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Shelter event aims to change perception of pit bulls

MOORHEAD, Minn. - Ginger was giving out sloppy French kisses here Saturday afternoon. Man, woman or dog - she didn't care. Ginger was one of several pit bulls manning (or is it dogging?) the canine kissing booth outside local shelter 4 Luv of Dog...

Kiss a pit bull
At a fundraising booth set up for people to kiss a pit bull for 50 cents per kiss, an Australian Shepherd named Festus jumps up to grab a quick smooch from Ginger, half pit bull and half terrier, as dog owners celebrate National Pit Bull Awareness Day at the 4 Luv of Dog Rescue on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Moorhead, Minn. Dave Wallis / The Forum

MOORHEAD, Minn. - Ginger was giving out sloppy French kisses here Saturday afternoon. Man, woman or dog - she didn't care.

Ginger was one of several pit bulls manning (or is it dogging?) the canine kissing booth outside local shelter 4 Luv of Dog Rescue, where dozens of dogs and their owners gathered for National Pit Bull Awareness Day.

With handouts on the breed and pit bulls barking and playing in the parking lot, shelter volunteers organized the event Saturday in hopes of breaking down some of the negative stereotypes surrounding what they consider a misunderstood breed.

Natalie Helm, Ginger's owner and a 4 Luv of Dog volunteer, said she thinks they've started to "change people's perception of the breed" that stemmed from well-publicized attacks and bites. Helm said pit bulls are no different than any other breed in the hands of an owner willing to put in the work to train them.

"Some people aren't willing to do that," she said. "They are smart and they're strong. Most people, as soon as they meet one, it's enough to change their perception."

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Helm said the Fargo-Moorhead community of pit bull owners is growing, in part because more keep showing up in the shelter or at local pounds due to inexperienced owners and housing restrictions on larger breeds.

Eighteen of the nearly 70 dogs up for adoption at 4 Luv of Dogs are pit bulls or pit bull mixes. Many of the pit bulls playing outside 4 Luv of Dog Saturday had been adopted from the shelter.

Bob the pit bull, wearing a green doggie pea coat and a bowtie, was here less than a year ago. He quickly won over Erik Vosseteig, who took him home in April.

Vosseteig said his family and friends can't believe he adopted a pit bull. But he said Bob changes that as soon as he meets someone - including himself.

"I was totally against them, too," he said. "There's not a mean bone in his body."

Sarah Dodd, too, was hesitant about pit bulls when she started volunteering at 4 Luv of Dog. But working with dogs like Lightning, a Black Labrador mix with a crop of white fur on his chest, have changed her mind.

Lightning is currently up for adoption. Dodd said she's considering fostering him until he finds a permanent home.

"They seem like some of the nicest dogs we get into the shelter," she said.

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