The dog-loving community is facing a crisis; pit bulls of all ages are being placed in shelters in droves thanks to overpopulation and irresponsible owners, and finding new homes is difficult at best for such a maligned breed. “Pit bulls face an uphill battle just because of all the fears and myths about the breed,” said Jill Anderson, cofounder of the pit bull rescue Shadow’s Fund. “For a lot of people, seeing an adult pit bull, especially one who has had no training and is pulling on leash or jumping, just furthers the perception of the breed.”
Dismayed by the number of young dogs destined to see the inside of a shelter before their first birthday, Shadow’s Fund and a collection of Santa Barbara County–based shelters and rescues have teamed up to create the Bright Beginnings: Pit Bull Puppy Ambassador program, which is dedicated to fostering, training, and rehoming pit bull puppies and changing the negative connotations surrounding the breed. “When [folks] see a young pit bull who’s walking nicely on leash, they’re well-trained, they’ve got excellent social skills, that starts to open people’s minds,” said Anderson. Anderson’s goal is to send a wave of well-trained, well-behaved young pit bulls into the community to act as ambassadors for the breed and show the public that there is much more to these dogs than meets the eye.
“Unfortunately, pit bulls right now are the dog of choice for the wrong owners,” continued Anderson. “So you’ve got people who want them to have a macho status symbol, you’ve got folks who want them to fight, you’ve got lots of people raising and owning these dogs irresponsibly. So sometimes the public only sees the worst of the breed.”
“We’ve been kind of swimming upstream, trying to find homes for these dogs once they’re in the shelters,” Anderson said. “We realized it was kind of ridiculous to try to respond and react to the crisis once it hits crisis level, rather than try to avert it to begin with. So we started kicking around this idea to pick up as many of these litters of puppies as we could get our hands on and get them into appropriate foster homes, get them spayed and neutered so they’re not reproducing later, get them trained and socialized so we can make sure they’re not entering the shelter, and put them in responsible homes.”
Launched in February of this year, Bright Beginnings has fostered 50 puppies so far and expects twice that many to have passed through the program by the end of the year. The organization places young pit bulls in foster homes for a training period of at least 30 days, during which the puppies are socialized, given medical treatment, taught basic commands, and how to interact with people, other animals, and children. Thanks to the dedicated foster owners and the weekly training program at the Shadow Fund’s ranch, Anderson said, the puppies will learn “all the things a dog needs early in life to be a well-balanced, well-socialized dog.” After the foster period is over, the puppies are ready to go to their new adoptive homes as model citizens of the canine community.
For people looking to get involved with this remarkable organization, Bright Beginnings is looking for volunteers, foster families, and people to adopt a puppy. For foster owners, training, food, and medical care for puppies is provided and, Anderson said, what is most necessary is “time, energy, and willingness, and a safe and secure home and yard.” You can visit the Bright Beginnings page at facebook.com/puppyprogram to see pictures of the young pit bulls and follow the classes as they enter and graduate from the program.
Those looking to adopt a dog, remember to keep an open mind about these misunderstood animals and get to know one in a good environment before condemning the breed based on its reputation.