The dogs are the crime victims. They have been physically and emotionally abused, forced to fight in order to stay alive. Seized dogs from these cases are at least entitled to a fair evaluation (a behavioral eval performed by a knowledgeable and independent trainer) to determine whether they require rehabilitation (such as carefully conducted socialization exercises) or can just return to function as a member of our society (if the eval determines the dog needs no more than the basic training required by typical rescue dogs in shelters). If the latter, the dog must be appropriately matched to an owner who can develop a successful relationship with the animal just like every other shelter dog.
In following the story of the 187 Pitbulls and mixes seized in the Houston dogfighting case this month, I came across this piece at the Pet Connection. Many of the seized dogs are apparently being held by the Houston SPCA. The group's PR manager told a Houston newspaper:
...the dogs would be put through rehabilitation tests and the courts will decide what should be done with them.
[ Note: Due to a formatting problem, the link will not post for the above quote. It can be found here: http://hcnonline.com/articles/2008/11/22/north_channel_sentinel/news/112008_nc_dog_fighting.txt ]
“These animals are bred from a long line of fighting dogs to be aggressive,” Houston SPCA spokeswoman Meera Nandlal told Hair Balls this morning. “We have made the decision that they will be humanely euthanized.”
Was the spokesman misquoted in one of the stories? Because the two definitely don't make sense together. Presumably the Texas courts are not run by the Houston SPCA who apparently has a policy against adopting out Pitbulls.
Perhaps the Houston SPCA hasn't heard but rescue groups like BADRAP and Best Friends have had great success with the dogs seized in the Michael Vick abuse/dogfighting case. Why couldn't a similar plan be implemented for the Houston dogs? I know it's not a sexy celeb case but don't these abused dogs deserve at least the same opportunity as Vick's abused dogs? Don't all seized dogs deserve a chance? I'm not advocating for some irresponsible set-them-free-they-are-all-great-and-don't-need-evaluations hare-brained scheme. All I'm saying is, let's build upon the success of the experience with the Vick dogs - not go backwards. Let's dump old-think policies that say all dogs who look like X or who were seized in cases involving Y must be killed. We are a no-kill nation, even if some of the supposed "rescuers" in the dog world haven't caught up with the times. Let's walk the walk.
Here is my challenge to my fellow dog bloggers. Let's shine a light on the Houston case - and keep it there until we hear some definitive answers. Let's make this case a celebrity case. And readers, there's work for you too. Let's contact the Houston SPCA and let them know politely and respectfully that Every Dog Deserves a Fair Evaluation. Remind them of the success of the Vick dogs (including Leo, now a therapy dog) and let them know the dog community and their donors are watching this case. And contact the Houston media (HCNonline here) to ask for continued coverage of the case, specifically what is happening to the 187 rescued dogs.
Let's be a voice for the Houston dogs. Every Dog Deserves a Fair Evaluation.