Denise Costa is an animal advocate and writer whose is currently raising funds for her documentary Tony’s Tale Tragedy in Arizona; here is a link to its Kickstarter page:
Q: What made you interested in animal rights?
A: Actually I have been a life long advocate for animals. As a child growing up in Buffalo, New York I had a strong empathy for the stray dogs and cats in the neighborhood and would feed them whenever they came around my house. This was the 1970’s so the Animal Advocacy movement had not yet begun. When I was around 12 years of age I was browsing in Walden Bookstore and came across a book called “Slaughter of the Innocent” which exposed the horrors of vivisection on lab animals. I was horrified that such a practice existed and wanted to do something about it. At the age of 12 though I was not really empowered to do anything but I carried that same passion to right injustices into my adult life.
I turned my mission for animals to writing in 2009 when I published my first children’s book “A Tale of Three Tails” which I followed up with three other children’s books. I turned to writing non fiction with ‘Tony’s Tale, Tragedy in Arizona in 2012.” I also write a very popular column in the online Examiner newspaper which caters to exposing animal abuse cases, raising awareness for the plight of unwanted dogs in our society and the daily challenges rescuers face.
Q: What is Tony’s Tale, Tragedy in Arizona about?
A: Tony’s Tale, Tragedy in Arizona” profiles an actual case that took place in the small town of Clifton Arizona. Tony was a gentle 7 year old Pit Bull Shar Pei mix that lived with his family and two other dogs. Unfortunately Tony was wrongfully accused of killing a neighbor’s Chihuahua although the bite marks on the dog did not resemble Tony’s teeth. Tony was seized from his family and forced to live at the dog pound for 8 months before he was euthanized on June 18th 2012.
Q: Why was Tony ordered to be euthanized?
A: Although all evidence pointed away from Tony as the culprit in the case and their was worldwide public outcry over this, the Justice of the Peace Grace Nabor still ordered the killing of Tony based on the fact that he was part Pit Bull. At one point the judge was observed saying she was tired of this case and wanted it to be over. She was acting in a biased manner and not making her decision based on any evidence or lack of evidence.
Q: What do you think has caused so much fear of Pit Bulls?
A: At one point the Pit Bull was considered the perfect family dog and was even nicknamed “The Nanny Dog.” If you watch any of the classic films from the 1920’s and 1930’s the Pit Bull was the featured family pet in most films. The well known “Little Rascals aka “Our Gang” had a Pit Bull named Petie that accompanied them on many adventures. I believe the change in the view on Pit Bulls came when certain persons decided to capitalize on their innate strength and use them for the cruel practice of dog fighting. Most recently and namely the Michael Vick case. Pit Bulls are being abused for financial gain and subjected to horrific deaths in the fighting ring and instead of helping them we have turned our backs on the breed as a whole.
Q: OK, I have to tell a little story to ask this question; please forgive me. Although I certainly don’t think pits should be put down for their breed I do have a concern about them. I had a little Sheltie who was one of those persons in a dog suit, dogs. She never barked, chased anything on tried to bite anyone. One day she got an infection in her big toe and needed stiches, when the doctor took the stiches out she bit him. If she had been a pit bull with exactly the same sweet disposition, who acted out of character once, it seems to me, she could have taken off his hand. What would you say to quiet my concerns?
A: Well, any dog no matter what the size or breed is going to bite when in pain or feeling threatened or afraid. Of course a small dog like a Sheltie may not inflict as much pain as a Pit Bull however a bite or attack is an attack and cannot be reserved for one specific breed or another and thus stigmatize that one breed. Most veterinarians will muzzle dogs of all sizes when having to treat injuries or remove stitches. I volunteer at the local humane society here in Orange County, Florida as well as a private shelter and have encountered many Pit Bulls who are sweet, loving, affectionate dogs. The only two bites I have sustained in my rescue career were by a Pekinese and Boston Terrier.
Q: What are some of the perks contributors to your Kickstarter campaign will enjoy?
A: Contributors will enjoy different perks based on various donation levels. $25.00 or more, contributors will receive a signed copy of the book, $250.00 contributors will receive a signed copy of the book as well as a copy of the film on dvd, $500.00 or more contributors will receive screen credit as contributors and a copy of the film on dvd.
7. What do you like about dogs?
A: What I like best about dogs is there ability to love unconditionally and they never pass judgment on anyone. I have seen many dogs suffer from severe physical abuse to almost the point of death and still wag their tales at the rescuer or shelter workers.
Q: Are there any legal resources for dog owners who have experienced unjustified complaints about their dogs?
A: I would advise them first and foremost to contact and get the assistance of an attorney. They may also contact a nationwide group known as the Lexus Project at http://thelexusproject.org/. They provide legal defense assistance for such cases as well as pursue charges against animal abusers. Another good move is to contact the local media and get them on their side.
Q: What can my readers do to fight breed prejudice?
A: There are many websites dedicated to Pit Bulls and their preservation as well as petition sites that launch petitions to remove Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). They can also report dog fighting in their neighborhoods to local law enforcement and promote the breed to their own circle of friends, co workers etc. There are also many rallies held in various cities when a Pit Bull or any dog is wrongfully accused of a crime. They can get involved with that as well as give positive testimonials about their own positive experiences with the Pit Bull Breed.
Q: What other kinds of animal activism do you participate in?
A: I volunteer with my local Humane Society in their Education Department. I tour with my books to elementary schools where I read them and teach students responsible pet ownership, how to recognize and report animal cruelty in their neighborhoods, and to adopt a shelter pet as opposed to buying from a pet store. I also volunteer at different shelters walking the dogs and working at adoption events.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)