Dozens of dog owners who believe the stigma placed upon their beloved "bully breed" is unfair stood united Saturday at a gathering intended to raise awareness about a new advocacy group in town.
The welcome event for HugABull Advocacy and Rescue Society in Kamloops also turned into "reasonable debate" between pet owners and Daily News columnist Mel Rothenburger.
Rothenburger, who wrote a couple of columns breed owners say cast their pets in an unfavourable light, was invited to attend by HugABull volunteer Kim Christenson.
Christenson hoped mingling with bull-breed owners and their dogs at Bosely's Pet Food Plus in Aberdeen would open his mind to what she says is a docile, well-behaved breed.
Catching up with Rothenburger after, he told The Daily News the exchange was a "cordial difference of opinion" between himself and dog owners.
"It was a strong difference of opinion," he said.
Christenson said it was the use of the word "ban" in Rothenburger's first column that upset bully breed owners. In some countries such bans have led to the dogs being euthanized.
Saturday's event wasn't organized as a response to Rothenburger's columns, but it did attract many who are upset about them.
In fact, Jordon Surina's girlfriend, Crystal Hildebrandt, and their American Staffordshire terrier, Diesel, were the subject of Rothenburger's first piece.
In the column, Rothenburger wrote that a pit bull "slammed" against the Westsyde dog park fence as he and his dog were about to enter. Hildebrandt said Diesel just wanted to say hello.
She believes it's the unfair reputation dog's like hers have that spooked Rothenburger, and that's unfortunate.
"He's just stereotyping the dog," said Hildebrandt.
Surina said such stereotyping happens a lot, which is unfortunate.
The column so upset pit bull owner Andrew Weitzel and his wife, Jennifer, that they formed their own Facebook group, Bark for the Breed. Within a day they had 195 members.
"I've owned seven dogs throughout my life, and I've never had a dog as well behaved as her," Weittel said of his pet, Winnie. "She doesn't bark, she doesn't chew, she's never gotten mean to anybody."
The Weittels are organizing a dog walk for early spring that would raise money for the SPCA and groups like HugABull.
HugABull co-ordinator Michelle Lawrie said the non-profit group finds loving homes for bully breed dogs.
The group organizes events, advocates against breed-specific legislation and promotes responsible ownership for all breeds, said Lawrie.