The Lawrence Humane Society has a new program called Pit Bull EDU, which works to eliminate bad stereotypes of pit bulls and other “bully” breed dogs.
“The most immediate goal is to help the pit bulls that are in the shelter be more adoptable,” program director Anthony Barnett said, “and to help the owners who have pit bulls in the community have an outlet to learn about their dogs and learn responsible ways to own (them).”
Barnett runs Pit Bull EDU, helping to teach obedience skills to the dogs in the program. The humane society partners with Barnett’s outreach group Game Dog Guardian to host the class.
“We work with, what I call, trickle-down dog economics,” Barnett said. “Our goal is to start with people and start with the community and improve things overall, and then the idea is that will work its way down to the dogs.”
Volunteers work with the dogs every Monday night at the humane society to teach them “basic life skills,” as Barnett says.
“For the shelter dogs that are in the program, we just work on rewarding eye contact, name recognition … taking treats gently,” Barnett said. “It’s just to make them less rough around the edges and seem more appealing to people that might come to look at them.”
Barnett’s lessons also help the public learn that pit bulls are just like any other dog.
“It makes people feel comfortable with the breed when they see it’s just another dog,” said Midge Grinstead, director of the Lawrence Humane Society. “There’s no difference.”
“I used to avoid the shelter because it made me sad, but I realize that wasn’t helping anyone,” said Kelli Shaw, a KU pharmacy student and first-time volunteer. “So I’m here, and I’m helping with the pit bulls.”
Because Pit Bull EDU is run by volunteers, the humane society asks for more to get involved. Orientation sessions are held the first and second Thursday of each month at the shelter, located at 1805 E. 19th St.
“Anytime a dog is adopted is a success,” Barnett added. “For us the success is week-to-week, to be able to see the dogs improve from what they were the week before.”