A few years ago people, started to take notice of the numbers coming out of the Stockton Animal Shelter. In 2011 the total live release rate was 28 percent. With the shelter’s intake being roughly 12,000 animals annually, that translated to over 8,600 animals euthanized each year. Thankfully, with the help of the San Francisco SPCA, the support of the city, and new management, the Stockton shelter started to turn around. In 2015, mainly due to rescues/transports, a strong medical team, and a better relationship with the public, the live release rate rose to 81 percent. That is well above the national average, and nearly three times the rate of 2011. Almost 6,500 more animals a year were making it out of the shelter.
On paper, the transformation was a success, but looking closer at the numbers and walking around the shelter, it was clear that it hadn’t been a success for all the animals. Pit bulls were falling through the cracks. Making up 24 percent of intake and nearly 40 percent of the shelter’s daily population, in 2015 the live release rate for pit bulls was only 62 percent compared to the 82 percent total dog live release rate. Factoring out the dogs returned to their owners, more than half of pit bulls were being euthanized.
Adopt-A-Bulls started in November 2016 as a way to increase the number of pit bulls being adopted at the shelter, shorten their length of stay, and to remove the barriers to adopting. Adopt-A-Bulls organized free adoption every weekend at offsite locations, and the support has been overwhelming. It became apparent that the best advocates for the dogs are the dogs themselves.
This past winter, Adopt-A-Bulls partnered with the Stockton Heat to create a Pet of the Week sponsorship and have adoptable dogs walk around the arena during hockey games. The dogs mixing with the crowd resulted in adoptions, but equally important were the fans seeing them as individuals and not as a breed that is full of misconceptions and mistruths. These interactions with the public not only help the dogs at the events, but also the pit bulls that will arrive at the shelter in the future. It puts a face to the breed, one with a big smooshy, slobbery face.
There will always be criticism about the way we do adoptions, but that dog that goes home with an 18 year old who has never had one before has a better chance now than he did at the shelter. That family that could only adopt because it was free will provide more love to the dog than a cold kennel. Not every adoption will work out, but when half of the population is being euthanized, we need to put more faith in the adopters. Every day that we hold out for the perfect nuclear family to adopt, more dogs die.
So what is the problem? Why are there so many pit bulls in shelters? Until there is a comprehensive national spay/neuter program, we will always be facing overpopulation. Adopt-A-Bulls won’t solve the pit bull “problem,” but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to level the playing field and give these dogs a chance.
Mike St. Pierre is the Adopt-A-Bulls advocate at the Stockton Animal Shelter. To learn more about the program, or to see some of the available dogs, visit Facebook.com/Stocktonadoptabulls.
Shelter Zone features a different shelter and rescue group each month. To contribute, contact Editor@BayWoof.com.
Main article photo by: Courtesy of Adopt-A-Bulls