Lately the blogosphere and Facebook have been rife with outrage about PeTA’s joining forces with some of the most extreme pit bull hate groups in existence. It is hard to understand how an organization which is supposed to be about ethical treatment of animals could agree to partner with a group which has publicly advocated for killing pit bull terrier type dogs in horrific and violent ways.
The whole crazy situation has made me look at our dogs….and how PeTA and other extreme groups have tried to affect their lives. All three of our last three dogs have been touched by dog fighting. Ray was a Vicktory Dog, McCaela the Turtle was one of the Fearing Six fighting bust in Toledo, Ohio, and Bubba G. was found in an alley in Denver, covered in dog fighting wounds, and left to die beside a dumpster. PeTA is on record as having publicly advocated, repeatedly, that all these dogs should have been given the “gift” of euthanasia.
I have written extensively about Ray and Bubba G, but have not really addressed Turtle, and her place in our lives. I think that is because she is primarily Kevin’s dog. When he was critically ill last year, Turtle never left his side, and they formed an unbreakable bond. But her story is equally as compelling as either Ray’s or Bub’s.
January 31, 2013 police in Toledo, Ohio entered an abandoned building on Fearing Street as part of an on-going drug investigation. They found six pit bull terrier type dogs chained to the floor. The dogs were severely underweight, scarred and caked with urine and feces. Two of the dogs had legs that had been broken and never set. They were all full of parasites and were shy and timid with rescuers.
The dogs were held at Lucas County Canine Care and Control while the legal case made it’s way through the court system. After 10 long months, their abuser, Carl Steward was found guilty of five felony counts of dog-fighting and sentenced to 18 months of incarceration and 5 years of probation. Ultimately the court ruled that the dogs could each be evaluated for possible rehabilitation. Up until late 2012, it was State Law in Ohio that all fighting dogs were inherently vicious and must be euthanized. These dogs were the first fighting dogs rescued in Toledo since the law had changed. They were the first to have a chance of being evaluated and rehabilitated.
Jean Keating, Executive Director of the Lucas County Pit Crew wanted to make sure the dogs had the best possible evaluation, so she asked Donna Reynolds and Tim Racer from the California based organization BADRAP to come to Ohio and assess the dogs. After the assessments were completed, two of the dogs were determined to have been too damaged to be safe, and were humanely euthanized. That left four dogs: Honeysuckle, (renamed Joy) and Butterball (renamed Georgia after Vicktory Dog Georgia) both went into foster homes with the Lucas County Pit Crew. Mopsy and McCaela both had more severe issues, and needed to be placed in specialized fosters or rescues who were equipped to deal with their problems. Eventually Mopsy was pulled by rescue…which left McCaela sitting alone at the shelter.
Time was running out for McCaela. The staff at the shelter started calling her Turtle, because she loved to roll on her back for belly rubs, but couldn’t easily right herself afterwards. It is unclear why Turtle was having so much trouble finding placement. She was sweet and submissive with humans, although she did appear to have some dog issues. Maybe it was because she had funny googly eyes, or that one of her legs had been broken and never set properly, or that one ear was torn half away and the other ribbon-ed. Maybe it was because all of her front teeth had been broken off at the gumline (probably from trying to break through her chain). But in actuality, it was probably because she was Babesia positive. Babesia is a microscopic blood parasite that causes severe anemia. It is extremely expensive to treat, and can be passed from dog to dog by bites. But whatever the reason, management at the Lucas County Animal Care and Control began to worry about Turtle’s quality of life. After more than a year of living in a shelter environment, Turtle was beginning to show signs of stress. If placement couldn’t be found soon, it might be kinder to end her suffering.
Vicktory Dog Oscar’s mom Rachel Johnson had been following the Fearing Six dogs since the beginning. She had held an auction to raise funds for the dogs. She worked to get the other Vicktory parents involved in the situation. She took these dogs on as a project. And it’s a good thing she did. Because of her efforts, Jasmine’s House (a rescue established by Vicktory Dog Jasmine’s adopter) pulled Turtle and committed to finding her the perfect home.
Although Jasmine’s House Rescue is located in Maryland, they have a satellite branch in Salt Lake City, Utah with Vicktory Dog Halle’s mom Traci. Turtle was picked up at Animal Control and had a series of rides to get her to SLC. There she had a foster home that just didn’t work out, and she ended up being boarded at a vet’s for a few days. Not a good situation for a dog like Turtle. Jasmine’s House representative Kate went and walked Turtle twice a day, but she knew this was at best a temporary measure.
Ray and I were in South Dakota participating in a celebration to mark the end of Breed Discrimination in the state. While we were busy at a gathering on the Capital steps, other Vicktory parents were working behind the scenes to get Turtle home. Handsome Dan’s mom Heather contacted my husband Kevin and asked if we could serve as an emergency foster for Turtle, while other arrangements were looked for. Of course we said “yes”.
The second Saturday of July in 2014, Kate and Traci drove Turtle to Kanab, and we all met at the sanctuary. Kevin and I brought Ray along, so we could determine if it was even feasible to bring Turtle to our house. Then we all drove home, and let Turtle explore our house and yard.
It took us less than 24 hours to decide that Turtle wasn’t an emergency foster….Turtle was home. We applied to adopt her on Monday morning.
Turtle and Ray never were able to interact. They had both suffered too much trauma to be able to exist together. Neither one had the dog skills necessary for them to build a relationship. But that was OK. Our house is divided in half, as is our yard. We were able to keep both kids happy and socialized…just separately.
In the year and a half that Turtle has been home, she has blossomed. She has figured out how to play with toys, she discovered a love for chuckit balls, and she has developed a relationship with Bubba. She has an absolute adoration for my grandson, and can barely contain herself when he comes to visit. She adores Kevin, and is never more than a few feet from his side. Kevin calls her his “perfect dog”. And in many ways she is.
If PeTA and Dogsbite.org had their way, Turtle would have been killed in early 2014. DBO wanted her dead because of how she looks, and because of her past. PeTA wanted her dead because she had been abused, and their contention is that it would be kinder to kill her than to risk her being abused or hurt in the future.
Turtle is an amazing dog. She loves with her whole being. Her tail never, ever stops wagging. She is our family member, and I can’t imagine life without her, nor would I want to. So, if I seem a little militant in my distaste for pit bull hate groups and PeTA, I think I have a reason. It’s personal for me.