John Kurucz, Coquitlam NOW
Published: Friday, October 02, 2009
Arlene Lambert has seen the ramifications of irresponsible dog ownership first-hand, and she's got the scars to prove it.
Just six years old at the time, Lambert was out near her family farm in Cloverdale when she was attacked by a large German Shepherd.
"That was the day before I began Grade 1. I was six years old," recalled Lambert, now 42. "I remember my dad picking me up and saying, 'Where's your ear?' before he bent down to get it."
Her ear was ripped from her scalp, and she received 158 stitches across her head.
The day after the incident, the same dog that attacked her hopped inside her family's car and "licked every bandage on my face." Lambert's mother explained to her that the attack wasn't the dog's fault, but rather an owner who didn't properly feed the animal and allowed it to run freely about the neighbourhood.
It was a pivotal moment in the Coquitlam resident's life, and one that, in part, prompted her to join the HugABull Advocacy and Rescue Society three years ago.
"Rescue is a part of what we do, but we also advocate a lot for responsible dog owners, not just for bully breeds, but for all breeds," said Lambert, who now serves as co-director of the non-profit group.
"We do everything you can imagine to try and get people together and provide them with the resources and knowledge to become responsible owners."
The society's marquee yearly fundraiser is scheduled for Sunday at Port Coquitlam's Giggle Dam Dinner Theatre and the evening's events will include a four-course meal, silent auction and live entertainment.
"You do not have to be a dog owner to attend. Anyone can come by," Lambert said. "This is the biggie for us."
Founded in 2004, HugABull members include certified dog trainers, shelter workers and just about anybody else with a soft spot for canines.
Lambert said the group specializes in "bully breeds" -- American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and Staffordshire bull terriers -- but added that the group never turns a dog away based on breed.
"We welcome all breeds in. Because we have a lot of certified trainers tied in with us, we work really, really hard with everyone so that they can have the dogs they want. And if they already have a dog and are having issues, we welcome them into our community and try to provide them with whatever support we can," she said.
Aside from education and awareness work, group members provide temporary shelter for dogs, fostering animals until a long-term home is found. They also spay or neuter dogs and provide resources for identifying microchips to be placed underneath a dog's skin before it is adopted.
"We take dogs from shelters and we do strict, strict temperament testing on them and we put them into a 30-day foster home and find out what they're really about because the honeymoon period is over after a while. After seven days you could find out that your dog is a chewer, for example, and you have to find out their real personalities."
The personality of bully breeds has long been a source of debate, and Lambert said she has been vilified at times for owning two pit bulls, Cocoa Bean and Beefcake.
"As a bully breed owner, I get spit on, I get yelled at and I get threatened when I walk my dogs down the street, yet they're both well-behaved dogs," she said.
"There's a huge stigma there, because of bad owners and a lack of knowledge. That's why we do a lot of community events, to try and educate people that not all bully breed owners are bad owners."
Lambert's two pit bulls suffered tremendously before she adopted them: one was found with more 300 lacerations on her body due to constant beatings with a chainsaw chain, while the other was simply left on the side of a remote logging road outside of Chilliwack.
It's Lambert's hope that through events like Sunday's fundraiser, no dog will be without a home.
"Every dime we raise goes back into the dogs so that they never have to suffer," she said.
For more information, see www.hugabull.com.
PERFECT PIT BULL OWNER:
According to HugABull Advocacy and Rescue Society's website, an ideal pit bull owner would be:
- Someone who takes dog ownership seriously and is committed to training, caring for and exercising their dog.
- Ideally, someone who has some breed knowledge.
- Someone who provides a moderate amount of exercise per day.
- A person who enjoys an affectionate dog. They are generally not independent and cannot tolerate being left alone for long periods.
- Someone who takes their dog to obedience class. Early training and socialization are musts.
- Someone comfortable with breed advocacy, as owners must be the epitome of responsibility by spaying/neutering the dog, training it and remaining in control.