Pit bull mixes need good homes too

January 3, 2011 10:22:40 PM PST
Animal control officials in Oakland are making a plea for understanding. Their shelter is packed with good dogs that need homes, but one particular type of dog seems to wait the longest. It is a breed with an image problem that just seems to keep getting worse.

When it comes to pit bulls, most people either love them or hate them. But what about a dog that's part pit?

"Those are sort of the step children of the dog community. They are the dog that no one wants," says Martha Cline, animal care coordinator at Oakland Animal Services. She says pure bred pit bulls often get homes fast. "People who come in thinking about adopting a pit bull want a pit bull. They don't want a pit mix. They want the real thing. And other people who come in to adopt a dog, they want something that's not a pit bull. No pit bull. And their question will be, does that dog have pit bull in it?"

If the answer is "yes," the potential adopter usually says "no." They have heard stories about pit bull attacks, and the Oakland Animal Shelter certainly gets plenty of pits that have been neglected or abused and probably cannot be safely placed in a home.

But they also get a lot of sweet pit bulls and pit mixes. So the staff is trying to get the word out that part pits can be great pets.

Alex Sanchez and Jesus Hernandez have two.

"I was someone who was very hesitant about pit bulls," says Sanchez. That is, until she met Bob, part pit, part something else. "We think he might have Bordeaux or Mastiff."

"You get that with the combination of a pit bull and it's just a very mellow dog," says Hernandez.

Bob is so mellow, he even lies calmly while the couple's pet bunny hops around. But gentle as he is, Bob spent six months at the animal shelter before a rescue group called Bad Rap found him a home.

Bob's story is common. Two-year-old Savannah, another pit mix, knows it very well.

"She probably has something like retriever or lab or some other short-haired breed in her," says Cline.

Like all the dogs here, Savannah was tested for temperament and safety before being offered for adoption.

The staff and volunteers do the best they can to exercise and play with the dogs while they wait for homes. But sometimes it's a long wait.

Lucy was at the shelter for a year. She was especially smart, with an exceptional ability to find hidden objects. So a volunteer sent video of her all over the country trying to place her on a search and rescue team, but none of them would take a pit mix. So Lucy, now re-named Casper, finally got a home in Nevada where she is a champion dock diver.

A happy ending for Lucy, but "she really could have saved people's lives," says Cline.

Sanchez and Hernandez are so convinced about the glories of pit mixes, they say they will never adopt any other kind of dog.

The staff at Oakland Animal Services says you can never assume any breed of dog is all bad or all good. So if you are thinking about a new companion, just try to keep an open mind.

If you are interested in adopting the dogs in our story or other pit mixes, you can find out more from Oakland Animal Services.

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney.