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An Unexpected Truth

In Nebraska, one shelter’s strategy for coping with breed-specific legislation saves lives

Because Omaha has a problem with dogfighting, when I started with the Nebraska Humane Society (NHS) five years ago, we had a policy not to adopt out pit bulls or pit bull mixes. Concerned for the safety of our citizens who might adopt a pit bull or pit bull mix of questionable background, and fearing that one of our dogs could end up used for fighting, we did not place any dog who looked like he might be a pit bull mix. Thus, a dog with “pitty features” would likely be euthanized.

But dogfighting decreased dramatically in our community. According to Mark Langan, our vice president of field operations, after a police-assisted 2005 investigation of an Omaha-based dogfighting operation resulted in the main player being indicted on federal drug charges, many other dogfighting participants fled Nebraska. In 2006, we began offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the bust of a dogfight in progress. While we haven’t paid it out, it’s publicized frequently, and Mark believes it’s caused a slowdown in dogfighting.

In the wake of the decrease in fighting activity, the staff of our behavior department was confident that we could evaluate individual animals’ behavior and find safe and stable dogs to offer for adoption to responsible owners. In 2007, we pulled together a task force to investigate the challenges and identify the pros and cons of adding pit bulls and pit bull mixes to our adoption program.

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