The 3-year-old, 3-legged pitbull mix Thalia won’t have to struggle with another pregnancy again thanks to Wednesday’s free “Pittie Party” neutering clinic at the American Legion Post 5 in Rome.
“She’s as gentle as can be, but some people just don’t like the look of her,” Thalia’s owner Ron Stark said as he carried her to the car after her spaying, explaining her right front leg was amputated more than a year ago after an unknown person shot her.
“Carrying pups was hard on her, so we wanted to make it so she wouldn’t have to go through that again.”
The first-time event focusing exclusively on 25 local pitbulls and pitbull mixes to help reduce the number of euthanized dogs or those ending up in shelters long-term was sponsored by Rome-Floyd Humane Society and My Kids Have Paws Veterinary Services of Dalton.
Stark, who has had Thalia since she was a puppy, said it would have cost him at least $250 to have Thalia spayed at a vet clinic. He said he was glad a friend told him about the “Pittie Party,” which was held in the same place as past free neutering clinics for all breeds of dogs and cats.
As a few crated patients barked and whined in the Legion hall, Rome-Floyd Humane Society Vice President Lynne Griffin said they plan on having another such event for pitbulls some time in the fall, possibly in September. She said they will do their best to get the word out early on.
“We’re hoping this will help,” Griffin said. “There’s such a population explosion out here and there’s a lot of stray dogs and people don’t know what to do.”
Griffin said she wants people to know that neutering a male pitbull will not cause the dog to become less protective.
“They’ll be protective at home — not out running around where they can get injured or even die in a fight,” she said. “So hopefully there’s more reasons to fix them because then they’re going to stick closer to home.”
Dr. Robyn O’Kane, a traveling vet with My Kids Have Paws Veterinary Services out of Dalton who performs about 6,000 neuters a year in Northwest Georgia, was happy to see 6-year-old Layla on her operating table in the back of her 22-foot van.
It was obvious to her that Layla, a large brown pitbull with pronounced teats, had had several litters of pups already.
“I can even see where the fetuses were,” O’Kane said as she pulled out Layla’s uterus during surgery. “Pits are the number one euthanized breed in America. Shelters are overrun with them. We hope this will lessen the number of dogs that have multiple litters. We need to stop this cycle.”
O’Kane said every year it’s a different breed of dog put on the “bad” list by the general public. Sometimes it’s Dobermans, other times it’s German shepherds. Pitbulls, in particular, however, seem to always be on that list, which usually causes landlords to ban them, airlines to restrict them and counties such as Floyd to pass a law preventing them from being adopted.
“It’s not the dog, it’s the owner,” O’Kane said as she stitched up Layla after also spaying feral cats trapped at a local cemetery. “Pitties are one of the sweetest dogs around. That’s why the dog on the Little Rascals show was a pitbull.”
O’Kane said she knows she has treated dogs who have been in underground dog fighting rings, but is torn between wanting the owner to trust her enough to bring the dog for treatment and her desire to report them for the brutal activity.
“It’s disgusting, but I would rather be able to treat the dog,” she admitted as she wrapped up another 15-minute spay. “It breaks my heart.”
As “Pittie Party” staff prepared to take another waiting dog into O’Kane’s van, a rescued pitbull mix that had been tied to a porch for months was given one of the two open slots available after two of the dog owners who had made appointments failed to show.
Griffin said the next time they have another event for pitbulls, they might charge a $20 registration fee that will be refunded once the surgery is over to give owners more incentive to keep their appointments.
“This is a wonderful service being provided and we want to be sure as many dogs as possible can benefit from it,” said Griffin as she took a quick break to enjoy some pizza brought in for the crew. “We live for this sort of thing.”