Most anyone who has had a pitbull will sing the praises of the breed. They’re loyal, sweet, cuddly, and seem to have a special key to opening up the human heart. But both pitbulls and their owners face a constant struggle against the uninitiated’s misconceptions about the breed. A negative portrayal in the media and widespread confusion about dog behavior have led many people to see “bully breeds” in a less than a positive light. Luckily for this lovable group of underdog dogs, there are people out there fighting to change that perception.
One bright star in the world of pitbull advocates is Laura Petrolino, who worked doing communications for politics and venture capital companies before co-founding StubbyDog in 2009. StubbyDog is a non-profit national organization that strives to advocate for the rights of pitbulls and spread the word about what wonderful dogs they truly can be. Since its inception, StubbyDog has promoted the cause by connecting a strong Facebook community of over thirty thousand fans, selling pitbull branded gear, and sharing bully breed pictures, news and resources on its site, StubbyDog.org.
StubbyDog’s newest project, is the Superhero Squad. The Superhero Squad will be made up of a group of carefully selected pitbulls who will be portrayed in the media as breed ambassadors. The squad will be comprised of extraordinary pitbulls –therapy dogs, service dogs and more — that have gone the extra mile to make a difference in people’s lives.
“The goal here is to create the Lassie effect,” said Petrolino, who lives in Florida. “I used to watch Lassie every single day on TV when I was growing up. For the longest time afterward I would associate Collies with Lassie, even though I knew nothing about them. That’s what we’re hoping to do here. We want people to see these dogs as superhero dogs that are fun, heroic, and out there making a difference.”
The Superhero Squad will be divided into three tiers. The first will consist of certified therapy pitbulls, who will be the canines most featured in the media. They will visit hospitals, schools, and elderly homes; brightening the days of those in need of unconditional love. While at work, the superheroes will help to promote their cause by handing out a special “power packet” containing information about the breed. The second tier consists of “superheroes-in-training,” or those pitbulls who are not therapy dogs, but have passed the AKC’s good citizen test. Well-behaved and loving, these canines will be trained to eventually become therapy dogs themselves. The third tier ambassadors are open to any breed of dog; these dogs (and their humans) will be fighting hard to advocate for animal rights, and will receive training to become the best advocates possible.
The first Superhero Squad will be made up of ten teams from across the country that will make up the first tier superhero squad. There is a $25 fee to submit an online video application for a prospective Superhero–each candidate must either have passed the Canine Good Citizen or C.L.A.S.S exam in order to qualify for a nomination. Applications can be filled out online and will be accepted until August 13th. An online vote will follow.