HugABull was founded in 2003 by Katie Ernst and Danielle Cross, two pit bull owners looking to help the many pit bulls languishing in shelters across the Lower Mainland. Danielle had started rescuing dogs on her own and posted a plea for help on Pit Bull Forum. Katie had been doing similar rescue work and they decided to team up.

Katie and Danielle started building relationships with local shelters and identifying the great dogs who were being overlooked because of breed stigma. One dog at a time they built a network of foster homes and adopters, providing support and information to ensure a successful match. They labelled themselves “HugABull” in 2004 and launched a website, which catapulted them into the public eye.

The inaugural Pits in the Park and Volunteer Recruitment events also took place in 2004, drawing new faces and planting the seeds for the thriving community we have today. It was also a year for advocacy. Together with the Ontario breed ban working its way through the court system, the City of Vancouver was contemplating a ban on the breed. HugABull spoke out against the existing BSL, which was ultimately reversed.

In 2005 the HugABull team attended a conference hosted by Bad Rap, learning from that organization’s considerable experience in pit bull rescue and advocacy. This led to the development of our Pit Ed program as well as policies and procedures we still use today.

HugABull was registered as a non-profit society in 2006, and Samantha Andress joined Shelagh Begg and Danielle as directors. Kirsta Thorleifson joined with a mandate to develop our presence on Vancouver Island. We organized our first fundraiser to support our newly “official” organization, and established the HugABull discussion forum.

The following year, we participated in the 2007 Pet Expo and marched in our first Pride Parade, showing off our lovely, rainbow-covered crew. Our blog was launched, and we celebrated our first class of Pit Ed graduates.

Kirsta moved out of province in 2008, at which time Kristen Neratini and Carla Anderson joined the Board. Danielle started The Lovely Fund after meeting its namesake in a local shelter, and we hosted our first Canine Good Neighbour evaluation.

In 2009 a strategy session was held and a new Board was elected with new roles to streamline activities and focus resources in our three key areas: rescue, education and community (see our list of current and past Board members here). We marched in our first Canada Day parade, and hosted a holiday Open House to break in our new space at Dizine Canine Training Centre.

2010 saw the development of our Okanagan branch, under the leadership of our representative Leah. A supportive group of volunteers and foster homes grew quickly, giving us more opportunities and areas to raise awareness and place dogs in homes in this new region of BC. We were proud to host signature advocacy events in 2010 and 2012, including a presentation by Calgary’s Bill Bruce, international leader in breed-neutral animal legislation, and sold-out screening events of the documentary Beyond the Myth.

Today, HugABull has re-homed over 400 dogs and has a community of thousands. We continue to grow and expand each year and have big dreams. Among them? We’d like to be the “go to” organization for pit bull related issues in BC, and one day have our own shelter. Our ultimate goal is to see a day where no pit bull is euthanized or passed by for adoption because of its breed.

We invite you to get involved and help us reach these goals. As a community, we can change minds – one good dog at a time.