Sophomore Taylor Walton fights for equality for all dog breeds in Overland Park

From labs to golden retrievers to pit bulls, sophomore Taylor Walton said she found her life’s passion two years ago working with dogs. Taylor often volunteers at Wayside Waifs or in the comfort of her own home. Her family has three dogs and sometimes a fourth foster dog.

“If we can take a dog out of the shelter, that saves the life of another dog, so you’re technically saving two lives,” Taylor said. “It’s totally worth it because you can see the dog blossom in so many different ways.”

To the Walton family, fostering dogs is a chance to change the personalities or mindsets of shy or timid animals. The dogs they foster are usually part of the Confidence College at Wayside Waifs, whose goal, according to waysidewaifs.org, is to do exactly what the Walton’s strive to do: change dogs who are shy or fearful of people, new places and noises into well-rounded adult dogs. However, to Taylor, fostering isn’t just about aiding the timid personalities of dogs; it also saves lives.

“We help bring them out of their shell to make it to where they can be adopted,” Taylor said.

Outside of fostering, Taylor usually volunteers two to three times a week at Wayside Waifs. Her volunteering consists of walking and running dogs, playing with the dogs or puppies, helping with kennel clean up and introducing potential adopters to their future pets. Taylor’s hard work definitely does not go unnoticed, according to adoption counselor Candy Brown; she said she is especially proud of and impressed with Taylor and her hard work ethic.

“Taylor has always set an example to other volunteers and not just the young ones,” Brown said. “Anyone that meets her knows how committed she is to our waifs and program.”

Having owned dogs since she was 4 or 5, Taylor said her adoration surfaced from always having them around. However, according to her mother Cam Walton, the love for dogs is
pretty much a unanimous love in their family, especially regarding the girls.

“Our family all likes dogs, but the females — three of us — are definitely the animal lovers,” Cam said.

With this love in mind, and Taylor’s self-proclaimed stubbornness and impulsion, her fight for the lift on the pit bull ban in Overland Park began. After volunteering for two years, Taylor got a feel for the adoption program and began to notice a problem.

“There’s always a bunch of pit bulls and no one’s taking home pit bulls,” Taylor said. “I’ve had several adoption cases, too, where people would love to adopt this dog — they’re a perfect fit for their family, and the dog’s been there forever — and they live in a place where they can’t have [that breed].”

Taylor said she decided something needed to be done for pit bulls to be treated correctly instead of based on their history or reputation of violence and danger. It only took one pit bull at Wayside Waifs, Fawn, to change her heart.

“I was a little skeptical of pit bulls too, but Fawn just completely changed my mind. She came in to Wayside and she had just had babies, but they never found her babies,”  Taylor said. “I met her and she went through our programs, Confidence College and Peace Academy, because she was so shut down when she came in, but [she] finally realized, ‘Hey, I can just be myself.’ I worked with her for at least four months, and during one of our big adoption events — called Mega Match, all dogs for $25 — this nice couple came in and were looking for a dog, and they picked Fawn.”

For Taylor, Fawn broke the “all pit bulls are bad” stereotype with her developed kindness, sweetness and great behavior. With her new love for pit bulls and their breed, Taylor decided to take action to repeal the ban on pit bulls in Overland Park.

“I wrote a three page paper, got personal testimonies from Wayside staff and volunteers and took in tons of pictures and examples; I did my research,” Taylor said. “My mom said if I put as much work into that as I did to school, I’d be a straight A student on the honor roll.”

Next, Taylor got a hold of her city council president Paul Lyons, and scheduled a meeting. Taylor said she went to the first meeting knowing she wasn’t going to change his mind right off the bat. Lyons told Taylor to come back summer of 2017 to have their second meeting and to share her opinions in depth. Taylor plans on returning this coming summer to hopefully lift the ban. Although her work cannot be seen in Overland Park yet, it may have contributed to other cities taking action.

“I’m not trying to take credit for any of this, but after I went up and talked to city council, other places started looking into [pit bull bans]again,” Taylor said.

In April, the city of Shawnee officially repealed their ban on pit bulls. Then, a month later, according to Kansas news website kshb.com, citizens in Prairie Village requested their ban to be reevaluated. Prairie Village City Council members then voted to “reopen” the city’s breed bans. Taylor said she hopes the involvement of other cities such as Shawnee, as well as her own, will set the ball in motion for Overland Park. She said if changes aren’t enacted soon, pit bulls will pay in the form of euthanization. According to barkpost.com, pit bulls are the most commonly euthanized dog breed annually.

“Overland Park is a sitting duck,” Taylor said. “They need to make their move now, because the longer they wait, the more pit bulls get euthanized … because of their reputation.”

Both Brown and Cam have expressed their expectations for Taylor’s future, and dogs are definitely a part of it. Aside from the special connection Taylor has with dogs, she said  volunteering makes her genuinely happy. She  said she hopes to continue helping the canine community and eventually attend Kansas State University’s veterinary school.

“I have been saying for the last two years that Taylor will make an impact on the rescue community and she will be someone everyone will know in the years to come,” Brown said. “Taylor has had a passion since day one, especially for the pit bulls. They need someone like Taylor in their corner.”

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photo by Donna Armstrong

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