Pit bull pals: Local man fights for pit bulls, against breed discrimination - Tucson Local Media: Marana

Pit bull pals: Local man fights for pit bulls, against breed discrimination

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Posted: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 4:00 am

Michael Santo did not grow up “a pit bull guy.” He was not a “pit bull guy” when his friend told him about dogs in trouble. He was not a “pit bull guy” when he and a friend stole dogs from someone who was fighting them.

Today, Santo is a “pit bull guy” and the founder of All-American Bully Buddies, an organization that rescues and rehabilitates dogs that fall under the pit bull category.

The goal of All-American Bully Buddies is to educate, advocate and rescue. “This we do, so they may live,” is the motto that Santo and his other volunteers go by.

Santo’s organization rescues dogs classified as pit bulls, then rehabilitates them and finds them homes. On top of that, they try to educate the public and government about the breed and advocate for the dogs, which he feels have been demonized.

“We advocate for responsible ownership of all dogs, not just pit bull type dogs,” Santo explained. “We want to match up people properly. What people do not understand is that people need to be educated with their choices and the dogs that they are getting. They have to match up with their lifestyle.”

Santo’s group is organized, having just received non-profit status. All-American Bully Buddies works closely with No-Kill Pima County, of which Santo is also a member, PACC and K9's for Wounded Warriors.

Santo used to rescue fighting dogs by taking them from those who were fighting them.

Santo and a few others formed what was essentially an underground rescue group. They would take dogs from what he describes as “low level fighters,” explaining that high level fighters were too organized and surrounded by drugs and guns.

At first Santo was not interested in taking any dogs, but a friend of his, who owned pit bulls, was intent on freeing some dogs who were being used for fighting. Santo went with him and wound up keeping one of the dogs.

“That sold me on the breed,” Santo explained. “My first dog was a former fighting champion and was monstrous on all accounts. By the time I had rehabbed him and that took about a year and a half, I could have him out in public and have him off leash, playing with dogs, playing with people, playing Frisbee or tennis ball.

“He completely changed my mind,” Santo added. “When I first got him he wanted to kill everything that moved that was not a human. By the time I got him out in public and did all the things I needed to do with him, he was a perfect dog. He was scarred from head to toe and had been fought extensively. It sold me on the breed to come from that background and become the dog that he was.”

A later rescue became the catalyst for him to become more organized and eventually for All-American Bully Buddies. The group tries to help all of the dogs that fall under the pit bull classification, which included actual American Pit Bull Terriers, Bull Terriers, Statfordshire Terriers and American Bullies.

“Pit bull is a general term for about six or seven breeds,” Santo said. “They all have short hair, muscular builds and block heads.”

What many people forget is that these dogs are in the terrier family, not unlike a Jack Russell Terrier or a Boston Terrier, except for one major thing.

“They are high-energy dogs, they have drive and focus,” Santo explained. “These are a big version of those dogs. They need obedience, need a leader. Need to expend energy both physical and mental.”

Once they rescue the dogs they begin the rehabilitation process. Sometimes this can be easy, but most times there is a lot of work to get the dogs to a place where they can socialize with other dogs and people. Not only do they have to discover the dogs’ issues and triggers, but they also have to work on normal obedience and other training. Many of the dogs become therapy dogs or service dogs.

Santo currently has two dogs of his own and is fostering two more, one of which just came into his care within the past few weeks. One of his dogs, Aristotle, came to him suffering from night terrors and had a fear of canes and crutches. Today, after a year and a half of work, he is not only a therapy dog, but one that can go into hospitals without fear or aggression.

Another aspect of the organization is the fighting of Breed Selective Legilation, or as they call it, Breed Discriminatory Legislation. Many municipalities are passing laws against pit bulls, despite evidence that the laws are cost prohibitive and do not really make the community safer. Santo explained that pit bull incidents get the headlines, but that most news outlets fail to cover dog attacks by other breeds.

“The only news stories you see are the ones with pit bulls,” Santo explained. “Negative stories get headlines.”

“The vast majority of these types of dogs are loving family members, a tiny minority that behave badly are the only dogs that ever get any press, resulting in misconceptions and misinformation being spread about to people who have never had any contact with these dogs,” added Sara Dent, an adjunct professor on animal law, who also serves on the board of several rescue organizations, including All-American Bully Buddies.

Both Santo and Dent know the secret to helping these animals is education.

“By continuing to advocate and educate people that they are just dogs, like any other dog, showing people pit bull type dogs are valued family members just like any other dog, the negative stereotypes and urban myths about these types of dogs will eventually be changed,” Dent explained.

“Getting them (dogs) out there and having them do the things they do,” Santo said of the best way to educate people. “Have people actually meet them. Just give them a chance.”

Adoption/volunteer inquiries, as well as donations, can be directed to BullyBuddyMike@gmail.com or by checking out their facebook site: www.facebook.com/abbrescue


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Welcome to the discussion.


  • BarbaraB posted at 7:52 pm on Mon, Jul 7, 2014.

    BarbaraB Posts: 2

    I apologize. I had the number incorrect in an earlier comment (I said three). Pit bulls allegedly killed 25 people in the U.S. last year. However, I got that number from dogsbite.org, a site that is pretty clear on its anti-pit bull stance. Also, I'm skeptical of the number given that so many dogs are misidentified as one of the pit bull breeds. Just wanted to clear that up. Unlike some people, I don't like to spread misinformation.

  • BarbaraB posted at 7:45 am on Sun, Jun 15, 2014.

    BarbaraB Posts: 2

    45,000 killings? Try THREE!

    BTW: Pitbulls don't have red eyes, locking jaws, or a taste for blood. They don't fly with the wings of a bat at night. They don't run red lights. They don't carry guns. They don't start cults. They don't start wars. They don't create ridiculous laws based on flimsy evidence--laws that hurt both innocent people and animals.

    I've seen pit bulls protect other dogs, protect their owners, cuddle, care for kittens like they're pups, be completely goofy, and shake during a thunderstorm out of fear. They are domestic animals for God's sake. Many people have had firsthand experience with pit bulls that is nothing but positive. That's why there are numerous advocates for the breeds of dogs listed under the pit bull category.

    The real problem is too many people using these animals for nefarious purposes and too many others adopting them without understanding the pit breeds, and too many irresponsible people letting their dogs loose or dumping them off on the streets.

  • John Flanagan posted at 11:07 am on Thu, Jun 12, 2014.

    John Flanagan Posts: 380

    Hey...Tom....going overboard, aren't you? There are already plenty of liability laws covering dog attacks on the books.....plus breed restrictions in communities. Dog licenses are difficult to enforce unless you have an army of dog wardens around the country....police are busy with crime, illegal aliens, traffic accidents, etc. but one of my objections to your idea of more laws, more government, harsh fines, is the idea of the near communist style approach you embrace. Many dogs have some Shep, Doberman, or other mixes and are not offenders, but good family pets. Your suggested legislation would go....nowhere.

  • Thomas McCartney posted at 1:32 am on Thu, Jun 12, 2014.

    Thomas McCartney Posts: 4

    Dog Attack Deaths and Maimings, U.S. & Canada, September 1982 to May.25, 2013.

    By compiling U.S. and Canadian press accounts between 1982 and 2013, Merritt Clifton, editor of Animal24-7, shows the breeds most responsible for serious injury and death.

    Study highlights

    Pit bull type dogs make up only 6% of all dogs in the USA.

    The combination of Pit Bulls, rottweilers, their close mixes and wolf hybrids and other Pit Bull Type Dogs:

    84% of attacks that induce bodily harm.

    75% of attacks to children.

    87% of attack to adults.

    72% of attacks that result in fatalities.

    80% that result in maiming

  • Thomas McCartney posted at 1:27 am on Thu, Jun 12, 2014.

    Thomas McCartney Posts: 4

    From 1930 to 1960
    when less than 1% of the dogs in the U.S. were sterilized & most
    still were allowed to run free, but far fewer than 1% were pit bulls, the U.S.
    had a grand total of 15 dog attack fatalities:

    9 by pit bulls, 2 by Dobermans, four by unidentified mutts.
    The U.S. in 1960 had 611,000 total reported dog bites.

    The numbers of bites dropped to 585,000 by 1966, then
    began a steady rise to 4.7 million plus.

    The numbers of fatalities climbed to an average of about 10 per year by
    1990, when pit bulls were about 2% of the dog population, rose steadily for the next 15 years or so, consistently reached 20-plus by the end of the 20th century, as pit bulls reached 3% of the dog population, then soared into the mid-30's post-2010.

    Pits & their close mixes are now between 5% and 6% of the dog population.

    Among survivors, pit bulls are responsible for the most serious mauling's, and any
    insurance company will tell you that they cause the highest insurance claims as
    a pit bull attack is a sustained action that is repeated until someone or something stops the pit bull.

    A bite is a one time action that doesn't need a police officer's intervention.
    Pet ownership is another issue.

    Pit bulls inflicted 99% of the total fatal attacks on other animals (43,000); 96% of the fatal attacks on other dogs (11,520); 95% of the fatal attacks on livestock (5,700) and on small mammals and poultry (16,150); and 94% of the fatal attacks on cats (11,280).

    In 2013 about one pit bull in 107 killed or seriously injured
    another animal, compared with about one dog in 50,000 of other breeds.

    Discrimination against pit bulls is not the problem.
    It is normal dogs that are discriminated against.

    Denial of the rights of (non pit bull ) pet owners to safely enjoy, and love a pet is the issue.

    Pit bull attacks on pets leave the pet owners (including children) feeling powerless, depressed, and anxious.

    Some victims experience ongoing post traumatic stress disorder from witnessing pit bull attacks on pets.

    Everyone has to make concessions and share the public space.

    When the actions of pitbulls continue to cause harm and inhibit the safe use and enjoyment of pets, and public and private property, the pit bull dog and its owners are selfishly taking away the liberties of other human beings.

  • Thomas McCartney posted at 1:26 am on Thu, Jun 12, 2014.

    Thomas McCartney Posts: 4

    My Legislation Proposal to be enacted by all states,
    cities and counties in the US & Canada.

    All dogs must be:
    Or all dangerous dogs must be:
    Or all dangerous molosser breeds, including pit bulls (American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire bull terriers, American pit bull terriers, American Bulldog, Bull mastiffs, dogo argentinos, fila brasieros, presa canarios, Japanese Tosa, cane corsos and their mixes and any dog generally recognized as a pit bull or pit bull terrier and includes a dog of mixed breed with predominant pit bull or pit bull terrier characteristics), rottweilers, chow chows, Doberman pinschers, German shepherds, must be:

    * Licensed
    * All Pit bull type dogs Micro-chipped with any bite history in database for reference.
    * Insured: All dogs must be covered by mandatory liability insurance of $100,000 min. generic and $500,000 after a skin breaking bite with insurance companies based on actuarial statistic's determining said rate.
    * Spayed/neutered (except for limited approved show dog breeders)
    * All breeds involved in any bite incident must be kenneled in a locked five-sided enclosure with concrete bottom.

    For all other dog owners language can be written that enclosure such as fences must be capable of containing your dog period, such generic language puts the onus on the owner, have the fines be so onerous that said owner will ensure this they make this so.

    1,000 the first time, double the second time and permanent confiscation the third time with a ban on said person from owning any dog within city limits, this will create an effective outcome directly or indirectly.
    * All dogs must be on leashes outside of home enclosure
    * All molosser breeds must also be muzzled outside of home enclosure

    * No transport of declared dangerous dogs for the purpose of re-homing. (Dangerous dogs must be dealt with where their history is known.)
    * All of the rules listed above also apply to rescues: rescued dogs must be licensed and subject to inspection.

    $1,000 fine for noncompliance
    Elimination of the one-bite rule in all of the 50 U.S. states
    Manslaughter charges for owner of dog that kills a human
    Felony charge for owner of dog that mauls human, dog, or other domestic animal.

  • Thomas McCartney posted at 1:26 am on Thu, Jun 12, 2014.

    Thomas McCartney Posts: 4

    What about this do Pit bull advocates not understand.???????????
    over 45,000 killings last year is NOT acceptable, get it.!!

    If 45,000 cars were killing a person or pet or livestock a piece then that car would be banned even if there were 5 million more of them that harmed no one.!!!!!

    If there were 30,000 drunk drivers involved in incidents with over 17 million not involved
    (over 1.5 million drunk drivers arrested every year in the US) as over 30,000 pit bull type dogs were involved with attacks last year, with 3,170,000 pit bull type dogs that WEREN'T involved in attacks?

    Would there still be a BAN on drunk Drivers?

    Oh wait..................Hummmmmmmmmm there is one isn't there, Ooops you be so busted.!!!

    More then 70,000 attacks by pit bull type dogs last year against people, pets and livestock of which resulted in over 45,000 deaths of Human Beings, pets, livestock etc. by over 30,000 pit bull type dogs in those attacks with the number likely double this year that Kill, Maul, Maim, Disfigure, Dismember, cause Life Flights or trips to the Intensive Care Unit.

    With a human being usually am child killed every 7 days this year, what about those numbers do you NOT understand Pit Nutters??????

  • John Flanagan posted at 8:02 pm on Wed, Jun 11, 2014.

    John Flanagan Posts: 380

    I understand that there are indeed good Pit Bulls, however, because of their reputation, some homeowner insurance policies will have a clause negating coverage if you own one, many apartments prohibit tenants from having them as pets, and many are not docile around other dogs. Many people fear them.....after all....Beagle attacks do not come anyway near Pit Bull assaults. But I have seen friendly Pit Bulls, so I guess it is a matter of good socialization and training needed to offset the natural, inherent aggressive temperament common to this breed.

  • Colleen posted at 2:19 pm on Wed, Jun 11, 2014.

    Colleen Posts: 1

    What a bunch of BS! Wish reporters would do their research before releasing a bunch of lies to the public. Shame Shame all for some fame. [thumbdown]


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