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.”


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