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Tag: staffordshire bull terrier

From homeless heroin addict to popular artist, with help from a dog named George

johnandgeorge1

A formerly homeless man who once sold his sketches for pocket change on the streets of London’s now sells them for thousands of dollars at exhibits — and credits his dog for turning his life around.

Up until a few years ago, John Dolan, 43, had been a heroin addict whose life had seen more than 300 criminal convictions, 30 stints in prison and long stretches of homelessness.

He was living on the streets when he took in George. The young Staffordshire bull terrier had been living with another homeless couple who had had acquired him in exchange for a can of beer. They’d found housing, but not dog-friendly housing, and George needed a home.

Dolan, who hadn’t exactly been living a life of responsibility, was worried about whether he was up to having a dog.

“How was I going to cope with him? I couldn’t even cope with myself,” he told the Guardian.

georgeBut George, he noticed, had a way of looking him in the eye when he talked, and the two quickly bonded. Dolan says it was the fear of losing George if he went to prison again that led him to give up crime.

“He’s like my child in a sense and I feel obliged to keep a roof over his head and keep him warm,” he said.

Of course, George was helping Dolan out in other ways, too. Dolan made more money panhandling when George was at his side. Still, Dolan says, he felt embarassed by begging.

“Sitting there holding out my hand was so embarrassing, so degrading. I didn’t like to look at people as they went past. I picked up the pen mainly so I could bury my head in a drawing pad.”

He started drawing the buildings, and drawing George, and, sitting with his dog on the sidewalk, he would sell the drawings for whatever he could get.

Then he was discovered. First he was commissioned to do some drawings for a book. Then a gallery director, Richard Howard-Griffin, asked if he would draw some large streetscapes for him.

dolanbookLast fall he had his first exhibit. His second is now underway at the Howard Griffin Gallery in London, with proceeds being donated to The Big Issue Foundation and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. 

Another exhibit, in Los Angeles, is in the works. And Dolan has published a book, “John and George: The Dog Who Changed My Life.”

Dolan has a home now, but  still sits on the street and draws, with George.

“I feel like he’s a guardian angel. If it hadn’t been for him I’d have never picked up my pen.”

(Top pPhoto: David Levene / the Guardian)

Miami’s pit bull ban takes a hit

Breed specific legislation against pit bulls took another much deserved hit last week when a Dade County court ruled that Miami’s pit bull ban is too vague to be used as grounds for euthanizing animals.

The county ban applied to all dogs that “substantially conform” to American Kennel Club standards for  American Staffordshire Terriers or Staffordshire Bull Terriers, or United Kennel Club standards for American Pit Bull Terriers.

To determine if a dog conformed to the standards, the animal control department used a chart that lists 15 body parts, such as head, neck, lips, chest, eyes, tail and hind legs. Officers check off which characteristics of a dog conform to a pit bull. If three or more characteristics are checked, the dog is declared a pit bull.

The court ruling came in a case challenging the finding by Miami-Dade County Animal Control that a family pet named Apollo was a “pit bull” that must be removed from the county or euthanized.

Rima Bardawil, the attorney for Apollo, pointed out that the ordinance makes no mention of any chart or checklist, and that it is not clear what standards animal control is using in making its determinations or how valid they are.

Dahlia Canes, executive director of Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation, testified that animal control is “constantly” misidentifying the breeds of dogs. She told the court about one dog that was declared by an animal control officer to be a pit bull mix and ordered euthanized.  Canes arranged to have the dog re-evaluated and he was determined to be a mastiff mix. The dog was then adopted to a family in Miami-Dade County.  

In the case of Apollo, the animal control officer photographed the dog from several feet away, then used the photo to pick three body parts he said he thought conformed to pit bull standards.

It makes one wonder — how many of the dogs described by police, and characterized in headlines, as pit bulls really are of the breeds that fall under that catch-all term?

Hawaiians protest proposed pit bull ban

Dog owners and advocates in Hawaii are rallying in protest of a proposed state law to ban pit bulls.

In the first of several protests planned on Oahu, dozens of dog owners called Sunday for state lawmakers to dismiss a bill that would ban pit bulls, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported.

Hundreds of Oahu residents signed a petition started by several community members at a rally at Magic Island  to protest the bill, as dozens of residents, wearing shirts that protest breed-specific legislation, lined Ala Moana Boulevard to draw awareness to their cause.

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