Pit bulls on parade
Walkers: The breed gets a bad rap
BY MARY WICOFF
DANVILLE — They came with painted toenails, colorful bandannas — and a friendly attitude.
These pit bulls, along with a few other breeds, paraded up North Vermilion Street with their owners Saturday morning to show that most pits don’t deserve their bad reputation.
“I have a new respect for pit bulls,” said Bob Durbin, who was on duty with the Danville Auxiliary Police and provided traffic control.
Before the walk started, a couple of skirmishes broke out — one between two pit bulls and one between two boxers. But order was soon restored, and once the walk got under way, everyone was well-behaved.
As for the pre-walk scuffles, Durbin noted that even people can’t always get together without having a spat.
Many of the participants wore shirts with the message on back: “If my dog likes you and you want him banned, how does that make him the mean one? Ban ignorant owners, not loyal breeds.”
About 20 dogs participated in the walk, which began at Vermilion and English, and continued to Winter before returning.
Megan Drake organized the walk as a protest against all pit bulls being discriminated against simply because of their breed. She wanted to show that most pit bulls are friendly, loyal family dogs.
Overall, she said afterward she was pleased with the walk, adding, “I think it went excellent.”
She brought all three of her pit bulls, along with a couple of friends to help walk them.
There was no charge to walk, but the $10 fee for a T-shirt goes to the Vermilion County Animal Shelter Foundation.
The walkers said they were participating to show their support for the breed.
“The dog gets a bad rap,” said Tim Landers of Danville. “It’s not so much the dog, as the owner (who’s to blame).”
He and his wife, Chris, and daughter, Morgan, 9, walked with their American red-nose pit bull, Earl the Girl.
The 2-year-old dog had painted pink toenails and a pink bandanna.
“She’s a sweetheart,” Chris said. “She thinks she’s a lap dog.”
The smallest walker was Toby Ann, 8, a Pekingese-Chihuahua mix, who had to be carried part of the way.
Owner Debbie Holycross of Oakwood said she supports pit bulls, and believes dogs shouldn’t be euthanized at shelters simply because of their breed.
Nancy Starkey had her two mixed-breed dogs — Kaibab, a husky/Lab mix, 4, and Crosby, a pit bull/chow/Lab mix, 3. The dogs were decked out in patriotic bandannas.
An animal lover, Starkey said she was walking to support a good cause.
James Turner of Bismarck had a spiked collar on Juda, 8, but said that’s how he dresses the pit bull for dog shows.
“People assume he’s a fighting dog, but it’s just for looks,” Turner said. The spiked collar says: “Hey, look at me. I’m big and I’m bad,” he said.
However, he said Juda, who’s deaf, is gentle.
Turner also breeds pit bulls, with one or two litters a year. He’s interested in bringing a pit-bull dog show to Danville.
The number of dogs on the walk that were not spayed or neutered — including a couple who were pregnant — drew criticism from some walkers.
Diana Bryant, president of the Vermilion County Animal Shelter Foundation, said pit-bull rescue groups are full, and the local shelters also have several pit bulls that need homes.
“We are getting more and more pit bulls in the shelters all the time,” she said. People are over-breeding pit bulls, and they’re ending up homeless and neglected.
One woman, who didn’t want her name used, said, “Some of these people are part of the (overpopulation) problem. Anybody purposefully breeding a pit bull is part of the problem.
“Why are they perpetuating this?”
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Bless the Bullys