Media case study – The Christmas Day Tragedy

On Christmas Day, a man was violently attacked by two dogs in his home in Fort St. John. The attack was sudden and severe, and was covered widely by media across the province.

The victim and his family described the dogs as “pit bulls”. Breed description was not released at the time by the City’s  bylaw department (which serves as Animal Control), nor by the RCMP, nor by the SPCA that received the animals’ bodies for disposal.

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 3.53.55 PM Predictably, the incident sparked the usual storm of media coverage about “pit bulls” and “dangerous breeds”. There have been Op-Eds about banning breeds on the Province blog, on the Tyee, and on talk shows across the province.

Sounds like the usual conversation, right? Except, for the third time this year, we find that the media missed a couple fact-checking steps in its rush to publish a “pit bull” story. This week, the dogs were finally identified by the bylaw department as American Bulldogs.  This is a breed often mis-identified as a “pit bull” breed but exempt from most breed-specific legislation.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 10.41.33 AMThat means that the breed restrictions or bans loudly advocated by Charlie Smith (editor of the Georgia Straight), Lori Welbourne (columnist for Post Media), and Bill Tieleman (columnist for 24 Hours and The Tyee) would have done nothing to stop three of the violent dog attacks that so agitated them this year. Yet these attacks provided them with platforms to share gory statistics and to openly advocate for the genocide of a breed that was not even involved.

The first was in July, when a large dog killed a puppy in Yaletown. The victim, understandably traumatized and disoriented, described the dog as a pit bull and the story received wide initial coverage as a “pit bull attack”. This was later corrected when Vancouver Animal Control identified the dog as a mastiff/bulldog cross.

yogiThe second was at the end of the year, when a serious attack on a young woman was reported as a “pit bull attack”. This dog was later identified as a Rottweiler/husky.

Now we have a third case where the conversation was quick to turn to a “breed debate” while it was clear that the media did not have all the information.

Kudos to CBC for taking the time to correct the breed ID in this week’s coverage. But for every article with this correction, there will be 20+ articles that only serve to cement the breed stigma in the minds of those susceptible to it. It detracts from constructive conversations we could be having about dog aggression and risk factors for dog bites. And let’s not forget that the “statistics” cited by Charlie, Lori, and Bill are based on media reports of dog aggression, creating a feedback loop that’s been cycling for 30 years.

Each time this happens we draw a deep breath and hope that the media will learn from their errors. Stop with the sensationalism. Report a dog attack as a dog attack, and don’t be so quick to assign a breed. It’s fairer, and it’s better journalism. If you feel the breed is relevant, wait until a reliable source of information surfaces:  the owner’s information about the dog’s heritage or, minimally, a statement from an impartial professional like an animal control officer or a veterinarian.

BreedSpecificLegislation_2And for the love of dog, will the Op-Eds stop? For three decades we have been tolerating the same clickbait comparing an imaginary category of dog to a loaded gun. Under the guise of concerned citizens, they use fear to advocate for laws that have proven ineffective and are being repealed across the continent.

Bill, Lori and Charlie seem content to be on the wrong side of the history. That’s their right. But if these opinions are winning column space, it tells you that people are interested in this topic. Why not feature another perspective?

In 2012, The Vancouver Sun asked Rebeka Breder, BC pre-eminent animal litigator, and Rebecca Ledger, one of BC’s few certified veterinary behaviourists, to pen an Op-Ed. People with advanced degrees and decades of experience commenting on the issue of dog aggression in our communities? That’s a great start!

If their degrees and evidence-based reasoning don’t attract the same number of clicks, there are plenty of trainers, behaviour consultants, vets, dog walkers, or animal rescues that would be happy to pen their own opinion piece based on experience. The Huffington Post has featured a “pit bull week” for the last couple years and have no shortage of clicks and shares. You’d be surprised at how many people want to read reason and compassion around these issues.

Please. Please expand your offerings on this topic.

Or – well – at least ensure your columnists are writing about the right “breed” when they propose exterminating it.

 

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Announcing our new T-shirt designs

We have been eager to refresh our t-shirt designs for a while, and after working with the uber-talented Kristy of Fog and Swell we are finally there. We love the new graphic!

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We will have the first order ready for mid-February. You will be able to order online and pick up shirts at events throughout the year, but if you want to be one of the first to sport the new design, we have an offer for you. Pre-order before Thursday, January 28, and you can have your t-shirt shipped to you (shipping and handling fees apply) OR you can pick them up at The Pop Up Pet Shoppe in Vancouver on Saturday, February 13.

Shirts are available in women’s and men’s styles, in ash grey.

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Here’s how to order!

Do you need your shirt shipped within Canada? Use the PayPal button below to purchase the shirt with shipping and handling charges:


Style
Sizes




Or would you like to pick up your shirt on February 13? If so, use this link instead to waive shipping and handling charges.


Style
Sizes



 

Have questions? Contact us at info@hugabull.com with any queries or to arrange alternate payment.

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How Holly Helps HugABull

Ribbon for Hugabull 2015 Calendar (3)Holly and her partner adopted Ribbon through HugaBull in December 2011. Although they had been looking for a Rottweiler to replace the precious one they had lost to cancer the previous May, a certain brindle puppy face peered out so captivatingly at them from the computer screen that they were instantly smitten.

“Her full name is Ribbon Ann Bows,” explains Holly, “which, to us, made total sense. Why? Because she has what we consider a white ribbon running down her head and because it was close to Christmas, when ribbons adorn presents. We gave her the gift of a home, and in return, she gave and continues to give us the gift of boundless love, loyalty and laughter.”

But Holly’s own “gifting” didn’t end there. She recently became our first monthly donor through CanadaHelps.

Holly and Ribbon Inter River Jan2013“By adopting a pit bull,” Holly says, “we became aware of the challenges facing this breed. While we live in North Vancouver where there’s no BSL, we’re pleased to see a shift in opinion in Metro Vancouver, much of it due to the extraordinary work of HugaBull. They encourage potential adopters to accept the bully breed as the fabulous family members they can be, find these dogs forever homes, and educate the public about BSL.

“All of this costs money, making fundraising a primary concern of every non-profit, volunteer based organization. Because I wanted to help alleviate some of HugaBull’s financial burden, I chose to contribute to them monthly, hoping they could use my small donation for whatever they needed most. I also wanted to thank them for all they did for Ribbon by doing something for them.”

Ribbon and Peas croppedAs for Ribbon, she’s an exuberant and happy, high-energy girl who’s part of a dog hiking group that explores Vancouver’s North Shore twice a week. An ideal ambassador for the bully breed, she’s funny and friendly, easygoing yet playful, who loves everyone and adores children.

“There are so many dogs out there who, like Ribbon, want to be loved and to be part of a forever family. And because of that, we must continue to work on opening people’s minds to the truth about this very warm and caring breed.

“I would also urge everyone reading this to join me in becoming a monthly donor through CanadaHelps to provide HugABull with the financial stability they need in order to carry on their remarkable work. Every dollar HugaBull can count on each month is one less dollar they need to raise themselves, allowing them more time to do what they do best: making the world a better place for pit bulls to be their funny, endearing and loving selves.”

 Interested in becoming a monthly donor? There are many advantages – you can commit a small monthly payment that makes a huge impact over the course of a year.  Monthly donors also contribute to our financial stability by providing a consistent source of revenue throughout the year – not just around special events and holidays! Like all donations, your contribution is tax receiptable. For more information, visit the donation page on our website or email info@hugabull.com.

A big thank-you to Holly and to Kim and Josh, our newest monthly donors!

Ribbon on lounge chair June 2015ps

Article by Nomi Berger 

 

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Media case study – misidentification in Richmond

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Is this what you think of when you picture a pit bull? How about a pit bull mix?
A Rottweiler/pit bull mix? A Rottweiler mix?
A Rottweiler/husky mix?

Over the last week, this photo has represented all these things, as the face of a recent dog attack.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 9.33.01 AMOn Wednesday, December 30, a woman was badly attacked by a dog and hospitalized. The circumstances vary widely between media, police, and social media posts by those involved – some reports say the dog was being walked on leash and suddenly attacked; some say the dog was tied to a tree and lashed out. We know that a woman was badly injured and sent to the hospital, and a bystander was injured in the process of trying to help.

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This photo, sourced from Facebook, is thought to be the dog involved in the incident.

The dog was known to the victim, so if the RCMP or media wished to make a breed identification it should have been a simple enough process. Yet somehow the black and tan dog was labelled a pit bull and this made its way into the initial RCMP press release.

So for a full 24 hours, this ran as yet another pit bull attack story. HugABull received two media calls on New Year’s Eve because this recent event, together with another incident in Northern BC had “re-ignited the debate” about pit bulls, rottweilers, and other “vicious breeds”.

12465702_10153663979811558_1271548074_oThe victim of the dog attack, while dealing with her own injuries, was outraged enough to take the time to post about this breed misidentification on Thursday night. The RCMP also took the time to issue a public correction, and slowly this news began to trickle out into the media. Up to Thursday night, the dog was being reported as a Rottweiler/pit bull cross.

Now, many news outlets have corrected their online reports to read Rottweiler cross or Rottweiler/husky cross, and uploaded new photos. Interestingly, once the breed identification was corrected, we noticed the tone of the reporting change as well, along with the comments under these reports. People are talking about whether there was past history of aggressive behaviour. What circumstances led up to the attack. Whether the dog was abused. What will be done with the dog.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 10.19.29 AMNotice the difference? A “pit bull” story leads to outrage and a discussion about whether they are inherently bad dogs that should be restricted. A “dog bite” story leads to much more nuanced and important questions about the pet dogs we share our lives with.

To the RCMP and media – we appreciate your taking the time to issue a correction of the breed ID. It’s not the first time misidentification has happened, but it’s the first time the correction has been publicized widely, and that’s appreciated.

But more meaningfully, can we learn from this the next time there is an incident with a dog? There will be a next time. Serious dog bites are rare, but with hundreds of thousands of dogs in our province, it’s statistically certain that 2016 will see its share of serious dog bites. At least a few dozen, if not more. We don’t know for sure because there’s no data source for this in BC. Maybe that’s a good place to start if we are worried about aggressive dog problems in our community.

So to the reporters and responders out there – when it happens, we have a couple requests.  Please be consistent in what you cover. Is a serious attack on another dog newsworthy? Then cover them all. In June we heard about a mastiff/bulldog mix that killed a small dog in Yaletown. We heard about it a lot when a witness identified the dog as a pit bull. We heard about it less when it was found to be a mixed breed. Within a week, another small dog was almost killed by an Airedale in the same neighbourhood. We heard a few reports about that. And within a month, another small dog was killed by a German Shepherd in a Vancouver suburb. That didn’t make the news at all.

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Original headline read “Three hospitalized after pit bull-rottweiler dog goes berserk”. Accompanying article refers to pit bulls and calls for restrictions.

Second, if there isn’t a reliable breed ID for the dog, please don’t include it. Don’t ask witnesses what the dog was; don’t even rely on police or animal control personnel on the scene. If the owner knows the dog’s parents or pedigree, or if a formal ID is made by animal control later on, that’s a reasonable source, but until then why can’t it be a “dog attack”?  In fact, why can’t it stay a “dog” attack?

Breed misidentification and sensationalism hurts us. It hurts the millions of responsible dog owners whose dogs happen to have the square heads – who are pit bulls or who are perceived as pit bulls. It diminishes our quality of life, restricts our housing options, and sometimes leads to outright abuse. It also hurts the community at large, because after 30 years of scaremongering about pit bulls, we rarely have the opportunity to have conversations about what we can do to steward happy, healthy, harmonious relationships with the canines in our community.

We work every day to move these conversations forward, and we need your help. It is truly in the best interest of all of us – four-legged and two-legged.

_____

For the record, the photo at the top of this post would not be considered a typical “pit bull” breed but rather an extremely large American Bully, a newer breed that is not common in BC. The photo has since been updated.

Further reading on breed (mis)identification in the media:
http://www.nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/blog/potentially-preventable-husbandry-factors-co-occur-in-most-dog-bite-related-fatalities/

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Battling BSL On Behalf of Our Bully

milton1Elizabeth and Mike are HugABull adopters who never faltered in their commitment to Milton, but faced a worst-case scenerio shortly after adopting him: breed stigma and restrictions forced them to choose between their family member and their home. We have been so inspired by their courage and grace in the face of a pit bull owner’s worst nightmare – we asked them to share their story with volunteer writer Nomi Berger.

When we first saw Milton on the Hugabull web site, he wasn’t quite what we were looking for. But after being encouraged to meet him, we instantly fell in love with him – with his big beautiful head and even bigger, exuberant and funny personality.

Several weeks after adopting him in December 2012, we were rudely confronted by a fellow condo owner, who insisted ‘those dogs’ weren’t allowed. We had no idea that the strata (condominium association) had voted in a breed-specific pet policy between the time that we bought our condo and the time we adopted Milton.

Worried and afraid, we promptly met with the strata, explained our situation, and promised to muzzle Milton in the building and on all shared property. They, in turn, agreed to allow us to stay until a vote could be taken at their annual general meeting in April. To further allay their so-called ‘safety’ concerns, we even purchased extra liability insurance.

milton2We then tried to arrange for the strata to hear a presentation from HugABull or a similar organization, but they weren’t interested. We sent out flyers to our neighbours – which were well received — explaining the situation and asking for their support. One of the strata members even told us that although they were sympathetic to our cause, one particular condo owner was threatening to sue if the bylaw wasn’t upheld. In April, we spoke at the AGM, receiving more than 50% of their votes, but we failed to get the 75% required to change the bylaw.

milton3Having already decided to move if we lost the vote, we instructed our realtor to begin looking for a new place for us. The strata members were amazed when they learned that we had chosen our beloved Milton over their building! But they did let us live there until our condo sold.

Despite this extremely upsetting ordeal, we have survived intact! We are now in a much better situation, living in a nicer building nearby, with wonderful neighbours who adore Milton. The lesson my husband and I learned is that you don’t always have to ‘win’ in order to win. My only regret is not having been sure enough of ourselves to campaign more vocally to get the bylaw changed. If faced with that situation again, we would definitely be more ‘in your face.’

For anyone caught in a similar predicament, I urge you to work your connections and ask for help. Although I was reluctant to involve those I knew through my job in the housing sector, everyone there was extremely helpful. Thanks to their advice,  suggestions and support, I even managed to effect a change in breed-specific pet policies involving some of our own housing partners.

I also encourage you to talk, really talk. Inform people. Educate them. So many people were shocked to hear about what we had endured because they know what responsible and trustworthy dog owners we are. These personal stories — ours and yours – are how people’s minds, and hopefully, policies, are changed!

Article by Nomi Berger

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A special sponsorship

11745712_979203892101332_2188232424727014811_n (1)There isn’t a day that goes by without reflecting on how lucky we (and the dogs) are to have such a wonderfully supportive community. Our foster homes open up their hearts to stressed little shelter dogs and help them shine. Those who can’t foster can support the process through our sponsorship program and receive updates about the sponsored dog and their journey to a forever home. Shalini is a long-time sponsor who loves having a personal connection to “her” HugABull dog. As a sponsor to Notch, she directed a donation to his vet bills and got to meet him earlier this year! And as a sponsor to Moxie, she put together a special care package for her to enjoy leading up to the holidays. Moxie’s foster mom is also pretty fantastic and helped “Moxie” write this thank you letter.

Dear Shalini (aka Sponsor Mom),

I love the care package box you sent me! I was really excited to get a box. It smelled really good.

Foster Mom made me give the box back and then I found out you sent me lots of other cool things too. Wow! I’m really excited to play with my new toys and give them the Tough Chewer test. I loooove to chew. (I still like the box, I’ll play with that too.)

I’m going to ask for a Natural Balance cookie every night as the treat I get for going into my crate to sleep. I tried some already and they are delicious! I’d do tricks for those any day.

I get the super awesome, smelly, fish treats when I do something really, really hard. Like give up the toy I’m chewing or come running from far away. They are SO worth it.

I’m sure happy you’re my sponsor. Foster Mom says I’m really lucky to have so many people who love me. I’ll send you licks and kisses anytime you want!

Foster Mom said it wasn’t bragging if I told you some of the things I’ve been up to as long as I don’t say how awesome I am at all of them. I hope you like the pictures.

UxUxU
Licks and kisses,

Wonder Dawg Moxie

PS: (Foster Mom said “Wonder Dawg” was too much, I should just sign it “Moxie”.)
PPS: Foster Mom says you can find more pics of me on Instagram and/or Facebook if you like.

I’m getting really good at “go to your mat.”

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Except sometimes I test the rules. I can’t help it. There are SO many good things in the kitchen.
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I love playing the “find the kibble” game!
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My favourite spot is here, hogging the air vent when the heat comes on.

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What do you mean “no more treats”?

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I’m learning to “heel” and “heel right”. It’s hard work.

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Just being cute. It happens.

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I love, love, love my Jolly Tuff Treader!

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What? I told you! It tastes really good.

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All this stuff is so awesome I don’t even know where to start! Thank you Shalini!!

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2016 Calendars Now Available

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Are you ready to start thinking about 2016? Get a head start by investing in our signature fundraising calendar!  This year’s theme is “12 Tips for a Successful Adoption” where each dog shares “their” tip to finding a loving, forever home.

A special thanks to the creative people behind this project. Each one donated their services pro bono, allowing all proceeds to be directed to the foster dogs in our program.

Ashleigh Wells Photography – Vancouver area photographer
Photography by Kimberly Rose – Vancouver Island photographer
Caitlyn Chapman Photography – Okanagan area photographer
Samantha Leigh Smith –  graphic designer

Calendars are available now for $20. Here’s how to get yours!

1. Attend the HugABull Open House on Sunday, November 29! Check out our event listing on Facebook or on our website. Calendars and lots of other great stuff will be on sale.

2. Get it delivered by ordering online. Use the PayPal link at the bottom of this page, or email info@hugabull.com to set up a cheque or email transfer payment. Shipping fees will apply. International orders are welcome but must be arranged by email.

3. Visit one of our partner vendors, listed below:

Mainland

Burnaby
Tisol – Gilley – now available
Tisol – Market Crossing – now available
Waterworkz Paw Spa – now available

Langley
Tisol – Langley – now available

New Westminster
Bosley’s – Columbia Square – now available

Richmond
Tisol – Richlea Square (South Richmond) – now available

Surrey
South Point Pet Hospital  – now available
Tisol – South Surrey – now available

Vancouver
Long Live Cats and Dogs – now available
Tisol – Main Street – now available
Tisol – Arbutus – now available
Tisol – Grandview – now available

Okanagan and Interior

Kamloops
Calling All Pets  – now available
My Balanced Dog – now available

Salmon Arm
Shuswap Veterinary Clinic – now available

Vernon
Healthy Spot – now available
Pet Planet
 – now available

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Paypal Order link




 

We can’t wait to share it with you! Please email info@hugabull.com with any questions.

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A Top 10 Tribute

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When Genna found out that pet design company Dog & Crow was closing their doors, she was disappointed. But when she found out that they were donating their leftover inventory to a worthy local rescue, she saw an opportunity. Not only did she nominate HugABull but she wrote a heartfelt tribute. It made our day and we wanted to share it with you.

My name is Genna and I am a proud momma to 2 year-old Jackson ,a rescued pit bull type dog. Jackson puts a smile on my face every day. To say that Jackson has changed my life would be the understatement of the year; Jackson is my family, my best friend, and he’s the reason I became involved with HugABull Advocacy and Rescue Society. I would love to see them benefit from your generous offer to donate your inventory.

They are a fantastic organization. I could write an essay, but it would go on forever. So instead – a Top 10 list!

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Donate Your Amazing Dog & Crow Inventory to HugABull

1. HugABull helps pit bull type dogs, the breed that is most likely to be abused, most likely to end up in the shelter, and most likely to be euthanized.

2. HugABull has a thorough screening program both for their adopters and dogs. It’s so important to make sure that an adoption is a right fit and set a dog up for success. Every adoption has a 30 day trial period with lots of support, and free training if needed, to set the adopter and the dog up for success!

3. If an adoption doesn’t work out for any reason, HugABull will always take the dog back. I met a dog named Pepper recently who was adopted out as a puppy 8 years ago. Due to serious family changes she couldn’t stay in her home, but HugABull did not hesitate to take her back and find her a new, great home.

4. Did you know that BC has breed-specific legislation? That means that in some communities like Nanaimo, Burnaby, and Richmond, dogs that bear a physical resemblance to a “pit bull” are required to be leashed and muzzled at all times. There are also many buildings and stratas that have breed restrictions – not only against pit bulls but Rottweilers, Akitas, Chows, and other breeds. HugABull reaches out and encourages these policy makers to adopt evidence-based, breed-neutral policies that target the real issue behind “bad dogs” – bad owners! I personally struggled to find a place to live last year – 6 months and 2 dog reference letters later and I still couldn’t find a place to live.

5. HugABull has a special program for dogs that are “unadoptable” due to health conditions. They provide loving homes to dogs like Gator, who has terminal cancer, and Notch, who has a number of health issues, even though they will never collect an adoption fee on these dogs. They just want to make sure they have the best lives possible for the rest of their days. 

6. HugABull has a spay/neuter subsidy program! The best way to keep dogs out of shelters is to limit unwanted breeding. If someone is in need, HugABull will work with organizations like Neuterhead and partner vets to make sure their dog is spayed or neutered. They will help with any breed of dog – and even cats!

7. HugABull is always available to help owners who are having trouble with a behavioural issue, housing, or any other issue. All inquiries are answered personally and there are many resources on their website.

8. HugABull believes in responsible dog ownership of ALL breeds. They encourage training and host Canine Good Neighbour (CGN) preparation and evaluation sessions each year.

9. There is an amazing community out there! There is a HugABull Facebook group where we can ask questions about any topic and get informed answers. Sometimes we meet up for group walks just to socialize and enjoy a judgement-free atmosphere.

10. Dogs like Jackson. HugABull has placed 500 dogs like him into responsible, loving homes. With your support, they can do even more.

Thank you so much Genna, for taking the time to nominate us and for your kind words – as well as all your help as a volunteer. Without amazing people like you, we would not be able to do this important work!

 

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The Trouble with Trolls

Photo by Eirick Solheim via Flickr/Creative Commons

In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl//ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory,[1] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as anewsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[2] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion,[3] often for their own amusement.

Wikipedia, 2015

 For rescues like ours, social media offers endless opportunities to connect, share information, and network with others. But there’s a dark side. The anonymity of the internet allows users to act out in ways that would be embarrassing or grossly inappropriate in real life. Read the comment section of almost any newspaper article, and you’ll see discussion devolve into accusations, arguments, and  personal attacks. When the article concerns anything remotely controversial you can see this happen almost immediately.

It comes as no surprise to see this around discussion of certain dog breeds or breed specific legislation (BSL) . In the last few years we have also become aware of organized groups that purport to have community safety as their mandate – which sounds great. That is our goal as well! But when you start to explore these groups, it turns out that they have a clear agenda of restricting or euthanizing certain categories of dogs.

These groups use the internet to advance their message, and have generated their own “statistics” and “studies” to support statements like “75% of fatal dog attacks are by pit bulls” or “1 in 20 pit bulls sends someone to the hospital”. Although these statements, in their shocking and soundbite-y appeal, sometimes find their way into media reports or your friends’ mouths, it doesn’t make them true. These figures are quickly discredited by sourcing credible data (like animal control reports and published, peer-reviewed journals).

These groups have been around for a while and we respect their right to exist. We even respect their right to comment when an event like this affects them locally. But a couple of weeks ago they crossed a line.

HugABull was invited into a local pet store as part of a fundraiser and community awareness initiative, and this caught the attention of one of these groups. The individuals, some based in the US and/or using fake profiles, attempted to take over the event page with hateful messaging, graphic photos of bloody dog attack victims, and multiple posts of scare-mongering material. Some posts on the store’s event page swelled to 300+ comments, as people responded to these posts and added fuel to the fire.

There is a small but growing body of research around internet trolling and cyberbullying. It shows that the trolling phenomenon does not come from a place of concern or a desire to educate or connect with other people. Their goal is to attract attention and to inflame emotions. Engaging with them only contributes to a downward spiral.

As we watched this drama unfold on social media, we had a lot of discussion amongst ourselves and came to a few conclusions.

  1. Trolls won’t change. Anyone who feels strongly enough to haunt our site from their computer desk in California to post mean-spirited comments is not likely to be convinced by anything we have to say.
  2. No one else is reading. Some people tell us they engage in comment threads because they worry that someone reading them won’t have both sides of the issue. In our experience, no one reads 300 comment threads for fun or education.
  3. Trolls live for outrage. It’s really difficult not to get incensed when a stranger talks about killing your dog or accuses you of being a dog fighter. But your outrage is exactly what they want, and it’s what will keep driving the debate forward. What’s more, they will often take screenshots of angry/abusive responses and share them, claiming that the “pit bull advocates” are harassing them.
  4.  Positivity will always outweigh negativity. What makes this abuse so hard to read is that it is so patently untrue. In any given week we encounter hundreds of pit bull type dogs. We share our beds with them. We read the literature about actual dog bite risks. At the end of the day, it’s the work that is being done out of love and compassion that changes minds.

So next time you stumble on to a comment thread cesspool? Try a different approach.

  1. Don’t respond. Leaving an angry, toxic debate is not a defeat. It’s a better use of your time.
  2. If you feel the need to respond, calmly acknowledge that trolls have taken over and no constructive discussion is taking place. Point out that the level of discourse is low and you have other things to do. Post an article about trolling. Post a picture of a troll, if you want to be a bit cheeky. But then leave the thread, turn off notifications, and do not go back. If everyone did this, the trolls are only screaming into a void and will eventually burn out.
  3. Stay positive. If you STILL wish to engage, try a different approach altogether. Ask them questions and let them follow their own logic until they trip up on it. Stay calm and compassionate, and don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to see posted as a screenshot somewhere else.
  4. Report. Depending on the context, you may be able to appeal to the admins of the page. In most cases there should be some kind of policy against graphic imagery, personal attacks, or threats. Be very specific about what you are reporting and why – you can’t report someone for posting a poor information source or saying something that is patently untrue. But you can report harassment and bullying.

In our case, the online hub-bub died down and we went on to have a great event. The store handled the negativity with perspective and professionalism, and their faith in us was redeemed as they saw we were a positive, community-minded, nice group of people.

And that felt much better than getting the last word on the Internet.

 

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Pirate, showing off the power of positivity.

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Compassion Care Canines

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Notch, silly and full of personality.

Sad as it is, some dogs come to us with problems even more serious than homelessness. Sometimes, in the process of rescuing a dog, we realize that their medical issues are more serious than we thought, and we have to decide what is going to be best for them, long-term.

Instead of going onto our Adoptables page, they might be placed into our Compassion Care program where they can live out the rest of their days in the comfort of a family home. HugABull covers all expenses while they are in this program, but the real contribution is made by the families who open up their homes and their hearts, knowing that the dog they are caring for might not be with them for long. These amazing people provide their foster dogs with all the things that they may not have been able to experience prior to coming into HugABull. Some of these dogs have never known a home, a soft bed, yummy treats, or what it means to let loose and be a silly dog. The foster families that are a part of this program are truly our silent heroes, and there are no words that can describe what an important role they play.

Teya and Benson

Within the Compassion Care program there have been many dogs that have stolen hearts and shown us why our investment is worth every penny. Teya is one of them. In 2011, Teya came into HugABull as a spunky 7-year-old looking for her second chance. Over the course of the following year she would be diagnosed with cancer and given only 6 – 8 months to live. Teya’s foster parents, Krista and Justin, were devastated by the news and immediately decided to commit to fostering her until the end of her days. In the time that they had her, Teya had become part of their family, and when Krista and Justin found out that their family was going to be growing a little bigger, they hoped that Teya would be around long enough to meet their newest addition, a son named Benson. They had five months together as a family of four with memories that will last a lifetime.

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Cyrus

Cyrus was another dog who defied expectations. She had been surrendered to the shelter by a very loving owner in crisis, and we wanted her to move straight into an adoptive home that loved her just as much. She was fostered by Angelique and family and was diagnosed with cancer within her foster period. Angelique decided to give her a home for whatever “forever” she had left, and she was another fighter who lived a full two years and had many fantastic adventures along the way.

Gator is currently a part of our Compassion Care program after being diagnosed with terminal cancer soon after coming out of the shelter. A senior citizen who had been a yard dog most of his life, we knew he didn’t have a lot of time, but we were saddened to think that it would be measured in months rather than years. His foster mom Tara stepped

Gator, about to enjoy his first cake.

Gator, about to enjoy his first cake.

up and committed to not only caring for Gator, but making up a bucket list for him to complete while in her care. Gator has been doing great so far and has been enjoying all of the fun activities that Tara has planned for him.

Not all of the dogs in the Compassion Care program suffer from a terminal illness. Notch was recently placed in our Compassion Care program simply because he had a large number of health problems and special needs. While each was manageable on its own, the laundry list of supplements, feeding instructions, mobility challenges, and other issues limits his adoption prospects. After his latest health scare, we realized that it might be best for him to stay in his foster home, where he has a nice routine and he has been thriving thanks to the great care at Queen’s Park Pet Hospital and donated water therapy sessions at Waterworkz Paw Spa.

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Playful puppy Rosie.

It’s never easy to accept a terminal diagnosis, but it was especially tough with Rosie, our newest and youngest Compassion Care dog. At only seven months old she has been diagnosed with advanced heart disease. Even though Rosie is expected to have only a year or so with us, we are committed to ensuring that she gets to experience the joy of being a part of a family for the rest of her days.

We are fortunate to see a lot of happy endings in rescue, but stories like these remind us that a happy ending is defined differently for each dog. Instead of mourning their shortened time with us, we take a lesson from these resilience creatures and take joy in every moment they are here.

For all of our fosters, donors, and supporters – please know that your support helps make this incredible program possible. Thank you, and we hope to continue sharing Gator, Notch and Rosie’s adventures over the coming months.

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