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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Nonprofit animal rescue program finds loving homes for pit bulls

<p>Sadie, a 2-year-old pit bull, salivates as people walk past cages of animals up for adoption at PetSmart Saturday.</p>

Sadie, a 2-year-old pit bull, salivates as people walk past cages of animals up for adoption at PetSmart Saturday.

Michelle Dunlap has a soft spot for what many people consider vicious, ugly killers.

Dunlap, director and founder of Phoenix Animal Rescue, has found homes for abandoned and abused pit bulls since 2003.

“Pit bulls are like every other dog,” Dunlap said. “They have their own gifts, and that’s what you focus on.”

Phoenix Animal Rescue, which is a volunteer-run nonprofit organization, doesn’t have a storefront.

The dogs are up for adoption at PetSmart, 3736 SW Archer Road, on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The dogs live with dog-lovers who are willing to take care of them until they’re healthy enough to go into a permanent home.

Dunlap’s love for pit bulls began with a dog named Chance.

She adopted Chance, a white pit bull with brown eyes, in 1999. She mistakenly thought he was a white boxer, but friends told her the dog was a pit bull. She said she thought to herself “God no, I would never have a pit bull.”

Chance was the dorkiest, silliest dog, she said. He wouldn’t hurt anyone.

When Dunlap took Chance to training classes, she realized her dog was treated differently because of his breed.

She said she was frustrated with how other people looked at pit bulls.

Animal rescues often turn away pit bulls because they think they won’t be able to get the dogs adopted, she said.

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Chance died from a tick bite when he was 6 years old.

His death didn’t stop Dunlap’s mission, but fueled it instead.

Dunlap is very selective about who gets the dogs. She knows people look for a perfect match.

“No one ever walks in and just takes the dog home,” said Jon Josephson, 28, a Santa Fe radiography student and a Phoenix Animal Rescue volunteer.

There are about 20 to 25 dogs in the rescue, and almost every dog is a pit bull.

She said people adopt six to eight dogs each month, and about 150 dogs are adopted every year.

The adoption fee is $150 to $200, and the owner gets free visits to a veterinarian in the first week.

Josephson said the adoption fee goes straight to the veterinarian bills and expenses that it took to keep the dog healthy.

The veterinarian bill is about $1,200 a month, Dunlap said.

She said she can’t imagine giving up the cause because of the emotional rewards she gets from knowing the dogs have good homes.

“I’m all for the underdog, so that’s how it started,” Dunlap said.

Sadie, a 2-year-old pit bull, salivates as people walk past cages of animals up for adoption at PetSmart Saturday.

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