Maddie Keating, 16, of Sylvania plays with her pit bull Wendy at Wednesday night's forum.
A "pit bull" advocate group visiting Toledo this week said Thursday that support of such dogs starts with support of their owners.
"Dog owners are more willing to embrace information about humane care when they aren't feeling targeted," said Donna Reynolds, one of the co-founders of the organization BADRAP, founded in Oakland, Calif., 13 years ago to promote the dogs.
About 25 people gathered Thursday afternoon at the Lucas County Dog Warden's Office to learn how to better assist in the adoption of "pit bull"-type dogs.
Addressing the group were BADRAP co-founders Ms. Reynolds and Tim Racer.
Hosted by Lucas County Dog Warden Julie Lyle, the workshop was originally intended primarily for rescue groups who are transfer partners for the pound, taking "pit bull"-type dogs and finding homes for them.
However, the talk ended up attracting dog wardens from Wood, Ottawa, and Henry counties along with the Humane Society of Hancock County, which also serves as dog warden for that county.
Others in attendance represented groups including the Toledo Area Humane Society, the Lucas County Pit Crew, Planned Pethood, and the Toledo PetBull Project.
BADRAP, which stands for Bay Area Dog-lovers Responsible About Pit Bulls, has changed its methodology over the years, Ms. Reynolds said.
"Initially we treated pit bulls differently, but over the years we learned they really aren't different from any other dog other than the stigma attached to them," she said.
The group partnered with the Lucas County Dog Warden's Office to come to Toledo, hosting a public forum Wednesday and the luncheon on Thursday.
One issue that rescue groups and dog wardens face is when to label a dog a "pit bull," she said.
"BADRAP defines the pit bull as an all-American dog with multiple definitions, depending on who you are talking to," Ms. Reynolds said.
Dog warden personnel had told the BADRAP founders that they had many "pit bulls" at the shelter, but Ms. Reynolds said that in her opinion only a couple of them were actual "pit bulls."
A key to finding loving homes for dogs is photographing them to show off their strong points, she said.
"It's one thing to say they are good with other dogs or good with kids, but a photo that shows that is worth a thousand words," Ms. Reynolds said.
Good homes are created through education and support, she said.
"The application should just be used as the starting point in the dialogue," Ms. Reynolds said. "You should never deny someone or approve someone based entirely on their application."
Andrew Snyder, the Wood County dog warden, said his county has been adopting out "pit bull"-type dogs since the end of 2011.
"We changed our policy in anticipation of the law changing," he said, referring to May 21 when "pit bulls" will no longer be considered inherently dangerous under the Ohio dangerous-dog law.
"It's going pretty well. But we still have a lot of work to do in educating the public. People are still a little reluctant to give them a chance," he added.
Rescue groups and Ohio dog wardens face the challenge of educating the public about "pit bull"-type dogs, the speakers said.
"The majority of companion dogs in Oakland are now 'pit bulls' or pit mixes," Ms. Reynolds said. "They are just your normal family dog. We look forward to it being normal here for you too."
BADRAP was to travel to Dayton today and stay through Saturday to meet with the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center and two shelters there about "pit bull" adoption issues.
Contact Tanya Irwin at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6066.