Mayday Pit Bull Rescue Fights for Compassion



A small Phoenix dog shelter has been quietly taking on the most challenging rescue work as a community-oriented labor of love for almost a decade. Due to the growth of the Phoenix metro area and the steadily growing reputation it has earned–now internationally– among shelters, advocates, and vets, now it is facing more need than ever, and struggling to convert ‘click-tivism’ into revenue.


Mayday Pit Bull Rescue & Advocacy is a shelter and foster-care network that saves abused, traumatized, or disabled pure-bred and mixed-breed pit bulls, as well as some others, from euthanasia in shelters from right here in the Valley, to as far as Cairo, Egypt.


The Phoenix non-profit also networks with other organizations and local events, and uses its large social media following to increase awareness and acceptance for the breed, which remains the most stigmatized and vulnerable to abuse.


Most Mayday dogs come from county shelters or the Humane Society, both of whom often seek out Mayday’s help with dogs they don’t have the resources to save. The group has become well known in professional communities for going beyond extraordinary lengths to save its dogs.


“Why not? These dogs have value,” is co-founder and current President Jennifer Mazzocchi’s philosophy. She works tirelessly to sustain the group of driven volunteers, but says it needs help from the community to which it gives so much to serve; now more than ever.


“She just is a ray of brightness in a world that is looking pretty dim sometimes to me,” said Shari Mulvehill from Scottsdale, of Mazzocchi. Mulvehill has adopted two Mayday dogs herself since 2014, and, like a lot of other adopters, began volunteering at the shelter soon thereafter.


“That’s where I met Timmy, and this just shows, I think, Mayday at its best,” said Shari, who went on to describe the remarkable recovery her second Mayday dog Timmy made from paralysis due to a crushed pelvis, to near fully-regained mobility. “Timmy was going to be euthanized, and they went down and recovered him. He was a six-month pup…And the doctor said it’s like a miracle how he recovered,” Mulvehill said.


“What I particularly like about Mayday is they take the ones of last resort,” Mulvehill said, “You know, there’s never enough money to save everybody, or enough space, or enough people to help–that’s their only shortcoming is there’s just never enough. Their hearts are huge.”


Surgeries are a large expense for the organization, that has been operating on a very tight, roughly $100,000 budget for the last couple years–almost all of which goes directly to operating expenses.


“Knight,” an extremely friendly and energetic two-year-old pit bull who was left for dead after a dogfight in Egypt, is just one example. Mayday was asked to take him and he was flown to Phoenix, where it arranged for immediate facial reconstructive surgery and several other procedures to save Knight’s life.


Today, only some scars, and a Two-Face-style sneer where part of his lip is missing, hint at the trauma he survived. Yet Mayday’s organizers have to sit down and pick only a very few candidates at a time that it can afford to expend those resources on.


Knight is also a perfect example of the dilemma Mayday faces as its profile grows. It is called on by more and more public and private organizations to save dogs that nobody else can or will, but its donor base hasn’t seen the growth one would associate with its 150,000 strong Facebook following.


Shelter manager Ashley Blase of Phoenix recalled going on a cross-country drive in January to save one of Mayday’s residents, Monk, from a Rhode Island shelter where he had been put on a euthanasia list after twice being returned due to behavioral issues from trauma.


Luigi, a fifteen-year-old brindle greyhound-pit bull mix lounged in a sand box as Blase showed off the large, meticulous, dog-park like backyard of the shelter. Luigi was being attended by another volunteer, Tricia Schmoyer, who has been working at the shelter for three years, and works in finance in Sun City.


“Once these dogs trust you, they are truly your best friend. We all have too many,” Schmoyer laughed.


The small shelter houses about 10 dogs that are awaiting adoption or are residents, while Mayday’s foster program usually supports closer to 50 dogs as they receive necessary medical treatment, physical and psychological rehabilitation, and behavioral work. The dedication and professionalism of the all-volunteer organization has become known as world-class. It has about twenty volunteers whom have undergone extensive vetting and training.


“Training usually lasts about one to two months, and you usually shadow a trainer over that time, until you can handle the dogs on your own. It’s a lot more serious than other shelters,” said Blase.


Considering the enormous cost of care for its extreme special-needs dogs, Mayday adoptions are a cheap $250. The application process is extremely rigorous, though, to ensure the commitment that Mayday makes to its dogs will be upheld by prospective adopters. A “Mayday Dog” forever has a home at the shelter, regardless of its circumstances


October marks the tenth anniversary of National Pit Bull Awareness Month, and Mayday is hoping more than ever that the awareness raised will translate into a lot more investment of life-saving time and money from its own community.

Brendan Campbell