Imagine for a moment you’re at a stoplight sitting next to a car that only half a dozen were ever made, the 1964 Shelby Daytona Coupe. Its engine, slowly growling as you start to imagine seeing it on a racetrack in the golden days of racing.

Then, as quick as that chance encounter occurred, the light changes and it speeds away. That once in a lifetime encounter, a thing of the past.

Pits for Patriots have to deal with that growling at a stoplight experience time after time. Not because they’re catching a ton of Shelby’s at traffic lights, but rather dogs with golden personas in kennels across Chicagoland. As a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization, Pits for Patriots works to rescue Pit bull-type dogs from various Chicagoland area rescues and shelters to serve as emotional support, therapy, skilled companion and companion dogs for U.S. Military veterans and first responders.

Hazel Grace stands at attention. [Photo: Pits for Patriots]

The organization was founded by Kelly Yearwood, who after several years volunteering at her local dog rescue, saw the number of dogs that were dying at alarming rates due to a lack of homes and foster families.

“I wanted to do more for and with these dogs to turn around the bad stigma that is attached to them. I decided to serve a demographic of people that I felt would be able to understand and empathize with what these dogs have gone through.” Yearwood explains. 

Pits for Patriots are hard at work rescuing and train pit bulls as service dogs for veterans and first responders who have physical and emotional needs. Pits for Patriots is hard at work battling a negative public opinion surrounding the breed, while at the same time delivering veterans and first responders the type of support they require, at no cost.

As Yearwood explains, battling a media-driven stigma may be the harshest challenge Pits for Patriots faces each day.

“The only time you hear of a dog bite making the news is if it is a muscular block-headed type dog that resembles a Pit bull type dog. People’s perception then becomes that these are the only type of dogs that bite. Every dog, just like every human is an individual. They have likes and dislikes, and they each have their own distinct personalities. Each dog, no matter the breed or mix, needs to be looked at and treated as an individual.”

“We attend events such as the D’arcy [Buick GMC Route 66] Classic as well as go into school programs to teach kids about these dogs as well as dog safety. We have therapy dogs that we bring to work with kids that have sustained multiple traumatic abuses and homelessness, much like our dogs, to show them not only how to live and treat dogs, but that if dogs can go from abuse and being homeless to loving foster and adoptive homes, so can they.”

The Pits for Patriots team poses for a group shot at Hugs n Mugs [Photo: Pits for Patriots]

Delta Airlines recently placed a ban on all Pit bull type dogs as service or support animals after a 50-lb support dog aboard Delta Air Lines Flight 1430 attacked a man trapped in a window seat. Since the attack, Delta has placed restrictions include limiting each passenger to one emotional support animal per flight and prohibiting pit bull-type dogs as service or support animals. Additionally, the airline now requires passengers to submit the emotional service documentation at least 2 days before a flight.

 “We’ve seen the terrible fallout of people bringing their so-called untrained emotional support dogs on flights. Flying is scary for dogs, and without proper training or confinement, they should not be allowed on planes, in my opinion.” Yearwood explains, “People’s perception then becomes that these are the only type of dogs that bite. Every dog, just like every human is an individual. They have likes and dislikes, and they each have their own distinct personalities. Each dog, no matter the breed or mix, needs to be looked at and treated as an individual.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 4.7 million dog bites take place in the U.S., meaning a dog bites one out of every sixty-nine people. Out of 30 dog attacks resulting in death in 2018, only four involved pit bulls that occurred off-property of the owner.

Pit Bulls only accounts for 6.5% of the total dog population in the U.S.

“According to the law [emotional support dogs] do not require any specific training.” Yearwood states, saying she does not personally agree with this take on training ESD animals, “A person must have a legal documented psychiatric disability for which a doctor states an emotional support dog would be beneficial.”

Yearwood tells us some of the qualities to look for in any breed of dog that should be considered for emotional support are:

“I feel many Pit bull type dogs exhibit these various qualities and therefore make awesome ESD,” Yearwood says.

As part of the Miss Classic Pin-Up Contest during the D’Arcy Buick GMC Route 66 Classic on Saturday, part of the contest involves contestants entering the racer pits and soliciting donations to benefit Pits for Patriots. The contestant that earns the most donations in that timeframe will be crowned the “Queen of Hearts.”

Joe and Buford pose for a quick photo together [Photo: Pits for Patriots]

Pits for Patriots is always looking for volunteers to assist in fundraising efforts for the organization.  As a registered 501 (c) 3 organization, receives no government support and is 100% funded by individual donations to the organization. To get involved with Pits for Patriots, or for more information, connect with them on Facebook, write info@pitsforpatriots.org or call 630-354-8812.

Get your tickets now for the D’Arcy Buick GMC Route 66 Classic, or click here for more info on this weekend’s event.

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