In the past several years, my life has been intertwined with dogs from fighting situations. My husband and I were able to help train and shepherd several confirmed fighters through the AKC Canine Good Citizen test. We have adopted two fighting dogs and one dog severely injured by dog fighting. I know what phenomenal companions these dogs can be, given half a chance.
That is why a situation in Ontario, Canada is so upsetting to me.
On October 9, 2015, 31 dogs were seized as part of a dogfighting bust. Four people were charged with a myriad of offenses, including drug and weapons charges. The dogs were transferred to the care of the Ontario SPCA.
One of the OSPCA Inspectors, Brad Dewar, has requested that the court allow him to euthanize 21 of the dogs. According to statements he has made, the OSPCA staff feel the dogs’ behavior is troubling. Dewar has stated the dogs are a danger to the community, and not appropriate for rehabilitation. Three of the dogs seized have already been euthanized for medical issues which were not responding to treatment (according to OSPCA records).
Pit Bull Terrier-type dogs are banned in Ontario by provincial legislation and there is some thought that the dogs are being stigmatized for their breed, not their behavior. Those who are protesting the destruction of the dogs state that there are rescue groups willing to pull the dogs and rehab them outside of Ontario.
Protesters are asking that the dogs be evaluated by independent behavior consultants, like Donna Reynolds and Tim Racer of the California-based organization Bad Rap. Reynolds and Racer have experience evaluating fighting dogs, and were involved with the assessments for all of the dogs pulled from the Michael Vick fighting bust, as well as other fighting situations across the US. However, in order for this to happen, the OSPCA would need to request and arrange for any outside behavioral assessments.
A petition which was created on the site AVAAZ.org has garnered more than 3000 signatures in less than 24 hours. The petition asks that the court rule in favor of the dogs. It also offers email contact information for Inspector Dewar and the leadership of the OSPCA.
I reached out to Inspector Dewar to ask him about the behavior of the dogs in question. He has not returned my call nor responded to my emails.
Not all dogs can recover from the abuses associated with dog fighting. Some have been fought, bred and abused so much that it might be kindest to let them go. But it is critical that we do an informed assessment of each individual dog to ensure they are not being abused twice; once by the dogfighters and again by the authorities. These dogs are the victims of a crime, not the implements, and they deserve a chance to prove they have the ability to recover from the trauma they have suffered.
Time is short. The court hearing to determine the fate of these dogs is scheduled for March 10th. It is important that the judge understand that fighting dogs can become safe and happy companions. The group BSL Awareness plans to hold a protest this coming Saturday, February 20, 2016, at the Ontario Education and Animal Centre, 16586 Woodbine Ave, Newmarket, Ontario from noon until 4:00 pm. The group asks that protesters behave in a manner which is respectful and polite, and remain off of private property. More information can be found on the protest Facebook page.
The Ontario dogs deserve the same chance that these dogs from fighting backgrounds had, to be individually evaluated for the possibility of recovery. And if they pass their assessment, they should be given the chance to become beloved family members, just like these two.
Featured image via Kerry Bowers/Ray The Vicktory Dog