Sunday, February 21, 2010
Snaps the SeaTac pit bull finally finds a happy home!
By Lee Ryan
February 14, 2010
Just mention the word "pit bull" and mothers grab their children, homeowners lock their gates, joggers cross to the other side of the street and insurance companies up their rates.
The pit bull is a canine that is built for survival, with a bowling ball head, huge powerful jaws, a thick muscular neck and a body that looks like the boxcar of a train.
Yep, I have to agree that they're not the dog you want to meet up with, if you're breaking into someone's home.
However, how are they any different, inside, than any human being who might look a bit scary? We, as a society, are so quick to judge. And at that moment, our treatment of another human being or an animal can prompt their reactions and ultimately decide their fate.
It's been almost a year, since Snaps brutally attacked two women in the SeaTac area. It's a wonder that we even care what has become of him.
However, we do care - because Snaps, a pit bull mix, was as much of a victim as the two women he bit.
For those of you, who haven't heard the story, which appeared on many radio and TV stations around the nation, and in all the local papers, let me give you a brief rundown.
On June 21, Inga, a 63 year old woman spotted four teens, who were kicking a dog. When she stopped to chide them, one of the teens pulled her out of the car and sicced the dog on her. In the midst of the scuffle, another woman came along and the dog was also sicced on her.
When the fur and flesh settled, both women needed medical attention, the teens were arrested and the dog was hauled off to be locked up and then euthanized.
If the truth be told, Snaps' original gesture was to kindly lick Inga. It was only after he was beaten into submission, that he did the bidding of his 15-year-old owner, and attacked.
We can easily pin the tail of guilt on the young owner, but perhaps we first need to walk a mile in her shoes.
"If we can forgive a dog for biting, then we need to forgive the teenager for forcing him to bite" are the words of Steve Markwell.
Steve, if you remember, was allowed to rescue Snaps from being euthanized. He runs a compound called Olympic Animal Sanctuary in Forks, which is actually an old logging truck shop, which he has converted into a home for special needs animals.
These aren't just abandoned or abused animals; these are the animals that no one wants to talk about. Animals who have been burned with cigarettes, shot with guns, given drugs, chained up, driven mad by shock collars, and unmentionable crimes that we don't want to even believe could happen.
These are the animals that have been deemed dumpster refuse by a complacent society.
However, Snaps is but a "poster pooch", because he is only one of millions of dogs and other animals who have been abused. He has found a friend in Steve - a safe home where he fetches sticks, rides in the front seat of the truck, gives and gets kisses and playful body slams.
Steve tells me that he's also a bit of a geologist, as he likes to collect rocks and sneaks them inside the building.
Yes, there are many more details, but let's get to the heart of the matter. Why do we have a society that is riddled with kids that are so emotionally hurt and angry that they'll take it out on a dumb animal? I use the word "dumb," only in comparison to the intellect and reasoning capacity of a human being. And why is our way of dealing with these animals to just kill them, before we understand the whys of it? We'll hit on some of these things in Part Two of this story.
I don't know about you, but I'm ready to go out and bite some pet owners. However, in the spirit of good will and staying out of jail, I might suggest that we simply support those people, such as Steve, who are willing to do the heartbreaking work that we are either unqualified to unwilling to do.
"There are no bad dogs, just fearful and misunderstood dogs. Why is it that cats, birds, horses and other animals can bite and it's okay, but if a dog bites, they're deemed vicious and a menace to society?
"There are TV dog trainers that are teaching people the wrong way to handle their dogs -- they're practically challenging the dog to bite them," says Steve Markwell of Olympic Animal Sanctuary, who ended up rescuing Snaps, the SeaTac pit bull.
Snaps was slated to be killed after he bit two women, under the direction of his teenage owner. Instead, Snaps was sent to Markwell's animal sanctuary on the Olympic Peninsula.
Markwell continues, "All animals bite, but 4.7 million dog bites are reported, each year. We need to revamp the 'dangerous dog' legislation, because most dogs that get reported are usually killed.
"The reactions are disproportionate to the problem. We need to take logical, reasonable steps to prevent a bite situation."
In spirit, Steve is an easygoing guy, but he can get easily fired up, when he talks about things that matter. "Animals should not be held morally responsible for what they do. How can we justify killing or getting rid of them? It's not a coincidence that we have more people in prison than anywhere else in the world. We throw people away and throw animals away."
I spent five years working for a local veterinarian. Most people take wonderful care of their pets and treat them like beloved members of the family.
However, there were those rare occasions, when an abused or abandoned animal came into the clinic and I'd find it hard to sleep at night, wondering what would become of them. I also volunteer at the local jail and prison, so I know, first hand, what Steve is talking about.
This young man, of 34, has dreams of a 20-acre, no-kill model compound, where he could have a behaviorist that rehabs the animals and prepares them for fostering and adoption.
Steve's dreams include having it located at the beach, where the dogs can play in the healing salt water and all of them can have their own quarters, with the freedom to go outside and enjoy the fresh air, at will.
If you remember, Snaps had attacked a woman named Inga. However, she could see that he was abused and she wanted to adopt him, but he had already been sentenced, without a trial.
Every day, she called the Kent Animal Shelter, to check on his condition. The fact is that this abused dog wasn't allowed any human contact, no walks, no blanket, no attention and no treats.
I have dealt with the management of KCACC and seen the shelter conditions, so I wasn't surprised when Steve told me, "KCACC made me sign a contract to not say anything bad about them."
One has to wonder what they're concerned might be said, doesn't one? You see, I've seen the animals, in the back that the public isn't allowed to see. For many, death isn't such a bad option. Snaps got a break.
As darling and innocent, as Snaps has been proven to be, he isn't welcome in King County. He is forever banned from coming through the pearly gates of our fair community.
But, considering the raw deal that he got, I don't think he really spends much time pondering his past digs - no pun intended.
Those of us who have our pets safely tucked into their plush beds, with their food bowls neatly filled and a box of toys waiting for them, have a hard time imagining that anyone could do some of the heinous things that have been done to these beautiful creatures - but they do.
And because they do, people like Steve Markwell have had to come to the rescue and dig into his own pockets to create a safe place for these animals to experience hope, kindness and a desire to live.
Do you want to help? Steve Markwell has set up a non-profit organization and can be reached at Olympic Animal Sanctuary, 1021 Russell Road, Forks, WA 98331 or at www.olympicanimalsanctuary.org
at 2:48 PM