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Eric Rayvid: 917-861-8290 or ericr@bestfriends.org

PetSmart Charities® Grant to Help Save Tampa-area Pit Bull Terrier-Type Dogs

Hillsborough County Animal Services logoThe Hillsborough County Animal Shelter (HCAS), working in conjunction with Best Friends Animal Society announces its new Shelter Partners for Pit Bulls Project, with funding support from PetSmart Charities®. The project is designed to encourage responsible pet guardianship and reduce euthanasia of pit bull terriers and similar-type dogs, as well as strive to improve the breed’s public perception.

The project is made possible through a $240,000 grant from PetSmart Charities, and along with additional support from Best Friends, the funds will also support pilot programs at shelters in four other cities across the country.

This partnership was formed to raise public awareness about the pit bull terrier breed of dog and to promote adoptions of the hundreds of pit bull terriers surrendered at HCAS each month.

The project will provide information on pit bull terriers in the Tampa area, educate the public and offer community outreach services such as free or low cost spay/neuter and vaccinations, as well as provide more playtime and learning opportunities for shelter dogs, adoption events, marketing support and training.

Best Friends Animal Society logo​HCAS serves a county population of a million people and receives an average of 25,000 animals each year. The shelter has a history of being proactive and creating innovative programs to increase the number of lives saved. They have worked hard to educate the public about pit bull terrier-type dogs and all the adoptable dogs of this type are considered “Pit Bull Ambassadors.”

An important component of the new program will be a dynamic group of volunteers called, the “Pit Crew,” a group that will assist with dog training, dog-walking, adoption events, photography, marketing and public education. The Pit Crew is recruiting people who have a strong love for the pit bull terrier and similar-type dogs and are willing to help to get these lovable and loyal dogs adopted into forever homes.

HCAS’ shelter coordinator for the project, Connie Johnson will manage all project activities and work with the public to decrease the percentage of pit bull terrier type dogs euthanized at HCAS, as well as increase adoptions. Her goal is to decrease euthanasia by 10 percent from last year’s rate.

As part of the partnership, Johnson will create “Pit Alley,” — a group of eight to 10 Pit Bull Ambassadors that will be chosen to take part in a six-week training class to prepare them for Canine Good Citizen certification and teach the dogs skills and tricks for an upcoming contest.

She also plans to create frequent media opportunities to show the positive side of pit bull-type dogs to counter the image often presented in the news. She plans a series of promotions and events to educate the public and let them know what great dogs pit bull terriers can be.

In January, 11 shelter dogs were entered in the “rescue class” of a confirmation show at the state fair grounds. Free vaccinations and spay/neuter vouchers will be available at a shot clinic at the end of the month. In March, the Pit Alley graduates will have an opportunity to show off their skills at Bark in the Park, competing on stage in the best trick and best obedience categories, and enjoying the positive public attention they deserve.

“Now with the creation of the Pit Crew,” Johnson said, “we plan to increase our visibility in every way possible.”

The Shelter Partners for Pit Bulls Project also creates partnerships between Best Friends Animal Society and shelters in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Washington, D.C., Carlsbad, Calif. and Baltimore, Md. The program’s cities were selected from among 20 city-applicants for the year-long pilot program.

Modeled after the very successful partnership between Best Friends and Salt Lake County Animal Services that began in July 2009, the Utah effort increased the save rate of pit bull-type dogs from 57 percent to 71 percent in its first year, and doubled the number of these dogs adopted from the previous year.

“As with any dog that is loved, spayed or neutered, properly trained, and socialized, pit bull terriers are happy and affectionate members of the family,” says Jamie Healy, Shelter Partners for Pit Bulls manager. “It’s the person on the other end of the leash who decides if their dog is a good canine citizen.”

Best Friends Animal Society works to help pit bull-type dogs through its national pit bull terrier initiative which helps dogs who are battling everything from a sensationalized reputation to legislation designed to bring about their extinction. The campaign’s goal is to end discrimination against all dogs–because they are individuals and should be treated as such.

Best Friends works with humane groups all across the country to bring about a time when there are No More Homeless Pets®.

About Best Friends Animal Society®

Best Friends Animal Society is a nonprofit organization building no-kill programs and partnerships that will bring about a day when there are No More Homeless Pets®. The society's leading initiatives in animal care and community programs are coordinated from its Kanab, Utah, headquarters, the country's largest no-kill sanctuary. This work is made possible by the personal and financial support of a grassroots network of supporters and community partners across the nation.

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