Coalition Urges HSUS to Revise Policy on Dogs Seized in Fighting Busts

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The court-ordered destruction Monday of 145 dogs, including about 75 puppies, which were seized from a fighting dog breeding operation in December, was based on the faulty assumption that all dogs seized in dog-fighting related busts should arbitrarily be deemed dangerous and euthanized.

The court-ordered destruction Monday of 145 dogs, including about 75 puppies, which were seized from a fighting dog breeding operation in December, was based on the faulty assumption that all dogs seized in dog-fighting related busts should arbitrarily be deemed dangerous and euthanized.

The decision to kill the dogs was supported by the largest animal welfare organization in the country, the Humane Society of the United States. According to the Winston-Salem Journal, representatives of HSUS testified in Wilkes County Superior Court that the dogs had to be destroyed because they had been 'bred for generations to be aggressive.' HSUS reasserted its outdated policy, written more than 20 years ago: 'Any dog who has been specifically bred or conditioned for fighting, or for which there is evidence that the dog has been used for fighting should not be placed for adoption by an animal shelter but humanely euthanized as soon as legally possible.'

A Best Friends Animals Society-led coalition offered resources to the county for evaluation, spay/neuter, and support in finding homes for qualified dogs. These animal welfare organizations, which have extensive experience with rescued fighting dogs, urged Wilkes County to accept their offer of support for an alternative approach, such as was used in the Michael Vick case. The coalition includes BAD RAP (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit Bulls), Animal Farm Foundation, Villa Lobos Rescue Center, Downtown Dog Rescue, The Sula Foundation and Our Pack.

“We are disheartened and shocked that HSUS, a leader in the animal welfare community, would testify in court for the automatic destruction of puppies and dogs, who had not been given the opportunity to be evaluated as individuals, based on this policy. The Michael Vick dogs have proven how antiquated this approach is,” said Ledy VanKavage, an attorney with Best Friends Animal Society.

In 2006 HSUS advocated that all of the dogs from the Michael Vick dog fighting case be put down for the same reasons they used when recommending the killing of the Wilkes County pit bulls. In that case a federal court appointed a Special Master to oversee the evaluation of Vick’s dogs, all of which were adults. Many of the Vick dogs are now in adoptive homes, and at least two of the so-called “aggressive fighting dogs” are therapy dogs that visit hospitals to cheer up ailing patients.

“The coalition members and their supporters are urging HSUS to revaluate this policy and apply a more progressive approach that reflects the lessons learned by the animal welfare groups in the coalition, as well as other organizations that work directly with dogs,” VanKavage said.

COALITION CONTACTS:

Best Friends Animal Society http://www.bestfriends.org
Barbara Williamson (435) 689-0200 (cell) (or) barbara(at)bestfriends.org
John Polis (435) 644-2001, ext. 4858 or johnp (at) bestfriends.org

Animal Farm Foundation http://www.animalfarmfoundation.org
Stacey Coleman (845) 868-7559 (or) scoleman (at) animalfarmfoundation.org

BAD RAP http://www.badrap.org
Donna Reynolds (510) 441-6461 (or) donna (at) badrap.org

Downtown Dog Rescue http://www.downtowndogrescue.org
Lori Weise (213) 448-9961 (or) lori(at)modernica.net

Our Pack http://www.ourpack.org/
Marthina McClay (408) 460-4244 (or) marthina (at) ourpack.org

The Sula Foundation http://www.sulafoundation.org
Ken Foster (504) 613-7370 (or) kenrfoster (at) gmail.com

Villa Lobos Rescue Center http://www.vrcpitbull.com/home.htm
Tia Maria Torres (661) 268-0555 (or) tiamaria (at) vrcpitbull.com

About Best Friends Animal Society:
Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2009, Best Friends Animal Society advances nationwide animal welfare initiatives by working with shelter and rescue groups around the country. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in southwestern Utah is the nation's largest facility for abused, abandoned and special needs companion animals. On any given day the sanctuary is home to approximately 1,700 dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, birds, and other animals. The society publishes Best Friends magazine, the nation’s largest general interest, pet-related magazine with approximately 300,000 subscribers. For more information on Best Friends Animal Society, visit: http://www.bestfriends.org/

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Barbara Williamson
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