First Idaho pit bull from dogfighting ring adopted

Many of the 63 seized animals learning 'how to be a dog'

Published: Monday, May 6 2013 6:25 p.m. MDT

Vanessa Grenier, an employee with the Idaho Humane society holds pit bull Madison Monday, May 6, 2012. The dogs were at the scene of a triple fatal shooting last month in Holbrook, Idaho.

Pat Reavy, Deseret News

BOISE — When Kyle went to the Idaho Humane Society in Boise on Sunday, he expected to look at two or three pit bulls before deciding which one to take home.

Instead, he spent the entire afternoon looking and playing with about a dozen of the animals.

"It was a tough choice between all the dogs. That's how kind and loving and personable these dogs are," he told the Deseret News on Monday.

While pit bull adoptions are nothing new, what made this adoption special was that Kyle and his wife became the first to adopt a dog rescued from a suspected dogfighting operation where police also discovered a grisly triple homicide last month.

A total of 63 pit bulls were seized and first taken to a facility in Pocatello. Later — with an escort from Idaho state police — the dogs were transferred to the larger and more secure Idaho Humane Society in Boise.

When the pit bulls first arrived at the shelter, they were underweight, suffering from malnutrition and overall in very poor condition. Many of the dogs had open lacerations and extensive scarring from old wounds — some suspected of being recently involved in fighting. Many suffered from skin, eye, and ear ailments including fly bites and frostbite. A few dogs have old injuries of broken bones that were left untreated.

"The staff was really affected by what terrible condition they were in," Hannah Parpart, communication outreach coordinator for the humane society, said.

When some of the dogs first arrived, she said they didn't even know how to be a typical dog.

"They had a lot of fear issues, they'd never walked on leashes, they didn't know what treats were. None of them played with toys, they didn't have a clue what a toy was. They didn't know how to act with each other — not necessarily being aggressive but some of them were just dumb, like, 'How do you play with another dog?' So we've seen such progress that we definitely want to make sure they continue with somewhere positive," Parpart said.

Many of dogs had been kept on chains so long that when humane society workers took them into the enclosed yard area and let them off leash, they would only walk around them in circles or just flop to the ground.

Now, one month later, many of the dogs have made a 180-degree turnaround. The dogs have not only improved physically, but emotionally and mentally as well.

"Physically, they're like a whole different group of dogs than when they started out here. It's amazing what good food and attention and baths and things can do," she said.

Today, the worst injuries the dogs receive are by wagging their tails too hard inside their kennels when they are happy to see an an employee.

Soon after the dogs arrived in Boise, the nonprofit group Bad Rap from Oakland — which gained national attention in 2007 when it assisted in evaluating the pit bulls seized from NFL star Michael Vick — arrived to evaluate every one of the animals.

"It was like a 12-step evaluation — everything from seeing if they got scared to how quickly they'd recover, to how they dealt with people around food, to how they responded to dogs of the same gender, to how they responded to dogs of the opposite gender and how they did with toys and all sorts of things," Parpart said.

The dogs were then divided into three groups. The first were those that could soon be adopted. The second were dogs that needed to be sent to a rescue center elsewhere for additional development.

"Whether it was they wouldn't walk on a leash or they were too excitable around dogs of the same gender or whatever it was going to be, those were the dogs we knew would need some type of rescue placement. They were going to be with a foster home or rescue group until they could work through those things and be prepared for a new home," Parpart said.

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