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.

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.”

20151109_073257 (1)


Except sometimes I test the rules. I can’t help it. There are SO many good things in the kitchen.
20151106_092043 (1)


I love playing the “find the kibble” game!


My favourite spot is here, hogging the air vent when the heat comes on.


What do you mean “no more treats”?



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



Just being cute. It happens.



I love, love, love my Jolly Tuff Treader!



What? I told you! It tastes really good.



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



Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

2016 Calendars Now Available


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:


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

Tisol – Langley - now available

New Westminster
Bosley’s – Columbia Square - now available

Tisol – Richlea Square (South Richmond) - now available

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

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

Okanagan and Interior

Calling All Pets  - now available
My Balanced Dog - now available

Salmon Arm
Shuswap Veterinary Clinic - now available

Healthy Spot - now available
Pet Planet
 - now available


Paypal Order link


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

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

A Top 10 Tribute


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!



Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

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.



Pirate, showing off the power of positivity.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Compassion Care Canines


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.



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.


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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Put your pup in the 2016 calendar

sample lower spread

Our 2016 calendar is in production, and mini-headshot sponsorship opportunities are now available! For your donation of $25 or $50, you can submit a photo of your pet that will appear in the bottom portion of our calendar. 

Proceeds from mini-headshot sales cover our printing and shipping expenses, allowing 100% of sale revenues to be directed towards the dogs in our program. These donations are tax-receiptable – just provide us with your full name and mailing address and indicate that you would like a receipt mailed to you.

headshot sampleA $25 donation will reserve you a 2.5 x 2.5 inch space.
A $50 donation will reserve a 5 x 5 inch space.

Interested? Here’s how to get your pet on the VIP list:

1. Email HugabullFundraising@gmail.com to reserve a spot. Indicate the size of headshot you want, and your pet’s name.

2. Send the photo to HugabullFundraising@gmail.com. High resolution photos are ideal (at least 1MB in size). Close-up photos of the pet’s face work best for the space available.

2. Provide payment.  Use the link below to pay by credit card/PayPal, or send an email money transfer to info@hugabull.com. If you wish to pay by cash or cheque, send us an email and we can provide drop-off options.

Payment and photo must be received by Monday, September 7 to secure your space in the calendar. Email HugabullFundraising@gmail.com with any questions. We look forward to another year of gorgeous close-ups!



Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Turning the tables on intolerance


Volunteer Janessa with Kobe, representing Lovie, an adoptable 8-month-old puppy.

One of the best tools we have to educate people about pit bull type dogs is – pit bull type dogs! Our ambassadogs are loving, friendly, well-trained fixtures at our public events. But what happens when they are not welcome? Well, we take a lesson from them. We persevere, we stay positive, and we bounce back.

Andrea of Fitness Leash had planned for the second annual Planks for Paws event to happen on Saturday, August 22 at a lovely park in Burnaby. This is a fitness event for humans, but we had hoped to bring a foster dog or two so that participants could meet the dogs benefitting from funds raised. We were aware that Burnaby has a bylaw that requires “pit bull” breeds and their mixes to be leashed and muzzled on public property. Like most breed specific legislation (BSL), there is no definition of “pit bull” attached to this requirement, so enforcement is based on the visual identification of a peace officer.


HugABull adopter Megan, with dogs Veda and Sprout, representing Paddington, an adoptable dog (as well as her own dog, Marty!).

The majority of dogs in our program are of unknown parentage. We may accept them into our program because we feel they have the physical characteristics and/or temperament as defined by the breed standard of a “pit bull” breed. We have also accepted dogs that look nothing like pit bulls, but may have been labelled as such somewhere along the way. If we DNA tested every dog in our program, it wouldn’t surprise us at all to find out we’ve been re-homing dozens of mastiff, boxer, bulldog or other square-headed crosses.

Based on this, we had a couple of mixed-breed dogs lined up to attend our event. But that was not to happen. Someone with a bone to pick with the breed called Animal Control and multiple contacts at City Hall – it was made clear to us in a series of emails that our event would be patrolled and unmuzzled “pit bulls” weren’t welcome. With that threat, we decided that even our unmuzzled mixed breed dogs weren’t safe to have at the event due to the increased scrutiny and arbitrary nature of the bylaw. The last thing we wanted at a peaceful yoga fundraiser was an ugly confrontation.


Rescue dog Shiloh and his humans representing Pepper, an 8-year-old dog in foster care with HugABull.

What to do? Muzzling dogs at advocacy events is a controversial issue. Some people are for it, as it gets the dogs out there and starts a conversation. Others point out that muzzles also have an (unwarranted) negative association with the general public, so it would only keep people away and perpetuate stereotypes. In the end, we decided not to muzzle our foster dogs, as none of them had been muzzle trained – it was too much to ask of them to attend an event with new people, to sit in the sun on a hot day, and to accept an unfamiliar contraption on their face.


April borrowed Rocky for the day, to represent his big sister Billie.


Preet and Roscoe stand in for Notch, who is part of HugABull’s Compassion Care program.

Coming back to the theme of resilience, we consulted with Andrea and we made a plan. We printed posters of all the dogs who would have loved to join us for the event, and we invited “proxy dogs” to attend in their place. People got their doggie fix, we raised awareness about Burnaby’s BSL, AND we got some publicity from our creative solution to this challenge. Check out our appearance on Global BC news and the Burnaby Now. (We hope that you like it too, and will share this post to make it viral!)

While we missed having some friendly blockheads at the event, we managed to make it a positive and educational experience. We even raised additional funds due to the expanded profile! We learned that taking the moral high ground feels almost as good as a yoga session.

Thank you to everyone who made this possible, and helped us turn a setback into a pretty spectacular event. Start warming up for next year’s Planks for Paws, because we intend to do it again in 2016! Should you wish to support this initiative, the donation page is still open: https://chimp.net/groups/planks-for-paws

Photos courtesy of Glenny Sipacio.







IMG_7553 (1)

Min pin Sam came, representing his sister Tia, an adopted pit/lab cross and his best friend.


Staying zen in the face of adversity.



Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Peanut’s Petition

photo (1)Leanne contacted us a couple of months ago about a challenge with her dog, Peanut. As a responsible dog owner, she has registered her dog with the City of Richmond and attempts to comply with their breed-specific bylaws. However, doing so severely compromises their quality of life. Leanne has attempted to work collaboratively and respectfully with City Council, asking only for the opportunity to prove her dog is no danger to the public. She has been met with closed minds and closed hearts. We asked her to share her story on our blog.

My husband and I rescued 6-month-old Peanut in October 2012.  Well, a wonderful rescue agency did the rescuing and we gave her a forever home.

We didn’t know it at that time, but Peanut was born with Progressive Retinal Atrophy, an inherited disease, in which the rod cells in the retina are programmed to die.  By age 1½ or so, Peanut was functionally blind but you wouldn’t have known it!  Blind dogs adapt very well to familiar situations and with time and training, she began to use her other senses to compensate for her vision loss.

Whiskers 1Peanut has become well known in our neighbourhood in Steveston and we can barely walk down the street without people, children and other dogs stopping to say “hi”.  We have been told by many people that the ability she shows through her adversities is inspiring, and we certainly feel the same way.

Peanut is a very gentle mixed-breed showing characteristics of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and due to the City of Richmond’s current Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) we registered her as a “dangerous dog”.

One of the City’s BSL requirements is that all “dangerous dogs” must wear a muzzle outside of their home. Peanut relies heavily on her sense of smell and her whiskers in order to navigate in the outside world and we were unable to find a muzzle that doesn’t hinder those senses.  All muzzles of all types/materials interfere significantly with her whiskers, which she uses to feel a wall before she hits it, or feel the edge of stairs or our car before falling.

Whiskers 2An animal’s whiskers are sensory in nature and are rooted much deeper than normal hair. They can sense distance and space, and they feel through vibration.  These whiskers are very sensitive and are good for detecting objects and picking up air currents. Dogs with reduced vision are especially dependent on their whiskers.

We keep a muzzle on Peanut as best we can when we are outside of our home, but have resorted to walking her in other municipalities and leaving her at home more often in order to avoid injury.  This has continued to be a very heartbreaking thing for us to deal with and prompted me to take action.

I wrote multiple letters to the City, provided a large information package including many support letters and have attended at a council meeting in an effort to ask the City to consider a review of their current Bylaws to allow dog owners to apply for an exemption to the dangerous dog bylaw, particularly for dogs with special needs.  This exemption would, of course, only apply if the dog is deemed dangerous because of breed only and if the owner proves their dog’s good temperament.

My suggestion to the City was to consider a similar system to what the City of Nanaimo provides.  The City of Nanaimo differentiates between a “restricted” dog and a “vicious” dog.  It allows for pet registration through the Canadian Kennel Club to obtain a Canine Good Neighbour Certification and to subsequently have the restricted classification removed if they pass.

I was very disappointed to be recently advised that the Richmond City Council has not provided any indications of intent to amend the Animal Control Regulation Bylaw and at this point will not even consider allowing Peanut, or other dogs like her, the opportunity to prove that a muzzle is not necessary.

I am a lifelong Richmond resident, home owner and tax payer who is now forced to move out of the city I work in, have grown up in and love in order to keep my dog (who just happens to show the “characteristics” of a pit-bull) happy and healthy.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 1.55.30 PMWe hope that in sharing Leanne and Peanut’s story, we can raise awareness of how BSL affects the lives of responsible community members. We would like to see Richmond follow the lead of surrounding communities and adopt breed-neutral, evidence-based animal control bylaws that can protect the community without punishing responsible owners and good family dogs. But if this is not an option, there should – at minimum -  be an exemption for dogs who can be shown to be of sound and stable temperament, and no risk to the community. Particularly if these dogs suffer by the city’s muzzle requirement.

Please show your support by signing Leanne’s online petition. It’s a small step but we hope it will encourage Richmond City Council to re-evaluate this issue.



Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

The Truth about BC Shelters

bubs crate“I found a stray dog, but I can’t take her to the shelter – she won’t make it out alive!”

“Dogs in the US need our help more. They still have KILL shelters there.”

“I’d rather re-home my dog online than take her to a shelter – you know they don’t adopt out pit bulls.”

We receive a lot of emails about shelters and euthanasia, and hear a lot of misconceptions about what happens in BC. It’s a strange phenomenon. Some people believe that BC is “no-kill”, where animals are safe in shelters as long as they need to be there. Others believe that shelters are still medieval places, where unadoptable dogs (and particularly pit bulls) aren’t given a chance. The truth – as with most things in life – lies somewhere in the middle.

The good news is that many shelters (both municipal shelters and SPCAs) follow progressive animal welfare practices and are certainly not in a rush to euthanize dogs. Most of the Metro Vancouver shelters we work with try very hard to provide dogs with a fair and accurate assessment, and as well as vet care, training, and enrichment.

If you find a dog running at large in a BC community, we would always recommend contacting your local pound or animal control. They have the most resources available to house the animal and take steps to find the owner. Most important, ONLY a shelter has the legal right to take custody of the dog after the impound period has passed. Some rescues choose to accept stray or privately surrendered dogs, but they assume a degree of legal risk in doing so.

If you are in the position of having to re-home your dog and struggling to do so yourself, we recommend contacting your local shelter or SPCA. Most SPCAs and some municipal animal shelters will take a privately surrendered dog if they have space and if it is adoptable (whatever they define that to be). For more information about re-homing, visit our website.

Now for the part no one wants to think about – euthanasia. While it isn’t an epidemic in BC, and most shelters try to avoid it, it happens. It happens every day, and to call BC a no-kill province is absolutely incorrect. Euthanasia happens because dogs come into shelters, either as strays, surrenders, or cruelty seizures, and present with one or more of the following:

  1. Severe medical problems. Many shelters, particularly smaller or remote ones, have limited budgets for veterinary care, and they have to spend carefully. Do they pay for a $3000 surgery for an 8-year-old shepherd mix? Or spend the same amount to treat a litter of 8 Lab puppies for mange? Shelter managers have to make tough decisions, particularly in smaller communities where they may not be able to fundraise or seek vet discounts.
  2. Severe behavioural problems. While training and management can help a troubled dog immensely, the reality is that  “rehabilitation” or “sanctuary” opportunities are so rare as to be virtually non-existent. There are not many adopters looking for a dog with serious behaviour challenges, and far fewer with the skills to rehabilitate serious issues and/or provide appropriate management for the rest of the dog’s life.
  3. Space. Many shelters in Southern BC will call themselves “low kill” or “no kill” meaning they do not euthanize for space. If kennels are full they will pay for boarding, appeal to the community, or work with rescues – which is fantastic. But small community shelters may only have a few kennels available and not many staff to care for them.
  4. Deterioration. This is probably the most common and most heartbreaking scenario that we see. A dog may enter the shelter relatively adoptable, but perhaps he is young and untrained with a high energy level. In a shelter with lower adoption rates, he may be kennelled for months. Stress behaviours develop, along with hyperactivity, leash pulling, and general bad manners. This makes the dog a pain to handle – volunteers stop walking him and potential adopters are turned off by the jumpy, mouthy, obnoxious dog in the kennel. It’s a cycle where these behaviours only get worse and caretakers have to ask questions about quality of life.

While pit bull breeds have gained a lot public acceptance and, to our knowledge, do not face automatic euthanasia in BC, they are overrepresented in all of the above scenerios. The breed does make them “less adoptable” and is a strike against them when people need to balance the life of one dog against another.

What can we do about this? Please don’t blame the shelters. For the most part, shelters do the best they can with the resources available – and until there are empty kennels everywhere and a windfall of experienced “rehabilitation” homes, the situation isn’t going to change soon. Support your local shelter, whether by helping to fundraising for vet bills, volunteering to walk the large and high energy dogs, or learning about their challenges so you can educate the community and/or appeal to your city council for change.

IMG_2736Support efforts to help BC’s most vulnerable dogs. There are also some great organizations working in the North and on reserves. Groups like Spirit’s Mission, Big Heart Rescue, Crooked Leg Ranch, and Victoria Humane Society actively work to bring northern and reserve dogs to larger centres with higher adoption rates, while also working in the community to provide spay/neuter and vet care. (And of course, HugABull works to support shelters with the pit bull type dogs in their care).

But if you do nothing else, please stop and think before making global statements about shelters and euthanasia. Being realistic about our local problems is the best way to help dogs in our province.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Notch’s Angels

11539801_10155675400730497_1298356749_oNotch of the big head, soulful eyes, and eager face washes came into our program five months ago, after being in the shelter for a year. With a long list of mobility challenges we don’t expect him to be adopted quickly, but we are pretty confident that his sweet and playful temperament will win over the right person. He already has a lot of fans!

Jolee&DaisyOne of the smallest, and possibly the most devoted, is Jolee. This little girl grew up with a loving pit bull companion, Daisy, and her whole family has a soft spot for the breed. When her birthday rolled around this past February, she asked for donations to HugABull in lieu of presents. Where most kids would ask for video games and Disney paraphernalia, she only wanted to help dogs.

Jolee came to Notch’s foster home to drop off her $270 donation, and they were immediately smitten with each other. We kept in touch with Jolee, sending updates about Notch over the past few months, and Jolee was inspired to do even more for this gentle giant. She and her family organized a bottle drive through her school and raised over $100!

notch swim jolee resize 2 resave notch swim jolee resize 3When she came to Vancouver to drop off the donation, the ladies at Waterworkz Paw Spa planned a special treat for her. The invited her to come to one of Notch’s water therapy sessions and join him in the pool. They swam, they chased balls together, and had the most special afternoon. Jolee’s parents were thrilled to see her following Notch around in the water with comfort and ease – she is normally a bit nervous about being in deep water on her own but with a life jacket and a big friendly dog at her side, it was a piece of cake.

Thank you so much to Jolee and her family; Notch’s other sponsors Sarah Rowley and Shalini Nayar; and the people at Waterworkz. In a lot of ways it takes a village to help special dogs like Notch, and he is so lucky to have a great team of people behind him.

notch swim jolee resize 2 resavenotch jolee resize 6

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off