A 5-year-old pit bull is the latest "Pet Therapy Dog" at the Humane Society of Broward County.
Jada, a 5-year-old American Staffordshire terrier, was rescued from a backyard breeder after she was found living in deplorable conditions when she was a puppy.
When her owner rescued her, he brought her to the vet for a complete health exam, had her spayed and began her positive dog training journey.
Jada started puppy training, continued with obedience training and then went onto therapy training. She now lives happily in Davie with another American Staffordshire terrier mix, a cat and an 11-year-old child.
"Jada is one of the sweetest dogs I've ever met," said Marni Bellavia, Manager of the Animal Assisted Therapy Program with the Humane Society of Broward County. "She has a solid temperament, a sweet disposition, excellent obedience skills, she loves people, children and other animals."
During the test at the Humane Society of Broward County, Bellavia was in frequent close contact with Jada's face, put her fingers in the dog's mouth, tested her for food aggression, pinched her body to see if she had discomfort anywhere and performed a restraining hold on the dog to see how long it would take for Jada to pull away.
"It was like sugar melting in your hands," Bellavia said, regarding Jada's response to being restrained. "She just leaned against my body, gave me a few kisses and stayed still until I released her. Jada epitomizes the breed and she will be a great ambassador in the community. We want to educate people on pit bulls in general. We also want to help change the perception of this breed."
After successfully passing the Animal Assisted Therapy evaluation, the 80-pound, white and gray colored pit bull was given a volunteer badge along with a green and white vest that was embroidered with "Pet Therapy Dog" and "I love working for hugs and kisses" on each side. Jada pranced around and wagged her tail in excitement, almost as if she knew what she had accomplished.
"Jada has a very important job in our community as she visits schools in Broward County and teaches children about pet safety, bite prevention, the importance of spaying/neutering your pet amongst other topics," said Bellavia. "She is the spokesdog against Breed Specific Legislation and with her help we are able to show the community what a loving, sweet, smart, goofy and fun dog this breed is."
The Animal Assisted Therapy Program in its 28th year, includes a wide range of dog breeds, including Rottweilers, Dobermans, German Shepherds, Great Danes, purebred and mix breed dogs, a few cats, a rabbit and a ferret. The 100+ dogs range in size from 3 pounds to 128 pounds. The Therapy animals visit schools, libraries, nursing homes, hospitals, mental health facilities, and other organizations.
To qualify for the Animal Assisted Therapy Program, pets must be sterilized (spayed or neutered), up to date on their shots, they must pass a one hour test which includes, but is not limited to, evaluating the pet's temperament, touching the pet all over its body, interaction with people, children and other animals, their adherence to obedience commands, and how well they can move around medical equipment amongst other items.
For more information on the Humane Society of Broward County's Animal Assisted Therapy program, please visit http://www.humanebroward.com/php/aatherapy.php.