If you work with pit bull dogs long enough, the subject of dog fighting will come up. Let’s be honest, it has come up in the comments of this blog. It’s out there and people have strong opinions on it, so let’s get it out there.
First off, dog fighting is a horrible form of abuse and it is absolutely a people problem, not a dog problem. My purpose is not to focus on the actual fighting, but on the dogs who are the victims.
For years, it was believed that dogs from these horrible and abusive situations should be put down. These dogs were not even given a chance. In 2007, all of that changed. In 2007, Michael Vick was charged with dog fighting. The case brought a lot of attention and Donna Reynolds and Tim Racer of BADRAP knew that if these dogs were ever to be given a chance, they had to step in. This move changed everything. They found that not only were these dogs adoptable, but many were friendly. Many of the dogs from this case have gone on to be therapy dogs and are family pets. What Donna and Tim did was not only change the world for these dogs, but they changed the world for future canine victims.
The first dog that I had come into my home from a dog fighting case was brought in quite a few years ago. I admit that I had concerns. After all, I read the reports before agreeing to foster the dog. I knew where this dog came from and I had serious concerns that I would not be qualified to care for the dog. But, I decided to give it a try and see what I could do. The day that we were to pick up the dog, I loaded my teenage daughter into the car and we headed out. I would like to take this time to point out that my daughter is super dog experienced and I trust her instincts and abilities more than most adults that I have worked with. We drove down to the location where the dogs were being kept and met the dog who was to be sharing our home for the next few weeks until she was able to be adopted. She was a sweet little thing, black and white and a submissive grinner. I do love a dog who smiles! At the location, her name was Dog #33. She was calm and quiet and seemed a bit confused as we led her out and into the car, but she came willingly. We started the drive home, but before we could proceed and leave her old life behind, the label “Dog #33” had to go. We stopped at a local pet store and purchased her a proper collar with a proper name tag with an actual name. We soon arrived at our home and we knew that dog interactions were next up. Gidget is my test dog. Gidget is appropriate with all dogs and always comes out first. The new dog was nervous, but warmed up quickly. Within no time, they were buddies. She fit right in. I was concerned about adopting her out. After all, people may be concerned about her past. But, in no time, a family with 2 adults and a cat fell in love with her. I did feel the need to disclose everything, so I told them where she had come from. The family sat there for a bit and then said “Well, all that and she came out smiling”.
Throughout the years since that first one, many more dogs from similar backgrounds have come through my home. Each and every one of them has found an amazing forever home. So, when the story broke last summer that one of the largest dog fighting cases to hit the US was in progress, I was sure that it was just a matter of time until I received a call. Eventually, that call came and I was happy to bring dogs from the 367 case (as it would come to be known) into my home. I knew that we would make it work and the dogs would be fine. What surprised me, though, is how much has changed. Remember, with the first dog, I was a little apprehensive and had some concerns. But, with these dogs, I had more of a “just another group of fosters” way of thinking. What’s really amazing is that I wasn’t the only one with this mentality. When seeking out additional fosters, I had no difficulty finding people. In fact, I found quite a few people. We’ve just recently gotten to the point that we are able to start adopting these guys out and not only am I finding wonderful families to adopt, but the community support has been overwhelming. We are finally reaching a point where these dogs are seen for what they are: victims of abuse who have moved on from their past and are ready to be loving family pets!