Changing the Stigma with Fresno Bully Rescue
Jul 23, 2019 11:00AM
By Melissa Mendonca
To the Rescue
Story by Melissa Mendonca
When Bridgette Boothe and her husband married and decided to get their first dog, they wanted a breed that would keep up with their lifestyle. “We were just simply looking for an active dog. We wanted to go camping. We were looking for a dog that could keep up with us. We weren’t looking for a pit bull,” she says. The breed, it turned out, was just what they needed, though neither was aware at the time of the stigma surrounding bully breeds.
“We were minding our own business, walking down the street and someone decided to blurt out a rude comment because of the dog we were walking,” she says. “That’s when we started to realize the stigma. We decided to become advocates.”
The desire to become an educated advocate of bully breeds — such as American pit bull terriers, American bulldogs and bull terriers — led Boothe to the Fresno Bully Rescue as a volunteer in the first year of its existence, 2008. By 2009, she was the shelter director. Today, Fresno Bully Rescue houses 40 dogs in its shelter and many more in foster homes. It also does outreach education on responsible ownership of bully breeds and advocacy.
Fresno Bully Rescue came to be in light of the financial crisis that saw a huge uptick in home foreclosures that moved people out of their own homes and into apartments, where their dogs typically weren’t welcome. “This breed faces more challenges with living situations than any other dog,” says Boothe, noting that bully breeds are often specifically excluded from housing leases, even in military housing.
Before Fresno Bully Rescue, dogs were being given up at shelters that didn’t want to accommodate them. “Because of the image that they had, the shelters didn’t give them a chance to be adopted. They were going in, but they weren’t coming out,” she adds. Fresno Bully Rescue developed as a no-kill, nonprofit, volunteer-run rescue and shelter to reduce numbers of bully breeds being euthanized.
Finding the right home for rescued dogs is a challenge, but Fresno Bully Rescue has a system for success. “Adopting a dog takes a lot of effort, but it’s for the quality and long-term success of that adoption,” says Boothe. There’s an application process, home visits with fence checks and adoption fees.
When determining whether a bully breed is appropriate for a person or family, Boothe recommends being very clear about your current situation. “Get the dog that fits your lifestyle and be very honest with yourself about how much time you have,” she says. “People get pit bulls as puppies because they are extremely cute.” As they grow, however, they need even more attention and socialization. “Most dogs are surrendered at one year old,” she adds.
For active, adventurous, responsible owners, pit bulls can be wonderful pets. “They have the ability to do such a wide range of things,” says Boothe, who has owned and fostered many pit bulls over the years. “They’re also very, very bonded to their families. These dogs thrive around people. They don’t like to be stuck in the backyard tied to a chain. Bored dogs become destructive dogs.”
For people wanting to experience the joy of bully breeds but who aren’t ready to adopt, there are many opportunities to volunteer for the organization. Monthly orientations help people determine how best to serve. Volunteers are needed to walk dogs, do kennel chores, help train, and fundraise as well as transport dogs to medical care and extra training. Donations are also needed. “We always need supplies,” says Boothe. “Anything from dog food donations to leashes and collars to cleaning supplies. Anything you would need in a home or office.”
The organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year, the Bully Walk, is coming up on October 21. It’s a two-mile walk of people and dogs. While it’s the biggest, says Boothe, “Every month we have something going on.” A Facebook page keeps people apprised of these happenings.
The efforts of Fresno Bully Rescue seem to be paying off. “People’s minds have been changing, opening up and shifting,” says Boothe, who notes that a volunteer came into the shelter specifically to get over her fear of bully breeds. Two shows on Animal Planet featuring bully breeds are also helping educate the public, as are the numerous outreach activities the organization does at community events and on school campuses. “We advocate for the breed and work against dog fighting and breed discrimination,” she adds.
“Every dog breed isn’t for every person,” says Boothe. If a bully breed is for you, however, Fresno Bully Rescue can help you determine that and get both you and your dog off to a safe, responsible, happy start. •
Fresno Bully Rescue • www.fresnobullyrescue.org
11740 E. Belmont Avenue, Sanger • (559) 276-7611
Find them on Facebook and Instagram