Otis, a lover, not a fighter

Lovers, not fighters

We all remember the Michael Vick case - one of the most publicized animal cruelty cases in history that just so happened to shed light on the underground blood sport known as dogfighting. Still, a heinous cat of animal cruelty happening throughout the nation, and if you don't think it exists in the city of Philadelphia, you are wrong.

The Pennsylvania SPCA has rescued numerous dogs from similar situations. Today, Monday, April 8 is National Dogfighting Awareness Day, a day where we hope to raise awareness throughout our communities about the prevalence of dogfighting.

When dogs seized from a dogfighting operation first enter our facilities, we gather as much detailed information as allowed. Personally, I want to know everything – their level of fighting, their history, their environment, their STORY. We work closely with our Humane Law Enforcement Director, Nicole Wilson, and her brave team of officers, who are on-site during the raids.

For my behavior staff and I, it’s important that we understand what their lives were like prior to entering the shelter, as brutal as it may be. A life that previously consisted of abuse, conflict, starvation, rape and isolation is about to change forever. With this in mind, we create a respectful behavior plan that adheres to the individual’s needs. Many are shy and shut down for the first couple of weeks, even months. The plan begins on day one, where we begin building a trusting relationship – one that is filled with love and a sense of comfort.

Our dogs go through a series of assessments, which include gauging their response to a life size stuffed dog (which is roughly 80% accurate in fighting dogs) and a test on muzzle, all precautionary steps to ensure safe placement. Because these dogs come from an environment where they are essentially given a “job” (although often forced), it’s incredibly important for us to provide them with a surplus of mental and physical stimulation, as well as confidence, while they are in our care. They are highly intelligent beings. It is our job to channel that brilliancy into something positive. We take a proactive approach in order to prevent deterioration within the shelter environment. Even with some of the best care, many dogs continue to suffer. A problem only a home could fix.

A majority of the dog fighting dogs in Philadelphia are pitbull-type dogs, further creating a stigma surrounding the breed. Here, at the Pennsylvania SPCA, we look at these dogs as individuals rather than condemning them as a category. We treat dogs seized from such cases just like any other. Yes, we take their background into consideration, but we don’t let it define who they are. I’ve met some of the sweetest, most gentle souls through this work. Loyal dogs who, in their nature, only want to please. True lovers, not fighters.

- Kayla Dorney, PSPCA Behavior & Enrichment Supervisor

To support the Pennsylvania SPCA's work to end dogfighting, visit https://www.bonfire.com/pennsylvania-spca-otis/