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Pit bull advocacy group seeks to change laws, perception

Barbara Getman, a certified trainer, works with a pit bull named Apollo at Cuse Pit Crew's free dog training session at St. Lucy's on Syracuse's Near West Side. The sessions are part of the advocacy group's mission to "refuel the human-animal connection" and rehabilitate the image of the pit bull and other bully breeds, as well as to lobby for better care of the dogs and stronger penalties for those who abuse or neglect them.

Barbara Getman, a certified trainer, works with a pit bull named Apollo at Cuse Pit Crew's free dog training session at St. Lucy's on Syracuse's Near West Side. The sessions are part of the advocacy group's mission to "refuel the human-animal connection" and rehabilitate the image of the pit bull and other bully breeds, as well as to lobby for better care of the dogs and stronger penalties for those who abuse or neglect them. Photo by Sarah Hall.

— In order to change that culture, Cuse Pit Crew has undertaken projects like free dog training within the 13204 ZIP code — Syracuse’s poorest neighborhood, the Near East Side. Residents can bring their pit bull or other bully breeds and receive free training from a certified trainer. They must live within that ZIP code and meet certain income qualifications. The training takes place at St. Lucy’s gym on Gifford Street. For more information, check Cuse Pit Crew’s web site. One six-week session is currently in progress; another is coming soon.

Another component of Cuse Pit Crew’s mission is humane education.

“What we really want to do with that is get into community centers, more of the kids and the teens on how you’re supposed to treat an animal, not just pit bulls, but in general, this is how you treat animals,” Higgins said. “There is research out there that people who abuse people have abused animals, as well, so we’re trying to get to that nook of everything to change things right off the bat. Some cultures believe that dogs are meant to be tied outside. They are used as protection. We’re going to try to get in and change the way people see dogs. The humane ed is a big thing.”

The group also helps connect people with medical help for pets when necessary. Eventually, Higgins said she’d like to get enough funding to help people with spaying and neutering.

“In the meantime, what we’ve been doing is helping people who’ve contacted us either about a loose pit bull or just being a resource for people,” she said. “People who are looking to adopt a pit bull come to us, which is a great thing. We can kind of facilitate that for them by sending them to local shelters and rescue groups.”

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