As the founder of For Pits Sake, Kris Crawford is dedicated to improving the reputation of the much-maligned pit bull. Crawford, a retired search-and-rescue dog trainer and handler, is the proud owner of three pit bulls, Cheyenne, 13; Dakota, 12; and Tahoe, 8.
In 1997, she founded For Pits Sake, which includes programs in animal-assisted therapy, safety around dogs, search and rescue, and canine training and a campaign against dogfighting. Crawford's mission is to change public opinion about pit bulls, which are often perceived as aggressive, dangerous animals.
"For every pit bull you hear of on the news that's bitten someone, if you look at the story behind it, it's been a dog that has been abused or was not raised by a responsible owner," said Crawford. "There are thousands of pit bulls across the country that are cherished family pets that you never hear about."
Crawford described her dogs as funny clowns who adore adults and children. During her search-and-rescue career, Crawford and her dogs responded to more than 200 search missions for lost or missing people, including the high-profile search for murder victim Laci Peterson. In 2003, Crawford and Dakota were recruited by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and NASA for an elite team to search for the bodies of astronauts who died in the space shuttle Columbia crash.
"Having a pit bull hand-picked to search for American heroes meant quite a bit to me," said Crawford.
During that time, Crawford also started an animal-assisted therapy program, where she and her dogs provide comfort to abused and disabled children in hospitals and rehabilitation centers throughout the Bay Area.
"Kids can learn so much from dogs," said Crawford. "They can learn unconditional love, trust and how to be nonjudgmental. When they work with children, my dogs can help them temporarily forget about their disability or teach a battered and abused child how to love again."
Safety Around Dogs is a program that Crawford conducts in schools and community centers.
"Eighty percent of all fatal dog attacks involve children under 9," said Crawford. "Contrary to popular belief, the majority of these attacks are not coming from a dog that's loose in the neighborhood. Half of all dog bites come from the family's own dog and another 40 percent from a friend or neighbor's dog. I decided that it's time to change these odds. Safety skills around dogs, to me, are just as important as fire safety or looking both ways before you cross the street. "
For information, go to www.ForPitsSake.org, www.KnockOutDogFighting.org and www.SafetyAround Dogs.org.