Meghan Turner wasn’t looking to own a dog when she walked by a PetCo in 2005. But when she saw one shrink away from her as she got close to a group of them, brought to the store by a local rescue group, she knew: “That’s my dog!”
Her dog May, now 10, hasn’t outgrown her reserve around people, although she is friendly and accompanies Meghan around town. She is more than just a pet. She is a pit bull whose sweet nature and ability to handle meeting new people and remain calm during unexpected situations makes her a poster dog for the mission that Meghan and others have made theirs since 2008: Love-A-Bull, a 501(c) nonprofit based in Austin that educates people about pit bulls and advocates for these much-maligned terriers.
It’s also a rescue group and finds foster homes for abandoned pit bulls. In 2011, 56 were adopted out – no small feat considering that only about 10 to 20 can be rescued at a time.
Love-A-Bull, formed when Meghan and other pit bull owners met up once a month on the hike-and-bike trails around Lady Bird Lake, has been so successful at what it does that some of its volunteers, including Meghan, are making a second appearance at the annual American Pets Alive no-kill conference, taking place on Feb. 23-25. Among many other dog related topics, they will speak about solutions to combat challenges the pit bulls face with their built-in negative public image.
“Dog bites happen every day, but no one hears or cares about the others. As soon as a pit bull bites, though, it’s all over the news,” Meghan says.
Meghan and Love-A-Bull aim to change that. Love-A-Bull offers free spaying and neutering for any pit bulls that need it. Last year alone the nonprofit provided those services to more than 150 dogs in the Austin area. They also trains pit bulls to become therapy dogs.
Currently, about 10 to 12 dogs in the therapy dog program, called the Pit Crew, visit children in elementary schools and adults in assisted living facilities to act as friendly companions, improve moods or build confidence.
But Meghan and the others in the group don’t just focus on the dogs. They have reached out to the public, too, with workshops, a user-friendly website, and events like Pints for Pits, a fundraiser that’s held at various local bars and other venues, such as Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden. Plus, they offer free training to any pit bull owners who pay dues to Love-A-Bull.
Their rigorous outreach in a pet-friendly town has turned the nonprofit into the largest pit bull meet-up group in the country, with 1,200 members as of last year, and Love-A-Bull continues to grow.
Meghan will be joined by three other Love-A-Bull volunteers: Jessica Anisman, Lisa McClain, and Aleksandra Gajdeczka at the American Pets Alive 2013 conference. They intend to discuss how other rescue groups can replicate Love-A-Bull’s success in their own communities.
Meghan wants to emphasize that ultimately, the pit bull is just like any other dog. That’s why she doesn’t just go to events centered on pit bulls. She also goes to ones that celebrate all dogs.
“I like going to the broader dog events because pit bulls aren’t lesser or different or separate,” she says. That’s the message we’re trying to spread. They’re dogs. They just happen to be called pit bulls.”
To hear more from Meghan Turner register for the American Pets Alive 2013 No-Kill Conference!
- Location: Radisson Hotel & Suites-111 East Cesar Chavez St. Austin, TX
- Dates: Saturday 2/23 – Monday 2/25
- A list of presentations can be found here
- The early bird registration fee of $85 expires on November 30th. Click here to learn more and register.