Monday, March 9, 2009

Candlelight Vigil Held for Innocent Victims

With the last couple of weeks being very busy for us, it's been a little difficult to update the blog here as we should. For this, we do apologize. We've got a couple of things to update you all on over the next few days and I hope that we can bring you all regular updates as we learn more. This post is sort of a "two-fer" in that we want to recognize the love and support for the Faron dogs and let everyone out there know that indeed the death of these dogs was not, and will not be taken lightly nor will it be forgotten.

Candlelight Vigil Held for Innocent Victims

March 5, 2009 : 10:04 PM
Emotional remembrance a hopeful beginning for change in North Carolina

By Pam Hay, Best Friends Network Volunteer

Last night a group of animal advocates came together in Raleigh, North Carolina to attend a candlelight vigil in memory of lives lost - in this case 145 canine lives - who were killed through no fault of their own, but because of an unjust law.

Heartbreaking to all involved, the purpose of the vigil was twofold; to mourn the loss of the euthanized dogs, including approximately 70 puppies, as well as to help make sure this does not reoccur.

The event’s message was clear; change the way dogs are treated once seized from fighting operations. Give them the opportunity to be individually assessed by experienced and reputable organizations and give them the chance they deserve - the one that was denied to these innocent victims.

Laura Gonzo, a Best Friends volunteer, commended law enforcement for taking dog fighting seriously, but criticized the mandatory execution of dogs without due process, instead encouraging change in the current North Carolina law, so that future seized dogs have the right to be given the potential for a loving life.

“We are here today to send a message to our legislators that these are not monsters, but dogs that deserve our compassion; dogs that deserve to be evaluated as individuals, dogs that deserve the same chance that we would give any other dog,” noted Gonzo. “Any dog that comes into the shelter system should be held to the same set of standards and given the same opportunities. All homeless dogs, no matter where they are found or who has failed them, deserve a second chance.”

Shelia Carlisle, Best Friends volunteer and foster parent for several of the victimized animals, described how loving and playful these innocent puppies were and how her heart was torn to pieces when she had to give them up only to then be destroyed. She had recently reached out to Best Friends in an attempt to try and save the puppies she had carefully nurtured.

(click on the image to the left to view a video chronicling the vigil)

“This is a dangerous pit bull dog that must be killed,” noted Carlisle as she held a photo of Grimmy, one of the many puppies born from the seized dogs. After being fostered from near death to health, his foster mother was “told that she must bring him back to the warehouse because it was time for him to be killed.”

A bell was rung 145 times as attendees placed 145 collars on a dog bed, in memory of each canine who had crossed.

There was not a dry eye at the site, as Carlisle then sang Wayfarer Stranger by Johnny Cash with true emotion in her voice. Even one of the journalists reporting on the event noted, “This was done with dignity and was very powerful.”

This travesty of justice was the direct result of North Carolina’s antiquated laws that state all fighting dogs seized be catagorically defined as dangerous.

There are so many misconceptions about the American pit bull terrier, as well as other dogs that fall into the category of "bully breeds." The public is led to believe that fighting and viciousness are "in their blood." This is not true; these dogs are just as innocent when they are born as other breeds.

What makes dogs dangerous is not their breeding; but the people behind them.

They are not lost causes. In fact, there have been many instances that prove just the opposite. Many are capable of being socialized to become loving, loyal pets, even where there are children and other animals in the house.

Bad laws and policies regarding fighting dogs must be changed so that these dogs can be evaluated individually, not as a whole, and given a second chance at a good life.

“This vigil became an event because of the deep conviction of the volunteers,” noted Ed Fritz, Best Friends Pit Bulls Campaign Specialist. “It is the outpouring of support from people at times like this that validate my commitment to this issue.”

It is the hope and prayer of those attending that the public continues to push and give voice to the voiceless - the most unfortunate victims of dog fighting operations.

“These animals were beautiful, they were funny, they were playful, they hugged us, they wanted us to pick them up. We fell in love with them and we tried so hard to save them, and there was no way…,” Carlisle said to the crowd. “I just pray to God that this never has to keep going on and happens to other animals.”

How You Can Help:
• Do not let history repeat itself. North Carolina residents are urged to contact your state Senator and Representatives to request a redraft of North Carolina Statute NC 67-1 - 4.1 (a)(1).

• Find your state legislators here by inputting your zip code + 4 (scroll down page, right hand column).

• Insist that the following language from North Carolina Statute NC 67-1 - 4.1 (a)(1) be removed from the definition of Dangerous Dog: “Any dog owned or harbored primarily or in part for the purpose of dog fighting, or any dog trained for dog fighting.”

Please also remind your legislators that all dogs are individuals and should be evaluated as such, not grouped together by breed.

Media coverage:
Pit Bull Lovers Hope To Change State Law To Allow Dog Rehabilitation
Activists upset at dog euthanization over rehabilitation
Group hopes to save dogs from euthanasia
Group holds vigil in hopes of changing NC dog fighting laws
On the Internet, everyone helps your dog

Posted by Jennifer Hayes, Best Friends staff
Photo credit: taken by Clay Myers, Best Friends photographer