Cindy Reinsel’s first pit bull was a rescued black-and-white puppy that was sick with parvovirus. After some time at the veterinary hospital, Stubbie went home in 1983.“He ended up being a great dog, very loyal,” the secretary in Pediatrics recalled. “We raised our daughter with him. He was so nice.”
The Reinsels always have liked the so-called bully breeds.
“We actually had our first pit bull 30 years ago when all the hype wasn’t out there, when they weren’t mixed in with all the gangs and drugs,” she said.
“There were people like DMX who had pit bulls on album covers. He was a dog fighter, and he really pushed home that dog-fighting, bad-boy rapper image, and the media really picked up on that and ran with it.”
After talking with area dog trainers and owners about that persisting negative stereotype and canine fighting, Reinsel started the PET Bull Project in 2011.
“We came up with PET Bull because we like the acronym: prevent, educate and train,” she said. “We felt there are a lot of really good rescues in Toledo, but the education portion of it wasn’t really being addressed, so that’s why we put this together.
“We didn’t want to make it pit bull specific, but we wanted to be able to give a little more pit bull background to be able to educate people,” she said. “There are a lot of really good pit bulls, and responsible ownership is important to them. Sometimes pit bulls do have a bad background; not all of them are good, but they should be given a chance just like any other dog.”
The group is committed to preventing animal cruelty and dog fighting; educating pet owners on the importance of spaying and neutering; and training pets and people to become advocates for their breeds.
“I always fostered dogs. There are so many dogs in rescue, and we just keep beating our heads against the wall. We have to change the way people think; we have to go back to square one, start teaching our children: If you get a dog, it’s forever,” Reinsel said.
A nonprofit 501C3, the PET Bull Project offers several free classes.
“We do a lot of stuff on anti-dog fighting,” Reinsel said. “We do classes every other month at the Lucas County Youth Treatment Center and the Lucas County Juvenile Detention Center, and a lot of those kids are in there for that.“We talk to them about what the consequences are: You can go to jail for up to 18 months, you can end up not being able to own a dog ever again,” she said. “We really try to show kids positive things you can do with your dog: Train your dog to do agility and other games.”
“My whole goal is to show the kids that you can have fun with the dog,” said Carol Humberger, local dog trainer who helped Reinsel start the program. “When they see our dogs respond in such a positive way, we’re giving them new ideas, neat things that they can do with their dogs, and steering them away from the negative things.”
Humberger, who runs a dog training business called A Promised Friend in Oregon, Ohio, is on the board of the PET Bull Project. She believes in positive reinforcement and is one of several trainers who volunteer to lead free monthly trainings at area parks.
“I’m really a firm believer in nature and nurture. I think dogs are born with this innate personality, not breed; you could have a litter of puppies and have five dogs with five different personalities. So it doesn’t matter what breed they are, it’s their basic personality and then the way that people raise that personality can make or break the dog and determine what its final behavior is,” Humberger said.
The group offers pet safety classes for kids of all ages and humane education sessions for children in middle schools. And there’s the Teachers Pet Program that pairs at-risk youth with rescue dogs from Planned Pethood Inc.
“The kids pick a dog for eight weeks and they teach the dog to sit, how to stay, how to walk nicely on a leash,” Reinsel said. “And at the end of the eight weeks, we do a Canine Good Citizenship training, so the dogs have that certificate on their kennel cards for when they go to events, so it makes them a little easier to get adopted.
“So the kids learn some skills, they learn confidence, they learn some responsibility, and it helps the dogs hopefully get adopted.”
These efforts will continue in the new PET Bull Project Education Center, located in suite 105 at 12 E. Bancroft St. on the corner of Franklin Avenue.
An open house will be held Saturday, Jan. 19, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“We want folks to come out and see what we’re about,” Reinsel said. “Our trainers will be there, and we’ll have some training demonstrations and serve refreshments.”
Reinsel, who helped with the UT Heart Walk for more than a decade, is passionate about the project.
“If you can teach people to think differently about the way they treat dogs, that will pour out in the way they treat people,” she said.
“We run fully on donations. Now we have rent and utilities; it’s a little scary, but I just have to have faith that what we’re doing is right and that people and sponsors come through and keep us going.”
Read more and make a donation at toledospetbullproject.com. Interested in volunteering? Contact Reinsel at email@example.com or 419.704.2216.
A home for GretelLast January, the PET Bull Project received a call: A pit-bull mix had been thrown from the Veterans’ Glass City Skyway.
The mostly brown and white dog was taken to the Maumee Bay Veterinary Hospital, where she was treated for a shattered back leg and multiple cuts and abrasions.
“Our mission was not to be a rescue. Our mission is to prevent, educate and train,” said Cindy Reinsel, secretary in Pediatrics and founder of the project. “But that mission is very broad, and people call and we help if we can.”
After surgery, the 2-year-old dog dubbed Gretel was doing well.
“Even when she was hurt very badly, she didn’t growl, she wasn’t upset, she did really well,” Reinsel said.
“She’s a beautiful girl. We put her on our Facebook page, we had lots of interest, and she got a home.”
But that owner’s schedule changed and he no longer had time for Gretel, who was returned to the veterinary hospital.
“I go and get her and bring her to my house with my four dogs. I take her down to the center when I’m working there. I have her back on our Facebook page to try to get some more interest in her,” Reinsel said.
“She loves to go for walks, she loves to play ball, and she actually loves to jump up on your lap and cuddle. She loves to be with someone.”
If you want to give Gretel a forever home, contact Reinsel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419.704.2216.