Detroit Shelter Offers Rehab for Former Fight Dogs
The Detroit Dog Rescue Shelter is not only saving stray dogs from the city’s streets, but it’s also offering rehabilitation programs for fighting dogs.
The shelter, which was formed in 2011 and co-founded by Detroit rapper Carlisle, is the city’s only no-kill shelter. Since its inception, the rescue center has saved over 700 dogs, including many pit bulls who were used in dog fights.
“Dog fighting is at the extreme level of cruel behaviour and treatment of dogs,” said David Rudolph, public relations director at Detroit Dog Rescue, to CBC News.
“Dogs do not want to be put in a fighting situation. What often happens with the survivors is they are not friendly, they probably cannot be around other people or other dogs. You need to rehabilitate them.”
It’s a method that seems to be working for the shelter. Kristina Rinaldi, the shelter’s executive director, told CBC that Detroit Dog Rescue has never seen one of its rescue dogs relapse or become aggressive (though in some instances, trainers are dispatched to homes where dogs are having troubles adjusting to).
One success story is cited — the one about Atomic, a pit bull who was founded abandoned last November. With half of his left ear missing and showing tons of scarring, it was obvious he was a former fight dog.
“You could see Atomic was trained for fighting,”, Rinaldi said in an interview with CBC News. “You could see the scars on his legs and on his ears. Most likely, he was used as a bait dog, used to train the fighting dogs.”
Initially, he had difficulty trusting people, but after twelve months of rehab at the center, Atomic — who is now Sparky — is wagging his tail and rolling over for belly rubs.
It’s great news for a breed who are often dismissed as “violent” and “inherently dangerous.” In Ontario, Canada the breed is banned outright. Any pit bull born after November 2005 is either sent out of province, used as part of a research project or euthanized.
“The ability of a dog to be rehabilitated has nothing to do with their breed,” Melanie Coulter, the executive director of the Windsor-Essex Humane Society, said in an interview with CBC News. “There are some cases where dogs aren’t safe to adopt out, but that has nothing to do with the breed.
“If it wasn’t for the ban, there’d be a lot of homes available for pit bulls. The fact that this law is in place and is affecting so many dogs that would be great dogs and great family members is really disappointing.”
As Tracey Stewart recently said, despite their reputation, pit bulls really are “the sweetest” dogs — which is why the work being done at the Detroit Dog Rescue is so amazing.
“A lot of people have given up on these dogs,” Rinaldi said. “I was the victim of child abuse. I know what it’s like to be abused and not have anyone hear you and help you … I look at these dogs and know how they feel.”