Media case study – breed identification gone wrong

After posting the commentary below, we were contacted by a CTV representative. She explained that Sunday’s story occurred close to deadline and was presented as a “pit bull attack” based on the witness’ description of the dog and no evidence to the contrary at that time. It was acknowledged that the story should have been covered differently and there have since been internal discussions around the matter.

It was also brought to our attention that a follow-up story aired the following day with a very different focus, and the online content was reviewed to remove any references to “pit bull” in the online articles.

This may be the first time we were proactively contacted by a news agency around the topic of biased reporting – so while it still stings to see an unnecessary “pit bull attack” story in the news, we want to look on the bright side. This event spurred some important conversations and CTV does have some people who care about getting this right. Kudos to them for being open to a conversation. 

Original post is below.

Sunday’s reporting of a dog attack illustrates one of the big problems with the reporting of “pit bulls” in the media. A serious dog attack story appeared as *BREAKING NEWS* on CTV on Sunday evening. In a piece titled “Pit bull seized after fatal attack”, reporters described a “vicious” attack that left a puppy “nearly disembowelled”. A stunned witness described how the “…unneute

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.14.38 AMred pit bull, brindled pit bull dog…ripped into my friends puppy.” The inevitable comments ensued about banning breeds.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.14.48 AMBut then it was quiet, and Monday’s Metro News story gives a strong hint why. In that story, the dog is identified as a lab/mastiff cross.

CTV has since changed the online version of the story to “large dog” in the headline, but the video can be seen with the original breed mention.

Our guess is that a large, brindled, boxy-headed dog attacking another dog was assumed to be a pit bull on scene. When animal control apprehended the dog it was determined to be an entirely different breed, and there was some attempt to correct this after the fact. Still, everyone in the vicinity and everyone who watched the news on Sunday came away with the impression that there was yet another one of those “vicious pit bull” attacks.

Why can’t an attacking dog be reported as a “large dog” from the beginning?

Our condolences to Mila’s family during this difficult time.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Nose to Nose with Kathleen and Miah

kathleen and miah hug

Three years ago, Kathleen was working on her PhD and in desperate need of some balance. From past experience, she knew that balance could come only from a dog. She didn’t set out to adopt a pit bull, but when she came across some HugABull dogs online, she learned about a little chocolate-coloured wiggle bum named Miah. As soon as Kathleen met Miah – she knew. Miah was the one. Her family agreed, and a match was made.

kathleen and miah cgn

A certified Canine Good Neighbour!

Miah, bright, beautiful and athletic, was also selective with her dog friends and obsessed with chasing anything small and furry. There was a lot of training to do, for both human and dog, but from the beginning Kathleen considered this work a challenge and a privilege. They took basic obedience and behavioural classes and sought out opportunities to work around other dogs. “Despite the many highs and lows, I just had to see the love in her eyes and I’d persevere, determined to be the best guardian possible for her,” says Kathleen.

“One year in, we discovered Miah’s true talent. After attending a nose work seminar, I enrolled her in a class, and she not only loved it, she excelled! This made her a calmer, easier dog, and with her newfound purpose, we started competing as a team in scent work competitions held by the National Association of Canine Scent Work in the US.”

10505242_10101271284427821_7752739154603971394_oThere are five levels — from the Odor Recognition Test to the Elite division – and after passing her Odor Recognition Test in April 2014, Miah earned her Beginner (NW1) title and won second place in Interiors in October 2014. When she earned her Intermediate (NW2) title in February, Kathleen was overwhelmed with emotion. Besides her title, she placed second fastest dog overall, won second place in containers and exteriors, and third place in vehicles. But the greatest honour (and biggest shock) was receiving the small white “Pronounced” ribbon, given to the team whose work in all four search areas has most impressed the judges. “I did my dog justice that day,” Kathleen recalls proudly.

Nose work has brought these two best friends even closer. “I’ve never communicated as deeply and effectively with a dog as I have with Miah, and it’s a two-way street. I watch her behaviour change when she’s located a target odour and I let the judges know. When she’s frustrated, she communicates that to me as well, and it’s my job to help her. Then, once she’s found everything that needs finding, I reward and praise her to show just how much I appreciate all HER hard work and effort.”

“As we continue our daily training for future competitions, I learn more about her searching tactics and how to help her more effectively. Although I’ve loved this marvelous dog from day one, because of our work together, I have a much deeper respect for her as a dog. Miah may be a rescue, but she isn’t ‘broken’. She’s perfect.”

10380908_10101104918935601_1566730323563894892_nFor a girl seeking balance, Kathleen soon found herself with even more commitments! She started volunteering with HugABull shortly after Miah came into her life. She began by writing adoptable dog bios, then joined the Fundraising and BSL committees, and subsequently became our Fundraising Coordinator. Earlier this year, she was voted onto the Board of Directors.

We believe Kathleen and Miah make excellent ambassadors both for the breed and for responsible ownership. Who could ask for a better team to better represent HugABull and all that we stand for?

Article by Nomi Berger


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

The Truth about Puppies

IMG_2726 (1)

Awww Mom! Can We Keep Him?

Puppies. They’re ADORABLE. Everyone loves them, right? But what everyone doesn’t realize is just how much work they can be. Warmer seasons always bring more into rescue, that usually means more teenaged dogs in the shelter systems in 6-12 months. It’s important to keep the commitment in mind as you’re cuddling that adorable little ball of fuzz with the wickedly awful, but somehow incredibly irresistible breath.

finn1. Puppies are like babies, and the saying “I slept like a baby” is a bold-faced lie.

Most responsible breeders send their pups home around 8 to 10 weeks old (other, less responsible breeders send them much younger, sadly). If you think about a human baby at this same age, they’re typically sleeping just a few short hours at a time… and puppies are no different. They’re hungry, they’re restless and bored, they’ve had an accident in their crate… they’re awake. Being prepared to sleep on the couch, and being up every 2-3 hours for potty and play breaks isn’t something most people consider.

2. And then there’s the whole housetraining thing…

2. We’ll get into overall training in just a moment – let’s first talk about those accidents in the crate. And on the dining room floor. And on the carpet in the office. And… and… and… it’s everywhere! Puppies, like babies, have tiny little bladders that don’t hold much, and need to be relieved often; however unlike babies, they don’t wear diapers, so when they let go wherever they are, it means a mess to clean up. One of the first (and most important) training jobs you’ll have with your new bundle of joy is housetraining – some people are great at it, some struggle. This is one of the top reasons family pets are surrendered, so it needs to be a top priority… and it’s not easy to master for us, or our four-legged friends.

Greta3. “Training? But she’s so cute, I can’t start training her yet!”

This is an actual quote from an acquaintance, in reference to a 10-week old puppy they’d adopted who was quickly developing some bad habits. Training and socialization can be a lot of fun when approached properly, but are also an incredible amount of work. Learning to walk nicely on a leash, master basic obedience commands, and interact appropriately with others (regardless of species) will take time and patience, but will make life with your dog about a million times more bearable. Training should start day 1 when your fuzzy little friend comes home, and needs to be a part of everything your puppy does. Consistency is key too, so pick whatever method works best for you and your family, and stick to it.

11156321_933093826712339_6585067225452846561_n (1)4. Little exploding bombs of destruction

So you’ve decided you can handle the lack of sleep and all the work the training and socializing will take, and puppy is coming home. You’ve got TONS of toys: chewies, squeekies, stuffies, ropies… but that puppy doesn’t even care! She wants your shoes, your coffee table, your houseplants and your favorite purse. Puppies are destructors, and you have to be willing to sacrifice any and everything in your home, happily.

white puppy sleepingWhen that sweet little stinker nuzzles into the crook of your neck and falls asleep, just remember that it won’t always be like this. Try to picture the other side of the coin, when you’ve been up all night, you’ve got puppy poop stuck in your hair, your favorite handbag is covered in tiny teethmarks and you’ve got pee stains on your socks. It gets better, but know that it’s a big job and commitment right from the start. Far too many puppies are surrendered into the shelter system because we, as humans, have failed them, and we owe their sweet little faces better.

jroc couch As a last note, remember that – just like with people – certain behavioural traits can always bubble to the surface as puppies reach their version of teenage years. Think of the wonderful, calm puppy who starts to develop a very strong prey drive as she nears a year old; many times, these are personality traits that are inherent to a dog’s wiring. It’s nature AND nurture that makes the final product. For this reason, if you’re looking for a new addition to your family, it might be best to investigate a mature dog, who has been through screening and assessment, and won’t have any surprises down the road.

By Leigh Oxley, HugABull volunteer and past foster mom to Bruno, one of the cuties pictured above.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Gator’s “Bucket List”

"Gator's First Swim"

Foster homes are meant as temporary places of refuge until our dogs find permanent homes. When a family decides to keep the dog in their care, we lovingly refer to it as a “foster fail”. But in Gator’s case, it’s hard to know what to call it. His foster home has become his forever home, for reasons both heartbreaking and uplifting.

gator snuggleWhen Tara welcomed 10-year-old Gator into her home in February, he had spent his life neglected and chained in a yard. Yet in true bully fashion, this beauty with the rakish black eye patch and open grin was a joyful, tail-wagging example of this most forgiving breed.

But soon Gator was at the vet’s office after Tara spotted two worrisome black moles. Sadly, x-rays revealed a mass in his abdomen, while an ultrasound showed it was attached to his spleen. Surgery was not a good option for him given his age, the risks of surgery and metastatis, and the long and painful recovery that would result.

gator cakeHis prognosis? Months, weeks or days. “Knowing this,” Tara says, “I came up with the idea of a bucket list. “

Why? “Because there was so much Gator had never experienced, so much living to do before the inevitable end. It just didn’t seem fair! I wanted him to enjoy whatever time remained, to know how much he’s been loved, and how worthy he was of having everything a dog should have.”

The bucket list

gator cone1) Have a play date with best fur friends, Rolley and Maisy.
2) Get spoiled at Three Dog Bakery. 
3) Have a birthday party with cake, presents and a piñata.
4) Chew apart some stuffies.
5) Play in the ocean
6) Take a doggie road trip.
7) Eat a steak dinner.
8) Have a pizza party.
9) Take a family photo.
10) Hike at White Pine and Buntzen.
gator river swim11) Chew a Grade-A antler.
12) Chew a yak cheese stick.
13) Have a “pup cone” at Rocky Point Park.
14) Devour a home-baked cake.
15) Go for a swim with the awesome folks at Waterworkz Paw Spa
16) Eat a cheeseburger. 

“Gator’s the perfect example of living in the moment,” explains Tara. “It’s so rewarding to see his wagging tail and warm, wide smile, and my son and I are so grateful to be sharing this adventure with him. He’s so full of life and love. He doesn’t know he’s old and that he has cancer. He runs and plays like a puppy, and adores belly rubs and snuggles.

"Gator's First Swim"“His favourite place to snuggle is in my bed with his head on the pillow – I think he thinks he’s a person. Despite his impossibly difficult life, he’s as sweet as can be, and people are always stunned that a dog with such a brutal past can be this loving.

“Gator was meant to be ours to love and foster until he found his forever home. But now, we’re his forever home, and my son and I wouldn’t have it any other way. As we smother him with kisses and hugs, we take comfort in the fact that our precious Gator will know only love for the rest of his life.”

Article by Nomi Berger.

"Gator's First Swim"

waterworkzSpecial thanks to Waterworkz Paw Spa for donating their exceptional services to Gator and his family. 





Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Putting the FUN in fundraising

We cannot overstate the importance of all our volunteers, foster homes, and donors. Rescue is labour-intensive and expensive – we spend tens of thousands of dollars on vet bills alone, and that is with significant discounts and subsidies. So when our community members come forward with creative ways to gain financial support, we are thrilled and grateful.

Here is a roundup of a few current campaigns that are ongoing and offer creative ways to support the work we do:

10922561_1575982762618677_2314723720472394558_nKnits for Pits
JoAnna is a committed pit bull advocate and loving guardian to her own sweet pittie gal, Chia. She loves making fun and functional scarves (for humans!) and started a “Knits for Pits” project on Etsy, where $10 from each sale is donated to our foster dogs.

Check out Knits for Pits on Etsy or Facebook and do a little shopping! It may be spring but you never know when a cloudy day may call for a stylish scarf for a cause.

Every BarkBox delivery is like Christmas morning for your canine. This service sends a box of high-quality treats, toys, and goodies to your home. If you use the HugABull promo code of

Follow this link  or use the promo code HUG2BBX1 to receive 10% off your subscription while HugABull receives a $15 donation…and your own pup feels very lucky!

Shop for a cause! UKUSCAdoggie is a local company that specializes in high quality supplies and accessories for dogs and cats. They are currently offering a $10 discount for purchases over $70 (before taxes) and 10% of your order will come to HugABull when you use the promo code above.

Shipping is free and they will hand deliver to orders within the Greater Vancouver area. Check out their website and use the promo code ADOPT ME. Be sure to indicate in your order that you wish to support HugABull, as it will otherwise default to another rescue!

Dogsafe First Aid Course
DOGSAFE CPR_-_FUll2_blogMichelle of Dogsafe First Aid is a long-time supporter of HugABull, and about once a year she donates her time to offer a canine first aid course as a fundraiser for HugABull. These courses provide important, easy-to-understand information that may help you save the life of a pooch you care about. At the same time, a portion of your registration fee will help save the life of a shelter dog. How great is that?

The session will be held on Sunday, May 3 at Dizine Canine Training Centre. For more information or to register, contact

Interested in starting your own project or campaign? Email with questions or to start brainstorming. We are always happy to collaborate on fundraising projects and help however we can. Some ideas:

- Organize an event. It can be as simple as a birthday party where cash or supply donations are collected in lieu of presents, or something public like a car wash, bottle drive, pub night, barbeque…the possibilities are endless and lots of fun.

- Have something you can sell? Whether you have an established business or wish to put your baking or DIY skills to work, this can be a fun way to collect donations and inspire people to give.

And remember – we now have our charity status so anyone wishing to make a cash donation can receive a tax receipt!

Thank you to Knits for Pits, BarkBox, UKUSCAdoggie, and Dogsafe and the many other supporters who make our work possible. We hope you’ll enjoy these great opportunities to support HugABull while getting something fantastic in return.



Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

South Point Pet Hospital provides care and compassion for all breeds

jake for web

Jake, from the 2010 seizure

Surrey’s South Point Pet Hospital has treated thousands of animals over the years, but some who have impacted the staff most, and elicited the most conversations among their other clients, have been HugABull’s foster dogs.

HugABull connected with South Point in the summer of 2010, after an SPCA cruelty seizure of over two dozen dogs, mainly pit bulls. HugABull worked with the Surrey SPCA and other rescues to assess, triage, and find foster care for all of these dogs within mere hours.

South Point volunteered to care for several of these dogs, and we had such a great experience working with them that we brought in more foster dogs…then still more…and soon they were our go-to vet! The veterinarians at South Point provide excellent care, and are flexible and accommodating to the needs of rescue, where all kinds of health problems arise and not always on a schedule that is convenient for everyone.

blog moxie

Sweet Pea, treated for mange

This group of professionals comes through for us every time, because they share our commitment to rescue work and to this breed. “We value the work that HugABull does and their dedication to helping and creating breed ambassadors,” says Manager Cathy. “In the last five years, we’ve seen over 100 HugABull dogs, and they’ve all been complete sweethearts!”

Cathy and her team have become breed ambassadors in turn. “We sometimes receive questions or comments from our other clients, telling us they are nervous of pit bulls or feel we are ‘brave’ for going up to greet them.  “For our part, we do our best to explain that the dogs aren’t born mean or aggressive, and that it’s bad owners, not bad dogs! Any breed can be aggressive; any breed can be sweet. These traits are not ingrained in any one breed.”

Pancake, now re-named Tia

And as we all know, education works. Some clients who have interacted with HugABull dogs or witness the staff with them start to understand that, all these dogs really want is attention. “We have even had some of our clients adopt them.  How life affirming is that?” says Cathy.

Although over 100 fantastic HugABull dogs come through South Point’s doors, a few of them have made a particularly strong impression. Pancake was scheduled for a routine spay but the South Point vet quickly discovered that she had a prolapsed rectum and suffered from giardia. Pancake responded well to treatment, and was successfully spayed and adopted. She is doing great in her new home and seems to have made a full recovery physically.

Sasha sweater_opt


A very sad and uncomfortable Sasha came in with dry and inflamed skin, suffering from mange and a severe flea allergy. She’d been found all alone as a stray, at just seven weeks when she should have been with her momma and littermates. With a high-quality diet and meds she made a slow but sure recovery and now has a wonderful forever home and a shiny, glossy coat!



Gracie not only had complications from a spay that required a blood transfusion, but she also had an undiagnosed nerve problem in a back leg that caused her to drag it. This not only affected her movement but caused painful sores on her foot. After treating her wounds and providing acupuncture and other treatments, her mobility and quality of life was greatly improved.  She now has a fantastic family that adores her and is happy to order braces and footwear that provide her with a great quality of life.

South Point has provided us with so much subsidized and donated vet care over the years – if we added it up it would be an impressive five-figure sum.  And what’s more, they even help us with additional fundraising! They sell our fundraising calendars, while also collecting food and supply donations for us and making us the recipient of fundraising events.


Georgia, getting cuddles and vet care

This helps us immensely, as vet bills are by far our biggest expense. By helping us maximize our resources, we can spread donations further and ultimately help more dogs. They have saved lives in so many ways.

Thank you to Cathy, Dr. Grubac and everyone else who have provided veterinary care and TLC over the last five years. We are so proud and fortunate to partner with you!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Remembering Bronte

bronte luv u

Last night, 13-year-old Bronte was laid to rest following a six-month palliative cancer treatment. We are taking time to grieve his loss, but also to celebrate his life and the many contributions this busy little 50 pound boy made to the world.

cave bedIn many ways he was your typical family pet – he loved to sleep under the covers on the bed; he would grunt to go outside when he sensed there were sunbeams on the deck; he’d get so excited by a bully stick that he couldn’t contain himself long enough to eat it, burying them in the couch cushions for Lauren to discover later.

But in other ways, Bronte’s story stands out because he was extremely lucky to enjoy these creature comforts in the later part of his life – luckier even than your average rescue dog. Bronte came to us as a “dangerous dog”. He was impounded at a city shelter because he had been in several dog fights. His first owner, probably without realizing it, set him up to fail by taking him to the dog park and allowing bronte happyscraps to happen. Bronte was given up by that owner and labelled with a designation, which would normally mean immediate euthanasia. Rescues are usually unable to help with these dogs for liability reasons or because they don’t have suitable foster homes to handle the restrictions.

But Bronte has always been amazing with people and had a ton of great qualities, which didn’t go unnoticed by shelter staff. In his temperament assessments, trainers noted that he was selective with his dog friends and willing to stand up for himself if challenged by another dog, but they also felt strongly that he would do well in the right home. We happened to have a suitable foster space with Shelagh, a new volunteer at the time, and we offered to take him into our program.

rex and bronteBronte did extremely well with us, and even made friends with the other dogs in the home. He was adopted to a great family, but unfortunately they faced some serious health problems within the first year and didn’t have time for the training and exercise he needed. He bounced back and came to Lauren, a recent adopter who expressed interest in foster care. She agreed to take him temporarily on a “crate and rotate” basis with her resident male dog, Rex. That arrangement lasted only a few days and a “bromance” quickly grew between them. We all remember photos of Rex and Bronte sharing a dog bed, their limbs intertwined.

Unfortunately, Rex developed neurological problems and passed away several months into Bronte’s foster period. Lauren and her partner at the time, Luke, didn’t want to lose another animal and thought that giving Bronte a good home was a wonderful way to honour Rex. All three of them were pretty happy with the decision to give Bronte a forever home.

bronte Nov 30It was a great fit, because Lauren had a strong background in training and behaviour management. She and Bronte attended obedience classes, reactive dog classes, and Rally-O, where Bronte thrived – he was a dog born to challenge himself not only physically but by engaging his considerable intelligence. In 2009 Lauren and Bronte took the Canine Good Neighbour (CGN) evaluation and the audience waited breathlessly while they went through the various steps – including passing a strange dog without any reaction.  Their years of training paid off and when the evaluator announced that Bronte had passed, the observers applauded and Lauren and Shelagh may have shed a tear or two. It was a moment not many of us will forget. It showed just how far Bronte had come over the years. From bearer of a “dangerous dog” label to certified “canine good neighbour”!apbt clubThat doesn’t mean he was perfect or never again barked at another dog giving him a stare-down. And that’s okay. You don’t need to be perfect to be a great dog or a great owner. You just have to keep trying. And keep learning. And most of all, you have to be willing to acknowledge where you are in your training and to do what it takes to keep everyone safe and comfortable. That’s what Lauren and Bronte did together, every day.

We all have a special spot in our heart for this athletic blonde with the prancing walk and lolling tongue. First and foremost he was just a very cool dog, but he also reminded us to look beyond labels. While we take any aggression seriously, it doesn’t define an animal – it defines a behaviour. And in the right hands, with the right level of commitment, sometimes those behaviours can be extremely manageable.

bronte and kidDespite being on a leash or long line for most of his excursions, I don’t think that any of us would question whether Bronte had a good life. He had a great life. One that was well worth saving, and well worth remembering today. We are privileged to have been a part of it.

Rest in peace little guy.

bronte sun

Bronte, CGN, 2002 – 2015


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Kim – A Woman Who Wears Many Hats


Kim Rose knows how to have her cake and eat it too…well, providing that cake is a dog friendly one!

Although she was raised in a multi-dog household, Kim never knew what a pit bull was until a bully breed puppy entered her life and quickly became her soul mate. Her name was Flex, and she motivated Kim to become the most responsible dog owner she could be.

“Sadly, I was often faced with the unwarranted stigma attached to the bully breed in general and my dog in particular,” explains Kim, “and I found myself vigorously defending them both. When Flex passed away from cancer at the early age of 6, I was devastated. But her death galvanized me into action. I decided then that I would devote myself to helping pit bulls in any way I could.”

After discovering HugABull, she and her husband adopted Tava. But soon, adopting wasn’t enough for Kim. She wanted to do more. “Fostering fell into my lap,” she says, “with Tava playing ‘dogmother’ to all of the other HugABull dogs we’ve welcomed over the years, starting with Honey in 2010. Fostering is easy for us. Not only do we enjoy bringing these dogs into our home, but they fit perfectly into our active, outdoors lifestyle.”

Jack 2Raising her two boys, aged 4 and 2, around dogs, Kim is teaching them how to respect a dog’s space and how to care for them. The result is that her sons are actively involved in such “age appropriate tasks” as feeding, brushing, and training. But, for her, one of the most gratifying aspects of fostering is when they are out in the community and someone stops to ask the boys about their dogs. “These are foster dogs who were rescued and need families,” they eagerly explain. “We’re looking after them until they find their families.”

In addition to caring for her human and canine “kids”, Kim also does home checks with potential fosters and adopters, and transports dogs on Vancouver Island. AND she works as a full time nurse and part time photographer. Are you breathless yet? She modestly admits that balancing everything is “BUSY” but rewarding. She has volunteered many hours photographing our various events, including taking Santa photos and doggy portraits for our annual calendar, and even hosting a HugABull photo fundraiser in her hometown.

399818_353175218047316_700723979_nA vocal advocate for the bully breed, Kim ignores the occasional “crazy dog lady” comment and focuses on the positive reactions that she, her dogs, and her fostering elicit. “People are interested in what I do and why I do it, often saying they could never foster. That’s when I encourage them to visit our house, to meet and interact with our dogs, and to watch them playing with our two boys. I urge them to see for themselves why these extraordinary dogs are often called ‘nanny dogs’.

This is why I got involved,” Kim concludes. “To change people’s minds, one person at a time.”

Written by Nomi Berger


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Open Letter to the Editorial Board of 24 Hours

Sent by email January 13, 2015

When you provided column space to Bill Tielemen last week to post gory statistics and stories in an attempt to argue for a pit bull ban, most breed advocates did not, in fact, send him emails laced with the F-bomb.

Most of us rolled our eyes and ignored him. Because this type of hysteria has been a mainstay of news reporting for 30 years and it’s far from new. The vitriol hurts, but it’s also self-evidently wrong to anyone who has been around dogs, has a shred of knowledge about dog behavior, or who has spent a few minutes doing honest research.

I’m not writing to “defend the breed” or to run through the common-sense arguments against this kind of hysteria. I could talk about the breed standard or temperament testing statistics. Or post any one of dozens of peer-reviewed articles about the predictive factors in dog aggression (hint: it’s never breed). I could give you background on the characters behind Dogs Bite Dot Org (the data source quoted by Tieleman) their research methodologies, and their general level of credibility.

I’m not going to go into that, because all of it is easily accessible to anyone who wants balanced information. There are also countless local experts on animal control and dog behavior in BC who could have been consulted on this matter and provided a thoughtful Op-Ed. Instead, we have fire and brimstone and opinion polls I can only consider “clickbait” – and clearly it worked, because Tieleman was given the opportunity for another go-round.

Every indication is that public perception of “pit bull” breeds is changing for the better. They are one of the most popular breeds in most urban centres, including Vancouver. They are owned by celebrities. Breed banning is becoming a thing of the past, with jurisdictions overturning these laws every year. In fact, 19 American states now have legislation making breed discrimination illegal. Do you know why? Because when you take the time for a sensible, evidence-based review, the rationale for breed discrimination falls apart.

Maybe one day 24 Hours, the media as a whole, or Mr. Tielemen will decide to live on the right side of history when it comes to this issue. I hope so. Until then, my readership and clicks and social media shares go elsewhere.


April Fahr
Executive Director
HugABull Advocacy & Rescue Society


Blog readers – did you miss the articles in question? Please don’t bother looking them up. This only feeds the phenomenon whereby sensationalized reporting draws valuable clicks and readership. For more information on this, read our previous blog post on Clickbait.

If it helps to have background on these articles, here’s a summary. Bill Tielemen’s first Op-Ed was published on January 5 and titled “Time to ban pit bulls in B.C.” It begins with a laundry list of attacks by alleged “pit bulls” followed by paragraphs of statistics from Dogs Bite Dot Org. (For background on this group, read this post by KC Dog Blog). Tielemen’s article was posted online along with a public opinion poll on banning “pit bull” breeds.

The second article was published on January 12, and began with a dramatic quote from another Op-Ed writer in the US likening the “pit bull” category of dog to “…a loaded gun with the safety off on the coffee table.” Tienemen then described insulting emails he received following the article, as well as the vast number of shares and online poll votes that ensued. He listed, very dramatically, a few more alleged “pit bull” attacks that occurred recently in the US before proclaiming that pit bull advocates were in denial and reiterating his support for a ban.


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

7 Things You Don’t Know About Kittens That Will Make You Shake With Fear

By Leigh Oxley, HugABull Volunteer and Online Marketing Professional

I have good and bad news for you.

The good:  there really isn’t anything about kittens that will make you shake with fear, unless you have a severe case of ailurophobia.

The bad: you just fell for the oldest trick in the book.

This blog post has absolutely nothing to do with kittens (I’m sorry!), but it will get lots of traffic and views – possibly more than many of our other posts. You might be wondering how I can say that with any level of confidence, while I’m still writing the first 100 words… well, it’s all about marketing.

For the last 8+ years, I’ve been working in the digital marketing industry. I spend my days talking to marketers and marketing leaders about what drives their business, what generates revenue, and how they measure success. For today’s “modern marketer”, more traffic and page views means more success; they’ve all got the same business objectives: to increase reach while decreasing resources (time, money, effort, etc.). They need to get their message in front of as many people as possible in order for it to be effective.

Enter the concept of clickbait.

Clickbait is an attention-grabbing, emotion-inciting piece of content that helps to drive traffic to a particular web page, aimed to drive online advertising revenue. By using a sensationalistic line of text or imagery to encourage visitors to click a link, businesses can drive more site traffic; when there’s more traffic to a page, more can be charged for online ad space.

Think of television commericals as an example. National networks charge considerably more for commercials aired during Superbowl, compared to commercials which run during regular day-to-day shows. In 2011, a 30-second Superbowl spot cost $3.5 million on average, while the same commercial during the weekly American Idol airing that year ran about $450,000. To have your commercial run during Superbowl, when hundreds of millions of people will see it is more valuable than airing it during American Idol, which has only 20-30 million viewers per week.

GameDog Guardian - Pitbull story

Photo credit: GameDog Guardian –

Alright – marketing, clickbait, Superbowl… I thought I came to the HugABull blog to read about kittens?! So how does this all tie back to the dogs, which is why we’re all really here? Well, let’s start by replacing kittens with “pitbulls”. There’s a sad but true editorial cartoon from GameDog Guardian that highlights the issue at hand, and it’s very much like Superbowl commercials. The words “pit” and “bull” together in a media post grab attention and incite emotion – it’s textbook clickbait. So when an online media organization needs to drive more traffic to their site, they want to increase readership and charge more for ad space, they need to run stories that get attention. Pitbull stories do just that.

So what do we recommend? Ignore it. As tempting as it is to click through, comment, share, and vote on polls, it only hurts the cause overall, because it shows the media sites that pit bull stories really do work, they really do generate more visitors, and you can make more money if you keep running them. If we stop feeding the beast, it will look elsewhere. Remember when you were a kid, and your mom gave you some sage advice about the schoolyard bully? “Just ignore him and he’ll go away – he’s just looking for attention.”

Bored? Check out this fun clickbait generator to see how it works.

Also, because we feel bad for our foray into yellow journalism, here are some kittens to look at.

Kittens with stars and bubbles

Photo credit: Microsoft Office

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off