By Wayne Pacelle
The HSUS has the nation’s only unit devoted exclusively to combating illegal animal fighting crimes. And this past August, we responded when 200 dogs from a suspected fighting operation were discovered by law enforcement in southeast Ohio. We helped to secure the surrender of the dogs and are now working with local authorities on a criminal prosecution.
For more than two months after the surrender, we worked with rescue volunteers to care for the dogs in a temporary shelter and—since that time—more than 140 have been placed in foster care, with a shelter, or in an adoptive home (in October I told you about an all-night journey HSUS staff undertook to transport 18 of the dogs to various locations along the East Coast). The HSUS supports the evaluation of every animal confiscated from a fighting operation—a policy change we adopted in light of the rehabilitation of many of the dogs from the Michael Vick case. And it was the approach we took in the handling of the animal survivors of the Ohio bust.
This great success story would not have been possible without the many staff and volunteers from Hello Bully, a pit bull advocacy, education, and rescue group based in Pittsburgh. They worked beside us every day at the shelter, and they continue to foster dogs from the case. I’ve asked Daisy Balawejder, president of Hello Bully, to give us an update. From Daisy:
The 200 dogs rescued from Ohio lived almost their entire lives at the end of a chain. This goes against everything a dog needs to be a well-socialized, well-adjusted dog. Somehow, against all odds, the dogs we have from the “Ohio 200” are everything wonderful pet dogs should be. They behave as though they were built with the singular purpose of loving people.
One of these dogs is the aptly named Ferdinand the Bull. (Ferdinand the Bull is the main character in “The Story of Ferdinand,” the 1936 children’s book about a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight in bullfights.)
When we met him in Ohio, he was very timid and overwhelmed—so much so that he could not stand upright and walk. Instead, he would belly-crawl. Within one minute of meeting this dog, we realized what heart he had. He would crawl to every single person in sight.
When Ferdinand came to Pittsburgh and became a more confident dog, we noticed there was something off in his gait. We took him to a veterinary specialist and found he had luxating patellas in both of his knees. Thanks to a grant from The HSUS and donations from Hello Bully supporters, on Dec. 20, Ferdinand had his first surgery to repair this painful condition. He is recovering in comfort in his foster home, and we expect to schedule his second surgery in February.
Since his rescue, Ferdinand has graduated from obedience class, started work toward his Canine Good Citizen title, and found a wonderful foster family that is helping him on his journey to finding a forever home.