Jul 12, 2010

Pit Bulls as therapy dogs in Miami -- Nutters found a loophole

A growing group of pit bull owners says the animals are ideal service dogs designation that exempts them from Miami-Dade's ban of the breed, which some say is instinctively dangerous.

Brian Guadagno is rarely alone -- whether he dines out, shops for groceries or flies on a plane. His dog Doc stays by his side.

The 5-year-old, 35-pound service dog is a Staffordshire bull terrier -- a breed that, like pit bulls, is banned in Miami-Dade County.

Guadagno, 32, said Doc helps him contend with a lifelong learning disability that makes it hard for him to focus.

``We've never spent time apart,'' said Guadagno, who said he no longer needs medication.

A pit bull may seem an unlikely savior, given its reputation for powerful jaws, lock-down bites and aggression.

But Doc and Guadagno are among a small but growing group of pit bulls and their owners who are exempt from Miami-Dade's pit-bull ban, enacted in 1989 after an 8-year-old girl was mauled by a neighbor's pit bull.

Within the past year, Miami-Dade Animal Services has registered about half a dozen pit bulls as service animals for people with disabilities, in what investigator supervisor Kathy Labrada called an emerging trend.

Under federal rules, any guide or signal dog that is individually trained to assist someone with a physical or mental disability qualifies as a service animal.

Federal law trumps Miami-Dade's ordinance, Labrada said.

`We're seeing a trend in an increase of citizens that claim to have a disability and their pit bull is their service animal. That is a loophole that people have found,'' she said.

Labrada said it is a challenge to verify that a dog is a service animal because federal rules do not require any special certification for the animal. In addition, the Americans With Disabilities Act restricts the county from asking specific questions about medical conditions, she said.

Anyone can train a service animal under the federal guidelines. International standards recommend a minimum of 120 hours over six months for service animals, which can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars.

``There are certainly concerns that some individuals may claim an animal as a service animal when, in fact, it isn't,'' Labrada said.

Toni Eames, president of International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, said she had heard of pit bulls as service dogs, but had not encountered one or a program that trains them.

``There's a lot of fraud and there's a lot of legitimacy,'' said Eames, who is blind and has a golden retriever as a guide dog. ``The training has to be the standard.''

In Miami-Dade, pit bull owners can face a $500 fine and possible court action to force the animal's removal. The dogs are still deemed dangerous.

``They were bred to bait and fight bulls,'' Labrada said. ``If and when they bite, the potential for damage is extreme.''

Miami-Dade's ban covers American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers or any dog that matches most of those breeds' traits.

Other U.S. cities, such as Denver and Cincinnati, have banned pit bulls. Broward County does not have a ban, though at least two cities there -- Sunrise and Tamarac -- require pit bulls to be registered. Broward resident Larry Steinhauser, 57, said he would campaign for a countywide pit bull ban -- though Florida now prohibits laws against specific breeds. (Miami-Dade's ban was grandfathered in when the state law was passed.) A pit bull once lunged at him while he walked his dog. He also witnessed another pit bull attack, he said.
``I've never seen one that isn't aggressive,'' said Steinhauser. ``I feel they're a danger to society.''

Many love and defend the bully breed. One was the lovable mascot of the Little Rascals children's movie shorts of the 1930s, and the dogs later became the inspiration for local rapper Pitbull's fierce stage name.

On the national stage, celebrity chef Rachael Ray, who owns a pit bull named Isaboo, has advocated for the dogs. (Isaboo made tabloid headlines this year for reportedly biting the ear off another pooch.)

In Miami-Dade, Dahlia Canes directs a group fighting to overturn the ban. The group -- Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation -- was scheduled to join other advocates in Tallahassee for a rally Sunday.

Canes said many owners in Miami-Dade keep their dogs under the radar -- walking them very early or very late and finding veterinarians who won't report them.

``These dogs are extremely loyal and loving. The ban should be removed yesterday,'' Canes said.
Canes pointed to Ruby, a pit bull who recently visited Hialeah Hospital. Her owner, Pat Bettendorf, of Minnesota, found Ruby as an abandoned puppy and now considers her his service dog, assisting him when he experiences anxiety attacks.

Dr. Reinaldo Carvajal, who directs the geriatric unit at Hialeah Hospital, said therapy dogs can help patients, and said the pit bulls' reputation is not deserved.

``It's due to the fact that some people have used them for activities such as animal fighting,'' Carvajal said.

Pit bulls that strictly provide therapy still face Miami-Dade's ban. While they may support emotional well-being, they do not perform a service, Labrada said.

Not all agree that pit bulls make the best service animals.

``Service dogs need to be above reproach,'' said Janet Severt, founder of New Horizons Service Dogs in Orange City, north of Orlando, and who trains service animals. ``They need to be able to handle anything life throws at them.''

That could be the sudden boom of a car backfiring to a child pulling the dog's hair.

At New Horizons, Severt trains Labrador and golden retrievers as service animals, primarily for people with mobility problems or in wheelchairs, like herself.

She said the retrievers -- originally bred as a gentleman's hunting dog -- are eager to please. She said she disagrees with the ban, but would not train a pit bull.

``My problem with pit bulls is if they're in a fight they can do a lot of damage,'' said Severt.

Guadagno's companion Doc didn't start as a service animal. He said Doc has more than 100 hours of training and was certified in 2007 by the International Therapy and Service Animal Association. Guadagno registered the dog with the county last year.

Sometimes Doc stands on his hind legs and gives Guadagno a friendly pat with his paws -- a hug -- to keep his attention from drifting.

``It's really grounding,'' said Guadagno.


  1. BSL=CBM(Cold Blooded Murder)I have been invited to a wedding in Dade County,my son who is getting married I have advised I will not be attending.I will never set foot or spend a dollar in any place that practises Adolph Hitler's neo- Nazi Laws,enough said.


  2. And I'm sure the people of Dade County are thrilled that a nut won't visit them. What an insult to equate dogs that were bred to fight and kill with the innocent victims of the Holocaust. And to think, you raised children with that illogical and hateful attitude.

    Guys, BSL helps prevent people like selwyn from owning aggressive animals. And that's what swayed me to think BSL was needed, people like selwyn.

  3. "I have been invited to a wedding in Dade County,my son who is getting married..."

    Geez, what a selfish idiot. I bet your son was hoping that would be your reaction. Your son and Dade County wins!

    Who would have anticipated a collateral benefit from BSL? Not only is it better for pets and the community, but a visit from a raging moron was thwarted? God, what a beautiful thing!

    Go BSL!!!

  4. How about BSL equals saved lives, human lives, beloved pets lives? And to miss your son's wedding for that reason shows that you care more about your pit bull than your own children.

  5. So much for keeping it 'civil'.
    You think that comments calling people nuts and morons are civil?
    Or does your rule only apply to comments directed at you?

  6. To the Civil Anon who ended their post with name calling,

    I believe degrading Jews by comparing them and their suffering to aggressive dogs is much worse than the terms nut and moron. However, if you disagree, then the last thing you should have done was to use the term moron yourself. You have exposed yourself as another hypocrite nutter.

    And all this takes away from the issue at hand - lying nutters pretending their pit bulls are service animals. Whether its to get around laws or to try and prove to the public that pit bulls are just like golden retrievers, the nutters lie and then set their dogs up to fail, while exposing the rest of us to the risks for their own selfish reasons. This practice needs to end, and once again I am shocked that no well-known organization, trainer, pit bull advocate, vet, etc. does not speak out about this and get pit owners to stop. Are they really that delusional that this is going to help? Do they realize what is going to happen when this stunt backfires on them?

  7. dawn capp is playing a major role in the pit bull service dog scam.


    she's got her grubby paws in the denver lawsuit too.

    "And to miss your son's wedding for that reason shows that you care more about your pit bull than your own children."

    another pit bull owner proudly showing the world what he is.

    SME, i am envious! selwyn marock paid you a visit and has yet to pay me a visit. maybe i should send him an invitation?

  8. CD I had no clue who selwyn marock was, but a simple google search tells me you don't need to be envious {LOL}. Heck the comment he left on this blog says that!!! I'd be damned if I missed my kids wedding over a stupid dog! Pet or no pet my kid is more important than a dog, OR who likes my dog and who does not.

    This article is bringing to light the fact that Pit Bull owners will find ways to get around the laws that are made to protect people, and that is all the more reason to crack down even harder! A fighting breed, going into hospitals to visit with sick and elderly, that is preposterous!
    Kathy Lebrada says in this article:
    "Labrada said it is a challenge to verify that a dog is a service animal because federal rules do not require any special certification for the animal. In addition, the Americans With Disabilities Act restricts the county from asking specific questions about medical conditions, she said."
    So pretty much Dade County residents are screwed! Somebody better step up and get some things changed, otherwise what is the purpose of having bsl grandfathered in if all they have to do is slap a therapy dog button on their Pit and everything is okay?

  9. 260 Children shot in 1 year in Chicago either at school or on the way thereto and not by Pitbulls but by Human Scum I reckon there are bigger problems in the USA than the Dogs considering in 2008 in the whole USA there were only 16 dog fatalities info from the CDC(Canine Disease Centre) against 16000 Murders human upon human info compliments of FBI.
    Did you know that three children a day are Murdered by one parent or both that equates to around 1100 child deaths per year caused by Parents should we now deem all Parents Dangerous and call for a Ban on them.
    Just so much easier to attack Poor Dogs maybe it is our Bully instincts we cannot Murder out mother-in-law so lets just see how many Pits we can be responsible for the Murder of.
    I just say SICK and hope and Pray that Karma does prevail for these Evildoers.

  10. You know, therapy dogs are supposed to help calm people, among other things. *Most* people in nursing homes or hospitals want to see something small and fluffy, such as a small cute dog, cat, or rabbit. Can you imagine an elderly person sitting around the nursing home, looking forward to a visit by a therapy animal and in walks a pit bull?! Elderly people like to hold and cuddle fluffy balls of cute, not be confronted by an ugly pit (YES, they are ugly!). I'd imagine it'd be the same for folk in the hospital, especially those too weak to sit up and reach over to pet an animal too large to be on the bed.


    ps - skipping out on your own son's wedding... because of an insignificant thing like a dog law???? You consider a DOG more important than your SON???????? Normal pit nutter who places more value on the stinkin dog than on people. I wonder if your son shares the same thoughts towards this as you....wait, he lives (or is just getting married in)this *shudder* hated county.huh.

  11. Selwyn, I bet you would be singing a different tune if one of those 16 children were your own, or maybe not. You have already shown that you care more about your Pit Bull than you do your son, so why do you think your opinion deserves any credibility on this blog? Sorry but we are not buying your bs. Comparing bsl to the holocaust, and trying to justify Pit Bull killings because there are not as many Pit Bull attacks as there are murders by parents, that's a DISGRACE!!


  12. Selwyn, trying to take the focus off those who die by pitocide doesn't work here.

  13. Pit Bulls are MonstersOctober 14, 2010 at 4:28 AM

    Selwyn is a retard just like all the fakers who claim pitmonsters are "therapy dogs". If these fakers' mental retardations actually require a dog to provide calm and whatever else they claim, why not use any other breed? Why is it that only pit bulls can do this special job?

  14. Humans come to their opinions often based on their histories....and their own views of the world. Though I agree that the one commenter shouldn't make her son pay the price, I do not understand the pure hatred, I see in the comments, of the pit bull.

    In my 50yrs on this earth, I was bitten in the face by a sheepdog, bitten on the hand by a shepherd and have received various other bites by various other breeds. Most of those bites were taken as a kid and were always my fault.

    Fast forward. I have two rescued pit bulls and both have been lunged at by a neighboring black lab (who scares the crap out of me and I am not afraid of animals) and tackled by other breeds on several occasions. Never have my two pit bulls attempted to fight back...but instead have run away or flattened to the ground in fear.

    Our neighborhood is filled with rescued animals, more and more I see rescued pit bulls. Never have I seen a breed so entirely attached to their people. They have an affection toward people unlike any I have ever come across in humans or animals.

    All dogs can be dangerous. Pit bull bites can be more damaging....IF the pit bull was trained to fight or guard. Training is intense and often cruel. One aspect of training is strengthening the jaws by having them hang from a rope for long periods of time. But pit bull bites, mauling and death are preventable...with responsible humans. You are more likely to be struck by lightening or drown in a bathtub or be killed in a car crash than you are to be killed by a pit bull.

    People are mauled, or worse, killed...by pit bulls BECAUSE of irresponsible owners.

    Humans are the real killers and torturers and abusers. Ever looked to see how many overflowing prisons we have?

    Me thinks we need to start banning humans. Perhaps a chosen group of humans can pick out the scary humans they think might hurt another human..and we can lock them up just in case. Esp. really big men and women that might cause more damage if they wanted to knife, torture or rape or something. Yeah, we should maybe lock up all humans over 300lbs. just to make sure they never have the chance to commit sex crimes on children or rape women or harm anyone.

    Sorry for the sarcasm, but this just seems so ridiculous to me.

    The media has targeted the pit bull and you are all falling for it. If you do a little research you will find that all dogs can be dangerous. But please be fair and go to an unbiased site.

  15. It's not the dogs stupid folks, it's those who train them. Train any dog to kill and it will, that applies to all not just pitties. Remember that scum bag Michael Vick and his dogs? Alot of them ended up at Best Friends and many have been adopted into forever homes with no problems. So take your BSL and shove it where the sun don't shine.

  16. Comparing pitbulls to the Holocaust is very accurate, Innocent victims being judged by morons who don't know there ass from their elbow.Please educate yourself and stop believing what you hear from the media or from uneducated people that just like to hear themselves talk. Go visit a local shelter or hang out with someone that actually owns a pit bull. Make your own opinion based on facts not other peoples biased remarks.

    EVERY dog has the potential to be dangerous. Most people, who are unfamiliar with the American Pit Bull Terrier, falsely believe that they are dangerous dogs. Unfortunately, Pit Bulls have a bad reputation because of some people who have abused their dogs and trained them to be aggressive. Pit Bulls are actually very stable, intelligent, and highly trainable. They are strong athletic dogs, and they require a guardian who is responsible and will give them plenty of exercise and training. They are very loving and loyal and make excellent animal companions.Pit Bulls are one of the most stable people-friendly dogs in existence. The National Canine Temperament Testing Association tested 122 breeds, and Pit Bulls placed the 4th highest with a 95% passing rate.

    It is people like you that you that add on to the histeria, if you are going to judge than you need to look at both sides of an argument not just what you want to see or hear....

  17. to the poster of November 22nd at 9.45, your post is spot on, I agree with every word, especially about banning some humans and locking them up, Just in case ..............

  18. I've stated earlier that most of the Pit Bulls I know are good dogs but I've re-thought my opinion.
    The claims of Pit Bull owners cannot be taken seriously, they are clearly biased. Of course they are, they love their dogs! The facts are that Pit Bulls and other fighting breeds were bred specifically to be killers, it's genetic and no amount of kindness can remove this predisposition for aggression. I've read reports of dogs who suddenly attacked and killed their owners after years of loyalty, the poor dogs can't help it is in their genes and even if it never comes to the surface society simply cannot risk having these poor dogs around.

  19. wow,there is fools on both sides ofthis debate...all of this is stupid... a dog is no more then a dog,,, u teach it right from wrong... not its backound... you know this all remindes me of raceism... ok ok,black dudes can be naturally big,some are angry(bad upbingin) what ev.. my point is hey were treated as animals, bredlike dogs, inslaved,ect, bad rep(rap,gangbangn)ppl do u see what im sayn?
    hateing black ppl and hating pitbullsare related...Stereo types dont wrk.. I heard that black dudes have bigwangs,(not biggr then mine, lol)jk....?
    leave the poor dogs alone...
    you americans and ur drama, smile,love thy nieghbor and his mutts,wont b none,if u dont start none(mess with a bull,u get he horns, mess with a pit get the teeth, all dogs have teeth,,,im jumpin on the ban siamese cats bandwagon,, iwas bit, im a victem of a felion felony,,, i should sue..see all of this s stupid... grow up you bags of deuche...

  20. It's really pathetic that most of you on here back discrimination like this. You so realize that EVERY DOG HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BITE? Eventually they will find another breed of your choice to kill off. And comparing them to Holocaust killings isn't off at all. Denver for instance, along with other states use gas chambers with carbon monoxide, stuffing 20 or more cats & dogs together for 40 minutes to die slow, painful deaths. Most pitbulls have such a high tolerance that they go through 2-3 sessions before they are dead. It's cruelty at it's finest.

    My husband, a purple heart veteran with plenty combat related injuries and a life time worth of PTSD owns a pit & lab/pit mix that are service animals. They alert us prior to his blackouts, open modified doors and most important has brought him more peace since he's been out of the military than anything. Getting him out of the house, off of the dozens of anti-depressives, anti- anxiety concoctions that the VA pushes in front of his face to treat these
    issues. I suppose if it was up to you guys you would be happy to screw our family over by taking away something that completes our home based on all of your educated, ignorant mindset.

    Sgt. Stubby was the 1st decorated war dog of WW2 that saved many lives out on the battle field, including taking multiple bullets to the chest & body to protect his unit. A pitbull. Proud to protect our country. Now the country he fought to protect wants to kill off his breed.

    Amongst him, plenty of pit bulls protect their families and our land in general. Popsicle, a pit that was found on a drug bust in NY in the freezer starved & near death was rescued and sent to a drug bust training school by the city. Out of 500 dogs, she was one of 4 to graduate. A couple months later she sniffed out over 3,000lbs of cocaine in the biggest drug bust in Texas history.

    Leela, a family pit bull was playing with the family's child in the yard. She tackled the boy and stood on top of him after sensing a rattle snake in their garden, and got bit in the face over 17 times.

    All of Michael Vick's dogs are trained therapy dogs living in homes with small children, serving in schools and nursing homes. After the life he gave them one would think that they have no chance of a normal life without being monsters. They proved all the narrow minded public (such as yourselves) very wrong.

    A pit has a burden to please it's owner. You they were bred with unwavering loyalty along with their hunting abilities. Whatever the owners teach the dogs to do to gain their affection the dog will do to the best of their ability. Including fighting. The owners should be punished. Not an entire breed. They score higher on temperament than golden rets, German sheps, and number of other common family dogs-look it up! These are noble animals that don't deserve this. Unlike some of you that do.


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