Since starting the Polk County Bully Project (PCBP), Co-directors Shannon Medina and Angie Lorio and their now 30 active volunteers have saved over 1,200 dogs. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit is a foster-based rescue organization dedicated to finding homes for the often misunderstood breed of pups that fall into the ‘Pit Bull’ category and reducing euthanasia rates in Polk County. Haven first interviewed the Polk County Bully Project in 2019 and wanted to catch up with the group to learn about their progress and find out how the community can help PCBP reach its goals.
HAVEN: What is the mission of the PCBP?
PCBP: We save those dogs most at risk at Animal Control which typically are the bully breeds that makeup 75% of the dogs in the shelter. Dogs labeled ‘pit bull’ are rescue-only and are not allowed to be adopted out at Polk County Animal Control. We pull those dogs also that are in need of medical treatment and/or hospice care or are heartworm positive.
HAVEN: What is a bully breed, and why does your organization aim to help bully breeds specifically?
PCBP: Bully breeds are a category of dog that have a blocky head. It is a category made up of about ten different breeds of dogs that include the American bulldog, Staffordshire terrier, and Pitbull, to name a few.
HAVEN: Bully breeds have a bad reputation. What would you say to someone who thinks of them as dangerous or ill-tempered to change that perception?
PCBP: I would equivocate that to any other prejudice. Any dog can be trained to be protective of their owners. This breed is extremely loyal and smart. They are factually the most abused breed than any other. They score 87% on the temperament test as being excellent, loving, and gentle family dogs.
HAVEN: How do you go about accomplishing your goal to save dogs?
PCBP: We fundraise to pay for vetting and housing and have the support of our community. We are currently working on a spay and neuter voucher program to assist those unable to alter their pets.
HAVEN: What are the problems in the community or with irresponsible pet ownership that make what you do necessary?
- Spay/neuter affordability
- Heartworm positive dogs
- Backyard breeders
- Dog dumping
- Lost dogs with no chip, tag, or license
- Tethering – especially without a cover
- Insurance companies’ breed restrictions
- Landlord breed restrictions
HAVEN: When we last spoke, the PCBP had a goal of making Polk County NO KILL by 2025. Is that goal on track? How can the community help to make that happen?
PCBP: We will never stop trying. Dogs must be spayed and neutered. Unlicensed breeding must be stopped. People breeding dogs in their backyards must be fined and held accountable.
HAVEN: Another dream you mentioned when we last spoke was to one day have a facility of your own to expand what you were doing and be a resource and partner to other animal organizations. Has that dream been realized?
PCBP: Since we last spoke, we did get a facility to hold up to 25 homeless dogs. However, we quickly outgrew that facility and are currently looking for a larger space.
HAVEN: How can folks get involved with PCBP? Are there volunteer, sponsorship, adoption, education, or donation opportunities? What is your organization’s biggest need?
PCBP: We absolutely love our volunteers, and we have a coordinator that takes care of processing applications, setting up introductions to our facility, and the scheduling of them. It’s always helpful to have people share our dogs and social media and talk about the work that we are doing as well. Of course, monetary donations are fundamental to keeping our project running. Probably the easiest and quickest way to reach us is by emailing us at polkcountybullyproject.gmail.com.
HAVEN: Are there any PCBP rescue stories that stand out in your mind over the last few years?
PCBP: Everyone seems to know Aspen’s story. He came into the rescue just over a year ago. He was confiscated by Polk County Animal Control from a home that had him tied in the backyard with his jaw bound closed and a nylon cord wrapped around his head. When we rescued him, he had open holes in his sinuses on his face and required reconstructive surgery to close them and to get his mouth to properly close. We have fundraised and performed eight reconstructive facial surgeries. He was just adopted two weeks ago.
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