When Fiona Gilbert, a biohacker and movement therapist, was diagnosed with a debilitating degenerative neurological disorder, she looked for ways to adapt to the reality of the disease. One of them was finding a service dog trained to be bracing – no easy feat. Thanks to the Animal Farm Foundation (AFF), she is now supported by a pit bull named Koda. AFF, a nonprofit organization based in New York’s Hudson Valley, is committed to promoting equal treatment and opportunities for Pit Bull dogs and their owners. They offer a remarkable range of services, not least to give marginalized dogs a chance at the love they deserve.
Lee Harrington: I find that you always use quotation marks around the words “pit bull” which seems like a subtle way of slowly breaking down stereotypes and prejudice. What is the reason for this choice?
Regina Lizik: It is about the labeling of accommodation. Pit Bull is slang – short for American Pit Bull Terrier. But what is happening now is that dogs in shelters are called pit bulls because, for example, they have short hair and blocky heads. Once a dog has been classified as a pit bull, it can be accepted into our program.
LH: Even if he / she is wrongly labeled?
LH: What motivates people to look for a Pit Bull service dog? Finances? Legal profession? Break prejudices?
RL: A combination. Many people who apply say they like Pit Bulls as pets. We have had people say, “I am being discriminated against because of my needs, and these dogs are discriminated against.” So you feel connected to these dogs.