Wednesday will be a historic day at the Lucas County Dog Warden's office, when a "pit bull" goes up for direct adoption to the public for the first time in the pound's recent history.
"We don't know if people will be lined up at the door or if nobody will adopt them for three weeks. We just don't know how it's going to work," Dog Warden Julie Lyle said. "But we'll have more dogs to choose from, we'll have more dogs available for adoption, and we'll see how it goes."
A little over two years ago, being a "pit bull" or "pit bull"-type dog was an automatic death sentence at the pound. State law automatically categorized "pit bulls" as vicious dogs based solely on their breed.
That law changed May 22, and now dogs are judged on behavior.
The pound has been transferring "pit bulls" to the Toledo Area Humane Society for about two years and recently loosened transfer partner requirements to allow rescue groups without shelter buildings who use foster homes to also take the dogs. But direct adoption at the pound should mean fewer dogs killed.
"It is exciting to see Lucas County finally coming full circle in its treatment of ‘pit bulls,'?" said Jean Keating, co-founder of the Lucas County Pit Crew and the Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates and a vocal supporter of "pit bull"-type dogs. "We can finally direct our attention to dog behavior and treat dogs as individuals."
Ms. Keating's rescue group, the Pit Crew, will continue to take "pit bulls" from the dog warden, particularly those that might have minor behavior issues that would benefit from time in a foster home, she said.
All "pit bulls" that go up for adoption at the pound will have received a "1" or "2" for all scoring on a behavior test developed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The Safety Assessment for Evaluating Rehoming, or SAFER, test is a seven-item aggression assessment that identifies a dog's comfort level with restraint and touch, reaction to new experiences including movement and sound stimuli, bite inhibition, behavior around food and toys, and arousal level toward other dogs.
When a dog scores "1s" or "2s" on its assessment, it is less likely to bite under ordinary living situations, when handled in a mildly stressful or moderately awkward manner than dogs who score higher numbers on the test, according to SAFER.
All potential adopters must have all family members present for the adoption and must bring other dogs in the household for introductions at the pound, Ms. Lyle said.
"That's really the only additional requirement we will have for ‘pit bulls,'?" she said. "Now we strongly recommend that all family members and other dogs be present, but in some cases it's not practical and we will waive it. But with ‘pit bulls' it will be required."
The dog warden will begin sending dogs of all breeds to new homes with adoption packets starting Wednesday, and the "pit bulls" will have additional breed-specific information, some of which is supplied from BADRAP, a California-based "pit bull" rescue, education, and advocacy group that did training sessions at the pound last month.
The general packets will address topics such as introducing a dog at its new home, house training, and preventing unwanted behavior.
"Not everybody's going to read stuff, but at least they have it in their hand if they need it," Ms. Lyle said. "And it allows us to be a little bit more of a resource to them. Sometimes some people aren't going to pick up the phone and call and ask the question, but if it's right there they might read it and use it."
In other "pit bull" news, the dog warden's Fix-A-Bull program, which is funded by PetSmart Charities, has been expanded to all of Lucas County. Last year, the program was available only to Toledoans. Any county resident with a "pit bull"-type dog can get it spayed or neutered and microchipped for $5 at Humane Ohio. Dogs must have a current dog license. Appointments can be made by calling Humane Ohio at 419-266-5607.