Sunday, March 14, 2010

BadRap and Susie Q

I'm not sure how I feel about this story over at BadRap about a dog with some fear issues being killed.

It's this comment that leaves me a little heavy-hearted, as it indicates the dog had "foibles", not dangerous behavior (the only mention of uncool behavior was barking at strangers). Perhaps more occurred that BadRap isn't comfortable mentioning.
We look forward to the day when pit bulls can be seen as dogs again, with quirks and pimples and foibles like all other dogs - and when worriers like Susie can earn the general public's sympathy rather than their outrage and disdain.
I am not anti-euthanasia. As backwards as it sounds, it can be in the best interest of the animal (in terms of suffering and quality of life). And I do not believe reputable rescue agencies should be anti-euthanasia.

BadRap has done much for Pit Bulls, so this is not a condemnation of the organization at all. And maybe asking for transparency, more than is offered in this blog post, is asking too much.

It just makes me sad to read about a dog who had ups and downs and was healthy getting euthanized. I am certain it was far harder for those directly involved with Susie Q's failed rehabilitation. She certainly received a better chance than most other dogs in shelters, particularly Pit Bulls.

What do you think?


Jennie Ruff said...

Today, a friend's former foster climbed her fence and attacked a small dog, nipping the dog's owner. Her adoptive parents are hell bent on not having her put down, but it remains to be seen whether or not charges will be pressed. Mona is very much a dog with foibles, but she has never shown human aggression, and her family loves her very much - what will happen to her? So this really hits home for me.

In the rescue/shelter community, sometimes triage is simply considered the best possible option. Many dogs who are "salvageable" - who could live relatively normal, happy lives - are euthanized to make room for dogs who need less work, are less quirky, less likely to be problematic. Its one of those things that the vegan part of me knows is absolutely wrong, but the practical part of me knows is part of rescue, especially when working with Pit Bulls. There's something truly horrible about a healthy dog with the potential to be happy being killed, but isn't it just as horrible to think of a healthy, already happy dog being killed? Who do we pick to save?

Luisa said...

What Jennie said.

I'm afraid that one of the last things bull breed rescues need is the sight of a freaked-out, barking, lunging, hard-to-control pit bull. It leaves a lasting impression on a whole lot of people, even when you keep the dog home most of the time.

Case in point: my late lamented Sneak had terrible fear issues and seldom left my home, but thanks to a nice European house guest I'm sure there are people in Germany right now saying, "Damn, those pit bulls are scary monsters. A friend of mine met one when he was staying in California, and he told me that dog was crazy." That's how far the ripples can travel. And yet Sneak loved kids and old friends and never came within light years of hurting a soul.

My border collie Lulu [from the same shelter] has fear issues, too -- she hates strangers, children, men... I could go on. But her occasional ferocious barking at workers outside the fence has never made people start petitions to ban border collies. People don't insult us or cross the street to avoid us when we take walks. I say, "She's shy," and people make sympathetic faces and tell me how pretty she is.

It sucks hugely that life is unfair like this, but the reality [I know you know this] is that pit bulls have to be vastly superior to other dogs in temperament and behavior to be considered half as good. And bad impressions produce BSL supporters.

I imagine Susie Q could have led a happy life in a very special home, but it would not have been a relatively normal life, and the repercussions from her behavior, even in her own home, might have made it that much harder to convince the great American public that pit bulls deserve to live.

In conclusion [finally], I think it's obvious Bad Rap made the right call. In the real world of pit bull triage/rescue/adoption, temperament is everything. It has to be, unless we want to turn fence-sitters into pit haters and create more support for breed bans.

Rinalia said...

I don't disagree, per se, Jennie. It just makes me sad is all.

Luisa, Mina is leash reactive around dogs. It is her nature and years of training w/ professionals has not stopped that. In the 8+ years I've had her, only one person has commented negatively on her behavior. When people see me work with Mina, really work on redirecting her and keeping her calm, they say nice things. They see a Pit Bull owner who cares about her dog's behavior and has her dog under control (even if it is clear the dog wants to be out of control).

Of course, Mina is not overly fearful. She's stoic and shy and solid as hell around all people. She's not a typical effusive Pit Bull - she's a very serious dog who wants to sit on your lap and kiss you to death. But all in her emo way.

Mina is not Susie, of course. She doesn't lunge at strangers. She has a desire to be more confident, but she is, at heart, a very soft dog.

While I agree Pit Bull owners need to be on their best behavior and, on some level, their dogs too, I don't think that's a reason to euthanize a dog. I don't think that is necessarily why BadRap euth'ed Susie, either.

It sucks we even have to have these discussions, doesn't it?

Donna said...


Susie alarm barked at random strangers. She frightened several adopters away (natch) and she probably horrified a good number of onlookers who only saw a largish pit bull type dog acting like a stereotype on her bad days. It wasn't her fault and it wasn't a behavior that could be easily 'fixed' or even managed. We probably "should've" let her be euthed at the shelter, but we really wanted to give her a chance to decompress and show us if her behavior was "just" extreme kennel stress combined with lack of socialization. It wasn't.

There is no cover-up here. This was a sweet, fearful dog that couldn't handle the stress of real life.

I'm sorry if this was a tough blog post for you to read, but you have to know that we aren't no-kill and we don't adopt out dogs with compelling behavior issues - especially when those issues can be used against my dog and yours.

Someday - maybe - the public will be more sympathetic to frightened pit bulls. Right now, they're anything but.

And yes, that truly truly sucks.


Rinalia said...

Donna, I didn't think there was a cover up (I don't think you guys are THAT clandestine and secretive!) It was just hard to wrap my mind around euth'ing a dog who fear-barked. I "wanted" it to be a little more dramatic than that (want is the wrong word).

I appreciate that you are honest about your euthanasia policy. I've always felt your greatest gift to Pit Bulls was your advocacy and that placing a few lucky Pit Bulls was more of a side benefit for all involved. :) It's too bad it doesn't always work out. Since I can't honestly say I'd take on a dog like Susie, I can't fervently argue against killing her. There may have been a home for her, but a "somewhere, sometime" home isn't always feasible for rescues - I get that completely.

Donna said...

I really don't like to 'disappear' our dogs that we euth and just leave things up to people's imaginations, because even friends of the breed will think the worst when a dog disappears from an available page -- they really do.

We took on a large number of marginal (unsocialized/troubled) cases in 2009 that we didn't post and most of those dogs are dead. No worries - no one knows them. But when we posted Susie Q's face, we asked the public to fall in love with her, which they did. So we owe everyone an explanation, knowing that some will be unhappy or think there's more to the story.

It's a tough place to be. Pit bull type dogs have a hard avoiding the microscope when they're alive and it gets even tougher if they die an unnatural death. Crazy, huh? Poor damn dogs.

Luisa said...

Just got this news. The town of Yucaipa is next door to the east. I could throttle the idiot [the pit bull owner] who let this tragedy happen. To quote Donna, these things can [and will] be used against my dogs and yours, no matter how unfair that is. And yes, my stomach is a bit knotted up because of this. Damn.

Rinalia said...


Poor dogs, indeed. We do the best we can for them. It just sucks that the standards for what is "best" are different for Pit Bulls. I hope that can change soon.


I read that story a few days ago. Hopefully, dog advocates will attend the council hearing in support of dogs, like Pit Bulls.

Jennie said...

It makes me sad too. Really sad. Neither way is a winning situation. Either way, a dog dies.

By the way, my friend's former foster (who isn't being blamed for the bite by the bitten woman, btw) was dropped off at animal control here by the adopter's husband, who filed a bite report on her even though it wasn't clear at the time that she had bitten anyone. Even now that it's 100% clear that she wasn't responsible for the bite, it's too late, damage is done. Even if she's cleared after quarantine, our rescue may choose not to take her back.

tresjolie said...

I have really really mixed feelings about Bad Rap's actions regarding Susie Q. I think they are a great advocacy group and perhaps they should stick to outreach and education rather than rescue. I know they want to preserve their reputation as a "responsible" advocacy group and I fear that that was at least partially the reason behind deciding to euthanize Susie Q, lest she be known as a "dangerous" dog. I still admire BR for what they've done and continue to do but I have to admit this has changed my feelings about the group somewhat.