In honor of National Dog Fighting Awareness Day on April 8, we are bringing you the inspiring story of a black Lab who was rescued from this horrific form of cruelty—and who went on to become a beloved family pet.
Nancy and Rick C. were making dinner plans one November evening in 2013 when they got a phone call from Charleston Animal Society (CAS).
“They asked if we’d be willing to foster a dog seized in an animal-fighting case,” says Nancy. Without hesitation, they packed up Buddy, their three-year-old black Lab, and headed to the shelter for a meet-and-greet.
The dog, an 11-year-old male Labrador/Shepherd mix, was known only as No. 205. He took to the sweet-tempered Buddy instantly, so Nancy and Rick took both dogs to their favorite restaurant—one with a popular dog patio—and ordered a basket of sweet potato fries to share with their new foster.
Dog patios and sweet potato fries were a world away from the life No. 205 had previously known: living in a filthy, wire pen in the middle of a sun-baked yard where dogs were chained and trained to fight. When No. 205 was rescued, his fur was missing in patches and he tested positive for heartworm and tick-borne diseases. He was also underweight and had no access to fresh food or water. His silvery-gray muzzle made it clear that he’d spent most of his life trapped in that terrible place.
“His name is Silver, but I also call him Silver Bear,” Nancy says lovingly. After fostering Silver for nearly a year, she and Rick adopted him.
Though Silver seemed eager to forget his painful past, it was clear that the senior dog had been through a lot in the first decade of his life. “At times he would cower—like he had been kicked or mistreated, or grabbed by his collar—but he’s much more confident now,” says Rick, who takes Silver on long walks at a nearby park. Silver also enjoys the couple’s lake house a few hours away, where he chases ducks and revels in new smells, along with Buddy.
“His past is still with him,” says Nancy. “But the bottom line is we love him.”
Aldwin Roman, Director of Anti-Cruelty and Outreach for CAS, says that all 12 of the dogs transported by the ASPCA to CAS following the raid have been adopted—some, like Silver, by their foster families.
In the past two years, Silver has settled in to his happy new life. An oversized, stuffed red chair is his favorite spot for lounging, and he’s the only dog ever allowed to sleep on Rick and Nancy’s bed.
“He’ll lie in the sun sometimes, wander just a little in the backyard, and then come back inside,” Nancy says. Now weighing 60 lbs.—up from 45 when he was rescued—he gets a daily dose of fish oil to keep his silvery-black coat shiny.
“We are just so happy he found us; he’s brought us great joy,” Nancy says, adding that although the first part of Silver’s life was torturous, “We want his last years to be his best.”
The remaining defendants were sentenced for dog fighting offenses and ordered to pay restitutions totaling nearly $2 million to the ASPCA for the care of the dogs seized. The ASPCA is grateful to Assistant U.S. Attorney Clark Morris of the Office of the U.S. Attorney George L. Beck for prosecuting this case to the fullest extent of the law and ensuring that those responsible for the torture of hundreds of animals received due justice.
After more than a year of care from the ASPCA, hundreds of dogs seized during this case have finally moved on to the second chapters of their lives and are now living in loving homes. We hope that this historic case will send a message to those involved in dog fighting that these activities will not be tolerated in our community.
When an animal is rescued from cruelty, the road to recovery is not always easy. A dog or cat exposed to abuse wouldn’t be blamed for wanting to shut down and avoid the world, but more often than not, the animals we meet prove to have an unrivaled resilience—a strength and spirit that shines through despite the darkness of their past. We are inspired by these animals every day, and we are so proud to share their stories. Here is the Happy Tail of one such animal, a Pit Bull named Stella.
On July 31, 2014, the ASPCA and the NYPD joined forces to rescue 20 dogs from a dog fighting operation in Queens, New York. Multiple dogs, many of whom were emaciated, scarred, and wearing heavy chains, were found without access to food or water. A bloody treadmill, weighted harnesses, steroids, syringes and other dog fighting paraphernalia were also found on the property. Stella was one of the canine victims rescued that day.
After her rescue, Stella spent a month at the ASPCA Animal Hospital, where she received immediate medical attention and an eventual spay surgery. After her recovery, she was transferred to the ASPCA Adoption Center to begin her search for a forever home. In early October, she hit the jackpot in the form of Katelyn E. and her boyfriend, Jesse.
Kate and Jesse had been talking about dog adoption for a while before they met Stella. Kate says, “We were looking forward to having a pet in our family—someone to always keep us company and brighten our day. We also knew that there are so many dogs in shelters looking for a home, so we definitely wanted to adopt!” They met a number of dogs at the Adoption Center, but Stella stood out as the perfect match.
“We knew Stella was the right dog for us after our first meeting,” Kate recalls. “Her tail was wagging and she was just happy to be able to play with her toys.” They adopted the 40-lb. pooch and brought her home that same day.
Though we were thrilled to see Stella find a forever home, we knew that her painful past was still a fresh memory. Fortunately, Kate and Jesse were eager and willing to put in the effort to help sweet Stella adjust. “When we first brought Stella home she was very shy and scared,” Kate recalls. Everything was new for Stella—she huddled in her crate and was fearful of the apartment’s stairs. For the first few days, Kate and Jesse carried her up all four flights. But once she realized that Kate and Jesse’s home was now her home, too, Stella transformed.
“After the first few nights, Stella was like a new dog,” says Kate. “She is so happy to be with her new family. Every day we wake up to her wagging her tail—she literally jumps into our laps and kisses our faces to say good morning.” Stella now handles the stairs with ease and eagerly awaits snuggle time with her family. “Every new experience is so exciting for her,” Kate marvels. “She loves getting new toys, bones, and lots of hugs. She is such a sweet dog, and by far the best decision we have made. We are extremely happy with Stella.”
After a lifetime of pain, Stella’s new home probably seemed too good to be true. But she eventually realized that it is in fact the opposite—it’s everything she has always deserved. We couldn’t be more grateful for her very happy ending.
Removed from properties in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Texas, the dogs—who ranged in age from just a few days to 12 years—were scarred, starving, and tethered to heavy chains with little access to food or water. Most had never experienced life without suffering, and several of them, including a Pit Bull named Ruby, were pregnant with pups.
Though Ruby had likely spent most of her life abused and neglected, our Emergency Responders were amazed by her sweet, gentle nature. After giving birth, Ruby was adopted by one of our responders—and she is now in the process of becoming a certified therapy dog who will bring love and joy to local hospitals, schools and retirement homes.
Every dollar you donate to the ASPCA makes a huge difference in an animal’s life. For dogs like Ruby, it can mean the difference between life and death. Help us end their suffering: Make a gift to the ASPCA today.
The United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama concluded sentencing today for eight individuals arrested during the second largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history in August 2013. The case was led by the United States Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who requested assistance from the ASPCA and HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) in the removal, transport, sheltering, medical and daily care of the animals seized during the raid. Sentences ranged from supervised probation to eight years—which is the longest prison term ever handed down in a federal dog fighting case.
Throughout the hearing, U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins commented on the extreme cruelty committed both due to dog fighting and the conditions in which these dogs were forced to live. Judge Watkins further reiterated that the federal sentencing guidelines for dog fighting are wholly inadequate to address the seriousness of the crime. He estimated that the defendants had injured or killed between 420 to 640 dogs in the course of this dog fighting operation.
“These dogs lived in deplorable conditions, were emaciated, had parasites, ear infections, eye infections, heartworms, fleas and ticks,” stated U.S. Attorney George L. Beck, Jr. “Their living conditions constituted extraordinary cruelty. These dogs were also made to fight and, if they lost the fight, they were killed. I hope that these sentences demonstrate the seriousness of this crime and will deter others from committing these atrocities.”
Judge Watkins also ordered that after their release from prison, each defendant serve a three-year term of supervised release. While on supervised release, the defendants are prohibited from possessing dogs.
“This is truly a landmark case for the animal welfare community,” said Tim Rickey, Vice President of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response, who testified at the hearings. “We hope this case serves as a precedent for future dog fighting cases and sends a message to dog fighters everywhere that this crime will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
On August 23, 2013, The ASPCA and HSUS assisted the United States Attorney’s Office and FBI in seizing hundreds of dogs in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. Many of the dogs seized during this case have finally moved on to the second chapters of their lives and were placed with various rescue groups across the country to be made available for adoption.
We believe that there will come a time when dog fighting is seen for what it really is: the shameful pastime of cowards. But until that day comes, we will continue to fight for the victims—so that they never have to fight again.