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This is Molly.  Molly came to me at approximately 8 years of age (she was a stray).  She had been spayed within the last several months.  When I got her in I noticed some mammary masses.  Biopsy revealed mammary adenocarcinoma.  With surgical removal, the oncologist where I work said she would live another 6 months to 2 years.  At that point, Miss Molly had moved in and had established herself and the gentle matriarch.  She came to be already housebroken, obedience trained, and knew a few tricks.  She was impecable in her behavior.  I simply couldn't euthanize her; however, no one calls MoKan Bullmastiff Rescue requesting to adopt an 8 year old dog with cancer.  So, Molly stayed as long as I could keep her comfortable.  She outlived my two personal dogs at the time, helped countless rescues get used to my home, and supported me through some very difficult times.  I was able to keep her happy and comfortable for two years and five months.  She was the consumate lady and I was lucky to share my home with her.  I'd like to thank Jenn Lane for taking this beautiful picture.  Molly goes to show, you shouldn't count the old rescues out...sometimes they make the most perfect pets. CandyMoKan Bullmastiff Rescue

Kelli Johnsen
Phone: 651-334-6304


Kelli Johnsen
Kelli Johnsen is a Registered Veterinary Technician with a background in animal control and sheltering.  She has a particular passion for the Bullmastiff breed and has been focusing on Bullmastiff Rescue activities since 1991.  Originally known as Kansas Bullmastiff Rescue, Kelli renamed her effort as  MoKan Bullmastiff Rescue in 1996.  MoKan Bullmastiff Rescue continues its mission to assist Bullmastiffs in need within the Kansas and Missouri regions.

This is Sweet Pea.  Attached are before and after pictures (the after shot is taken 5 weeks after she came into rescue).  Sweet Pea came from the Wichita Animal Shelter and was in deplorable shape, both health-wise and mentally.  I believe she was a bait dog for pit fights.  She was about 1 yr old and had recently weaned a litter of puppies.  She was initially terrified of other dogs, but once she realized they weren't going to attack her, she warmed up to them.  She is now living with a wonderful family in Massachusetts.  As I write this she is about 7 years old. Please explain what exactly "MoKan Bullmastiff Rescue" is. What does "MoKan" stand for?

Johnsen:  MoKan stands for Missouri Kansas Bullmastiff Rescue. As I live in Kansas City, I take rescue dogs from both States. MoKan Bullmastiff Rescue is an organization that strives to help any bullmastiff in need...whether it be re-homing it, working with the owners on behavioral training, providing lost/found assistance, or any other way help is needed. In some circumstances a stipend is available for assistance with the cost of spaying and neutering of bullmastiffs and bullmastiff mixes. What prompted the creation of MoKan Bullmastiff Rescue?

Johnsen:  I have rescued dogs as long as I can remember. When I got involved in animal sheltering, I realized I needed to limit the animals that I took in. My family has been involved with bullmastiffs for three generations now and the bullmastiff was the obvious choice. At first I was appalled that there was even a NEED for bullmastiff rescue...didn't everyone love them like I did? I'm not so naive now. When I found my first rescue dog through a newspaper ad, I called up the National Coordinator and said, "OK, I've got a rescue dog, now what?" Thankfully, she was very patient with me! Describe your first rescue case.

Johnsen:  My first rescue was a fawn girl named Zuni. Zuni was a young girl that was advertised in a local paper. Part of the ad stated, "Will fight small dogs." This concerned me as we have a large dog-fighting contingency in my area and I didn't want this girl to fall into the wrong hands. I called the people, expressed my concerns, and gave them tips for placing Zuni in a safe home. About 3 days later, I got a phone call asking me to come get her, as they were getting calls from the most awful people on the ad. When I got her I found a dog who was very sweet to people, but VERY animal aggressive. Her registration papers and the USDA papers from her breeder accompanied her. Under the "Notes" section of the USDA papers was the following: "Under no circumstances will the breeder take back the puppy or give a refund. All sales final." This was a definite red flag! While Zuni proved to be a lovely dog when other animals weren't around, she was a time bomb. I fully believed she would go THROUGH a person to get to another animal. Because I didn't want to be responsible for her injuring a person through her animal aggression (or an animal for that matter), I humanely euthanized her. It took three weeks, with the help of the National rescue coordinator, to come to this painful decision. My first rescue was definitely not easy! As Bullmastiff ownership has exploded, so has the number of Bullmastiffs coming into the Bullmastiff Rescue program. What factors do you think are the main reasons for such an increase of Bullmastiffs coming into Bullmastiff Rescue?

Johnsen:  I think there are a number of factors involved. The easiest to explain is that I think there have always been bullmastiffs in need. I think every year the rescue community gets much better at getting the word out. The general public is aware of rescue as an option to a shelter; the shelters are becoming more aware of rescues that are frequently able to put time and resources into a dog that they can't.

Another factor has happened for ages...we simply live in a "throw away" society. I really don't believe the people that surrender dogs to us generally intend to keep the dog until it dies of old age. I've heard every reason for surrender in the book. The most common is "moving." The stupidest (so far anyway) is "just no longer matches furniture." I also get a fair number of "dog grew too big."

Still another factor is breeder irresponsibility. There would be much less bullmastiffs available for poor quality homes, puppy mills, and shelters if the breeders of those dogs did their job. I firmly believe that a breeder is responsible for that puppy until the day it dies. If you have a litter of five puppies, I believe you should always keep in the back of your mind what you would do with those 5 dogs should they all lose their homes at the age of 10 years. That's your job. Part of that job is staying in touch with your puppy buyers and being there to answer training, behavioral and other questions. Bullmastiffs can be a trying breed (particularly an 18 month old intact male!!!) Owners need to be prepared for this. Also, breeders should be requiring that all dogs going to pet only homes be spayed or neutered. Limited registration is great, but only goes so far. It doesn't prevent that dog from hooking up with the dog down the street. I get plenty of bullmastiffs in to rescue who were not registered puppies. Owners also need to be counseled by the breeder in the benefits of puppy classes and obedience classes. I have people tell me all the time they've trained a puppy before, so they don't need classes...they've missed the point: the classes are for socializing and for getting the puppy and the owner on the "same page." They are not to teach the owner exclusively.

Lastly, I think an important factor is socialization. I once heard a good rule of thumb (if I remember right this comes from Mona Lindau-Webb): a bullmastiff should meet 100 people by the time it is six months old. This is a WONDERFUL rule. If you have an owner that committed to a dog, chances are they'll be committed to handling any issues that arise. I'm sure I left something out; as you can tell it's not a quick fix. Is there anything that the public can do to help rectify these factors to help reduce the number of Bullmastiffs being abandoned?

Johnsen:  1) Educate themselves thoroughly before getting a dog 2) Spay or neuter the dog unless they are planning on learning everything needed to show and/or breed 3) If they aren't willing to deal with a 10 year old dog with gas, that slings drool, that doesn't like the neighbor dogs, and that sometimes have overwhelming health problems, don't get a bullmastiff 4) Wait to get a dog until they have everything ready...puppy classes, time to socialize properly, enough money for the best diets and veterinary care, etc. In your location, dog auctions and puppymills are fairly common. Please explain what a dog auction is.

Johnsen:  Dog auctions are vile places in which dogs of every breed imaginable are auctioned off in the style of the livestock auctions. They are mostly attended by brokers and people who breed dogs to sell to brokers. It's the way the "Commercial breeder" uses to trade stock back and forth for unrelated lines, etc. It's also a way that a puppy miller will get rid of an unwanted dog. It's run as a regular auction, the exception is that there is very high security at them. You pass through security (often the local sheriff who is armed) and register to bid. They bring dogs in in catalog order. The small dogs are held up in various positions and the large dogs are drug in by leashes (it's rare to see one that's leash broken). "Faults" are pointed out (hernias, missing eyes, missing teeth, scars, etc). People can go up and check to see if the dog is in heat, etc.. The dogs are generally freshly groomed. The females are frequently pregnant or have litters of puppies with them. The dog goes to the highest bidder. You pay for the dog and an auction house employee brings it to your vehicle after check out. The largest auction house in Missouri frequently has drawings for door prizes, vendor booths, and concessions.  Are Bullmastiffs typically present at these auctions? What are some of the reasons these Bullmastiffs have been put up for bid?

Johnsen:  I wouldn't say they're typically present, but they're not terribly unusual either. This last season (2001) there were approximately 10 that came through on auction flyers. The year before there were approximately 30. Those are very approximate figures, however, because there are 3 other auction services that I'm not able to monitor closely yet.

The overwhelming reason is that the animal has not bred well in the past or they are not expected to breed well in the future. It is a money making proposition, and if they don't "produce" they don't stay.  Should a Rescue Service invest funds in acquiring these Bullmastiffs from the auctions? Why or why not?

Johnsen:  In my PERSONAL opinion, a point. There are some rescue groups who pay $1000s of dollars for a single dog to come out of an auction situation. This does NOTHING but tell the millers that this is a money making breed, and they'll get more. They are now going overseas for rarer breeds (Spanish Mastiffs, Coton de Tulear, etc) and can get a hold of ANY breed. However, my personal cut off is $200. If I see a bullmastiff auctioned for less that $200 and I have the personal money to buy it, I have no problem with that. I do NOT use American Bullmastiff Association Rescue funds for this...I would use my own personal funds. I chose $200, because I believe that any miller would have at least that much invested in a bullmastiff...between food and original purchase price if nothing else. This way I don't feel like they are making money, and I can get the dog into a better situation. In some cases where the dog is healthy, I can pass part of the purchase price on to an adopter. More often that not, however, the dog is not healthy. It is easy to say to not financially support the auctions. I ask anyone who says that, though, to accompany me to an auction and watch a bullmastiff get sold like livestock. It is not easy to watch at all.


Sweet Pea - After Recovery in Mokan Bullmastiff  Please explain what a puppymill is.

Johnsen:  My PERSONAL definition is any person who breeds primarily for monetary gain. Pet shops often acquire their puppies from mass production facilities. When a shopper sees a puppy in a pet store - should they buy that puppy? Why or why not?

Johnsen:   Absolutely not! The puppy is bred at the breeder. The breeder has an average cost of about $200 in each litter (according to what I've heard them tell me at auctions). Each bully puppy brings around $450 when sold to a broker (current year pricing). The broker then sells it to a pet shop, who sells it to a member of the public...often for $1200 or more. In every step along the way these people have made money (because they've taken short cuts everywhere). When the puppy gets sold to the consumer the message is, "Breed more, we have a market for them." I refer you to Candy's Story to find out where they come from. Would buying this puppy from the pet shop be considered a form of "rescue"? Why or why not?

Johnsen:  Not in my opinion. It's a form of poor judgment. I know it's hard to see that puppy sit in the window...I've watched them myself. However, we will NEVER stop the supply until there is no more demand. Simple economics 101. When a Bullmastiff comes into the Rescue program, the organization rarely knows anything about the dog in regards to physical health and temperament until they actually live with the dog for some time. This still does not guarantee however, that everything can be found out about the dog before placement into a permanent home. Therefore, there is a liability risk when placing rescued Bullmastiffs in homes where someone gets hurt. What can the volunteer that placed the dog do to protect themselves beforehand in the case of a lawsuit?

Johnsen:  The best thing is as thorough of a behavioral/health screening as possible on the rescued dog. The next step is a screening of the home (just as thorough). I NEVER cut corners on this...every home fills out an application for adoption, has references checked, I talked to their vet, and in all but rare exceptions a home visit is done. In those rare exceptions, at least a drive by fence check is done. I have been very lucky to have received cooperation from rescuers in every corner of the United States who have been willing to help with home visits. The next step in the process is a good Adoption Contract. The owners must understand that this pet is now their pet and they are legally responsible for it's actions. The last step is follow up with the adopters. I will call occasionally for the first year of adoption. I always send out a Christmas letter with personal notes asking how the dog is doing. If I don't hear from someone at least annually, I try very hard to re-establish contact to make sure I've not been caught off-guard. Some people mistakenly think all of this contact is because I want the dog back...on the contrary...all of this contact is because I do NOT want the dog back. I want each of my foster dogs to die happily in the home I placed them in. I want to be able to sleep at night knowing that I placed that dog in it's final home. Most Rescue Organizations exist for the purpose of doing honest rescue work. However, as with any other industry, there are some unscrupulous rescuers as well. What can a family seeking to adopt from a Rescue Organization do to avoid dishonest rescuers?

Johnsen:  Use common sense! To protect myself, I do not give out my address for people to come see dogs (you'd be amazed how mad some of them get when they are turned down for adoption), however, I am very forthright in other arenas. I will tell anyone the negative traits of that particular dog. If a potential adopter gets the feeling from the rescuer that this dog is totally perfect, chances are there is something they're not telling you (although there are the very rare easy rescues!). If you are concerned ask the rescuer for phone numbers of people they've previously adopted to and call to ask them their opinion of the process. Also, call local shelters or the National Rescue Coordinator for the breed to see if the rescuer is known and respected. I would also call a local veterinarian if you are getting red flags. My personal pet peeve is a rescuer who doesn't pay their vet bills! Lastly, if you're still concerned, call another rescuer (even of a different breed) in the area...they frequently know about the practices of each other. What is the adoption fee for adopting a Bullmastiff from MoKan Bullmastiff Rescue? How is the adoption fee determined?

Johnsen:   The adoption fee ranges from $200 to $300, depending on the medical bills of the dog. Adoption fees go towards sterilizing, microchipping, vaccines, worming. Additionally the dogs are started on housebreaking and obedience training. Dog food, gas, stamps, copying costs, and many other details are donated by the foster home. For families interested in adopting a Bullmastiff from MoKan Bullmastiff Rescue. what steps do they need to take in order to acquire a rescued Bullmastiff into their household?

Johnsen:  The first step is to fill out an application for adoption (available either on line or I can mail one to you). The next step is reference checks and a home visit. Finally, I strive to match the family and the dog for the best match. What expectations should these adopting families expect from both the Bullmastiff they are adopting as well as from the Rescue Organization they are acquiring the Bullmastiff from?

Johnsen:   It's very difficult to say what they should expect from a rescued much depends on the situation the dog came from, which is frequently unknown. As a general rule though, I find that the dogs are on their best behavior for 3 weeks. Then they push the limits a bit. That's when the owner must enforce the rules. They're generally pretty good (provided rules were enforced) until about 3 months into the home when the same thing happens again. I call these the "honeymoon" periods. I don't know if other rescuers notice this as well, but I hear of it time and again from my adopters.

From the rescue organization you should expect honesty, an intense application process, and support after the adoption for the lifetime of the dog. You should also expect that should the adoption ever fail, the rescuer will take the dog back. How can people contact MoKan Bullmastiff Rescue?

Johnsen:  MoKan Bullmastiff Rescue can be reached at:
Phone: 816-455-5401
Address: P.O.Box 11042
Kansas City, MO 64119

This is Keeper.  Keeper came to me as a 10 week old rescue puppy.  A coworker knew of this dog who was unwanted because she was not purebred.  This coworker saw Keeper's mother and swears she was a purebred bullmastiff.  I personally don't see a bit of bully in her appearance, but I sure do in her temperament!! ;o) would like to personally thank Kelli Johnsen for taking the time to share her thoughts and experience with our readers!  If you would like more information about MoKan Bullmastiff Rescue, please contact Kelli Johnsen at

MoKan Bullmastiff Rescue
Kansas City, Missouri


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