull; many Pits do not do well in kennel conditions because of their close proximity with other dogs as well as the lack of attention from humans.
PittieLove has been a saving grace for many unfortunate Pit Bulls who have been subject to neglect by careless owners. Ford recalls a recent story where they had four puppies come to them that were picked up in Lawrence, nearly starved to death. “They were so skinny they looked like Italian Greyhounds,” says Ford. One of the puppies even had to spend a few days in an incubator at a vet hospital.
According to Ford only one in six-hundred Pit Bulls will find a home, a problem exacerbated by the large numbers of back yard breeders trying to make a quick buck and careless owners who do not train their dogs properly, or use them to fight.
Ford also finds the media at fault for the Pit Bull’s plight. The news loves a good Pit horror story and by only reporting on the worst case scenarios of the breed, it creates even more of a challenge to find the dogs homes.
Ford knows the real deal with Pit Bulls, and sees them for the personable loving breed that the are, “They are like real people, they have personalities like you wouldn’t believe,” she says. According to Noreen, Pit Bulls even have better temperament ratings than Golden Retrievers.
Ford’s second Pit Bull, Rosie, whom Noreen has had since she was five months old, was found on the streets of Brooklyn. Now at eight years old, Rosie is a certified therapy dog who can go into nursing homes and schools and lend the emotional support that humans can’t.
For some reason Pit Bulls have been dealt a losing hand by most of humanity. They are neglected, bought and sold like a cheap commodity, forced to fight and kill one another, and then demonized by the media when their uneducated and careless owners are to blame. Their struggle is a battle, but not a necessarily a losing battle. Through education, action, as well as with the help of organizations like PittieLove, Pit Bulls have a fighting chance.
A few other links to check out (more to come):