Animal activist group wants to help solve Pit Bull problem

Every year, hundreds of Pit Bulls in Central New York have to be put down. Some are too aggressive for family life but others are loving pets that just can't find a home. The Animal Alliance of Greater Syracuse wants to help change that.

"We really want to engage the whole community and improve the quality of life for these animals. And we need help with doing that, so part of what we are doing is saying hey there is a problem, and here are some possible solutions," said Karen Antczak with Animal Alliance.

More than 900 stray dogs were taken off the streets in 2010 by Syracuse Dog Control. Two-thirds of those dogs were Pit Bulls, and they all end up at the DeWitt Animal Hospital.

"The idea is to look at how some other communities have solved the problems, because everybody has the same problems. And bring some of those solutions back home," said Linda Young with Animal Alliance. Young points to the City of Calgary Animal and Bylaw Services as a success story. In the Canadian city, 90% of the dogs and 45% of cats are currently licensed, making it the leader in North America. It also has the highest return-to-owner and lowest pet euthanasia rates on the continent.

The group meets weekly to talk solutions and try to implement some of the ideas that have worked elsewhere. It also formed a partnership with the city to address the Pit Bull problem. The Animal Alliance's strategy is two-fold. First, control the population of stray dogs, and cats too, by offering low-cost spay and neuter programs. Second, getting more pets out of the shelter and into homes.

The group also wants to build cooperation and communication with local animal organizations. "We would like rescuers to be able to take dogs out of DeWitt Animal Hospital. I know some do, but we would like to make it more of a policy," said Young. It would also give dogs more time to find a loving home.

The Animal Alliance is working to collect data and track the number of homeless pets, as well as the reasons why they are surrendered. Hoping to shed a light on why owners are giving up their pets and find a way to fix those problems. There is also talk of creating an "off-site" adoption opportunity. It would give the pets more exposure by bringing them out of the shelter and into the public.

For more information on low-cost spay and neuter options, click here to visit the Spay and Neuter Syracuse site. You can also call them at 422-7970.

And take a look at some of the cute pets ready for adoption here.

Original Story from January 13:

More than 900 stray dogs were taken off Syracuse Streets in 2010, and about two-thirds of them were Pit Bulls.

Periwinkle is one of the many Pit Bulls at the DeWitt Animal Hospital hoping to find her forever home. When Syracuse Dog Control Officers take in stray dogs off the streets they all end up at the DeWitt shelter.

"I think a lot of it is status, Pit Bull is the status. That's the dog of choice. It used to be Doberman Pinschers , then it was Rottweilers . This has been a trend for maybe 5 or 6 years," said Dog Control Supervisor Shane Chimber. He says much of the problem stems from poor ownership. "I think a lot of people take in dogs that they don't know too well, and then when they get them, they get overwhelmed," he said.

If the dog is licensed, it waits for the owner for 10 days, if not it's held for 5 days. Then, the dog can be put up for adoption. But unfortunately, only a small portion of these dogs find homes. Chimber says not all strays are fit for family life. The Pit Bull breed often comes with the stereotype of being tough, which means it's sometimes even tougher to get them adopted. Many have to be put down.

"A lot of dogs we bring in are biter dogs, and some of those bites are pretty severe. So it's very hard to put those dogs through the system and adopt them out while not knowing what they are capable of," said Chimber.

The shelter carefully screens which ones are good for adoption and tries to find families for sweet puppies like Periwinkle.

Lots of dogs need a loving home and you can help. For more information on how to adopt, click here .

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