Monthly Archives: October 2012

Firefighter Rescues Pit Bulls

Southern NH news photographer

About 3 weeks ago I came home from photographing these dogs and told my husband that I have a new boyfriend. His name is Bryce and he’s 5. He’s the darker and slightly smaller of the 2 males.

Here is the article and images as they appeared in the paper. It is reprinted here with permission from The Windham Independent News. Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.

Firefighter CJ Lundergan Rescues Pit Bull Dogs
It’s a dog’s life at Windham firefighter CJ Lundergan and his wife Colleen’s house. In fact it’s a three dog, three cat and two turtle life and they all get along beautifully with each other and with their humans. Four year old Holley doesn’t look how one would typically think a pit bull is supposed to look. She just looks like a dog. While unsure of the father’s breed(s), Holley’s maternal heritage is 100% pit bull. The couple adopted Holley as a baby and thus began a love affair with pit bulls. Byron joined the family a year later also as a baby from an unexpected litter.

Five year old Bryce was rescued last year by a Manchester police officer attending to an unrelated matter who notified animal control when he spotted the dog. He was missing 80% of his body hair due to long-term untreated mange and he had severe food allergies.

His owner agreed to surrender the dog if he was not prosecuted. This arrangement is not uncommon depending on the severity of the abuse or neglect. Bryce recovered at the Manchester Animal Shelter under veterinary care for a month before the doctor released him to be fostered by CJ and Colleen. He has proven himself to be a wonderful addition to their home so when he was healed and ready for adoption, the couple decided to adopt him.

The term pit bull is one of the most controversial domestic animal topics. Contrary to popular belief a pit bull is not a breed but a label given to American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers and dogs mixed with those breeds. A Google™ search for “pit bull” produces first page results ranging from “Pitbulls are murderers, aggressive killing machine” to “Hero Pit Bull Dog Saves Woman From Being Hit By A Train”. Google™ image search results are varied as well ranging from pit bull portraits and candids of happy dogs and their people to horrifying images of the dogs tortured by humans and images of people wounded by dogs.

Any dog is capable of being aggressive and will bite if provoked. A poorly trained and socialized pit bull does have a tendency to be aggressive towards other dogs but socialization eliminates the trait.

Dog aggression and bite statistics are as varied as opinions about pit bulls. Many are contradictory, further fueling the controversy. Statistically the pit bull has reportedly been the top offender for fatal bites in the United States from 1979 and 1998 causing 76 human deaths compared to 44 Rottweiler attributed deaths and 27 deaths caused by German Shepherds. The CDC report, published September 15th, 2000, is based in part on eyewitness breed identification.

Historically the pit bull is one of the least aggressive towards humans. The American Temperament Test Society tests behaviors and reactions exhibited by dogs of all breeds. Their statistics show the American Pit Bull Terrier has a pass rate of 86.8%. American Staffordshire’s pass rate is 84.2%, both a similar pass rate than a Golden Retriever at 85.2%, long known as a safe family dog. Conversely a Bearded Collie passes only 54.3% of the time, and a Chihuahua has a 68.3% pass rate.

The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics reports the German Shepherd and Doberman as the primary biting breeds by a large margin, “Bites from German shepherds and Dobermans accounted for 37% of all dog bites despite that these breeds account for only 13.1% of the dog population. The relative risk for a dog attack by a German shepherd or a Doberman was ~5 times higher than that of a Labrador/ retriever or cross-breed.”

Many blame the media for perpetuating negative pit bull fallacies through provocative sound bites and over-reporting incidents with the term pit bull in it. Whoever is to blame is irrelevant to the pit bulls, the most misunderstood and mistreated group of canines in recent history.

If they are fortunate enough to not be euthanized immediately, the majority of them languish in shelters for months, some for years. According to Petfinder, the largest database of adoptable animals in the country, “In one out of four shelters, pits and pit mixes make up more than 20 percent of their shelter dog population.”

There are currently 22 dogs at the Manchester Animal Shelter, 16 of which are pit bulls. The MSPCA’s Nevin’s Farm in Methuen currently shows 25 adoptable dogs, 11 of which are pit bulls.

Shelters across the country struggle to find pit bulls their forever homes, in part due to public perception. Potential dog parents willing to adopt find it challenging to do so, compounding the problem. In some towns, cities and counties pit bulls and pit bull mixes have been outlawed altogether. This is part of what is called Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). Many insurance companies across the country refuse to issue homeowner’s insurance to those owning a pit bull.

The plight of pit bulls has received national and international attention through outreach and rescue programs as well as popular reality television shows. Animal Planet’s Pit Bulls & Parolees documents the lives of pit bull rescuers and trainers, many of whom are parolees, as they rescue abused and abandoned dogs. Pit Boss, also on Animal Planet, shows the lives of little people and their talent agency as they rescue pit bulls and raise community awareness. Perhaps the best known show featuring pit bulls is National Geographic’s Dog Whisperer which follows Cesar Millan as he helps people be more effective dog owners. Cesar’s own pit bull Daddy was a frequent guest on the show as he helped rehabilitate troubled dogs until his passing in 2010. His role was filled with Junior, a younger pit bull adopted by the legendary dog trainer.

Despite all the controversy those who love pit bulls really, really love pit bulls. Pit bulls are fantastic family pets when properly trained and socialized. They are intelligent, loyal, athletic, and playful. Many claim they have a great sense of humor. Current or former pit bull owners include Rachel Ray, Jon Stewart, Jamie Foxx, Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, Helen Keller, General George S. Patton, Jennifer Aniston, even Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen.

Both CJ and Colleen volunteer at the Manchester Animal Shelter. They have fostered fourteen dogs. Holley, Byron and Bryce are certified Canine Good Citizens® through the American Kennel Club. Their newest addition Bryce, having endured so much pain, may even become a therapy dog in the near future. CJ and Colleen are investigating programs related to hospital visitations and children’s reading programs.

Friends of the Manchester Animal Shelter are having a fundraiser at Margarita’s in Manchester on Wednesday, November 7th from 4-10 P.M. Margarita’s will donate 15% of your bill to the Friends of the Manchester Animal Shelter to help cats, dogs and other animals.

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Bryce, a rescued pit bull

Bryce, a rescued pit bull, in the universal happy dog pose – 1/125 @5.0 80mm ISO100

Bryon, a rescued pit bull

Bryon, a rescued pit bull – 1/160 @5.6 80mm ISO160

Dog rescuer Colleen Lundergan hugs Bryce, a rescued pit bull

Dog rescuer Colleen Lundergan hugs Bryce, a rescued pit bull – 1/160 @8.0 132mm ISO100

Two rescue dogs share water from a bottle - 1/200 @7.1 53mm ISO 100

Two rescue dogs share water from a bottle – 1/200 @7.1 53mm ISO 100

Firefighter and dog rescuer CJ Lundergan and Bryce

Firefighter and dog rescuer CJ Lundergan and Bryce – 1/160 @5.6 50mm ISO100

Holly, a rescue pit bull mix

Holly, a rescue pit bull mix – 1/200 @5.0 65mm ISO100

Bryce and Byron

Bryce and Byron – 1/200 @5.6 95mm ISO100