Local shelter barks up bully breeds

Fresno Bully, based at a facility in Sanger, does the work to find homes for pits, mastiffs and other maligned breeds

Fresno Bully has multiple play yards for the bullies that they host. Photo taken by Darren Fraser.
Fresno Bully has multiple play yards for the bullies that they host. Photo taken by Darren Fraser.
Darren Fraser
Published September 17, 2023  • 
10:00 am

SANGER – Opinions differ, of course, but there is nothing better than a dog; not only that, but adopting one in need is a sure way to chalk yourself up some brownie points. It is the ultimate win-win: the adopter receives a loving and loyal pet and pockets considerable goodwill, and the dog finds what all dogs want: love, affection, and security – which is where Fresno Bully (Bully) comes in.

Bully takes in and adopts out only bully dog breeds, which comprise 30 types of dogs. These include pit bulls, French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, American Bulldogs, Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, bull mastiffs, King Corsos, and Presa Canarios. 

Anyone who has visited an animal shelter can attest – bully breeds dominate the population. These dogs – pits, in particular – have lousy reputations; wholly unwarranted lousy reputations, even. However, Bully hopes to dispel these misconceptions.

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Bridgette Boothe is director and president of Bully. The organization began in 2008 as a result of the housing market crash crisis.

“People had to move into rentals, and apartments don’t take dogs over 30 pounds,” said Boothe. “And there is a list of breed restrictions: Pit bulls, Rottweilers – the big, restricted breeds on the insurance list. That is how we were formed in the first place, because of the overwhelming need.”

Boothe and her husband, Ryan, were Bully’s two first physical volunteers. The first location was not auspicious.

“The people who started it had a parking lot in downtown Fresno,” Boothe said. “They were renting out this little space with makeshift kennels. They were in that location for a year or year and a half. They were expanding, but were sitting in a downtown parking lot on asphalt.”

The nonprofit eventually moved to a property on West Herndon Avenue, where it remained for 10 years. But the property was rented, so Bully could not erect permanent structures. In 2017, the organization secured grants and received some hefty donations which allowed it to move to its current location in Sanger.

“We built the shelter from the ground up – from scratch, for the dogs’ needs specifically,” Boothe said. “It took us about two years.” 

The Sanger facility sits on four acres of land. It has 40 kennels. Each dog has its own kennel. Every kennel is equipped with a heater or fan – depending on the season – a bed, and bedding. There is a quarantine kennel for new arrivals, exercise yards and a walking path within the site.

Boothe said Bully averages 12 to 25 adoptions a month.

ONLY BULLY BREEDS, ONLY GOOD NATURED

Bully can house a maximum of 40 dogs. The shelter also fosters dogs, which means the organization has to be selective with respect to the dogs it takes in.

“We get a hundred requests a week to take in dogs,” Boothe said. “But if we only had two adoptions that week, we can only take in two dogs.”

Some signage posted at the Fresno Bully shelter, warning visitors to beware of pit bulls stealing their hearts. Photo taken by Darren Fraser.

She said the dogs they do consider taking in must possess temperament testing. This means the dog must get along with other dogs and be animal social. The dog must also be people friendly. Despite these criteria, Boothe noted there are dogs in the shelter that have been there for years.

She added that dogs, like humans, can develop behavior issues. Some dogs enter the shelter, acclimate and become comfortable, and then display a personality not always compatible with adoption.

“But we can work with dogs. Help them gain confidence to be out in the world, or work on some manners. Or basic obedience,” she said.

PARVO PUPPIES AND RISING COSTS

Unlike other shelters, Bully receives no state funding. The facility relies on donations to keep running.

“On average, it costs us between $25,000 and $30,000 a month (to operate),” Boothe said. “Sometimes we spend more than we take in.”

The shelter has a paid staff of five. There are 30 volunteers who have scheduled hours and there are volunteers who come when their schedules permit.

“Vet bills are our biggest monthly expense,” said Boothe. Bully uses its own veterinarian; Boothe said they can pay for planned expenses, such as spaying or neutering. It’s the unplanned expenses that can implode their limited budget.

“Last year, we got hit with two litters in a row with parvo. It knocked out our funding,” she said. “We’re going to take a break from puppies for a while.”

Then, there are the surprises with adult dogs. Boothe said the shelter currently has a dog that requires knee surgery. There was a female dog Bully took in from the Sanger shelter, who has a sizable tumor on the back of her leg that no one informed staff about.

“We picked up a dog from the Madera shelter – she has cherry-eye, and we need to get her spayed. That will cost over $1,000,” Boothe said. “You have to get them ready for adoption, but no one is going to adopt a dog with a giant tumor hanging on its leg, even though it’s benign.”

DRINKING BEER AND HANGING OUT WITH DOGS

Bully has a board of directors. There are board members who focus on fundraising. Boothe said she herself does spend a lot of her time organizing or lining up fundraisers.

“We are typically doing one fundraiser a month,” she said. “Of course, during COVID, everything was tough because we couldn’t do any onsite fundraising. Since then, we have been trying to build things back up. We are always out in the community to fundraise.”

Pints for Pits took place on Sept. 9 at the House of Pendragon Brewing in Sanger. This is a regular Bully fundraiser. Boothe said the bar is still raising money.

“I haven’t heard the final tally. They (the bar) are still trying to sell the remaining beer steins, so they’re still fundraising for us,” she said. “The Pints for Pits are successful. I mean, it’s beer and dogs – it’s not a hard sell.” Boothe said the bar can expect to raise anywhere from $600 to $3,000, depending on the size of the event. 

“They (the events) are fun for people. Dog friendly, family friendly, drinking beer and hanging out with dogs,” she added.

Bully’s next fundraising event is the annual Bully BOO! Walk on Oct. 8 in Woodward Park from 8 a.m. to noon. This year’s theme is an alien invasion.

Darren Fraser
Reporter