Home for Christmas: Pit Bulls Rescued from Oklahoma Cruelty Case Leave their Chains Behind

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Multiple organizations and local towns people cooperate to close the circle for starving pit bulls discovered by hunters.

The Oklahoma dogs didn't have a big name celebrity to shine them into the limelight, but they deserved the same opportunity to be helped. Pit bulls are counting on all of us to be better humans.

Two evaluators from pit bull rescue group BAD RAP returned home to California from Kay County, Oklahoma on Monday in time to rendezvous with a cargo van full of road-weary pit bull survivors ready for a nap and a new life. Tug, LulaBelle, Miss Kitty, and Emmitt were among the dogs rescued from a large cruelty case in Oklahoma on Saturday after authorities gave the green light for their release.

The case began when two hunters stumbled across 106 starving dogs suffering in extreme cold without food, water or adequate shelter. Several dogs died in front of shocked authorities as they investigated the scene. The dead and dying dogs were owned by a Jerry Southern, a Wichita resident who had been banned from owning pit bulls just across the state line in Kansas. Southern was charged with 70 counts of animal cruelty in this current case.

A call for help from Under Sheriff Mike Kelly inspired impressive efforts from far and wide. Donations of dog food and volunteer help poured in from around the county to provide immediate relief. After a judge deeded ownership of the dogs to Oklahoma Alliance for Animals (OAA), several animal groups organized to find a final resolution for the dogs. OAA state outreach coordinator Ruth Steinberger brought in BAD RAP to oversee the dogs' rescue and to select candidates for its adoption program in the SF bay area. In addition, members of MO based group Mid-America Bully Breed Rescue offered foster homes for several dogs and Best Friends Sanctuary provided transport assistance. OAA provided spay/neuter surgeries on site. "The sheriff's department cared enough to ask for help, so we responded," said Donna Reynolds, Director of BAD RAP, "It was a difficult mission, but so gratifying to work with a team of people whose entire focus was making difficult but compassionate decisions for each and every dog. That kind of synergy doesn't happen often enough for pit bulls in crisis."

Steinberger noted, "We're so grateful that authorities allowed us to help these animals, but this abuse case is just the tip of the iceberg in Oklahoma. We have a lot of work to do to prevent this kind of thing from happening again."

Severe weather conditions hampered rescue efforts, forcing organizations to work quickly to evaluate dogs inside a small window of agreeable weather. Rural Kay County does not have an animal shelter so the dogs were kept on site and all were released from their heavy logging chains for the final time on Saturday, December 20.

Many of the dogs were too damaged by their past to be adopted out and were humanely euthanized. All the surviving dogs that passed initial evaluations and will be given some time to rest and recuperate in comfortable settings before the organizations make them available for adoption to qualified homes.

Members of BAD RAP participated in the evaluation of former NFL player Michael Vick's dogs and later absorbed ten of his dogs into their home foster care program. All of BAD RAP's Vick dogs are at home with families and one is a therapy dog for a children's reading program. They will be highlighted in a special edition of Sports Illustrated on Christmas eve.

"The Oklahoma dogs didn't have a big name celebrity to shine them into the limelight, but they deserved the same opportunity to be helped. Pit bulls are counting on all of us to be better humans." said Reynolds.


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