For more than 20 years, the television station WRAL in Raleigh, North Carolina has produced a segment called “Pet of the Day.” It’s a brief introduction to a local rescue dog or cat who is looking for a place to call home. The show has been involved in hundreds of pet adoptions. It’s a win/win, feel good situation, right? Well, not for every dog. It wasn’t for Dallas the Pit Bull Terrier mix last week. The station refused to let Dallas or his rescue, Cause for Paws, participate in the segment, citing an “unwritten rule” which excludes Pit Bull-type dogs from taking part in the program.
The Cause for Paws organization has been participating in WRAL’s program since September of last year. Once or twice a month they bring one of their adoptable animals to the station for his or her turn in the spotlight. This is the first time that there has ever been an issue with one of the dogs they have highlighted, although at least two of their previous dogs were Pit Bull mixes, a fact they didn’t try to hide. In fact, Nicole Horabik, a Cause for Paws program director, told me that she referred to one of the dogs as an “itty bitty Pittie” several times during their segment.
A brief scroll through the station’s previous Pet of the Day stars revealed several dogs that would fit the label of pit bull, including Morris who was introduced as an AmStaff terrier mix. So it’s hard to understand what was different this time. According to Horabik, Dallas is just bigger and “looks more Pit than the others.”
Dallas is a goofy, good-looking blue brindle Pit Bull mix who is about two years old. He was surrendered by his owners to a local shelter, where he caught the eye of one of the foster parents for the rescue Cause for Paws. Dallas was heartworm positive and had a cough when he was pulled in November of last year. The rescue group treated his medical issues and worked with him to make sure he would be successful in whatever home he was adopted into.
Cause for Paws is a totally foster-based rescue which has about 25 dogs in care at any time. Last year they adopted out 160 dogs. This year they are set to double that number. Horabik told me that the group only takes on dogs they feel can be successfully integrated into homes. According to their website, Cause for Paws of North Carolina is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to protecting, nurturing, and finding homes for unwanted or displaced dogs and cats.
Rather than tuck tail and slink away, the organization has decided to use this incident as a teaching moment, and to convince WRAL to over-turn the discriminatory policy in favor of a more general aggressive dog policy. Representatives of the rescue met with the General Manager at the station on Friday, and although the conversation was civilized, the station GM indicated that the policy will stand. Cause for Paws representatives were just as adamant that they will not participate in the station’s Pet of the Day segment until the policy is changed.
Dallas has become something of a local celebrity. He quickly became the face of breed discrimination in the Raleigh area. This morning he was featured on the television show My Caroline Talk. Horabik said that Dallas was a great representative for the breed during the taping of the segment. One of the best outcomes of the media storm is that Cause for Paws has received several applications to adopt Dallas. No matter what the outcome of the WRAL controversy, Dallas will be going home.
If you would like to help make a difference for North Carolina dogs, especially those who look like Dallas, you can join his Facebook page, For the Love of Dallas, sign his on-line petition (which is being hand-delivered to the WRAL station periodically), donate to the rescue Cause for Paws, or make plans to join a peaceful demonstration next Saturday, March 12th at 1:00 PM EST at the WRAL station: 2619 Western Blvd, Raleigh, North Carolina. If you do plan to attend – please, no dogs.
Featured image via Cause For Paws