Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Bully Workshop: What It’s All About

Several years ago, I decided I needed to do more to help pit bulls in my area. Breed specific legislation was, and still is, spreading like wildfire across the state of Iowa where I live. As a result, more and more pit bulls were landing in the shelters across the state. In addition, there are many other ‘ripple’ effects of BSL: potential adopters are scared to adopt a pit bull, landlords and management companies felt they had support to ban the breeds from their rental properties (“everyone else is doing it”), owners have trouble finding insurance for their homes, shelters become inundated with dogs that they have difficulty adopting out, etc. The cumulative effect of BSL puts owners, shelters, and of course, the dogs, in a no-win situation.

I began to plan an event I dubbed the “Bully Workshop.” I had no idea what I was doing….LOL! But, somehow I muddled my way through and organized the first workshop. I invited guest speakers to talk about different topics related to the breed. I invited several owners to bring their dogs to be examples of the breed. The first workshop covered breed characteristics, legislation, sheltering,
and demonstrations of activities owners can do with their dogs. The workshop was a success, and I resolved that I would try to offer this type of workshop once a year.

In 2006, I held the second workshop, expanding on the previous year’s topics. In the wake of Katrina, many shelter and animal care professionals became aware of just how big the pit bull overpopulation problem truly is. Rescuer Teal Alt presented on her experience assisting during Katrina. I also added a health segment, so owners and shelter staff would be more cognizant of the common health issues in the bull breeds, as well as the importance of spaying and neutering. An open forum concluded the workshop, allowing the guests to ask questions of all the presenters. This forum allowed for exchange of information in an interactive way, and has been part of the following year’s workshops. PBRC volunteers were present to provide information at their booth and to answer questions about the breed and the organization.

The 2007 Bully Workshop expanded in even bigger directions. My motto when planning this workshop, was “just ask!” I decided that in order to continue providing a quality workshop, I would need financial support, as well as volunteers. In 2007, I was able to obtain funding to support the workshop, allowing me to bring in new guest speakers, and to provide educational materials and folders for all the guests. Friends of the Animal Center Foundation and Animal Farm Foundation generously provided grants towards operating and promotion costs. Pit Bull Rescue Central provided educational materials for the guests’ folders, and also maintained an educational booth with information and merchandise. Vendor booths were added – Chelsy’s Toys and Leash On Life offered great interactive and durable toys, training materials, and treats for sale. The workshop went expanded to a 5-hour event, allowing me to pack in more information, demonstrations, and bully kisses. Of course, the real highlight of each workshop has been the dogs. I truly feel that beyond the printed and spoken word, the best way to change people’s minds and to educate them about the breed, is to have stellar examples of pit bulls on site, for interaction.

The 2008 Bully Workshop is coming soon, and promises to be an
informative, fun, and interactive experience. For a detailed look at this year’s speakers and topics, Click here. The workshop flyer and registration form are available in downloadable formats.

Each year, the event has grown in the size and scope. What are the benefits of holding such a workshop? I see many positive outcomes of this event:
  • Owners of bull breeds become more educated about their dogs, enabling them to make responsible choices about the ways they interact with their dogs, how they present their dogs in a public light, and how to be proactive about the issues that they face (insurance, legislation, breed stigma, etc.)
  • Owners can network with other pit bull owners who share their same love for this breed
  • Potential adopters can gain accurate information in order to determine make informed adoption decisions
  • Adopters of bull breeds have a chance to show off their dogs to the workshop guests, to present themselves as excellent breed ambassadors and model responsible handling skills
  • Shelter and rescue personnel and volunteers gain more knowledge about the breed, thus enabling them to better educate potential adopters, and the public that enter their shelter doors
  • Shelter and rescue personnel gather information and the tools needed to be proactive in their communities regarding legislation, spay/neuter resources, etc.
  • Shelter and rescue personnel have an opportunity to learn more about canine behavior, training, and successful practices for housing, making successful dog-to-dog matches, and placing bull breeds.
  • Shelter and rescue personnel have a chance to network with each other, forming positive relationships to foster best practices in animal welfare
  • All guests learn more about the breed traits and breed history through presentations, handouts, books, merchandise, and visual displays.
I hope to see you at this year’s workshop, and I thank you on behalf of the dogs, whose lives are ultimately impacted by this event.

Andrea Kilkenny

1 comment:

pitbullfever said...

Wow this is so amazing! It's great that you are reaching so many people with these workshops even when BSL is popping everwhere in your state and not to mention in several other parts of the country. I always knew educating people was necessary but difficult. It gives me inspiration as to why it's necessary for people to know about the breed.