CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Just because pit bulls have been used for fighting doesn’t mean they can’t be adopted, a pit bull rescue advocate said Sunday.
“Nine times out of 10 there is something that can be done, as far as rehabilitation with these dogs,” said Sara Enos, founder of the American Pit Bull Foundation.
The foundation rescues pit bulls from around the country, many abused or used for dog fighting rings. Most, said Enos, can be rehabilitated.
(Photos | Police rescue pit bulls in dogfighting ring)
“These are typically excellent human companions despite what they've been bred for, despite what they've been trained to do to other animals,” she said.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police seized 27 dogs from an alleged dog-fighting ring in eastern Mecklenburg County Friday. Officers found equipment consistent with training dogs for fighting like treadmills, chains, mats, and antibiotics.
Melvin Smith, 46, and Lefonze Williams, 42, were charged with training animals for dog fighting and baiting, a felony. They had bonded out of jail Sunday.
The dogs will be kept as evidence until the trial is settled, or until their owners surrender them. They will be evaluated by professionals at Animal Care and Control to see if they can be adopted.
Enos said it’s possible the majority of the seized dogs could still find homes.
The keys to a successful rehabilitation, she said, are time and temperament testing. That means putting them in situations with adults, children, toys, other animals – even loud noises – to see how they’ll react, then finding them a home that best suits their temperament.
“A temperament test gives you a roundabout idea about how the dog is going to respond to different situations, and if those responses are workable,” she added.
One example she points to is a blue pit named Tabitha. Rescued from a likely dog-fighting ring in south Florida last summer, Tabitha was very scared of people.
“Scared of humans, scared of men,” said Deyne Munavalli, her new owner. “She could have been some kind of bait dog with all the scarring she has on her face and some of the behavior that was initial to me.”
Munavalli has worked with Tabitha since July to get her used to living in her home with her husband and four-year-old son.
It took “a lot of touch, a lot of contact, a lot of voice commands,” said Munavalli.
Tabitha and her fellow pit bull, Blue, relaxed and remained calm for our NBC Charlotte cameras when we visited them Sunday night. Munavalli showed how Tabitha could follow common voice commands and behave around strangers and children.
Munavalli said she walks Tabitha often – but always on a leash, because she worries about how other dogs will react to her. But she doesn’t worry about Tabitha at home.
“They're gentle.. harmless... good!” she said, while giving the dog a big hug and scratching her ears.