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ASPCA's 'Operation Pit' Marks First Year of Pit Bull Program

By Amy Zimmer | July 15, 2011 7:15am | Updated on July 15, 2011 7:20am

YORKVILLE — Christin Wain and her 11-month-old pit bull Beauty woke at 5 a.m. on Thursday, left their Jersey Shore home and traveled for two hours to the Upper East Side for "Operation Pit."

She was lured by ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital's free program for spaying and neutering  healthy pit bulls between 3 months and 6-years-old — a $500 saving from what her vet would have charged.

Operation Pit, celebrating its first anniversary on Friday, has provided roughly 600 free surgeries to pit bulls in its first year.

The popular program, which operates every Tuesday and Thursday at the 494 East 92nd St. center, currently has a months-long wait list and will soon be expanding to "select Sundays" this month at the ASPCA's Glendale, Queens, location.

 "I just think it's healthier to have her spayed," said Wain, who received Beauty from a friend when the dog was three weeks old, weighing 2 pounds and "infested with worms."

"There are so many pit bulls out there," Wain said. "I don't want to breed them. People breed them to fight. They get treated so badly but they bounce back so quickly. They're very resilient."

The overwhelming majority of dogs in animal shelters are pit bulls — which is why the APSCA is targeting the breed.

Pit bulls tend to have larger litters than other dogs, averaging 10 to 12 pups compared to the couple of pups a Chihuahua would give birth to, the ASPCA's Dr. Emily Pointer said.

"It's rare for even a good owner to find 10 to 12 homes for the pups," Pointer said.

"There are way too many pit bulls. If you want one you can go to an animal shelter," she said, but noted, "It's a breed with — inappropriately in my opinion — a bad reputation, so they have a difficult time being adopted when they're next to a cute little terrier."

Andiy Baker, 24, of the Bronx, said that some pit bull owners will use the dogs as "cash cows" to sell off the puppies. She found her three-year-old dog, Dionysus, tied up to an abandoned Bronx storefront a year and a half ago. She was still lactating, and Baker believes she had just given birth to a litter of puppies before being abandoned.

 "The last thing I want to worry about is her getting pregnant," Baker said of her decision to get her spayed. "I'm not looking to breed and who knows where those puppies would end up. They could be on death row," she said of the list of pets euthanized because there's no room for them in shelters.

"You don't know what people will do with the puppies," said Trashawn Jenkins, 29, who brought his five-month-old, Precious. The person who sold her to Jenkins still calls him to make sure he's treating the dog well and not using her in fights.

Besides controlling the overpopulation of pit bulls, Pointer mentioned some of the health reasons for spaying. If done before a dog's first heat cycle, it reduces the dog's risk of breast cancer to less than 1 percent. It also eliminates the risk of an infected uterus — since the uterus is removed in the procedure — which is a common problem for pit bulls.  Pointer had seen a dog this week that had to be put down because of these two illnesses.

Neutering prevents testicular cancer and prostate infections — both common in male dogs.

"People don't realize the health benefits," Pointer said. She added that for owners who are uncomfortable with the idea of getting rid of their male dog's genitalia, there is the option of getting a vasectomy.

Since 2010, the ASPCA has performed more than 3,300 spay/neuter surgeries at Bergh Memorial and more than 46,000 at its ASPCA Mobile Spay/Neuter Clinics across the city, animal hospital officials said.