‘My companion, my best friend’: Family hopes to bring beloved pit bull to their new home in Brazil

HOUSTON – Imagine having to move and not being able to bring your four-legged companion because of its breed.

This is the reality for one Houston family. Their hope and what you need to know so this doesn’t happen to you.

The story begins with an email from a KPRC 2 viewer reaching out for help. The Castro family, a family of three and one dog living in Houston, said their family could soon be split up because of what some say are baseless policies on pit bulls.

Zauder Castro will be moving to Brazil at the end of June for work. His wife, Alina, and their 7-month-old baby will be following, but their beloved rescue dog might not be able to because of his breed as a pit bull.

“The idea was just to keep him for only a few weeks while he found a family, but then we loved him and decided to keep him ourselves,” Zauder said.

Chowda has been part of the Castro family since February 2020. At the end of June, the Castros are moving to Brazil for Zauder’s job. The family fears Chowda might not be able to join them because he is a pit bull mix, a breed banned from traveling on any major US airline. Chowda is not a trained service animal.

“We were not aware that pit bulls are not allowed to fly, that was a big surprise for us,” Zauder said.

“The term pit bull to us is really meaningless. It is such an arbitrary label and unfortunately, it carries a lot of stigma and that stigma is not based on science at all,” said Regina Lizik, who is Animal Farm Foundation’s Communications Manager.

The mission of the Animal Farm Foundation is to end breed restrictions in policies and laws. Lizik points to a recent study done by Darwin’s Ark, a collaborative scientific initiative that found a dog’s personality is not linked to its breed. For example, characteristics like aggression and friendliness are not particular to the breed, but rather to the individual dog.

“Really need to get people to be pro-science and less pro stereotype because the stereotype is what these restrictions are based on in terms of behavior,” Lizik said, who elaborated on the best fix for the Castros at this time. “Right now, there’s no immediate solution other than this private transportation, as you said, they are expensive. There is no immediate solution, the best thing is through talking about this talking people about how to people about help unscientific these restrictions are in terms of behavior really need to talk.”

Pit bulls are not just impacted by travel restrictions, but also residential regulations.

“They can contact their state insurance commissioner to talk to them about how breed restrictions negatively impact families and communities at large and we really think from our perspective when you get one of those dominos of restrictions to fall that everyone will follow suit this really is not scientific so across the board we hope that restrictions will start to end as they may end in these other areas,” Lizik said.

From a park bench, outside their home, the family sits with Chowda, hoping they will have many more walks like this, in Brazil.

“He is my companion, my best friend. We are now actually afraid, that we are going to have to leave him behind,” said Zauder.

Zauder has found a person to transport Chowda to Brazil, however, the family has started a GoFundMe account in hopes of raising enough money to pay for that trip. Zauder said the extra money raised, will be donated back to Houston Pets Alive, the Houston shelter where Chowda was adopted from.

If the family does not reach the monetary goal, they hope to find Chowda another forever home.

The family can be reached through their GoFundMe account. To donate, click here.

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