The 21 Ontario (Former) Fighting Dogs Are Still Waiting To Be Saved

The 21 dogs seized from a dogfighting bust in Ontario, Canada continue to languish on death row at the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Newmarket, Ontario.  The OSPCA has petitioned the court to euthanize the dogs and a hearing is scheduled for March 10th at the Chatham Court House to determine their fate.

The animal welfare community is in an uproar over what is seen as the OSPCA’s lack of compassion and care for these dogs who have suffered such physical and emotional abuse at the hands of humans.  Allegations are that the dogs have received no rehabilitation services, no assessments and no behavior modification services.  In other words, the dogs are sitting in runs, with nothing to do but wait for the court to decide their fate.

Heather Gutshall and Handsome Dan

Multiple behaviorists have reached out to the association, offering to provide assessment services, including some with firsthand knowledge of working with game bred fighting dogs. One such is Heather Gutshall, ACDBC, CPDT-KA , a behavior consultant, certified trainer and founder of Handsome Dan’s Rescue for Pit Bull-Type Dogs.

She is also the adopter of Vick dog Handsome Dan and has hands-on experience working with multiple dogs from fighting situations.  Since last November, Gutshall has offered to come to Ontario to do individual assessments on each of the dogs at no charge.  To her frustration, she has been unable to get a personal response from anyone involved with the case.

The OSPCA has stated that they had members of the US ASPCA come assess the dogs as a group last November. However, attorney Ken Marley challenges that the dogs have not been individually evaluated. In a press release the OSPCA has indicated that they do no have legal possession of the dogs, and are not authorized to bring in outside agencies to complete individual evaluations.


Emily Clare, a concerned citizen, has personally emailed all the directors of the OSPCA and has received nothing but a generic response.  When she sent a follow-up email asking about what care the dogs were receiving, she received no reply at all.  I have personally emailed the OSPCA and other participants in this case multiple times, with no response,  even though I indicated that I have lived with multiple dogs who have been affected by dogfighting.

Tillie of the 367 Raid

The Michael Vick fighting bust showed the world that these dogs can be rehabilitated.  They can recover from the abuse and aggression of dogfighting.  And the Vick dogs are not isolated incidents.  Since that case in 2007, multiple dogfighting arrests have occurred, with literally hundreds of dogs rescued and adopted into loving families with no incidents.  The dogs have gone into homes with dogs, cats, and children without an issue.  They have shown us they have the capacity to recover completely and to integrate safely into homes.  Dogs like Tillie, who was a survivor of the 367 Raid, the second largest dogfighting bust ever in the United States.

Chatham Dog Protest

Source: Emily Clare

On February 20, 2016, a peaceful protest was held outside the OSPCA headquarters in Newmarket.  It is estimated that between 60 and 100 participants showed up to rally for the lives of these dogs who have already suffered so much.  Families, children, babies and dogs all gathered along the road, holding signs that chastised the OSPCA for their petition to euthanize the dogs.  One couple even brought coffee and cupcakes for all the attendees.


Source: Emily Clare

The event, which was organized by the Ontario Pit Bull Co-op and BSL Awareness, has been described as upbeat and excited.   According to one participant, Maria Pellegrino, “People were excited to be part of something good…something rewarding.  We were all one!”  It has been reported that Cheri DiNovo, a Member of the Provincial Parliament, showed up and joined the group for an hour to show her support.

Cheri DiNovo

Source: Emily Clare

An additional protest is scheduled for this coming Sunday, March 6, 2016, from 12:00 noon until 3:00 pm at the OSPCA headquarters at 16586 Woodbine Ave, Newmarket, Ontario.  The public is invited to attend to help advocate for the dogs.  This is intended to be a peaceful protest, and participants are asked to be respectful.

protest 4

Source: Emily Clare

Additional information is available on the Ontario “Pit Bull” Co-op Facebook page.

Featured image via Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Dr. Katy Nelson

6 years ago