Meet DogTime’s 2013 Unsung Hero, Jason Flatt

After making a big move from New York to Georgia, DogTime.com’s Unsung Hero Jason Flatt adopted the dog who would become his best friend — an American Pit Bull Terrier named Angelo. As a kid, his family had a dog of the same breed, but there was something about Angelo that struck a chord in Jason. Adopting a Pit Bull seemed to open Jason’s eyes about the tough road many of these dogs face in a world that often declares them dangerous based on appearance and convoluted myths. Frequent sensationalized news reports of Pit Bull attacks, false rumors about locking jaws or inherent aggressiveness, and an association with illegal dogfighting earned Jason’s favorite dog breed an unfair and undeserved reputation. Dogs who were once considered the “nannies” of the family were now demonized, feared, and subject to some of the worst acts of cruelty imaginable — and Jason couldn’t stand it.

“After learning about the breed, and seeing what a bad rap they receive, the challenge of helping them intrigued me,” Jason tells DogTime.com.

Not being one to sit on the sidelines, Jason stopped asking if someone was ever going to help these dogs and instead became that someone. That’s how, in October 2009, Friends to the Forlorn Pit Bull Rescue Inc., was born. A network of dedicated volunteers, Friends to the Forlorn is quite clear about their number one priority — the dogs — and it is because of that they are making waves in the world of animal rescue.

“We see the worst of the worst dogs: burned, battered, hit by a car, shot, abused, embedded collars, fighting rings, cruelty cases, neglected, starved, overbred, dumped, abandoned,” Jason explains. “We have seen it all, but to watch their resilience and love for people and the transformation they make from literally coming from hell to going to their forever family and home is just amazing.

“A dog who was treated like garbage who never had anything of their own to now be walking out of a pet store with a fancy collar and leash and a cart full of all of their own stuff along with a family committed to them is the reason I do this.”

The dog he considers his first official rescue is Apollo, a solid white Pit Bull who will always have a place in Jason’s heart. Jason first met Apollo when the pup was only 6 months old and languishing in a local high-kill shelter. Jason pulled Apollo from the pound, nursed the sick pup back to health, and placed him with a wonderful family. Apollo is now a Canine Good Citizen, Certified Therapy Dog, and a well-known National Agility Champion. Apollo is a veritable superstar, and Jason says he could not be more proud.

“He is a true ambassador of the breed,” Jason gushes.

In the four years since founding the organization, Jason and his hardworking volunteers have been able to make a world of difference for the most misunderstood dog breed. But ever tireless in his quest to promote responsible ownership, fight breed prejudice, save abused and neglected Pit Bulls, and put an end to pet overpopulation, Jason still wakes up every day wishing he could do more for the dogs he loves so much.

“Not being able to get to them all is a difficult realization I am forced to face everyday,” says Jason.

It is the knowledge he can’t possibly save every Pit Bull that makes Jason so passionate about educating others, urging people all over the country to join in the effort, to advocate for the breed. Friends to the Forlorn is based in Georgia, but Jason says there are easy ways people in any community can help Pitties in need.

“The best thing readers can do is open their minds,” he explains. “Don’t judge the breed by what you have heard. Judge each dog individually. Volunteer for your local rescue or animal control facilities. Foster and educate people about proper pet ownership and most of all promote spaying and neutering.”

Jason feels honored to have been named DogTime’s Unsung Hero 2013, and is very excited for the projects Friends to the Forlorn can complete using the $10,000 prize. The organization is currently prepping for their third annual “Beat the Heat” event, at which they offer free spay and neuter, vaccines, deworming, food, and plenty of leashes and collars to cats or dogs owned by Paulding County residents. At their previous two “Beat the Heat” events, Friends to the Forlorn was able to spay and neuter more than 500 animals.

Thanks also to the Unsung Hero Award prize money, Friends to the Forlorn has been able to expand their facility, purchasing another 14 acres of land and constructing additional fenced play yards that will, someday very soon, provide a safe, fun space for even more rescued Pit Bulls.

It is clear to everyone who’s had the chance to meet with or chat with Jason — even via email — that he is one of the most passionate animal advocates out there, a rescuer who never forgets to think with his heart, and a hero who deserves to be anything but unsung.

“Every dog I rescue makes an impact on me,” says Jason. “Once I put my hands on them I commit to them, and they seem to know that.”