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A Champion for Pit Bulls

A few weeks ago, I wrote a series of posts about Pit Bulls. One of the most popular posts was written by Mary Harwelik, founder and director of The Real Pit Bull. Mary is working tirelessly to change the perception of this much maligned dog.

The Real Pit Bull is an education and advocacy organization dedicated to the American Pit Bull Terrier. The nonprofit’s mission is to serve as advocates for the breed, provide information to the public; and educate those who impact the lives of Pit Bulls. They host training classes specifically for Pit Bull owners, free breed lectures, foster and adoption programs, and The Real Pit Bull Forum, an online community for information about this breed.

I am quite bothered by all the misinformation about this breed, and I should point out that the media, legislators, and many others incorrectly use the term Pit Bull to describe several breeds and types of dogs including American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Bull Terriers, American Bulldogs, and mixes of these breeds. According to Mary, the term “Pit Bull” refers to the American Pit Bull Terrier breed. “This is a purebred recognized by the United Kennel Club and the American Dog Breeders Association,” she explains. “Understandably, many people are confused about what a Pit Bull actually is, since the popular public definition is so wide and the breeds above actually share similar history and physical characteristics.”

Following is a Q&A with Mary about the breed and her organization.

Pet News and Views (PNAV): Do you own Pit Bulls?

Mary: I currently have one American Staffordshire Terrier named Luca. He is 12 years old and a professional cuddle muffin. I’ve had him since he was an itty-bitty 10-week old puppy.

PNAV: Why were you moved to start an organization to protect Pit Bulls?

Mary: When I first got involved with Pit Bulls, I researched the heck out of the breed.  It didn’t take me long to get clued into all the problems surrounding them–the legislation, the irresponsibility of humans, the total misunderstandings about what the breed is. When you love something so much, you want to protect it; I love Pit Bulls, and it was really like how could I not become an advocate. I started by just trying my best to be an educated breed spokesperson working to educate others and starting a website.  That website was the catalyst for The Real Pit Bull, Inc. (RPB).

PNAV: Tell me about your training classes?

Mary: I teach classes for RPB through our Pit Bull School program. There are basic manners and breed education classes that are meant to help the dogs learn to behave around distraction, other dogs, and just have the opportunity to grow into good canine members of society. We use clicker training, which is all about using rewards for good behavior.  The dogs really enjoy it, and they learn fast with this method.

PNAV: I see you are looking for foster homes, what requirements are needed?

Mary: An application is required for potential foster homes.  Some things we look for in our foster homes are residency in the North-Central NJ area, ability to attend Pit Bull School classes, and some breed experience. Foster homes also have to be accepting of the fact that we are very hands-on with our fosters, and very much a part of the foster dog’s life in his temporary home.

PNAV: Where are classes held?

Mary: We are based out of Union County, NJ, and that is where our classes are held. But we attend events and give lectures all over NJ. Our general range is within 90 minutes of Union County, which means you may find us in NYC or Philadelphia periodically as well.

PNAV: Is this a full time job for you?

Mary: No, I have a day job that pays the bills. RPB is my passion and I do it for the love of the dogs.

PNAV: How do you keep the Real Pit Bull funded?

Mary: We are a 501(c)3 publicly funded charity, so we rely on the generosity of people who care about the work we do.  We hold various fundraisers throughout the year, have collection jars at events, and receive a percentage of the purchase price of various dog-related items through affiliate programs we belong to. The easiest way for people to donate is through PayPal and by using our e-mail. All donations are 100% tax deductible.

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