Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pit Bulls Deserve a Fair, Independent Assessment

Pit-bull type dogs that end up in a shelter environment deserve an independent behavior assessment by a qualified, trained behaviorist before automatically being put down because of their breed. Actually, progressive animal welfare calls for a fair, equitable assessment for each individual animal in the system no matter the breed, size, age, etc., of the animal. This is also true for pits seized in dogfighting cases, such as the Scott brothers dogs. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, a qualified behaviorist is not on staff at our animal shelter nor at the Dona Ana County Animal Control department.

Yesterday's LCSN cover story, "Uncertain Future", talked about the disposition of the dogs in the Scott case. Because the evidence collected by the Dona Ana County Sheriff/AC department was inadmissible in court due to an illegally-obtained search warrant, these dogs are being returned to the Scotts after the dismissal of the case by the courts.

In yesterday's story, it says the brothers are sending the dogs they are picking up to Virginia, Houston, El Paso, and Mexico. It does not say where, exactly, they are being sent. Reading between the lines, one hopes they are not being sent back into the dogfighting arena. Twelve were picked up by the brothers on Dec. 15th, and the remaining dogs will be picked up this Tuesday, Dec. 22nd, at 1 p.m.

All this time, the brothers have claimed they were breeders of show dogs, but anyone that saw these dogs witnessed the battle scars of fighting and saw how dog-aggressive some of the dogs were as well. That is not a trait bred into show dogs at all.

There is no doubt in my mind that the dogs were used for fighting, but that is my limited, personal opinion and one I have a right to as anyone else does. I just hope to God I am wrong about their past and what I fear is a sad, abusive future at the hands of whomever they are being given to now. As it stands now, there is no justice for animals in most regressive animal-welfare and control systems. Even if the perpetrators of neglect and cruelty are charged and convicted and pay for their crimes, most animals in these cases suffer at the hands of everyone and usually end up dead at the end of the long, judiciary road.

Back to this particular case, those dogs not claimed by the Scott brothers will stay at the shelter and probably face being put down because of the supposed irreparable damage of being bred by dog fighters and their fearful natures after being in intense confinement for almost three years with little-to-no enrichment. Some of these dogs, those pictured in the LCSN story, were raised in this environment since they were 7 weeks old. It is no wonder they fear humans and everything around them. I don't have to be an expert behaviorist to figure that out.

That said, fearfulness and other problem behaviors can be rehabilitated in the right hands. Look at how many dogs have turned around once outside their stressful environments. Extreme cases, such as the Vic dogs taken on by Best Friends, Bad Rap, and other pit groups nationwide, show that many of these dogs are savable, even some that were aggressive in the past. That's why they deserve a fair shot and an INDEPENDENT assessment.

Anyone reading this blog post that cares about these remaining Scott dogs, please contact the shelter and the AC department to advocate for a behaviorist to be brought in to assess the remaining dogs. Please ask them to not automatically put the dogs down for fearfulness or to make room at the shelter. After the years of suffering these dogs have lived through, they deserve at least a shot at a new life and a placement in a safe environment where they can be assessed and rehabilitated, such as with a rescue or appropriate foster home.

You can reach the animal shelter, the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley, from 12 noon to 6 p.m. at 575-682-0018. You can reach the AC department in charge of these dogs, the Dona Ana County Animal Control, at 575-525-8846.

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