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Janis Sandlin and her two pups, Lily and Mystertee. Courtesy photo
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Resident feels forced to move over pit bulls, now advocates for the breed

ENCINITAS — A pit bull owner and recent transplant to Encinitas received a not so nice welcome upon moving into her new digs, saying she was bullied and harassed so much by her neighbors over her two dogs that she felt pressured to move out within days of moving in.

Janis Sandlin, owner of Surf’s Pup Doggie Lounge, moved from Ocean Beach to a triplex in Leucadia last month. She said on her first day there, her neighbor to the left, a new mom, made it clear she was extremely upset Sandlin and her pups were there.

“She approached me and told me that she felt incredibly unsafe because of my dogs and we just couldn’t find common ground,” Sandlin said. “It was a really unfortunate conversation because I was trying to find out what she was so afraid of and maybe have her meet the dogs and see if we could work things out. But she just was adamant that it was her baby’s way and there was no other way.”

Sandlin met her other neighbor a few days later and said they had a much nicer conversation, but the outcome was the same — that neighbor was worried her dogs would bite her friends if they came over.

“Both of them never met the dogs they just looked at them and saw what they looked like and made their instant decisions and judgments based on their looks.”

This month is National Pit Bull Awareness Month and the breed is one of the most discriminated against of all dogs. A number of myths are widely believed about the breed, including that they’re inherently dangerous, they have “locking jaws,” and they don’t feel pain. Since 2007, one day in October has also been known as National Pit Bull Awareness Day, helping to establish a nationwide effort to bring positive awareness and attention to pit bulls and their responsible owners.

Sandlin said she’s had pit bull mixes her whole life, starting with a pit bull/boxer mix. Her current two pups are Mystertee, a 6-and-a-half-year-old pit bull and American bulldog mix she’s had for six years, and Lily, a 3-year-old pit bull and basset hound mix she’s had for a year. Both are rescue dogs.

“They are amazing, they are the sweetest dogs,” Sandlin said. “Mystertee, he’s famous where I moved from in Ocean Beach, everyone knows him. He was like a pit bull advocate because he’s so friendly — he’s friendly with kids, he’s friendly with dogs, he’s friendly with cats, he’s never had an aggressive bone in his body. Lily is so timid and kind of shy, she is just super, super mellow.”

Sandlin said the way she and her pups were discriminated against was disheartening. She said she felt like her dogs were in harm’s way and decided to move after four days of her neighbors harassing her. She had 30 days from that date to find a new home.

“It was really, really heartbreaking because these guys felt the stress, I was stressed, and so I talked to my landlord and I decided to move and they let me out of the lease,” Sandlin said.

She added that her landlord was fantastic and tried to mediate the situation.

“She’s become a friend through all of this,” she said.

Before looking for new places to live, Sandlin came up with the idea of putting together ‘Pitty Portfolios,” that included pictures of her and her dogs as well as statements from about 15 friends who could vouch for her dogs.

Sandlin’s former Ocean Beach landlords, Sarah and JV Eberst, wrote in the portfolio that she was their tenant for the past three years and both of her dogs are very gentle and nonaggressive.

“We have seen both dogs in a variety of settings, including in their home, at restaurants, on the beach, and walking around the neighborhood,” they wrote, in part. “We have never witnessed the dogs being the least bit aggressive with people or other animals.”

Heather Shaw, a restaurant owner in Ocean Beach who has also known Sandlin and her dogs for three years, wrote, in part: “I can understand fear in people from prior experiences in their lives but it doesn’t mean all dogs are bad —  certainly not all pitty’s/pitty mixes. These two pups are perfect examples of how amazing their breed is, and I hope that they can feel the love and support they once felt with us here in O.B.”

As of last Wednesday, Sandlin found a new place to live in Cardiff, which she called “wonderful.”

She said the silver lining in all this is that she now plans to help advocate even more for the bully breeds, specifically when it comes to the rescue and adoption of pit bulls.

“They need more people to speak up for them,” she said. “I want to see if I can change minds because I don’t think anyone should have to feel the way that I felt for those several weeks with that person next door.”