When asked about the pit bull overpopulation problem I feel compelled to share this book, Getting to Zero, with others. Getting to Zero provides a roadmap to ending animal shelter overpopulation in the United States.
This week marks the start of our partnership with Paws and Think! Casa del Toro current adoptabulls Brewster and Opie, along with recently adopted Ollie, are participating in Paws and Think's Youth-Canine Program. Through Paws and Think's Youth-Canine Program, youth learn how to nurture, understand, communicate with, motivate and reward (vs. punish) their dogs. Many of the principles the youth learn in the program transfer to their own lives since they see the benefits they are providing their dogs.
This partnership provides Casa del Toro adoptabulls with much needed training opportunities while also broadening the network of potential adopters through Paws and Think's advertising of the program. Most importantly to us, however, is the fact that this partnership provides us the opportunity to get pit bulls into local schools to educate that pit bulls are just normal dogs and dispel the myths.
We have been working on this partnership since October 2016. There are a lot of partners, moving pieces and logistics to coordinate and, oftentimes, it is very easy to forego the additional work it requires to work as a team and just go it alone, but we can achieve so much more as a community working together. So this partnership really says a lot when groups, that work in emotionally charged field of animal welfare, can put aside their own "I'm busy trying to do my work to achieve my mission" and work together to achieve more.
I am so grateful to have such collaborative, communicative partners in this program and am glad to work together to achieve mutually beneficial goals. Check out the segment that was featured on WTHR's evening news at the bottom!
I think it is easy to overlook that we are fortunate here in Indianapolis to not have breed specific legislation (BSL). If you don't know what BSL is or want to learn more about it's impact in your community check these resources made available by our friends at Animal Farm Foundation in NY.
Even though we don't have BSL in our community, when CDT adopters try to move out of the state they are confronted with hard decisions that no one wants to make. In 2017 we had two dogs returned to the rescue because when their families moved out of state they could not afford to keep them.
Bodhi, white dog in front
Bodhi, Class of 2016, was returned when her owners moved to California for work. Bodhi's owner had to decide between a house where they could keep their dog, but fear for their child's safety when going to Elementary school OR surrender their dog back to CDT and pick a house in a neighborhood where pit bulls are banned, but there is a in a good school district for their child.
No one should have to make this decision not to mention compounding the move across the country with separating a child from their dog.
The good news is that there was a family friend that were looking for a dog and and Bodhi was the perfect fit. So Bodhi wasn't in the rescue long and her current owners are still in contact with her original owner.
Gidget aka Gidgy-goo-goo
Then on Christmas day Gidget, Class of 2015, came back to the rescue. Gidget's adopter took a job promotion which relocated the family to the company headquarters in Memphis, TN where BSL exists. So they bough a house in a BSL-free county in Mississippi. Throughout the closing process Gidget's adopters were struggling with obtaining home owners insurance that would cover a pit bull. Finally, they found a company that would underwrite their insurance policy at an 80% mark-up! Instead of paying $40/month on top of their mortgage payment they would have to pay $200/month because they own a pit bull. Gidget's adopters could do that, they had the funds and were ready to move forward.
Then 7 days before Gidget's adopters are scheduled to move their family (which includes an 18 mo old baby) 450 miles they get a call telling them the mortgage lender will not underwrite their loan to include the cost of pit bull friendly insurance. For example, if their rent was estimated at $1,500/mo the lender would underwrite a mortgage for $1,540/mo (which includes basic insurance), but refused to underwrite a loan for $1,700/mo (the monthly cost of rent plus the cost of pit bull friendly insurance). So after everything they've tried to do, Gidget's adopters had to choose to keep Gidget and have no place to live in a week or surrender their dog back to CDT.
No one should have to make the decision of giving up their dog just because of it's looks. Bodhi and Gidget are both good dogs. They deserve good homes. Gidget's settling into her foster home and has spent the last week getting completely spoiled! She's currently looking for a forever home where she can be the only diva and soak up all the love.
Fall is definitely here and winter is right around the corner. The rescue usually winds down in November and December. There is a two-fold reason for doing this.
Alumnus AJ doesn't like the rain.
First, it's just the natural rhythm of life here in the Midwest. Day light savings time 'falls back' and darkness begins to crawl forward earlier in the evening. This throws us off as much as the dogs and usually everyone sleeps more. The weather turns wet and cold, eventually add snow into the mix, and people stay indoors. No one thinks - hey let's get another dog, when they're wiping snow and muck off of the bottom of their current dog's feet every time they come inside from a freezing cold bathroom break. Having two dogs means twice the amount of work, and living in the Midwest, that's a lot of work in the winter. Two doggy coats to put on, eight feet to wipe, extra snow shoveling to do to clear favorite (and necessary) poop spots, two dogs to towel dry and then the obligatory house zoomies (times two) because it's just so much fun to go run around in the snow.
Current 2017 Adoptabull Libby at the shelter.
The second reason we dial it back in November and December is because people's lives get busy. Regardless of what holiday you celebrate, people get together and/or travel at the end of the year. This extra change in schedule and foot traffic is not conducive to pulling a dog from the shelter. We prefer a quiet environment for at least the first three days when a new dog comes into the shelter. Why, you may ask? The shelter is a stressful environment and so is the process of us pulling a dog from the shelter. Imaging you had spent the past 1.5 years (in dog time or 90 days in human time) at the shelter. One day someone shows up, bathes you, puts you in a car, drives you away, introduces you to other dogs, and integrates you into their home. That's a lot of change for a dog and will stress them out. The body's natural response to stress is to release cortisol. Cortisol is a naturally occurring steroid hormone in the adrenal gland. Cortisol has positive affects like accellerating the metabolic response rate (opening air paths and blood vessels to allow more oxygen to aid in flight from life threatening situation) or negative affects like increasing the healing times of wounds. Once a body receives a spike of cortisol it takes approximately 72 hours for their body to process the hormone and balance back out.
Not only do our foster families get busy over the holiday's, in the past, we have had adopters decided to return their dogs at this time of year too. I have personally spent a Thanksgiving day driving 3 hours to pick up an adoption return. The following year I spent a Christmas morning picking up a foster return. So I can tell you from personal experience that it is in the benefit of the rescue to slow down in November and December because there is an increased chance of crazy stuff happening.
Usually we pick back up around the end of February and March (when Spring is right around the corner). That is not to say we won't pull dogs for the next four months, it's just that if we do we will be very intentional about which dogs would work the best given the conditions.
After publicly announcing our leash reactivity class, we have received a lot of inquiries about the topic.
What is leash reactivity?
This is a umbrella term used in dog training to describe a series of behaviors a dog may exhibit while on lead. This includes but is not limited to: lunging, barking, growling, jumping and vocalizing.
Dogs can be reactive to just about anything that you come across on your walks. Most commonly pet parents struggle with managing dogs that display these behaviors when they see another dog approaching. There are many reasons why a dog may become leash reactive. In our class, we will address the underlying causes for reactivity and give owners a better understanding of how to properly work with their dog to decrease these types of behaviors.
Click the image below for an in-depth article about the causes of leash reactivity written by Tom Mitchell. Tom is a veterinarian, clinical behaviorist and companion and sports dog trainer, providing a unique perspective on all things dog.
1100 W. 42nd Street, Suite 205, Indianapolis, IN 46208
Low-cost certificates for spaying and neutering at participating veterinary clinics throughout Indiana. Available year-round to pet owners meeting income requirements; in February and October, the program is open to all pet owners in need.
Community Cat Programs
Contact the clinic for prices, services, and special promotions. Help reduce the stray and feral cat overpopulation. If you are feeding community cats in Indianapolis, you are required by the city’s TNR ordinance to spay/neuter, vaccinate, and ear-tip for identification all cats in your colony.
If you find a sick or injured animal requiring medical help, and you cannot provide help yourself, take the animal to Indianapolis Animal Care Services, 2600 S. Harding St, 46221, Mon-Sat 12pm-6pm. To request pick-up from an officer, call the Mayor’s Action Center at (317) 327-4622, Mon-Fri 7:30am-5:30pm. During off-hours, call police dispatch at (317) 327-3811. Or use the IACS officer RequestIndy online portal. The animal must be confined and you must be standing by.
Shelter drop-off hours are Sun, Mon, Tues, Fri, Sat from 10 am to 5 pm, Thurs from 10 am to 7 pm.
Low-Cost Medical Care, Wellness Exams, Vaccinations, and Microchipping
For their long-term health and safety, pets should receive annual wellness checks, vaccinations, heartworm preventative (dogs), and permanent identification. By law, pets must be treated for illness and injury.
To Report Suspected Animal Neglect/Abuse/Abandonment
Regardless of whether the animal is a pet, stray, or wild animal, Indianapolis Animal Care Services (IACS) is the enforcement authority for animal ordinances in the city. IACS officers are dispatched through the Mayor’s Action Center or police dispatch.
For crimes in progress: Call 911.
For suspected abuse, neglect, or other animal violations:
Call the Mayor’s Action Center (317) 327-4622, Mon-Fri 7:30am-5:30pm
Submit the case location and details online through Request Indy.
During off-hours: Either call police dispatch for assistance at (317) 327-3811 or report online through Request Indy.
Lost pets housed at Southside Animal Shelter and the Humane Society of Indianapolis are reported to Indy Lost Pet Alert and posted via their Shelter Alerts. Animals are held at both shelters for 4 days until released for adoption.
FIDO: If your lost dog is staying in the same area but cannot be captured, contact FIDO Lost Dog Recovery Program at 317-221-1314, for help with generating sightings of your lost pet and ultimately capturing your dog.
If you’ve found a pet:
Scan the pet for a microchip. Any shelter or vet clinic will scan found pets at no charge.
If you are able to keep the pet in your home, you must adhere to the Indianapolis care and treatment ordinances. After scanning for a microchip and posting on Indy Lost Pet Alert, after a 14 day stray hold, you become the owner of the pet.
Offers outreach, direct assistance, and humane education to improve the lives of chained and penned outside dogs. Spay/Neuter is required for supplies and services to be provided. S/N is available for free or very low cost.
We are a small all-volunteer foster home network. We do not have enough open foster homes to rescue all of the pit bulls at Indianapolis Animal Care Services that are on the rescue only list, not to mention, other area shelters.
On top of the shelter rescue needs, we receive at least 25 requests a week to take owner/stray surrenders. Combined with shelter requests that means we receive at least 50 rescue requests in one week or 2,600 a year!
It takes time to get a dog healthy and move them through the rescue. On average our dogs stay in the rescue for about 90 days. However, now that we are pulling dogs on the rescue only list, many of those dogs have medical or behavioral needs that take longer to address which results in a longer stay in the rescue. Historically, when we were rescuing puppies and healthy shelter dogs Casa del Toro saved about 75 dogs a year. So when our volunteers are constantly bombarded by rescue requests (2,600), knowing our capacity (75), it can make our already emotional work even more overwhelming!
Before I was in rescue, which is also before Facebook and other social media outlets, I rescued a pit bull puppy off of Craig's List. My pup had severe aggression issues so I contacted three pit bull resources (ASTRO, Casa del Toro & Indy Pit Crew) to ask about help. I wasn't looking to surrender my dog, I was looking for training recommendations and a second option about the behavior I was seeing. Only ASTRO responded to my email. Their reply was honest and straightforward. They validated my concerns in the aggression I was seeing in my pup and encouraged me to look at the situation honestly and unemotionally. Casa del Toro and Indy Pit Crew never even responded to my email.
So you can imagine when I became President of Casa del Toro, I decided that it was important for the rescue to respond to every email and voice message personally. We have done that for at least three years and I still meet people in public that say "I reached out to Casa del Toro and no one ever got back with me". I know how that feels for the people looking for help, however, I also know that's not true anymore. For years I have personally responded to every email inquiry through the website but somehow the complaint is still there. I cannot tell you how many times after I replied to an email saying the rescue doesn't have the resources available to take owner surrenders the person responds back to me and says 'It's okay, we found a home for the pup'.
So here we are dedicating important volunteer hours to calling back all voice mails and writing individualized responses to all re-homing requests, even though many of those responses direct inquiries back to the resources found here on our website. Is that an appropriate use of our volunteers? Are we saving pit bulls by writing individualized responses? Or should we focus volunteer efforts on building more foster homes, moving our dogs quicker through the rescue so that we can rescue more dogs? These are not easy questions to answer.
We focus our rescue efforts on pit bulls that are at Indiana shelters and in risk of euthanasia. Right now we do not have the resources to assist with out-of-state requests (pulls or surrenders) or to accept owner/stray surrenders. Please do not contact us for a surrender request.
One of the most important ingredients to a successful foster experience is our partnership with our foster homes. These are the people who will - ideally - support Casa del Toro during the weeks and months that we have a dog. Our fosters should never feel alone with this big project! We have a good track record with solid adoptions.
Casa del Toro takes matching foster dogs to foster homes as seriously as we take creating those final adoptions. Using drama and desperation to find homes shows up in some rescue circles, but it's not a sustainable way to do business. We avoid the drama and drama junkies!
Interested in Fostering?
Do you think fostering might be for you? Then it's a good idea to look over our foster contract.
Will CDT help you with obedience training? Yes.
Vet care? Yes.
What about the foster dog during your family vacations? CDT offers boarding when necessary.
How does CDT problem solve and promote? Multiple emergency contacts provided.
In return for being a good support system for our fosters, Casa del Toro wants to know that our fosters are willing to follow CDT guidelines and instructions. We want our fosters to be good about communicating questions and concerns that will undoubtedly come up along the way. No question is stupid - really. Ask, ask, ask.
Casa del Toro will need to know about your lifestyle and your skill level before giving you a dog to foster. We'll want to see if your personal dog has good manners and if he's comfortable with sharing his home. (Your dog doesn't have to be friends with our foster dog - but he should tolerate its presence. More on that later.) We'll also want to make sure that everyone in your household is okay with the project and willing to participate in some way, especially, with double-checking those doors and gates, and reinforcing the new house manners you'll be teaching the dog.
Alumni Lyric Blue & Bishop ~ Labor Day 2017
The original Ping Pack (L-R: Zuzu, Roxy (RIP), & Icecream)
These are some beginning need-to-knows offered to us by CDT trainer Shawna Ping. Shawna is the foster coordinator and an emergency back-up foster for CDT. That means she's over-seeing the details of all of the dogs' progress and makes herself available to the foster homes as questions come up. Anyone who fosters with Shawna learns a ton about dog training - lucky them.
The dogs coming from shelters often smell bad and have fleas. You aren't getting a shiny coated, well mannered, clean house pet. You will be proud when you make him one.
Fostering can be long term so be ready to make a commitment. It's fun, it’s rewarding, but it can take time to find the right match for your foster.
Know you own pets and their needs. If your personal dog is 15 and wobbly, let us know so we can match up a dog that will be suited to yours.
Just because your dog doesn't chase cats doesn't mean a foster won't initially think that’s a fun game. Let us know if you have a cat, make sure your foster has been cat tested, and follow introduction instructions.
The dogs coming from shelters often have kennel cough. And sometimes they get sicker before they get better. It'll go away, but come up with a plan to keep the germs away from your personal dogs until your foster is well.
Fosters might develop a behavior you find odd or interesting. You may find tail chasing cute, but it can be an obsessive behavior that has to be handled. Always bring up any new or odd behaviors. They could signal health issues or a behavior that needs to be addressed with training.
Let you neighbors know you have a foster and if possible, have them see/meet him. If your foster dog inadvertently gets out, your neighbor may recognize him.
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