Harlingen shelter to allow pit bull adoptions following Action 4 News reports

A Blue Nose Pit-bull named Bebee gives her owner Israel Mendez plenty of kisses outside their Harlingen home.

The sight is a far cry from the typical perception of the breed often labeled as dangerous.

Israel says he trusts his 5 kids, all under age 13, with the dozens of pit-bull he's raised.

"They have no problems with them," he said. "They play around them, with them, no problem."

Bebee is 7-years-old.

She's Israel's favorite.

He believes pit-bull get a bad rap.

"It's all in how you raise the dog," he explained. "Like I said, if you raise them to be aggressive, they're going to be aggressive. If you raise them normally, they're not going to have any problems."

Shelters like the Humane Society of Harlingen are taking notice and are now adopting pit-bull out to families.

The long-standing ban has been lifted at the shelter after a series of Action 4 News reports centered on a pit-bull named Champ.

Last November, the dog was thrust into the national spotlight.

Champ faced certain death at the Harlingen shelter because of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his owner and his breed.

A legal defense group for dogs out of New York called the Lexus Project rescued the pit-bull, but ultimately the organization couldn't save the dog from a deadly disease.

Champ died just weeks following his freedom at the beginning of 2012 from complications associated with distemper.

Frank Quinones is the shelter manager at the Humane Society of Harlingen.

"He [Champ] did shine a little bit more light on the whole situation, especially thanks to the stories that came out on Channel 4," Frank said.

Pit-bulls are now ready for a loving home at the shelter.

There's a standard fee to adopt one, plus the cost to spay or neuter.

Frank says other requirements must be met to ensure safety.

"So this really does give them a second chance," Frank said. "We're not singling them out any more. We're a little bit open-minded now. Come in and adopt."

The rule change is welcomed news to Israel.

"That's actually great," he said. "That's a good thing. It's actually giving other dogs other chances to live a better life."

A step in the right direction for pit-bull everywhere.

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Statement From the Lexus Project: We were contacted on Facebook by Larisa Scharkin who is today, The Lexus Project (TLP) Vice President and coordinator about a pitbull mix named Champ. He was brought to the Harlingen Humane Society in Texas. We immediately responded that we would try to to help, however we would need local counsel to represent Champ. We put feelers out to find a pro bono attorney and lucky for Champ, we were contacted by attorney Christiana Dijkman who was willing and able to help. What made this case very different from the "typical" Lexus Project cases was that Champ had been abused by his owner and had been sized to protect him. Because the shelter did not adopt out pit bulls, Champ was at risk of being killed. Christiana Dijkman got an order appointing TLP guardian and with the help and support of the shelter and the Laguna Madre Humane Society who took Champ in, we were able to obtain his release. Champ went to a loving foster home where he flourished until he started not feeling well. It was discovered that, because he had not been vaccinated, he had contracted distemper and though Laguna Madre had their vet do everything possible to try and save him, Champ began to suffer and deteriorate. Everyone involved was devastated at the loss. Luckily Champ's story and personality was so compelling that the Harlingen Humane Society stepped back and reevaluated their policy of killing all pitbulls.

TLP has just received word that the Harlingen Humane Society has finally changed its policy and now will adopt pitbulls to families based on each dogs individual personality and not simply kill them because of their breed.

We are so grateful to attorney Christiana Dijkman, the Laguna Madre Humane Society, Harlingen Humane Society, Champ's foster family who made his short time with them a warm and loving experience and Ryan Wolf who followed Champ's story from the beginning and kept it in the public eye from beginning to end and helped bring about this change.

God Speed Champ. We will never forget you.

Robin Mittasch, PresidentThe Lexus ProjectFacebook: The Lexus Project