The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

71° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Alumni foster pit bulls, run rescue group

Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat As part of Tough Love Pitbull Rescue, Kris Calson, a UA law graduate, rescues pitbulls from the pound during the final 24 hours before they are scheduled to be put down. Tough Love is a pit bull adoption organization that is run by Kris and just over a half a dozen other volnteers, several of which are UA graduates or students.

For some dogs, living in the pound is a last resort. But for 20 dogs fostered by the Tough Love Pit Bull Rescue, an organization founded by former UA law students, it was only the beginning.

Prompted by euthanasia lists sent out to pet rescue organizations, former James E. Rogers College of Law classmates teamed up to create the Tough Love Pit Bull Rescue organization. “Red lists” show which dogs have 24 hours to be rescued before they are put down. Gemma Zanowski, president and a founder of the organization, works with her fellow alumni Kris Carlson and Susan Friedman to help save the dogs on these lists.

“It’s very rewarding to be able to make a difference in a way that matters,” Zanowski said. “A lot of times we’re taking dogs that have been languishing in the shelter and after a couple of days, you see a completely different dog.”

Zanowski originally created the Revamped Rovers organization in 2008, with a focus on rescuing older dogs. She later found that there was a higher need to rescue younger dogs, and most of the dogs in animal control centers were pit bulls.

Last year, Zanowski shifted the rescue to focus on pit bulls and added an advocacy component to the organization. Carlson, who lives in Arizona, and Friedman, who lives in California, help Zanowski direct the organization.

Each co-director promotes the organization, either through Tough Love on Facebook, through Zanowski’s blog, or even through fundraisers. If they find someone to temporarily foster a dog, the co-directors are able to take the dog from an animal control center and place it in a good home from there.

“Our main goal is to save as many dogs as we can. Then, secondarily, it’s also to raise exposure,” said Carlson, a co-director. “People should not be going to pet stores to get pets, they should be going to animal control centers as much as possible.”

To date, 20 dogs have been placed in new homes with only one dog returned because of a child’s allergic reaction. If adopters have a problem with their dog, Tough Love will take back dogs, but the thorough screening process allows the organization to ensure dogs are going to a good home, Zanowski said.

The organization also coordinates a home visit for those interested in adopting a dog, in order to inspect the environment and gauge potential owners. Later, Tough Love organizes a meet-and-greet with a dog and potential owner, then does a follow-up a week later to ensure everything is going smoothly, Zanowski said.

The greatest issues the organization sees is the lack of owner and breeder accountability, Zanowski said, in addition to the undeserved bad reputation pit bulls have. People are breeding pit bulls too often and they aren’t screening potential homes properly, she said.

The lack of screening increases shelter populations and makes it hard for animal rescue organizations to keep up, Carlson said. And if more people volunteered for the organization, it would help increase the number of dogs rescued.

“I think it’s a great cause and it’s one of the rescue groups that is good for beginners,” said Ashley Brown, a graduate student in business administration and a volunteer with the Tough Love Rescue organization. “You can learn at your own pace and you are able to do things on your own with a great support network behind you.”

Brown fosters two dogs from the rescue and helps the organization promote education on issues regarding pit bulls.

“I have a lot of college students volunteering for me because you can get skills that can help you pad your resume,” Zanowski said. “I am more than willing to help college students out any way I can if they do want to contribute to the rescue.”

More to Discover
Activate Search