Temple’s Pit Bull Awareness Day aims to show both students and staff the real identity of the pit bull breed.
The steady, cold rain may have kept some students from going to class on Friday, but it didn’t stop the Pit Bull Awareness Day festivities.
Promoters of Animal Welfare, a non-extremist animal activist organization at Temple, hosted Pit Bull Awareness Day with hopes of restoring the negative image of the pit bull, which at one time was known as “America’s Dog.”
“The event today is to let people know they are really sweet dogs,” PAW member and Animal Care and Control Team volunteer Todd Sweppenheiser said. “They are very loyal, and really, it’s about the treatment of them that turns them into more aggressive and more violent dogs.”
Vice president of Temple PAW Janice Poleon, a senior public relations major, planned the five-hour event at the Bell Tower. PAW raised money for the event by having vegan bake sales at the Student Center, Poleon said.
“You have to blame the deed not the breed,” Poleon said. “If you teach a dog to fight, that’s what it’s going to do. But if you teach a dog to love, that’s what it’s going to do.”
Various organizations, such as the Pennsylvania Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals, Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society, Pinups for Pit Bulls, Inc., Whispering Woods Animal Rescue and the Humane Society of the United States’ “End Dog Fighting Campaign” participated in the event.
More pit bulls are brought to shelters in Philadelphia than any other breed, Poleon said. She added that her goal for the event was to emphasize that pit bulls are not meant to be feared.
“They’re meant to be loved, just like any other animal,” Poleon said.
Several adoptable, friendly pit bull-like dogs that have been rescued were handled by PSPCA and PAWS volunteers for passing students and faculty members to pet and play with. PAW offered information on how to adopt and how to get involved with the organization while raffle tickets and $1 bracelets were sold to support all the different organizations involved.
Sophomore Gabrielle Turgoose, an active new member in PAW, explained how she watched some people’s reactions to the pit bulls.
“We’ve had so many people look at them and walk around [the other side of] the Bell Tower,” Turgoose said.
“We’re just letting people know about the misconception of pit bulls,” said Turgoose, who wishes to adopt a pit bull. “We’re just trying to tell people the facts and not really the myths that they’re hearing.”
PAWS volunteer Doven Collins, who adopted her own pit bull-type rescue dog last summer, said, “Pit bulls are wonderful, and make great family dogs.”
“Over the past 10 or 15 years, the shelters have been inundated with pit bull-like dogs, mainly because they’re used a lot in urban dog fighting environments,” Collins said.
Sweppenheiser added that some of the dogs have been neglected or abandoned, or the owners just don’t want to take care of them anymore.
Collins said PAWS, recognized as a no-kill shelter, is “really working hard to build awareness to realize these dogs are great dogs and to help educate on spay and neutering to control the pet overpopulation.”
Poleon said Temple administrators were very open to the idea of the event, even though it took place nearly a month after National Pit Bull Awareness Day.
Faculty members also came out and showed interest.
“Some of the teachers I have, who are supposedly terrified of dogs, have come out and realized how sweet the dogs really are,” Poleon said. “I like how people can talk to me and my other PAW volunteers and realize these are wonderful dogs.”
Even though it was raining, student PAW members were still active in getting people involved in the event.
Although Poleon said she was pleased with the turnout, she said another alternate, rain day Pit Bull Awareness Day event is hopefully being planned to take place before school ends.
Lauren Hertzler can be reached at email@example.com.