Eighteen of the original 21 alleged fighting dogs that were facing a death sentence in Ontario are coming to Florida for rehabilitation. They will live on a 12-acre farm run by Aimee Sadler, a renowned canine behavior modification specialist. Sadler has agreed to assume ownership of the dogs, who are scheduled to arrive on the farm some time in August. Fulltime staff is being prepared to care for the dogs over the next six months. Enrichment training will include daily walks, basic and more advanced training to help them integrate into play groups and allow the dogs to socialize with other animals and people.
The public journey for these dogs began in October 2015 when authorities seized a total of 31 “pit bull-type dogs” from a home near Chatham, Ontario. The raid led to animal cruelty and firearm-related charges against five people.
During the raid, officials found a grim scene in a building at the back of the property, behind a sign that read “Dirty White Boy Kennels.” Medical kits with injectable solutions and vitamin supplements, anabolic steroids, suture and skin staple kits, syringes, surgical tools, lists of names of dogs, training and weight schedules, muzzles, sticks and weight training harnesses, and dog-fighting contracts. All of the dogs were attached to chains that were tied to metal stakes in the ground. An inspector noted that “the majority of the adult dogs had severe scarring consistent with dog fighting. The scars were primarily located on the head, neck and forelimbs of the dogs.”
The dogs were transferred to the care of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA). Three dogs were euthanized for medical reasons following the recommendations by to veterinarians. The remaining 28 were evaluated by the ASPCA which deemed 21 of the dogs a menace to society and could not be rehabilitated. The OSPCA filed a court application to have the remaining 21 euthanized.
Dog Tales, a dog rescue and horse sanctuary north of Toronto and Animal Justice, an animal rights organization, intervened in court. The judge denied their attempts to intervene this past December. In February, Dog Tales launched a publicity campaign called #SaveThe21. Celebrity endorsements came from Sir Richard Branson, actress Maggie Q, and Angel, a staff member of The New Barker dog magazine.
Dog Tales pushed for a second assessment earlier this year, which was a turning point for the dogs. “That second assessment has shown some slight improvement as a direct result of our daily care and some promise for rehabilitation,” said Jennifer Bluhm, deputy chief of the OSPCA. She called the Florida arrangement “almost unprecedented”, adding, “These dogs range in behaviors from extremely aggressive to unpredictable. They were bred to fight and trained to kill. A wagging tail is not always a sign these dogs are safe for interaction with other animals or people.”
Rob Scheinberg, owner of Dog Tales along with his wife, said he fought hard for the dogs because he owned a Pit Bull for 17 years. He is against Ontario’s breed-specific legislation that bans them. “It has been a long battle and I’m very happy that these dogs are getting this chance,” Scheinberg told The Canadian Press. He will be driving the dogs to Florida in a modified bus. “I think for most of them, the future is a good one. There’s a long road ahead for these dogs and we’re going to closely follow all of them.” Dog Tales will be funding the dogs’ rehabilitation, veterinary care, and food.