Wednesday, February 27, 2008

In defence of the smart and loyal rat

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
February 26, 2008 at 9:43 AM EST

Question: What is a hamster bubble?

Answer: A) A new hamster toy that uses NASA technology;
B) A new sex toy that uses NASA technology;
C) The outcome of a meeting between the laws of economics and the laws of human squeamishness.
Rodent rescuer, Jane Sorensen of Montreal, with pet rats Bess (front), and Melanie, says many people often compare rats to dogs. (Christinne Muschi for The Globe and Mail)

I know, I know, you really want to read about answer B. But the answer is C. The Year of the Rat, which began on Feb. 7, has had unintended consequences for the rodent economy in China.
According to Chinese media, children have been clamouring for a pocket pet, resulting in a run not on rats, but on hamsters, with the price tripling in under a month. Rats, meanwhile (the legitimate heirs to the throne - or wheel, as the case may be) are being exterminated in unprecedented numbers in Beijing in preparation for this summer's Olympics.

Seems like rats, even in the Year of the Rat, can't shake the bad press they got after helping transmit the plague in 14th-century Europe and 19th-century China. Rats always get a bum deal.

A few valiant fanciers have tried to bring dignity to the reviled rodent, which is widely known to be the smartest and most loyal of all pocket pets.

After Hollywood weighed in with Ratatouille, a cartoon movie featuring an aspiring chef who happens to be a rat, rat sales soared in North America and Europe. Still, the rat's fortunes generally fall more than rise.

"As long as we've been living in settled villages, rats have been living alongside with us, so we have this long shared history ... and because of that we have both positive and negative associations," says Kathryn Denning, professor of anthropology at Toronto's York University.
Although they are worshipped at a temple in India, and were admired enough to merit a place in the Chinese zodiac, "in a lot of places, they're just considered to be unclean and harbingers of disease," she says.

Street kids who acquire rats as a kind of accessory may find the rodent's bad-ass reputation enhances theirs, while they enjoy its lesser-known positive qualities.

"People who actually get them as pets have their entire view revolutionized," says Jane Sorensen, who runs Small Victories rodent rescue in Montreal and has eight rats of her own. "They are charismatic animals. ... A lot of people will compare them to dogs."

Rat agility contests, originating in Sweden, showcase the creatures' trainability and intelligence. But despite these efforts, we will likely never lose our ambivalence about the archetypal "varmint."

In an essay by Birgitta Edelman published in Animals in Person: Cultural Perspectives on Human-Animal Intimacies, the author writes that rats, which are associated with sewers, both disgust and compel us as they provide "a connecting link to the dark world down under."
She's an academic, so when you read "down under," you have to understand she's not just referring to our civic geography, but also to our anatomy, and possibly our psyche. It's one of those theories that is so crazy it just might be right.

(As if to prove this point, last week a drowned rat appeared at the nexus of geography and anatomy, in my downstairs neighbour's toilet bowl, apparently pushed up the drain by rising meltwater.)

Of course, it could just be their tails, which somewhat inexplicably disgust many people.
"There's something about their naked tails that people find icky," Prof. Denning says. Is it because they resemble earthworms? And don't earthworms live underground and thrive on decay? Hmm. The point goes to you, Ms. Edelman.

The all-but tailless hamster outsells rats by "50 to 60 per cent," says one employee at a PJ's pet store in Toronto.

"Hamsters are not very social," Ms. Denning points out, "and yet we regard them as being better pets because they're cuter." Ah, the eternal battle between cute and smart.

"Why are they cuter? They're cuter because they're rounder. What they have are features of neoteny."

The term refers to a certain infantile quality - disproportionately large eyes, rounded features - that we are hardwired to respond to positively.

But we all know that, in the long run, while cute wears thin, smarts endure. And besides, the Year of the Hamster? That just sounds dumb.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ruff deal for the Staffie

By Fiona Wickham and Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine

They're being dumped in record numbers and branded a "yob dog", yet Staffordshire bull terriers are ideal family pets, say experts. So why is this nation of dog lovers turning against them?

Extremely reliable, highly intelligent and affectionate, especially with children. It's not a description most of us would associate with Staffordshire bull terriers, but it's how the UK Kennel Club sums them up.

In fact, the breed is one of only two from over 190 it recommends as suitable with children, the other being a Chesapeake Bay retriever.

But while the thought of a doe-eyed retriever makes people feel all warm and fuzzy inside, a Staffie - as they are commonly known - often leaves them cold.

Somehow these little balls of muscle have gone from being considered good family pets to canine outcasts among large sections of this nation of dog lovers.

Staffies and Staffie crosses are being dumped in record numbers and not enough people are willing to give them a new home. So how did the sociable dog that likes to be loved fall out of people's affections?

The breed is a bit of a contradiction and that is a big part of the problem, says the Dogs Trust. While their natures are loving, their perceived physical similarities with banned breeds - such as pit bulls - has resulted in them being tarnished with the "dangerous dogs" label.

"Because of their appearance, certain types of people think they've got themselves a fierce dog and in fact they'd far rather be in front of the fire having their tummy tickled," says breeder Veronica Brown.

A result of this misguided association they have become a "macho" fashion accessory among some young men, say welfare groups. They are a "psuedo pit bull" for those who want to look hard.

Cashing in

"They have become a status symbol among some youngsters and the type of person who gets one for that reason is not likely to be the most responsible owner," says Ali Evans, from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

Child friendly dogs... many wouldn't think soThe consequences for the breed are worrying, say animal charities. Selling them has now become a lucrative business among certain groups and people wanting to make some quick cash are intensively breeding them.
"Some people now consider them as a source of income and are breeding them in their back gardens," says Ms Evans.
A pure-breed puppy with documentation to prove its Kennel Club registration and a health certificate costs around £600, so there is a market for cheaper dogs. Many are cross-breeds but still look the part. And looks count as the dogs are also being used as a protection, say animal charities.
That's not to say that Staffies can't be aggressive and dangerous. They can. Like all dogs, there can be moments of aggression which, coupled with the Staffie's strength, can lead to serious injuries. There have been many reported cases of Staffies attacking children, but these days the dogs are often trained to be more hostile. Owners build up their strength, making them hang off sticks to increase the power of their jaws.
It all fuels the negative image the dogs have now acquired and makes them harder to home if they are dumped by owners.
Mistaken identity

Birmingham Dogs Home says pure-bred Staffies and their crosses make up at least 40% of all dogs that end up with them. They make up a third of all dogs handled by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, which has branches in London, Berkshire and Kent.

Staffies are often mistaken for pit bulls, such as thisThe media also has a part to play in attitudes towards the breed.
"Sometimes if there's a dog attack, they'll use a photo of a Stafford in the paper before the true identity of the dog has been made," says Ms Brown.
The dogs are being villainised, say responsible owners. Lorien Hill is mum to a five-year-old, Lucas, and has a Staffie, one of three she has owned over the years.
"Billy looks all rough and tough on the outside, yet he's the most gentle dog ever and in touch with the emotions of those around him," she says.
"They call them nanny dogs and that's because they're like babysitters. When Lucas is in the garden, Billy sits near him just watching."
She agrees they are often just a status symbol. As a result people assume Staffies are aggressive and make assumptions about why she owns one.
"Someone at the school gate was sarcastic to me about my dog," she says. "They said 'good you didn't get an aggressive muscly dog then'. People just assume.
Villainised breeds
"I think things are changing and they're beginning to go out of fashion as the hard boy thing. That might be why there's so many in the shelters, because a lot of people are put off because they're seen as a chav dog."
Staffies are not the first breed of dogs to be villainised. German shepherds, dobermans and rottweilers have all suffered bad press.
"What they all have in common is they are big and strong," says the RSPCA's chief vet, Mark Evans. "A smaller dog could be just as aggressive but there is less chance of it being a life-threatening attack."
As a result it does not make the headlines, he adds.
""We need to educate people about how to care for Staffies and also the wider population to dispel some of the myths," says Mr Evans. "What a dog is like is not down to their breed it is down to their owner."
A selection of your comments appears below.
I recently encountered an owner of a Staffie who told me I should put my dog (a labrador) on a leash otherwise the Staffie would attack. Why should it be my responsibility to protect my dog from his? Surely if he knows his dog is potentially dangerous he should not have been walking it in public, let alone off the leash. Matt MacLeod, Radcliffe-on-Trent, Notts
As a professional woman, mother of a 12-month-old and the responsible owner of three pedigree Staffordshire Bull Terriers I have absolutely no desire to 'be hard'. I have Staffies because they are the most delightful company. To suggest an outright ban on this breed is ridiculous.Miriam, Staffordshire
I own a labrador puppy and the majority of Staffordshire bull terriers she comes into contact with go for her. If it wasn't for my intervention it would have been a bloodbath. This is the reason why they have such a bad reputation; how can you say that they are loyal loving animals?Sarah, West Midlands
Is it possible that your dogs started it? If they get attacked on a regular basis I'd suggest monitoring their behaviour, it could be that your dogs are eyeballing other dogs which is essentially an invitation to a fight but one which a lot of people don't pick up on and so the dog that reciprocates gets the blame. Jaime, Manchester, UK
Walking our Staffie-cross in the countryside, a man walking two labradors saw that our dog was a bull-breed and let his dogs off their leads. What was he trying to prove? The two labs came over and growled at our dog (on a lead) and a fight broke out. I was so scared as the two labs were biting my Connor's face so he had to bite one of them in the cheek. Because of his breed he got the blame and ever since certain people shout abuse at me in the street. They shout "Those dogs don't deserve to live". Kate, age 14, Gloucester
For all of those living in cities and sick of seeing snarling Staffs with an idiot on the other end of the lead, try getting out into more rural areas and you'll see what wonderful dogs these are when paired with responsible owners. They're eager to please their owners but some idiots take advantage of this by praising aggressive behaviour.John, Dartford, Kent
In my local park, many people walk their dogs off leads. It is not acceptable, my children have the right to safety. I also think it should also be brought into the school curriculum to teach children how to behave around animals, in closed and open spaces. I have owned many different breeds, as I love dogs. I would not want to own a strong powerful dog. Dogs like people can be unpredictable. Laws, strong regulations and big licence fees should be as standard in owning any dog.Anon
I work with young offenders who insist on getting these dogs in the hope of adding to their reputation and image. They are very often disappointed that the dog does not want to attack everything in sight and indeed would rather be played with and given lots of attention. Press reports attempt to induce some kind of moral panic. Michael McBride, Motherwell, Scotland
I'm just waiting to encounter a Staffie round here that isn't called Tyson... or Killer... Maybe unless you can think of a better name you should be banned from keeping one of these dogs?Sarah, Brixton, London
I really would prefer that reporters stop referring to us as a "nation of dog lovers". It is not only extremely likely that over 50% of the population has no interest in dogs, my experience tells me that it is also very likely that many people would be happy to never see a dog again. Rich, Hampshire
Our Staffordshire bull terrier was taken from the garden on Friday, 8 February in Knowsley, Merseyside. He is such a trusting dog that he went without so much as a bark with the four lads (in hoodies and on push bikes) that took him. He hasn't been neutered so we hope he's been taken for breeding... any other reason is just unthinkable. Leanne, Liverpool
I love Staffies! My sister has one and I want one too. Unfortunately my wife won't allow it as we have a two-year-old and a second on the way. I've told her their reputation is not the correct image to have but to no avail.Barry Murphy, Dunfermline
I've had people cross the road away from and my dog - which is very rude. On one occasion a lady picked up her little dog and carried it past me, because she thought my dog would be aggressive. Nothing would be further from the truth, he's as soft as jelly. Her dog, on the other hand, was a yappy Yorkshire terrier - with a bad case of the little-big-dog syndrom. The press never comment on their aggressive nature?Laura, Cardiff
We have two Staffies. The oldest is very large and often mistaken for a pit bull, but if you broke into our house you'd only be in danger of being licked to death.Sharon Partington, Birmingham, England
I do not agree that Staffies are not dangerous dogs. I have two Jack Russells and walk them twice a day. The only dogs which have attacked them without provocation or advance warning are Staffies. In our local park a Staffie has recently attacked children playing football, one of them so badly he needed stitches. Staffies may be good dogs at heart, but because of their strength if they are not trained properly they get out of control and then become dangerous. Soline Druffin, London
It's great to see Staffies getting some true press for a change. I have been the keeper of my Staffies for nine years now and they have proven to be highly affectionate towards people especially kids and very sociable with other animals. They are able to take an accidental knock with no fear of retaliation and they are really great characters. It's a shame this trait goes unrewarded for so many of them.Lee, Hampshire
Like most things in this world it comes down to intent. A screwdriver is a handy tool when you want it to be a tool... they can also be a vicious weapon when intended so. Staffies are naturally peaceful, watchful, intelligent and loving. One of the few dogs in the world that will sit there and have its ears tugged on by a child - and not react badly. A breed I look forward to having as part of my family again one day.Paul, Birmingham
I own two Staffordshire dogs and they are the most affectionate dogs I have ever owned. They prefer to sit on our laps and go to sleep than go out for a walk. The hoodie culture gives this breed a bad name.Jill Shurey, Welwyn Garden City, England
Thank you very much for this story. I don't own a Staffie myself but there are several people in my family who have one and they are all very friendly and loving dogs. Hopefully this story will help raise awareness of their true personality.John, Aberdeenshire, UK
These dogs should be banned full stop. They are like walking around with a loaded gun. My puppy was attacked by one recently, a five-month-old cocker. Did the Staffy just bite? No! It bit and clamped on and would not let go. I had my hands in the Staffie's mouth but could not release its jaws from my puppy's leg, even with all my might. My hands were obviously cut and I have a vet's bill for hundreds of pounds for repair to my dog's leg. They are dangerous. Even my vet is sick of treating other animals attacked by them. Who buys them? People who want to be hard. I don't need a dog for that...Stuart, Gloucester


Indomitably courageous
Highly intelligent
Affectionate, especially with children
Totally reliable

First order for pet dog cloning

The South Korean firm hopes to clone hundreds more dogsA South Korean company says it has taken its first order for the cloning of a pet dog.

A woman from the United States wants her dead pitbull terrier - called Booger - re-created.

RNL Bio is charging the woman, from California, $150,000 (£76,000) to clone the pitbull using tissue extracted from its ear before it died.

The work will be carried out by a team from Seoul National University, where the first dog was cloned in 2005.

Commercial cloning

RNL Bio says this is the first time a dog will have been cloned commercially.

"There are many people who want to clone their pet dogs in Western countries even at this high price," company chief executive, Ra Jeong-chan, told the Korea Times.

The cost of cloning a dog may come down to less than $50,000

Cho Seong-Ryul, RNL Bio

The firm is expecting hundreds more orders for pets over the next few years and also plans to clone dogs trained to sniff out bombs or drugs.

One out of every four surrogate mother dogs produces puppies, according to RNL Bio's marketing director, Cho Seong-ryul.

"The cost of cloning a dog may come down to less than $50,000 as cloning is becoming an industry," he said.

Dog attack

The pitbull's owner, Bernann McKunney, gave the company ear tissue, which an American biotech firm preserved before the animal died 18 months ago.

She is said to have been particularly attached to the dog, after it saved her life when another dog attacked her and bit off her arm.

The university's team is led by Professor Lee Byeong-chun, who was previously in a team headed by the disgraced stem cell scientist, Hwang Woo-suk.

Mr Hwang's results on cloning human stem cells, initially hailed as a breakthrough, were found to have been falsified and he is now on trial charged with embezzlement and fake research.

But the team did succeed in creating the world's first cloned dog two years ago - an Afghan hound named Snuppy.

They continued with the programme, cloning more dogs and also producing clones of Korean grey wolves.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dog gets death sentence

Pit bull or just pitiable?
Court backs decision to put down dog accused of biting Toronto man
Feb 14, 2008 04:30 AM
Tracy Huffman Staff Reporter

Is he a pit bull or isn't he?

Did he bite a man and his dog or was the man threatening him with a knife?

The facts are unclear, but Munchie's fate may be sealed. This week a court upheld a decision by Toronto Animal Services to have the 4-year-old dog destroyed. Munchie has 30 days to live, pending an appeal.

The case began last September when Munchie escaped his downtown backyard. A scuffle ended with Munchie's quarantine and criminal charges against the man the dog is alleged to have attacked.

Sheila Yeung, one of Munchie's owners, said her neighbour had previously threatened to kill the dog and on that day he attacked the dog with a knife. When the dog broke free of his grasp, it ran into the house, she said.

Yeung, a 21-year-old Ryerson student, said she locked her door only to have the man break in, make threats and hold her at knifepoint. That man currently faces charges including uttering threats, break and enter and threatening with a weapon. None of the allegations has been proven in court.

But the man claims he and his dog were bitten. As a result, Munchie was quarantined and has remained with Animal Services since.

In October, Animal Services classified Munchie as a pit bull, and a threat to the safety of others.
Yeung said the dog is gentle and friendly. Munchie is a mutt who looks like a chocolate Lab, she said.

She does not believe he is a pit bull, and a Canadian Kennel Club-licensed judge agrees. After assessing the dog, Mike Macbeth concluded Munchie is not a pit bull but a mongrel that most resembles a field Labrador.

"I thought this case was a slam dunk. He doesn't have any characteristics of a pit bull. He looks like a skinny chocolate Lab," said Macbeth. But the court concluded Macbeth was biased and noted that of the eight dogs she has assessed for court cases, she has claimed none were pit bulls.

Eletta Purdy, manager of Animal Services, said looking at pictures of Munchie can be misleading.

"We believe he is a restricted pit bull," she said. "... We had evidence that the dog did attack and bit at least one person and one animal. Upon investigation of that incident, we believed it would continue to be a menace."

A restricted pit bull is one born and owned in Ontario before Aug. 29, 2005, when the province-wide ban on pit bulls came into effect.

Purdy said staff use accumulated knowledge, training and experience to determine the breed of a dog. In the case of a pit bull, legislation also provides guidance.

The Dog Owners' Liability Act defines a pit bull as a pit bull terrier, a Staffordshire bull terrier,
an American Staffordshire terrier, an American pit bull terrier or a dog that has an appearance and physical characteristics that are "substantially similar" to those dogs.

Yeung and Angela Feng, 24, co-owner of the dog, said they're upset the court rejected the argument Munchie is not a pit bull. The court ordered they pay $15,000 in court costs, money they don't have.

Lawyer Terry Green argued the expert they hired has more experience and knowledge than those at Animal Services. "Munchie looks like Bill Clinton's dog Buddy. He's a chocolate Lab," Green said.

Yeung and Feng have 30 days to file an appeal or Munchie will be destroyed.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Moncton man rescue rats

Local rat lover houses abandoned, neglected rodents while trying find them good homes


Clark Graham has 87 rats in his house. He knows this because he put them there.

No, he's not trying to unload an unreasonable amount of cheese and he's not grocery shopping for a pet python. On the contrary, Graham runs Angel's Heart, a rat rescue on the old Shediac Road.

Similar to the SPCA in the sense that it provides a home for abused and abandoned animals, Graham's non-profit rescue, one of the few in existence, has been in operation for seven years and caters to rat lovers across the Maritimes who, for a price, can adopt a cuddly rodent for themselves.

"There is no money to be made," Graham said. "I adopt them out at a reasonable price so they won't become food for snakes. I charge enough so they won't go for that."

Graham asks for a donation of $15 from people adopting a rat, which he hopes will deter anyone looking to buy cheap snake food. The money is then spent on feeding and housing the rats who can ring up $40 in grocery bills weekly.

"An adoption form must be filled out, people must be approved. I make sure my rats are going to a good home."

Graham said applicants must go through a rigorous interview process before being allowed to take their chosen rat home.

Most of his customers are contacted through his website where they are able to leave messages inquiring about possible adoptions. Some from as far away as Ottawa.

Gillian Goodwin, a local customer and veterinarian, met Graham through a friend.

Growing up she had always liked mice, but like many people, was afraid of rats. That changed thanks to a friend who introduced her to the animals she now considers, "little dogs."

Goodwin has eight rats of her own and fosters a number of rats for Graham on the side. She said, despite what people think, they are actually a very clean animal, grooming themselves almost as often as cats, and can be as social as most dogs.

"They're not a pet you can just put in a cage and ignore," he said, adding a rat needs at least an hour of human contact daily outside of its cage.

Which isn't a problem for Goodwin as all of her rats are house-broken and use a litter box.
"They're like little dogs only in smaller bodies," she said.

It was roughly six years ago when Graham took in his first rat. Before that he had always owned more traditional pets like dogs and cats.

"All my life I've had dogs, I've had cats," he said. "I've had almost all the animals there are."
But after a friend introduced him to rats that all changed.

"I fell in love with them," Graham said. "They are very affectionate."

Aside from having rats of his own he also takes in rats people leave in fields or abandon at shelters like the SPCA. Some have been neglected, even abused.

"Some were not social because they were abused," Graham said. "But I have a way with rats so I turned them into good little rats."

Despite people's usual dislike of rats Graham said all they need is a proper loving environment to thrive in. He said after taking one abused rat in it became so gentle he could feed it rice out of his hand without worrying about being bitten.

"You have to have patience, time and a lot of love for them."

However, because rats have an average lifespan of approximately three years, Graham has to make his love count.

"It does take a lot from you because they do not have a long lifespan so you have to deal with that a lot," he said. "I've lost my fair share of rats over the years, but the love you share with them is worth it."

The rats are housed in cages with the females separated from the males to prevent mass breeding, something Graham said would be inevitable if they weren't divided.

"They go in heat every few days," he said. "They can multiply very fast."

Doggone Laws

By: Selma Mulvey Burford, Ontario
February 5, 2008 09:42 PM

Dear Editor:Regarding an editorial questioning the priorities of those writing in support of Rambo, the mixed breed dog currently in the spotlight, I'd like to clarify.

Like many, the author of this piece has been distracted by a well crafted red herring, the pit bull, and has failed to grasp the implications of Ontario's dog ownership ban. In a recent Superior Court decision two key provisions were struck down. The matter is on its way to the Ontario Court of Appeals.

People must understand the reason The Dog Legislation Council of Canada and other groups in Banned Aid are taking this through the courts at great cost is because laws of this kind do not affect dogs. (These laws) aren't about dogs. They are about dog owners. Actually, the owners of any type of property are equally at risk, once a precedent has been set, as we have seen with the racing car Bill 232, which is very similar in approach — vague, subjective and discriminatory. In Ontario today, we have legislated discrimination, brought in on the back of a nonexistent breed of dog. Pit bull is a slang term for a group of breeds, unrelated lookalike breeds and a huge number of mongrels.

Here's what all dog owners in Ontario now face on a daily basis, regardless of the breed or mixed breed of their pets:
1. Warrantless entry into a private residence if a peace officer (which could even be a private citizen) believes a dog inside is threatening either a human or domestic animal;
2. Seizure of the dog, using whatever force is deemed necessary, whether the owner is present or not;
3. Unreasonable search and seizure if a dog is deemed to be exhibiting menacing behaviour, which is undefined in the law.

Presumed guilty, stigmatized, open to unreasonable search and seizure, unequal before the law, forced to prove the impossible, restricted in mobility, open to unconstitutional vagueness and trial unfairness — all of this and more has been legislated against dog owners for no good reason.

We are still waiting for evidence proving that 'pit bulls' are responsible for more bites, attacks or fatal maulings than other breeds and mixed breeds in Canada, let alone Ontario. Dog bite records, fatality records, hospital records, safety council statistics — none support this bizarre piece of legislation. Yes, we have had a handful of serious attacks in Ontario over the past 15 years or so by dogs identified as pit bulls. We have had many more serious attacks by other breeds and shapes during the same time period. Where's the hysteria?

As a Canadian, I consider it incumbent upon me to fight this type of discrimination. Laws like this should not even be considered, let alone enacted. It's time to fight for your rights, people, while you still have some left.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Pair of pooches escape pit bull-phobic province

Standard Staff

Under cover of the early morning darkness, Gracie and Capone made their getaway.

Within a few short hours, the duo boarded a plane bound for Calgary and began their exile.

They had no choice, being marked for death had they stayed in St. Catharines.

But such is life when your crime is being a pit bull in Ontario.

Friday morning, the pooches with gentle dispositions and names more suited to mean booze runners during prohibition, were taken into the care of the Pit Bulls for Life Foundation of Alberta thanks to Lincoln County Humane Society staff efforts to spare them from euthanization.
“In order to save these dogs, we’re going to do what’s necessary, but we can’t do it for each one,” said Kevin Strooband, humane society executive director.

Doing what’s necessary meant spending months trying to find a shelter or agency outside the province to take the dogs from the shelter.

Last fall, Capone was surrendered to the humane society when his owner was incarcerated. Gracie was abandoned when she was thrown over a 2.1-metre fence into a pen behind the Fourth Avenue shelter.

Without knowing whether they were born before a provincial ban on the breed took effect in 2005, the shelter’s only option for the dogs was to ship them out of Ontario or destroy them. Pit bulls born after October 2005 can not be put up for adoption.

Strooband said staff made the effort to save the dogs because of the animals’ calm temperament. Had there not been a ban, he said he would have adopted Capone.

“They’re amazing,” Strooband said. “(Capone) thinks he’s just a little guy. He’s so friendly. He doesn’t know he’s viewed as this nasty dog in Ontario.”

But more than two years after the ban, Strooband said it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find shelters or pit bull-rescue organizations to take the dogs.

The humane society has already shipped out dogs to Edmonton, Nova Scotia, New York and Pennsylvania to spare them a death sentence.

Brandy Campbell-Briggs, founder of the Pit Bulls for Life Foundation, which is based in Calgary, said her organization has an Alberta-first mandate, despite there being no provincewide ban there.

However, Edmonton has a bylaw prohibiting ownership of the dogs. Meanwhile, shelters in other cities have policies that won’t allow them to put the dogs up for adoption.

“Some shelters could send us dogs every day,” Campbell-Briggs said about an hour after picking up Capone and Gracie from the airport.

But they may not all be like the duo from Ontario. While Campbell-Briggs only offers refuge to dogs with no aggression toward humans and very little toward other animals, she was quite taken with her new wards who will stay in foster homes until they’re adopted.

“Capone is one of the most amazing dogs I’ve ever met. He’s a very well-behaved dog. It’s really a shame their fate is not a good one in Ontario,” Campbell-Briggs said. “I’m pretty sure both dogs won’t take long to place in (permanent) homes.”