Vigil in Austin for victims of breed discrimination

Nick Santino and Rocco

At 4:00pm, Saturday, February 4, 2012, Love-A-Bull, Inc. (http://love-a-bull.org/) will host a vigil and walk in Austin in memory of two victims of discrimination. Similar vigils will be held around the country including one organized by Animal Farm Foundation to pass in front of One Lincoln Plaza, New York, the former home of actor Nick Santino and his beloved five year old rescue dog, Rocco.
Nick Santino’s condominium board voted in 2010 to restrict dogs and prohibited pit bulls in the building and though Rocco’s presence was grandfathered, neighbors waged a campaign against the dog and urged he be “put down.” One neighbor complained about barking although that claim was disputed by others. A friend described the activity as “open season” on Santino and Rocco. This week, in a fragile state and after months of feeling harassed, Santino had Rocco euthanized, went home and distributed Rocco’s possessions including giving biscuits to the doorman. Wracked with grief and guilt, he swallowed a fatal dose of pills. He left a suicide note. “Today I betrayed my best friend and put down my best friend. Rocco trusted me and I failed him. He didn’t deserve this.”
While advocates of “bully breeds” work tirelessly to reverse the myths, fear-based breed discrimination abounds. Many apartments and condo associations’ side-step the issue with weight restrictions on pets while others have lists of breeds not accepted and described as “aggressive.”
On Friday, McDonald’s launched a radio ad perpetuating the stereotype by suggesting it was “safer” to eat nuggets than to pet a pit bull. Within two hours, hundreds of comments landed on McDonald’s Facebook page and their 800 feedback phone line was down with technical difficulties. The ad was pulled and a limp apology was posted deep within the comments. The company has not yet apologized publicly.
The vigil organized by Love-A-Bull, Inc. will meet at Austin City Hall Plaza, march peacefully to Republic Square to share remarks regarding breed discrimination, observe a moment of silence and light candles for the march back to City Hall. Well-behaved dogs on leash are welcome.

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