Former Dogfighting Victims Want You to Stop Believing These 10 Things

April 6, 2021

Second chances seem like they don’t come around too often, but at the ASPCA, they happen every day! Especially for former dogfighting victims. Following their rescue, dogs like these, once forced into lives of violence, are put on paths toward rehabilitation and healing. But that’s not where their stories end! We’ve seen countless dogfighting survivors go on to find the loving homes they deserve. 

While every dog experiences trauma differently and heals in different ways, they all just want to be loved. But far too often, unfair bias and misconceptions can keep these dogs in shelters, waiting for those loving homes. So, in honor of National Dogfighting Awareness Day, we want to clear up 10 common misconceptions, and of course, show off some adorable dogfighting survivors in the process!

#1 – They will always be aggressive. Despite coming from a dogfighting background, many of these victims are not aggressive–in fact they get along great with people and other dogs. The ASPCA’s expert staff work hard to help these dogs heal and to prepare them to be happy, loving companions, like our buddy Orson! With time, care and socialization, many former dogfighting victims thrive and their true personalities blossom.

Orson, a brown pitbull, looking happy at the camera

#2 – They don’t get along with other animals. Many people believe that former dogfighting victims don’t get along with other animals, especially other dogs, due to their past. However, many of these dogs can live alongside canine and feline friends, like Xander! Every dog is unique, and shelter and rescue staff can usually advise on whether a rescue dog is likely to be comfortable sharing a home with other animals and how to best set up introductions to new furry friends. 

Xander resting with a cat

#3 – I can’t let them near my children. Former dogfighting victims, like all dogs, can vary in how comfortable they are with children. While some love all humans, including small ones, others may have never been exposed to children and find them new and potentially frightening. It all just depends on the dog! Bam, for instance, a 101 lb. pit bull, is great with children (and small animals like bunnies)!

Bam with a young child

#4 – They don’t play nicely. Does Zaza look like she doesn’t play nicely to you? Former dogfighting victims have likely never experienced the joy of toys until they are rescued. After recovering from a fighting background, many dogs realize how fun it is to play—and they won’t mind following the rules either!

Zaza with a toy

#5 – They will never be cuddly. Many former dogfighting victims have never known gentle touch or affection until they’ve been rescued so at first, they might not know how to cuddle. But once they’ve had time to open up and trust people, they realize that they never want the cuddles to end! Just like this snuggle bunny, Franny!

Franny cuddling with her family

#6 – They’re vicious toward people. Some former victims are especially fearful after their rescue. They simply haven’t been exposed to the world and can be wary of new people. But with love and socialization at a pace that works for them, these dogs can overcome their fears and learn that life with humans is just great! Take Ginny for example!

Ginny with her family on a walk

#7 – They can’t live in a family environment. This looks like one happy family to us! Dogfighting victims have never known the love of a family before but with time and patience, they can acclimate to life in a home. Certain dogs may find young kids too rowdy, but it all depends on the dog’s personality. Despite Holstein’s past, all he really wants is a spot on the couch and a whole bunch of belly rubs!

Holstein with his family and their other pets

#8 – They can turn on you without warning. These former dogfighting victims are just like any dog in that they communicate primarily through their bodies. Dogs that appear to react “without warning” really do try to tell us, but we just aren’t picking up on their warnings. By learning to read a dog’s body language, you can tell when they are becoming uncomfortable, and get them out of the situation before they feel the need to act on their discomfort. Anoush’s pet parent has learned his body language and even knows when he wants a hug!

Anoush on a walk

#9 – They don’t make good pets. Former victims of dogfighting can make incredible pets. Perhaps even more so because of their abusive past, these resilient dogs thrive with the loving care of their human families. With training, rescue dogs can go anywhere and do anything, from joining the family on a hike to lying quietly on a dog bed during a family picnic. These dogs are renowned for their distinctive big smiles on their clown-like faces. Every dog has their own personality with unique quirks, so it’s all about who you meet! Soba even lets her pet parents wrap her up in towels after bath time!

Soba drying off after a bath

#10 – They will never live a “normal” dog life. Many former dogfighting victims go on to lead perfectly “normal” and happy lives. Buddy, on the other hand, has leveled-up from “normal dog life” and to “super cool dog life.” He now goes on adventures of all types with his family! 

Buddy hiking on a glacier