Michael Vick. For some people his name is equated with an awesome football player. For many others, however, it conjures up images of illegal dog fights with innocent dogs used as live bait. The latter scenario does not paint a pretty picture for the lives of countless pit bulls and “bully” breeds.
One such little soul bears the name Zelda. Zelda is a stocky pit bull mix who was used for breeding. When her breeding years were over she was used as live bait in the fighting ring right here in Buffalo, NY. When her owners were raided and arrested, Zelda and eight other dogs were taken to the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter. Miraculously, after years of abuse, neglect and cruelty from both humans and canines, Zelda managed to maintain a sweet and loving disposition. She became the little angel of the shelter, beloved by everyone who worked there. She literally became their poster dog and was featured on a hand-made silk screen, created by Hero Design Studio for a shelter fundraiser. Zelda was eventually adopted after months of shelter life by Jennifer Ward and her two children. In an article in The Buffalo News featuring Zelda and her story, Ward says, “I got down on the ground and looked into her sweet soulful eyes; we all realized she was meant to be with us.”
There are numerous other happy ending stories like Zelda’s, unfortunately for many of the bully breeds this just isn’t the case. The “bullies” include Pit Bulls, Rottwielers, King Corsos, Bull Mastiffs or any mix of these breeds. When a bully enters a shelter they already have a big strike against them, a bad rep. Add to this the fact that these dogs are over-bred, having not been spayed or neutered. The result is a large population of bullies at animal shelters where families go looking to adopt a sweet family pet. These guys are often overlooked because their reputation for being violent and dangerous animals precedes them. Consequently, the grim reality is that many of these sweet creatures are needlessly euthanized.
There is a group that is trying to change this sad situation however. The Animal Alliance of WNY (AAWNY) has proposed an initiative to provide free spaying and neutering of the bully breeds. AAWNY is comprised of several local animal rescue organizations including the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter, the SPCA, Buffalo Humane and others. The campaign is entitled “Fix-a-Bull,” and will also incorporate education of the breeds and outreach. Suzanne Laba is a long-time volunteer at Buffalo’s City Animal Shelter and co-founder of Pound Hounds and Friends, a non-profit animal rescue group and member of AAWNY.
Laba is passionate about this campaign, knowing first-hand the need for such an initiative. She cites the example of a female pit bull recently brought to the city’s shelter pregnant. Soon the shelter will have 7 little puppies who will quickly get adopted, but the mom will more than likely remain at the shelter – overlooked and unwanted. Laba explains, “Many of the moms sit at the shelter for a long time. They just aren’t as cute, especially after having babies, and need time to re-adjust.” Fix-a-Bull gives hope for a beginning to an end of this unfortunate cycle.
In an effort to raise monies to make Fix-a-Bull a reality, AAWNY is hosting the first of what they hope to be an annual fundraising event on Saturday, June 11th at Mister Goodbar on Elmwood Avenue. The event is aptly named, “Rock-a-Bully” and will begin at 5:00 p.m. Admission is $20 with drink and food specials throughout the evening. For entertainment, five Buffalo bands are featured and begin at 6:00. Each of these bands has graciously donated their time and talent to this worthwhile event and include Chris Maloney, Lower Town Trio, Crackity Jones, Saints of the 7 Avenues and The Heavenly Hillbillies.
The event will feature silent and Chinese auctions with some fantastic items up for grabs. Just some of the auction items include round trip tickets on Southwest Airlines valued at over $800, tickets to “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart in New York City, tickets to the “Dr. Phil Show” in Hollywood and a deluxe suite at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens. But probably one of the most poignant items of the evening will be a poster of Zelda donated by Hero Studio Design. A full listing of auction items, details of the event and advance ticket sales are available at www.rockabully.org. You can even help promote the event by “liking” it on Facebook. There will be local vendors there as well including K-9 Krunchers selling home-made dog treats and Headstone Heat selling their locally produced hot sauces.
All proceeds from Rock-a-Bully go directly to the “Fix-a-Bull” campaign in an effort to decrease the intake of bully breeds to shelters through spaying and neutering as well as increasing an awareness of the reality of these breeds through education and outreach. If you cannot attend the event but would like to contribute to the “Fix-a-Bull” campaign, you can do so by going here. But honestly, how can you not want to attend a fun evening full of dog loving Buffalonians on Elmwood Avenue on a Saturday night?
You can tune in to AM Buffalo this Tuesday, May 31st at 10 am on channel 7 to see Suzanne Laba with one of her most recent bully rescues she is fostering – Arnold. Arnold is a two-year old pit bull brought to the City Shelter as a stray. He was very stressed in the shelter and Laba has been fostering him at her home with her two German Shepherd rescues. Having never lived in a real home, he is, as Laba puts it, “mesmerized by everything around him.” He loves everyone he meets on his walks, is well socialized and gets along great with other dogs. Arnold is one of the many dogs available for adoption.
If you are interested in adopting a “bully” or any breed that needs a loving home, you can visit the City Shelter at 380 Oak Street, the SPCA at 205 Ensminger Road in Tonawanda or fill out an application online and look for your perfect companion at www.petfinder.com.
On a personal side note, having recently rescued a 10 year-old toothless dog from a very bad situation, I can tell you that giving an abandoned dog a loving home and family can be one of the most rewarding experiences. You can never not appreciate seeing a once fearful, neglected dog settle into his own bed with a look of peace on his face. For your acceptance of an unwanted animal you will be repaid by endless tail wags and unlimited licks. There is nothing like the cuddle of a furry friend who will always make you smile or wipe away your tears. You may even find, as many have, that after rescuing a canine companion it is you yourself who is rescued too.