Oct 26, 2012 10:08 AM by Samantha Ptashkin
TUCSON- Mention the pit bull breed and right away the dogs stir up a great debate.
So much so that Melissa Barbalaco, who organized a walk this weekend called "Walk for Victims of Pit Bulls and Other Dangerous Dogs", says she has received death threats. "We've received a lot of flak for this," Barbalaco says.
But those threats aren't stopping her from continuing on with the walk. "We want to honor those people, we want to get the voices of the victims heard," Barbalaco says.
She herself was never attacked, but says her service dog was. "It was really scary, but she wasn't badly hurt and we managed to get out of there fairly unscathed," Barbalaco says.
After starting an informal victims group on Facebook, she realized others aren't as lucky.
"When I see a pit bull, I just freak," says Thelma Lopez, who is participating in the walk this weekend.
Lopez says she was attacked by a pit bull last March. "He grabbed me by my arm and he pulled me down and he started knawing at me," Lopez says.
She's doing fine now, except for some scars on her waist and arm.
Lopez and Barbalaco say their goal isn't to bash the pit bulls. "We're not asking for legislation, for dog ordinances, we're not asking for any of that," Barbalaco says.
Still, pit bull supporters say it's giving the breed a bad name. "I think it's unfortunate, it's a little bit of a mis-representation," Anthony Holcomb says.
Holcomb is a dog trainer, who works with pit bulls all the time. He says aggression is a learned behavior, not inherent. "Pit bulls are just like any other dog," Holcomb says. "I think education is the key."
An advocacy group called Pit n' Proud is providing that education by offering affordable pit bull training.
Pit n' Proud Program Coordinator Rachel Molyneux issued a statement to News 4 Tucson which says during their recent Pitbulooza! event, a certified evaluator tested 75 dogs. " Of those 75, 70 passed and 69 were pit bull type dogs. " The proof is in the pudding!" Molyneux wrote.
The victim's walk will be held Saturday from noon until 7pm at Lincoln Park on the East side. For more information head to www.walkforvictimsofpitbulls.blogspot.com/
The walk coincides with National Pit Bull Awareness Day. Advocacy groups and animal welfare
organizations across the nation will be holding celebrations, rallies, vigils, educational talks, and more.