It's a challenge for local animal shelters to find homes for pit bull-type dogs, but one of them has spotlighted the issue with a "St. Pitty's Day" adoption special.
A handful of pit bulls were adopted this week at the Humane Society of St. Joseph County for a discount price of $17 — just a fraction of the $200 normal price.
The special has brought awareness to the issue of shelters being inundated with pit bulls. Shelter directors say there is a problem with people not getting dogs spayed and neutered, causing an overpopulation that has led to them ending up in shelters.
Saturday is the final day of the pit bull special at the county's shelter in Mishawaka. But if people fill out adoption applications today at the shelter or on its website, they will still qualify for the discount.
Genny Carlson, the shelter's director, said that its 40 pit bulls represent about one-third of all of the dogs there. Before they can be adopted, dogs have their behavior assessed and are spayed, neutered and given microchips. About a dozen pit bulls are available for adoption.
People are often wary of adopting pit bulls because the dogs are stereotyped for their aggressive behavior. But with the proper care, the animals can be loving and loyal companions.
Carlson said pit bulls receive training at the shelter so they're ready for adoption. Sometimes they start out as "rude dogs with no manners," she said, but they're taught to behave properly in social situations. Being taught how to sit down, for example, and not jump on people is important.
"One of the big things is making sure that pit bills are going to be good ambassadors for their breed," she said. "It's really important for us to not set any dogs up for failure, and we have conversation with adopters about whether additional behavior training is needed."