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.


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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

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Dave and Delilah – Dynamic Duo

dave and delilah

She was a bachelor’s Valentine’s Day gift to himself and she was named for the Tom Jones ballad “Delilah.” Almost delicate in form and figure, this butterscotch beauty is as sweet as the colour of her sleek, shining coat.

Dave’s first experience with the bully breed was in 2010 when he helped a friend adopt a pit bull, and once connected to HugABull online, he found himself “hooked” on the breed. His second experience was up close and personal, when he offered to transport an adopted bully to her forever home. But the third time was the charm.

Laid off from his camp security job and searching for something meaningful to do, he agreed to foster a 4-month-old pup who had popped up in the shelter. Despite the fact that she was all angles and awkwardness, uncertain and untrained, for Dave, it was love at first sight.

delilah kissesSoon Dave was back at work with a four-legged sidekick beside him. The pair quickly became an overnight sensation when Delilah was invited into some of the places they visited for “informal pit bull puppy therapy sessions.” It was a win-win situation for everyone: Delilah was being socialized with people and they were learning about a bully’s particular brand of love.

In mid-May 2011, with potential adopters looming, Dave made the quick decision to make Delilah his. Officially. Although she was house-trained and walked well on a leash, he brought her to doggy daycare to perfect her socialization skills. Then he began fostering again.

“I felt it was my job to help to teach the dogs about family,” Dave explains. “To show them they are loved and could count on humans to protect them, while Delilah helped them to trust other dogs.” And this dream team has already fostered 14 dogs in the last 3 1⁄2 years.

calendar coverGentle and polite, Delilah is an ideal “spokesdog” for the bully breed, performing tricks, attending pet events and fundraisers, and walking in the Pride Parade, as Dave delights in “proving all the haters of the breed wrong by her example.” She is such a HugABull poster child that she was chosen to be the face of the organization’s 2015 calendar!

But, for Dave, it’s Delilah’s gentleness that makes her so special. At one particular event, a woman approached him, asking, “Did you hear about a girl being bitten by a pit bull a while ago?” As he nodded, she said, “That was my daughter. Can you help me show her that all pit bulls aren’t bad?” No sooner had he agreed than she led a shy 8-year-old over, who first asked Delilah’s name, then asked if she could pet her.

“Suddenly, Delilah turned, sat on the girl’s lap, and gave her a big kiss! Then she allowed herself to be petted, hugged and scratched while the young girl smiled the entire time. As I looked over at the group around us with tears running down my cheeks, they were tearing up too.”

“And this is why I do what I do.”

Written by Nomi Berger


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Calendar time!

calendar cover

Each year we pour our hearts into creating a calendar that shows off the beautiful bullies adopted through our program. This year’s theme was “black and white” featuring some stunning photography that captures the essence of 12 very special dogs.

Once again, this was only possible through the work of some creative geniuses who donated their talents to this project.

Ashleigh Wells Photography - Vancouver area photographer
Photography by Kimberly Rose - Vancouver Island photographer
Caitlyn Chapman Photography - Okanagan area photographer
Jiaan Co - graphic designer

Calendars are available now for the spectacular price of $20 each! We have a number of stores who are selling them on our behalf. This year we are especially excited to announce that Tisol will be carrying them in all nine of their locations in Metro Vancouver. You can also pick up a calendar at one of our upcoming events, or have one shipped to you (details below).


Tisol – Gilley
Tisol – Market Crossing
Waterworkz Paw Spa

Tisol – Langley

Tisol – Richmond 
Tisol – Richlea Square (South Richmond)

South Point Pet Hospital  
Tisol – South Surrey

Bow Wow Haus (2821 West Broadway location)
Long Live Cats and Dogs
Tisol – Main Street
Tisol – Arbutus
Tisol – Grandview

Vancouver Island

Prevost Veterinary Clinic - coming soon

Ocean Pet Supplies

Woofles Barking Boutique

Shake and Bake Tanning - coming soon

Okanagan and Interior

Twin Rivers Animal Hospital

Salmon Arm
Shushwap Vet Clinic

Old Dogs New Tricks

Healthy Spot Pet Nutrition and Supply
Pet Planet

Calendars can be ordered through our online store, or by mailing a cheque to 1730 Vernon Drive, Vancouver, BC V6A 3T8. Cost is $25 for mail-ordered calendars, which includes shipping and handling.

Questions? Email Thank you for your support of this incredible project!











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Now is the time to talk BSL in BC

NO-BSLWith BC elections just over a month away, this is an important time to speak up for better, fairer, evidence-based dog laws in BC. There are still many areas in our province that have antiquated legislation, and in some cases council members haven’t been motivated to bring their animal control policies into the year 2014. Right now, as they are seeking their votes and networking within the community, is the time to bring these issues into the public conversation.

The best thing you can do to start is to get talking. Start speaking to your neighbors and friends (and even strangers!) and help spread the word about breed-specific legislation in BC. We all know that discrimination based on looks alone is wrong, but it seems some city councils aren’t hearing that message… yet. Get in touch with your current city councillors, and their opposition, and find out their stance on BSL. Let them know your feelings, and that your vote goes to the councillor with the most level-headed perspective – not someone who refuses to listen to reason and enact responsible dog laws. Having an objective view, and focusing on education and prevention – instead  of punishing proactively based on looks – is what we want from the people running our cities.

Doggie PlaytimeRemember that even if your neighbors don’t specifically care about dog- or breed-related issues, they should care about their city councillors listening to their voice; council is meant to represent the public, and if our concerns are pushed aside and ignored, we’re not really living in a democracy at all. There are some communities in BC (like Burnaby and Richmond, for example) where councillors have openly stated they would never consider repealing BSL. If you live in one of these places, get in touch with city council, and ask if they still feel that way. Letting council know this is something that matters to their voting public helps to show that it isn’t something that will just go away, and they can’t ignore their constituents. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area that already has breed-neutral, responsible laws, contact your councillor and let them know you support them – and tell them why!

Globally, the trend is towards repealing BSL in favor of more neutral laws that promote responsible ownership and target based on behaviour, not breed. Entire countries like Italy have completely removed long-standing bans, and eighteen US states have actually put legislation in place prohibiting BSL-type laws; even the US White House administration has publically spoken out against BSL, saying it’s ineffective! Locally, New Westminster and Coquitlam have recently adopted some of the most progressive animal control bylaws in the province, after taking the time to fully review their existing laws and take public input into consideration. Let’s start helping our communities to see BSL for what it is, and start taking the steps towards responsible dog ownership.

oppose_bsl_button-1-e1276386496288Finally – the last step after all this questioning, supporting and educating is to get out and vote. Mark November 15th on your calendar, head to your local polling station, and put your voice on paper. All our hard work in trying to overturn BSL will never work if we don’t all get out and vote. Figure out which candidate is the right one for you, and show your support on election day.

Between now and then, if you’d like to learn more about breed-specific legislation in BC, please take a few minutes to check out the BSL page on our website.

Here are some BSL communities in BC, where restrictions range from muzzle and leash laws to a full ban within the city limits. If we have missed any, please email and we will add them to the list.

Metro Vancouver
West Vancouver

Northern BC
Fort Nelson
Prince George

Vancouver Island



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Featuring One Fabulous Foster Family

Gerry, Bebe, and Miss

Gerry, Bebe, and Miss

We could not do the work we do without the amazing volunteers that help us through fostering, transporting, fundraising, and so much more. This month our guest writer Nomi Berger profiles Karla and her family, who are active volunteers on Vancouver Island.

For Karla, it started with two simple words: “Come play.”

Miss and Bebe

Miss and Bebe

The event was Pits in the Park, and Karla and Erin, her husband-to-be, obligingly brought their two dogs to the park to play. “It was an awesome experience,” she recalls as if it was yesterday. “Being with other pit bull owners, people who knew what it meant to own and love them while being aware of the myths and stereotyping surrounding them.” She herself had long ago fallen in love with the breed because, as she says, “they are the most loyal, sociable, squish-able dogs I’ve ever come across.”

She soon began volunteering for HugABull at various events, then helped out with home checks, and in June 2013, she and Erin fostered their first HugABull dog. His name was Gerry, and although he came to them “raw”, by the time he was adopted six months later, he was not only well mannered and well behaved, but he also knew no end of great tricks.



Why did the couple choose to foster pit bulls? The answer is simple. “There are so many dogs in shelters who are closer to being euthanized than being adopted,” explains an impassioned Karla. “They are there through no fault of their own and they deserve better. They not only deserve to be loved, but they deserve a second chance at having a whole new life. Without enough temporary foster homes available, rescue groups like HugABull simply can’t save enough of them.”

And to Karla, nothing is better than “breaking a dog out of a shelter.” Once these dogs are safe in foster care, they are gradually able to leave the stress of shelter life behind and learn, as part of a normal, everyday environment, to become the dogs they were meant to be.



For their part, fosters act as the eyes and ears of rescue. They discover their particular dogs’ likes and dislikes, quirks and habits. They coax shy ones out of their shells, turn weaknesses into strengths, and work on preparing them for their eventual adoption.

“What’s so rewarding about fostering,” Karla explains, “is seeing how, with time and attention, patience and energy, these dogs bloom before your eyes. Letting go is hard, but seeing them leave for their forever home is truly worth it. We love the updates! It warms our hearts to see them so happy and doing so well.”

The couple has fostered three pit bulls since Gerry — one at a time – with their own two pits, Bebe and Little Miss, welcoming them easily into their home and into their space. All of them, Gerry, Teddy, Cole, and now Freedom, have been different, goofy and utterly lovable in their own ways.

“Being a part of HugABull has opened my eyes to many things,” concludes Karla. “It’s educated me. It’s changed the way I think and do things with my own dogs. But most of all, it’s allowed me to change people’s minds about pit bulls. And I LOVE that!”

Written by Nomi Berger


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Puppy coin drive

IMG_2726 (1)For those of you who have been the following the journey of Gemma’s puppies, we are happy to report that they are now thriving and in good health! Following a two-week quarantine and stellar veterinary care, Gemma and her pups made a full recovery and are now moving into foster or foster-to-adopt homes.

Do you know anyone who is thinking of breeding their dog for fun or profit? We invite you to share Gemma’s story. She had a difficult labour, which required an initial vet stay. Then two more visits because of recurring digestive issues. When the puppies were sick, four of them were rushed to the emergency clinic for overnight care and fluids. Then follow-up care and meds for all 13 dogs.

Because it was a large litter, volunteers had to supplement the puppies up to three times a day with puppy formula. Daily cleaning was required, which increased to a full decontamination once we learned that the cause of the puppies’ distress was a highly transmissible parasite.

IMG_2736Add to that the costs of food, supplies, and routine veterinary care like vaccinations and spay/neuter, and this was a very expensive project. When all is said and done this litter has cost more than $7000 to raise, and that is with significant discounts from our partner veterinarians and donated supplies.

To help with some of these costs, so that we can help more dogs, we’re holding a HugABull coin drive! It’s easy to participate. Just download the graphic below and secure it to a tin, jar, or container of your choosing. Send us a note at to let us know you are collecting our behalf. We would love to see photos as well!

Coin Drive Graphic (PDF)

puppy coin drive 2014

Once your jar is full, contact us and we will arrange for the redemption and transfer of funds. It’s easy, and it will make an impact. If everyone who follows us on Facebook donated $1 in change, we could cover all the costs and put us back in track to help more dogs in need!

For other ways to donate, visit our donation or sponsorship pages online! We now have charitable registration status, so any donation over $20 is eligible for a tax receipt.

It truly takes a village to raise these 12 cuties. Many thanks to everyone who donated, and a special thanks to the following:

To Bonnie, Deb, Lauren, Christine, Jeff, Kathleen, and Jack for their hours of puppy cuddling, feeding, wrangling and cleaning.

To Paws for Hope for the grant of $1000 towards vet care.

To Queen’s Park Vet Hospital, Animal Care Clinic and Hospital, Intercity Animal Emergency Clinic, and Cambie Animal Hospital for your incredible care.

IMG_2740 (1)

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Calendar sponsors needed!

headshot sample

Every year, we showcase 12 amazing alumni in the HugABull calendar. Working with a fabulous team of photographers, designers, and sponsors, we are proud to create a stunning piece of pittie pride every year. It also happens to be one of our most successful fundraisers!

We will be partnering with Tisol Pet Nutrition and Supply stores this year - calendars will be for sale in all their branches! We are excited to be working with a great local company that will provide us with additional exposure and sales.

For maximum fundraising impact, we are opening sponsorship opportunities to our community members. For your donation of $25 or $50, your pet’s “headshot” will be placed in the bottom section of our calendar. All proceeds from headshot sales cover our printing and shipping expenses, so that 100% of sale proceeds can benefit the dogs in our program. These donations are tax-receiptable as well!

Want to see your bullie shine with the others? Here’s how it works:

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

2. Send the photo to 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 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 Saturday, August 30 to secure your space in the calendar. We look forward to another year of gorgeous close-ups!


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Pit Bull Hero – Amazing Arlo

Guest writer Nomi Berger is interviewing and writing about some of the “pit bull heroes” in our community. Arlo is now a senior enjoying a well-earned retirement after being our go-to ambassadog for years. Sam and Arlo charmed audiences at countless events in HugABull’s early years, and we can’t count how many lives were changed for the better because of their influence. 

calendar arlo and lmo“I credit Arlo for making me the person I am today. He taught me how to train and handle dogs in a loving, gentle, positive and patient way because he is such a soft and gentle soul.”

The words are Samantha’s and Arlo is her beloved pit bull.

When Sam started her quest for the ideal dog to train for dog sports ten years ago, she never suspected that she would find the perfect match on HugABull’s website. An experienced dog owner, handler, and groomer, Sam found in Arlo everything she could have wanted. And more. Handsome, smart, and extremely sociable, Arlo was a photogenic brindle with white paws and a white tip to his constantly wagging tail.

IMG_3989It wasn’t long before this wonderful wizard of a dog learned over forty commands, perfected an entire solo act of tricks and mastered the many sports in which he competed. In fact, amazing Arlo — whose official name is Markeydas Arlo — has more initials after his name than your above-average PhD: CD CGN AGNJ RA RAMCL ADC SGDC.

And what do these impressive letters signify? The seven titles Arlo won during his successful career in competition: Companion Dog, Canine Good Neighbour, Agility Novice Jumpers, Rally-O, Rally Advanced Magna Come Laude, Agility Dog of Canada, and Starters Games Dog of Canada.

92016524As for Arlo’s achievements off the field? He set the bar even higher as an ambitious and amiable ambassa-dog. With his sweet nature, infectious smile and friendly personality, he altered the perceptions of many. He charmed people and other dogs at public events, impressing everyone with his repertoire of tricks, showing just how tender and warm, loving and loyal bullies can be. He even appeared in print, being featured twice in Modern Dog magazine and in numerous positive news stories.

According to Sam, one of Arlo’s “greatest achievements in life was being a positive role model for the eight dogs we fostered over the years.” And his reward for all of this? A well-earned retirement. “We now spoil him rotten and let him do whatever he wants,” laughs Sam, “and that usually includes delivering cookies to him in bed. It is quite the role reversal!”

And what does this retired ambassa-dog love? “Swimming, hiking, hunting, white lacrosse balls and shredding things.”

What does he hate? “Baths, bees, waking up early and rain.”

“One of his favourite quirks is grumbling at me to tell me to be quiet if I’m talking after bedtime. He has a great sense of humour, loves wearing hats and getting dressed up. He loves nothing more than a good laugh.”

Suddenly, Sam grows serious, saying softly, “Arlo is truly a ten out of ten, perfect dog. My heart dog.”

You can’t get more amazing than that.

Written by Nomi Berger


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Name a puppy, make a difference!

Marsha and puppiesIf you follow HugABull, you know that we have a soft spot for the mature and senior dogs – the ones that tend to languish and be overlooked in the shelter. American Bulldog/pittie cross Gemma was one of those dogs. An overweight stray, she wasn’t attracting much adoption interest, and was on our waiting list for almost two months as we searched for a foster home.

As she started to lose weight, though, we noticed that she retained some curves in her midsection and….could it be? Yes. An X-ray confirmed seven puppies in there. She went into labour a few days later and delivered TWELVE –  eight males and four females.

Once again we are in the position of caring for a surprise litter – and a large one at that. Gemma and her babies are resting comfortably in their foster home and our focus over the next week will be to keep them quiet, calm, and healthy. We’ve already had some adoption interest (puppies sure are popular!) but will not be reviewing applications for at least another month.

At this stage, the best way to help Gemma and her babes is:

Help Gemma find a foster home. Assuming all goes well we will need a home for her in about two months. In all the puppy frenzy, sometimes momma dog gets left behind after all she has been through. Let’s not forget about sweet Gemma, and help us find a nice place for her to land after she raises a dozen young ones.

marsha puppyHelp us name those puppies! Use the link below to make a $10 donation towards the care of this litter, and submit one male and one female name to be entered into a draw. Not only will you have a chance at naming one of these sweeties, but you’ll receive updates as they grow and become ready to seek out homes of their own!

If you prefer, we can also accept donations by cash, cheque, or email money transfer. If you are in a position to donate more than $10, this is of course gratefully accepted and can be done through our sponsorship page.

The puppy naming draw closes midnight on Friday, July 11. We will announce the names (with photos) by Sunday, July 13. So think of your cutest names and become a benefactor for a dozen new HugABulls!

Names (male + female)

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