Puppy Dog Tales - May/June 2018
- story by LB Kovac
The banner image of the Just Cause Rescue Group website shows a chocolate pit bull terrier under a quote by Jason Kilmer: “Though mine is just one… my hand will work tirelessly until change be upon them.”
On the group’s Facebook page, owner Jeanne Montana writes, “we believe that pit bulls - whether they be pit bull terriers, American Staffies, or any mix breed pit - deserve a helping hand.”
Puppy Dog Tales
Jeanne Montana is the founder and owner of Just Cause, a Saucier-based rescue group that specializes in pit bull breeds. Originally a bartender by trade, she started the organization after meeting two special pups.
“After Hurricane Katrina, my daughter, who had two pit bulls, had to live with me,” says Montana. “(The dogs) really changed my perception. They were great.”
She became more intrigued, she said, “when the Michael Vick story came out.” Vick, former quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, was arrested in 2007 for using pit bulls in an illegal dog fighting ring run out of his personal kennel, which he called Bad Newz Kennel.
This intrigue developed into a passion. Montana’s organization now partners with animal shelters along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, including our own Hancock County animal shelter, to take “overflow animals,” dogs that the shelter doesn’t have resources to help and that would otherwise face euthanasia.
Of the 1.2 million dogs euthanized in American shelters each year, a vast majority (800,000 - 1 million) are pit bulls. According to Esquire Magazine, that's about two to three thousand pit bulls killed in this country every day.
In addition to saving shelter dogs, Montana also takes in stray dogs or dogs surrendered by their owners. “Lots of people bring in their pits because their landlords won’t let them have them. We also get dogs abandoned for other reasons,” says Montana.
With the help of Just Cause’s dedicated network of workers and volunteers – De Conover, David Snyder, Petra Lafferma, and Denise Hines, among others – Montana gets the dogs veterinarian attention and places them in a foster’s care.
Though Just Cause accepts all dog and cat breeds, Montana continues to specialize in pit bulls. These breeds need special attention, says Montana: “You have to be kind of firm with them.” They also have to fight a prevailing image that they are highly aggressive dogs.
“Pit bull” is a term that covers several breeds. American Staffordshire Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, and American Bullys are just some of the dogs often referred to as pit bulls. These dogs all have physical characteristics in common – shorter noses, wider jaws and jowls, and compact and muscular bodies – as well as overlapping ancestries, but they’re distinct breeds.
Still, all pit bull breeds get a bad rap. Forbes put the lot at the top of their 2016 “Most Dangerous Dogs” list. Cities across the country have enacted BSL, or breed-specific legislation, requiring owners to have some or all pit bull breeds leashed and muzzled all times in public.
Pit bulls pick up some of their aggressive reputation from the different breed backgrounds. Many pit bull dogs were bred for bull- and bear-baiting shows in the early 1800s. The breeds continue to be popular for dog fighting rings, as evidenced by the Michael Vick story.
And a study published by The Atlantic of more than 4,000 dog owners found that diminutive chihuahuas were the “most aggressive” breed. In that same study, owners “consistently ranked (the American Pit Bull Terrier) as one of the least aggressive dogs.”
Montana and her team have to fight this perception every time they put a pit bull up for adoption. “Lots of animals are scared when they come to the shelter,” says Montana. “Pit bulls might look mean, but they are just like other dogs. They’re just more misunderstood.”
Luckily, more people are beginning to see past the pit bull’s brash exterior. In the year that the Just Cause has been operating, it has helped about 40 pit bulls and dogs find their forever homes. These pups are getting the helping hand, or paw, that they deserve.