When the police of Polk County, Florida served search warrants on two homes in October, they were met with the grim sight of chained and beaten dogs, blood on the walls and an indoor seating arena. Investigators said it was one of the worst dog fighting rings they’d ever uncovered. In total, 69 pit bulls and pit bull mixes were rescued from abuse and neglect.
Shortly after that raid, Polk County Sheriff's Office Spokesperson Donna Wood announced all of the dogs were aggressive and would most likely be euthanized. Wood blamed the people who ran the dog fighting ring, Hewitt Grant II and Nicole “Nickie” Sanders, for the seemingly inevitable death of all the rescued dogs. “You have tied other's people's hands now,” Wood told them. “You have placed us into a situation to where there is no way we would take the responsibility of potentially placing a child or elderly person at risk.”
It seemed liked the fate of the dogs was a lost cause before a community of pit bull lovers across the country rallied to save them. Over 3,000 people petitioned the Polk County Sheriff’s Office not to kill the dogs.
Echo Powell, one of the first people to save one of the dogs from euthanasia, was outraged when she first heard the decision. "They're taken out of an abusive life and now it seems that's the only life they will ever know,” she said.
Deirdre Franklin, president of the advocacy group Pinups for Pitbulls, told the Huffington Post "we owe it to these dogs to give them the chance that was initially robbed from them to be a dog and to know the love of a human. These dogs deserve a chance, there are people waiting to give them that chance and we can make much better use of our resources by ensuring that good dogs find great homes.”
The dog lovers’ efforts paid off. Polk County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Carrie Horstman told the Huffington Post via email "the Humane Society has taken 18 puppies. The SPCA of Lakeland has taken two puppies and has placed holds on five other dogs – they will retrieve those dogs as soon as they complete the reports they have written about their evaluations of those dogs," Horstman said. "As you can see, we have reached out to several rescue organizations who have evaluated the dogs and will take possession of the ones they deem not too aggressive/able to be rehabilitated.”
Rachel Johnson, who adopted one of Michael Vick’s abused dogs, was thrilled to hear about the rescue dogs. "That is fantastic news," she said. "Hopefully, the majority of these dogs will get to live out their lives in loving homes."
Image via WFLA