Melissa Merchant and two fellow "pit bull" enthusiasts traveled to Toledo from the Cincinnati area Wednesday night to attend a forum co-sponsored by the Lucas County Dog Warden's Office and BADRAP, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization that has focused on "pit bull" issues for 13 years.
Despite the removal of "pit bulls" from Ohio's dangerous dog law as of May 21, Cincinnati still bans owning "pit bull"-type dogs. The rescue Ms. Merchant helps lead, Adore-A-Bull, rescues bully breed dogs from high-kill shelters and adopts them out to people in surrounding areas where "pit bulls" are not forbidden.
She said the talk by BADRAP Co-founder Donna Reynolds at the EMS Training Center on Jefferson was both educational and inspirational. "We always get a lot of questions about the dogs," Ms. Merchant said. "And we are always looking for new ideas on how to help them."
About 80 people from across Ohio attended the forum. The goal was to address questions or concerns the public has about "pit bull"-type dogs, Dog Warden Julie Lyle said, though it appeared the vast majority of attendees were already fans of the dog.
"We've come a long way in Lucas County and the state of Ohio," Ms. Lyle said. "The fact that we are all sitting here tonight to talk about 'pit bulls' and no one is throwing tomatoes says a lot."
The Oakland-based BADRAP, which stands for Bay Area Dog-lovers Responsible About Pit-bulls, has spent the last 13 years promoting what they call "blockhead" dogs.
Co-founder Donna Reynolds, who helped evaluate and rehabilitate some of the Michael Vick "pit bulls" that were used for dogfighting, said dogs need to be judged on their behavior and personality, not their appearance.
"It is time for change in Ohio, and change is exciting and change is scary," she told the crowd.
Ms. Reynolds and her husband, Tim Racer, travel nationwide working with shelters and rescue groups to help them develop adoption programs and to better care for "pit bull"-type dogs.
BADRAP's mission is to secure the future of the American "Pit Bull" Terrier as a cherished family companion.
"You can't look at a dog and say, 'I know how you are going to behave because you have a big head,' " she said. "Dogs are individuals. And dog behavior is largely a reflection of owner behavior."
Her presentation included refuting some of the myths surrounding "pit bull"-type dogs such as that they have locking jaws. "They are dogs, not crocodiles," Ms. Reynolds said. Other myths she blasted are that "pit bulls" don't like other animals, that they snap at a certain age, that they shouldn't mix with children, and that "nice families" don't adopt "pit bulls."
Jonathan and Brooke Hartman of Toledo became supporters of BADRAP four years ago when they rescued a "pit bull" mom and her puppies who were dumped in their yard. "We've basically been 'pit bull' lovers in hiding for four years," said Mr. Hartman, who sported a T-shirt with a picture of a "pit bull" with the word "pibble," which is an affectionate slang term for the dog.
"There's a lady I work with who says she's afraid of 'pit bulls' even though she's never met one," he said. "I really want to bring my dog to work so she can see there's nothing to fear."
The Hartmans kept the mother dog, now named Daisy, and she is a certified therapy dog.
"The only injury she might inflict is a little skin abrasion from all the licking she does," Mr. Hartman said.
Robin Lawson drove nearly three hours from Shreve, in Wayne County south of Wooster, Ohio. She said she came to ask questions about the free training programs that BADRAP offers because she's interested in instituting similar programs in her area.
"There's no need to reinvent the wheel," she said. "They are the experts; we're lucky to have them here as a resource."
Contact Tanya Irwin at: email@example.com or 419-724-6066.