For the fourth year in a row, Drew Volchko hosted dozens of dog owners in Collier Park to help raise money for wounded and fallen law enforcement officers.
“Dogs help officers both on the job and to get them back on the job,” said Volchko, founder of the Western Pennsylvania Police Benevolent Foundation.
Though Chihuahuas and Afghan hounds were present at Sunday’s event, pit bulls and ‘bully’ breed dogs were given special attention because of ongoing problems of overbreeding and abuse.
“We have so much of an issue with the bully breeds, them getting adopted – so we have them here in demonstrations showing how they’re misunderstood. They were once called nanny dogs because they were relied upon to watch over children,” said Volchko, a pit bull and rottweiler owner. “They’re big and misunderstood like I am.”
Helping with education and adoption efforts at the event were representatives from The Proper Pitbull, Western Area Humane Society and Animal Friends.
The annual event has been bringing the kind of star power dog owners appreciate. Luigi “Shorty” Rossi, of Animal Planet’s “Pit Boss,” has been flying to Pittsburgh every year from his Los Angeles and Mexico homes to educate about breed discrimination.
“You need to do research. A pit bull or another kind of dog like this – they may not be for you, but if you have the patience and treat these dogs right, they become great family,” Rossi said.
Rossi, who stands 4 feet tall and has eight pit bulls, has been one of the most recognized faces of pit bull advocacy, even after his show stopped taping in 2013.
“We’re working on another show, but I can’t say much yet. We’re still on this tour going from city to city, as we have for two-and-a-half years. So after we get done, I may be able to say more,” Rossi said.
Rick and Elizabeth Shaner came from West Newton for the event after seeing Rossi post about it on Facebook.
“We brought our two Chihuahuas, Frankie and Ruby. Ruby is a bit temperamental,” Elizabeth said as the dog yipped.
Other owners are foster parents and rescue volunteers. “This is Charlie,” Melody Donnely said as she rubbed the belly of a tan, female pit bull. “She got the name because she came with three pups and we thought they were little angels, so we named her Charlie and her angels.”
Donnely, of Collier, works with Animals Against the Odds, and said 6-year-old Charlie is up for adoption.
“The dogs, like any person, you can make them bad. If you put a person behind bars, they’re going to lose their mind. Same thing with a dog. If they don’t get socialized, don’t get out of a crate, don’t get loved, you’re going to have issues,” Volchko said.
For next year’s Paws for the Cause dog event, it’s likely Rossi will again be in attendance, Volchko said. “Over the last four years, Shorty has become one of my best friends. He does so much and cares so much about these discriminated breeds.”