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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Helping Pit Bulls in Brew City

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After being frustrated with the lack of programs for pit bull owners in southeastern Wisconsin, Michelle Serocki started the Brew City Bully Club as a way to help her and her pit bull, Capone. The club benefits dogs and humans alike through its support of pit bull owners, as well as programs for community awareness, spaying and neutering, and putting an end to dogfighting.

What led you to start the Brew City Bully Club?

My husband and I got our pit bull—this was 2008—and I searched for any type of local resource to see if we could find people to have a play date or to talk to about getting advice. I completely struck out, so I said, “I’m going to put an ad on Craigslist and see if I can get anyone to help with advice for Capone.” I put up the ad and in less than 24 hours I got 30 responses. Not one was about a play date, but they were like, “My pit bull keeps eating my socks, what should I do?” or, “I don’t know where to take my pit bull to get neutered.” So I posted a second ad, saying that we could all try to work together on these different problems, and that’s when I started the Brew City Bully Club. We came up with a list of objectives and I think we filled a need for something like this in Wisconsin.

What are some misconceptions about pit bulls?

There are a lot of them. The main one is that they are scary, vicious dogs. They can be, sure. To clarify, the myth is that they are born that way and are going to grow into a vicious, baby-eating machine. It doesn’t help that they’re often portrayed in the media that way.

A lot of folks don’t know that when we had huge migrations from Europe, pit bulls were the pet of choice for those families, because they are such great family pets. Fast-forward to the ’80s, add cocaine and thugs, and you have pit bulls discarded into the streets when they don’t fight well enough, left to be picked up by animal control. There is a huge misconception that these animals can’t be rehabilitated. That misconception was blown out of the water with the Michael Vick case, where about 60 dogs were saved.

What are some of the Brew City Bully Club’s goals for this year?

We worked with about 150 dogs last year, since we incorporated, and we’re on pace to do 150-plus private trainings this year, about three or four per week. That’s in addition to group work. With the End Dogfighting in Milwaukee program, we have a pit bull training team of youths, and we teach them that a dog is not an object or a possession, but a living being they need to respect, and who will respect them in return.

In what ways do pit bulls make good pets?

You have a very loyal, smart dog—a lot of times very animated, with funny, unique personalities. It is a big responsibility, so not everyone is cut out for it. You need to devote time to exercise and train. You will have to deal with some negativity—I’ve seen mothers pick up their children and cross the street when they see a pit bull. If you do take the responsibility, you will have a loyal friend for life.

For more information, visit www.brewcitybullies.org.

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