ATLANTIC CITY — Ryan Preston found out the hard way if you want to adopt a pit bull from the Humane Society, you better not live in Atlantic City or Pleasantville.
The Humane Society of Atlantic County has had a policy in place since about 1991 that generally bans people in those cities, and Philadelphia, from adopting either pit bulls or Rottweilers, said Steven J. Dash, society director.
The problem is dog-fighting, Dash said.
“We were seeing dogs that were going to good homes, being stolen, used as bait and then coming back here,” Dash said.
Other animal shelters in the region said they have no similar policy.
“Oh no, we can’t do that,” said Bev Greco, executive director of the Cumberland County SPCA in Vineland.
Similarly, Aaron Perez, an animal attendant at the Ocean County Animal Shelter South in Manahawkin, said there were no breed prohibitions against specific towns.
In Cape May County, county Animal Shelter Manager Judy Davies said residents of all cities are accepted. But the shelter takes steps to ensure the person would be a responsible owner, and when an apartment renter considers a so-called “vicious breed,” the shelter contacts the landlord.
Kathy Kelsey, the director of the Atlantic County Animal Shelter, said, “I don’t particularly feel there is more cruelty in Atlantic City or Pleasantville,” she said.
She said the shelter has also seen some problems in the Farmington and West Atlantic City sections of Egg Harbor Township.
“The dogs most used for fighting are the most people-oriented and trainable,” she said. “It’s really, really sad that these beautiful dogs get such a bad rap.”
Preston said that on Sunday, he visited the Humane Society of Atlantic County’s Atlantic City shelter to look at dogs.
There he saw Prince, a four-month-old male pit bull puppy. He took the dog out in the society’s yard and played with it. It was a good dog, he said.
That night, he told his mother, his fiancée, and her friend about the dog. His fiancee and her friend Alex Martinez live in Pleasantville, Preston said, while his mother lives in Atlantic City.
They liked what they heard, Preston said, and while they all wanted a pit bull, they decided Martinez would get to adopt.
But when Martinez returned on Tuesday, the Humane Society told him the bad news. They wouldn’t allow a pit bull to be adopted in Pleasantville or Atlantic City. Martinez said he left without even seeing the dog.
“I thought it was a law or something,” he said of the regulation.
Preston returned on Tuesday, but could not convince them. On Wednesday, he met similar resistance.
For about a half hour, Preston and Dash argued the issue.
“Your area is not an area I would want to send a pit bull,” Dash told Preston, saying the decision was not a reflection on the home.
Couldn’t a Pleasantville resident get a friend in, say, Somers Point, to lie and say the dog was for him? Dash acknowledged that possibility, but said he couldn’t control a person’s honesty.
He could provide a good, safe home to an animal in a shelter, Preston argued. The irony was not lost on Preston that the shelter was based in Atlantic City, but its residents could not adopt these dogs.
“I can hear your frustration,” Dash said, “but I have to make a decision in the best interests of the animal.”
In the end, Preston left empty-handed, but still determined. He would visit other agencies and see if they could adopt a dog there. “I’m going to keep going,” he said.
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