Fight­ing dogs get re­hab

Deal reached to save 18 pit bulls from death row

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - BY LIAM CASEY

Eigh­teen al­leged fight­ing dogs that were fac­ing a po­ten­tial death sen­tence in On­tario will be sent to the U.S. for re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion af­ter a month­s­long ne­go­ti­a­tion to save their lives.

A Chatham, Ont., court has or­dered three peo­ple ac­cused of run­ning a dog­fight­ing ring to sur­ren­der own­er­ship of the banned pit bulls to the On­tario So­ci­ety for the Pre­ven­tion of Cru­elty to An­i­mals, which has been hold­ing the an­i­mals since seiz­ing them in Oc­to­ber 2015.

The court fur­ther or­dered the OSPCA — which had ap­plied to de­stroy the dogs — to send the an­i­mals to a spe­cial fa­cil­ity called Dogs Play­ing for Life in Florida.

The Crown at­tor­ney, the OSPCA and the dogs’ three own­ers reached an agree­ment on a so­lu­tion for the dogs in court last week, lawyers for those in­volved said.

Dog Tales, an op­u­lent dog res­cue and horse sanc­tu­ary north of Toronto, played a cru­cial role in the ne­go­ti­a­tions by pledg­ing to pay for the care and trans­port of the dogs.

“I am su­per ex­cited — it has been a long bat­tle and I’m very happy that these dogs are get­ting this chance,” said Rob Schein­berg, who owns Dog Tales along with his wife.

Schein­berg said he fought hard for the dogs be­cause he owned a pit bull for 17 years and is against On­tario’s breed­spe­cific leg­is­la­tion that bans them.

It has been a lengthy le­gal jour­ney for the dogs.

In the fall of 2015, po­lice and OSPCA agents raided a com­pound in Til­bury, Ont., and seized 31 dogs — all pit bulls. The raid led to charges against four peo­ple and later a fifth, much of them weapons and an­i­mal cru­elty charges, along with provin­cial charges for own­ing pit bulls.

Dur­ing that raid, of­fi­cials came across a grim scene in a build­ing at the back of the prop­erty, be­hind a sign read­ing “Dirty White Boy Ken­nels,” as de­scribed by an OSPCA af­fi­davit filed with the court.

In­spec­tors seized more than 200 items that day, doc­u­ments said, in­clud­ing med­i­cal kits with in­jectable so­lu­tions and vi­ta­min sup­ple­ments, su­ture and skin sta­ple kits, sy­ringes and sur­gi­cal tools, lists of names of dogs, train­ing and weight sched­ules, a train­ing kit with weights, muz­zles and sticks, and har­nesses “used for weight train­ing.”

All of the dogs were found at­tached to chains that were tied to metal stakes in the ground. In­spec­tors also found an­abolic steroids on site, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments, and dog­fight­ing con­tracts.

An in­spec­tor noted “that the ma­jor­ity of the adult dogs had se­vere scar­ring con­sis­tent with dog fight­ing. These scars were pri­mar­ily lo­cated on the head, neck and fore­limbs of the dogs.”

Three of those dogs were im­me­di­ately eu­th­a­nized for med­i­cal rea­sons and the re­main­ing 28 un­der­went a be­havioural eval­u­a­tion by the Amer­i­can SPCA, which said 21 of those dogs were deemed a men­ace to so­ci­ety and could not be re­ha­bil­i­tated.

The OSPCA, how­ever, had to ap­ply to court to have the dogs de­stroyed for be­havioural rea­sons, which led to a public out­cry.

Three an­i­mal or­ga­ni­za­tions lined up to in­ter­vene in the OSPCA’s ap­pli­ca­tion, with two go­ing to court — Dog Tales and An­i­mal Jus­tice, an an­i­mal rights or­ga­ni­za­tion — which ar­gued the dogs needed their own de­fence.

The judge de­nied those or­ga­ni­za­tions’ at­tempts to in­ter­vene last De­cem­ber.

In Fe­bru­ary, Dog Tales launched a pub­lic­ity cam­paign, called #savethe21, which fea­tured celebrity en­dorse­ments from Richard Bran­son, En­rique Igle­sias and Paris Hil­ton, plead­ing with the OSPCA and the Crown to save the dogs.

Ken­neth Mar­ley, a de­fence lawyer who rep­re­sents the three peo­ple ac­cused of run­ning the dog­fight­ing ring, said he and Dog Tales pushed for a sec­ond be­havioural as­sess­ment, since it had been about 18 months since the first one.

CP PHOTO

One of three pit bull pup­pies born into OSPCA cus­tody is seen in this un­dated hand­out photo at an undis­closed OSPCA lo­ca­tion. Three pit bull pup­pies were born to a mother who was siezed in a raid on an al­leged dog­fight­ing ring in Oc­to­ber 2015. The pup­pies are be­ing adopted out to a fa­cil­ity in the United States.

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