UA Law Affiliates Launch Multi-State Rescue Network
A team born out of the UA's College of Law founded Tough Love Pit Bull Rescue, an organization working to save dogs in Arizona, California, Nevada and Washington.

By La Monica Everett-Haynes, University Communications
Jan. 25, 2012

Many underfunded and over capacity animal control centers and shelters publish lists of animals – some abandoned, others turned over by previous owners.

The "red lists," as they are sometimes called, indicate which animals stand to be euthanized within 24 hours if they are not rescued or adopted.

That reality drove a group of University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law students and alumni to establish Tough Love Pit Bull Rescue, an expansive network of individuals who foster "death row" dogs.

"It's rewarding when a dog goes to a home, but it's also emotionally taxing seeing that list come out every night," said Tough Love co-director Kris Carlson, who earned his Juris Doctorate from the UA last year.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that upwards of 6 million dogs and cats enter shelters across the nation annually, with about half being killed at shelters.

"There is an enormous problem. It will save lives if people started going to the pounds for pets," said Carlson, who also has two rescue pit bulls. "They are lives. They're not disposable, but unfortunately some people don't understand that." 

Beyond the need of swift rescues exist larger problems: the overbreeding of animals and poor choices being made, said UA law alumna Gemma Zanowski, also a Tough Love co-director.

"You see these patterns of owner irresponsibility and a lot of folks not being accountable for the life they've chosen to support," Zanowski said. "My whole idea was to deal with the biggest issue I could deal with. As I learned what the biggest issues were, I adjusted the organization accordingly." 

To rescue older dogs from shelters, Zanowski in 2008 founded Revamped Rovers. Finding that many of the dogs rescued were pit bulls, she later worked with Carlson and UA law alumna Susan Friedman, who lives in Los Angeles, to evolve the organization into Tough Love.

The three co-directors coordinate with a network of volunteers in Arizona, California, Nevada and Washington who take dogs – primarily pit bulls – to foster before finding them a permanent home.

This can take days, or months. And, in some cases, animals require immediate medical care, which can cost thousands of dollars, Carlson said, adding that the team also has utilized social networking sites to raise funds for those costs.

Since August, Tough Love has successfully rescued and placed 20 dogs, with several others currently awaiting homes.

On average, three to six dogs are in the program at any given time, Zanowski said.

The organization does not work with animals with a history of intentional, unprovoked bites to humans, though such cases are rare, Zanowski said, adding that most dogs also receive some basic training while being fostered. 

"We accomplish what we accomplish because everyone on the team is of high quality and extremely hard working," said Zanowski, who earned her degree in 2010 and now lives in Seattle where she works on welfare and animal law cases.

In Tucson, volunteers include UA undergraduate Corrie McDonald, who is studying family studies and human development and graduate student Ashley Brown, who is studying law and business administration. Also, Carlson's mother, Judy Carlson, manages fundraising efforts to support the organization. 

In addition to rescues and adoptions, the organization has other priorities, namely promoting increased public knowledge about pit bulls and advancing breed advocacy.

Volunteers also offer support to people who are considering giving away their pets and interface with other organizations on campaigns to inform the larger public about breeds and responsible ownership.

Zanowski, who has published articles and continues to conduct research on laws targeting specific breeds, said it is important for pet owners to properly socialize their animals.

It also is crucial to for owners to properly contain and restrain them, to integrate them into their families and lives and to also spay and neuter them, she added.  

She and Carlson said another challenge is the pervasive misconception that pit bulls are inherently viscous, aggressive and prone to attack humans.

"I'm not saying you can assume that every pit bull will be friendly, but they are like people in that they are individuals," said Carlson said, who also heads up the UA law school's Veteran's Pilot Program. "The way you treat them will impact their behavior."  

The team does have a long-term plan for the organization and its four-state network, namely in establishing a facility to enable more widespread work.

"We're just starting out in our legal careers and hoping we'll get to the point to buy a facility," Carlson said, adding that the team is trying to address the larger problem of over breeding of animals. 

"The pounds have all of these great animals that are being put to death people don't know about them," Carlson said. "The work that we do is a small dent in a large problem, but if it makes any difference and spreads awareness and gets someone to think, then it's worth it because we've saved a life."

Extra info

To learn about Tough Love Pit Bull Rescue, visit its Facebook page and blog.


Other UA student groups are working against animal cruelty and promoting animal preservation or responsible pet ownership. They include: 

  • The Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, which is part of the FundStudent Animal Legal Defense Fund, a national coalition of student groups at law schools that fall under the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
  • The Marine Awareness and Conservation Society promotes the conservation and protection of marine life and its oceans.
  • Arizona Animal AdvoCATS promotes responsible pet ownership and members also volunteer at local shelters and facilitate pet adoptions.
  • Students Organized for Animal Rights, or SOAR, advocates for animal rights, raising awarness around the abuse and exploitation of animals.


Resources for the media

Kris Carlson

UA James E. Rogers College of Law