"I want to help! Where should I start? What organizations should I support?"
The first step is to begin to lend support (financial or otherwise) to the various organizations working to help the American Pit Bull Terrier breed. There are many organizations out there and choosing which ones to support can be confusing. Some organizations are more productive than others, while a few organizations do way more harm than good. Before choosing which organizations to support, you may want to decide which cause is most important to you and focus most of your attention on that cause. This can be more productive than spreading yourself too thin and offering only a little time or money to a lot of organizations.
Everyone's First Concern Should Be Breed Specific Legislation
The biggest threat to our dogs right now is breed specific legislation (BSL). These laws, if allowed to pass, will theoretically cause extinction of the American Pit Bull Terrier and related breeds. These laws, regardless of their intent, are unfair, unconstitutional, and unworkable! BSL is a Band-Aid solution for a larger problem, period! Regardless of what issues are prompting the writing of such laws, BSL is fundamentally wrong and a solution for NOTHING!
All dog owners, regardless of breed, should join in the fight against BSL! It has been shown that BSL that targets Pit Bulls is a gateway which opens to allow laws restricting other breeds, not just those of pit bull type. If you are a dog owner and care about your right to own your breed of choice responsibly, than you should join an organization and get active in fighting unjust laws!
Rescue - Salvation for Unwanted Bullies, and Helping to Create a Hopeful Future
There are few jobs as financially thankless, tiring or time consuming as rescue work. But none so rewarding. The countless organizations that rescue Pit Bulls will never want for work. Rescues are left to clean up other peoples' messes, and rely on the kindness and generosity of supporters, as well as utilize their own time and finances, to help them get their jobs done. Rescue is an important and worthy cause, deserving of your time and money.
There are numerous Pit Bull rescues across the country; some going above and beyond the call of duty by not only rescuing dogs but doing outstanding educational work as well. Why educate? Because without trying to wipe out the problems that give rescuers a job to begin with, rescue work is simply like running on a treadmill at full speed: exhausting, but doesn't get you anywhere! Rescues should ALWAYS be working to educate their communities about the breed, BSL, responsible ownership and the importance of spaying/neutering. Besides a commitment to education, there are several other things you should look for in a rescue organization before you hand over your money:
All dogs should be spayed or neutered before placement.
They should charge a nominal fee for adoption (which covers the basic care the dog received). Normal adoption fees range from about $50 to $150 dollars. Rescues that charge ridiculous adoption fees of $400, $500 or more, should be viewed as suspect, and are possibly trying to make a buck off of the dogs' misfortune.
They should seem like they know what they are doing, and be very knowledgeable about the breed. They should have been rescuing more than a few years, and have references from vets, trainers, or other animal professionals that can verify their legitimacy.
They should require temperament tests/evaluations on all dogs prior to placement. All dogs should be assessed before being adopted to help match them with the best possible home. If the rescue does test, ask them to be specific about how they go about doing so.
The rescue should have a zero tolerance policy for Pit Bulls that have bitten or are aggressive towards humans. No responsible Pit Bull rescue will adopt a dog out with a history of aggressive behavior towards people.
The rescue should place all dogs with a contract.
Two rescues that are "doing it right" are the following:
Spindletop in Texas (the "national" rescue for the breed)
and Our Pack, Inc in California, which is an extremely educated, breed-savvy group doing amazing outreach in the San Francisco Bay Area.
You may wish to support your local animal shelter/humane society if they are Pit Bull-friendly. Volunteering to walk/train dogs, clean kennels, counsel potential adopters or new adopters (to help dogs stay in their new homes), and helping the staff and other volunteers understand and responsibly place Pit Bulls are just a few ways you can help.
Local humane societies are always looking for volunteers to walk and train dogs. Many shelters are over-run with Pit Bulls that are already difficult to place, but lacking training and manners are even more of a challenge to find good homes for. Volunteering with humane societies specifically to help Pit Bulls find homes is a great, important way to get involved in helping the breed.
If you are a NJ resident, consider applying to become a . RPB always needs enthusiastic, savvy volunteers to man booths, help with training classes, organize events, hand out fliers, etc.
Animal Rights/Welfare Organizations
Aside from the Pit Bull specific organizations, there are many groups that are working to make the world a better place for animals in general, including Pit Bulls. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in New York City is a prime example. They are a shelter, have numerous educational programs, and are Pit Bull-friendly. They are an excellent organization to lend support to if you are wanting to help animals in general.
Other "animal welfare" or "animal rights" organizations should be avoided, however. They sound benign enough on the outside, but dig a little and you'll find some things that may surprise you. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) supports BSL and would like to see the American Pit Bull Terrier breed (as well as pet animals in general) die out.
In fact, animal rights (AR) groups must be viewed cautiously and fully investigated before you decide to drop any money in their pockets. There seems to be an inordinate amount of anti-Pit Bull sentiment in AR circles, either due to fear, misunderstanding, or plain ignorance. For instance, Animal People Magazine is a well-known animal rights publication that is incredibly anti-Pit Bull, and its articles display not only an extreme animosity towards the breed, but also a terrible lack of understanding of dog behavior. For an example of the garbage that routinely gets published in Animal People, click here: here.
Before you support any animal rights or welfare organization, be sure to ask them what their stance on Pit Bulls and breed specific legislation is prior to joining.