Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dogs seized from Indiana fighting ring face hard rehab

* By The Associated Press
* Posted August 26, 2009 at 11:06 a.m. , updated August 26, 2009 at 11:06 a.m.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — More than 100 dogs that Indiana officials seized after they were allegedly bred for fighting face an uphill road to rehabilitation before any can be released to new owners.

The 109 dogs, mostly pit bulls, have been taken to kennels and foster homes since they were seized in Orange County Aug. 11 during raids by the Indiana Gaming Commission and other agencies.

Chris Schindler, manager of animal fighting law enforcement for the Humane Society of the United States, said the animals are now being evaluated to determine if any can be placed in new homes after their owners didn’t post bond money for their care. The Humane Society is helping state officials pay for the dogs’ care and rehabilitation.

“All of these dogs are victims of animal cruelty and they will need time to recover and settle into a regular life,” he said. “It is possible some will not survive this process. It’s very possible. They have been victimized by cruelty, and for some, it may be hard to come back from that.”

Officials say many of the dogs had scars, chains embedded in their necks and other signs of neglect when they were seized. Some were underweight. Two men have been charged with possessing animals for fighting and animal cruelty, and investigators are looking for additional suspects.

One of the dogs last week attacked a Bloomington animal control worker, tearing off the end of the woman’s thumb.

Jeff Franklin, a spokesman for the commission’s 16-person gaming control unit that investigates illegal gambling, said one of the dogs got loose within the last year, and a sheriff’s deputy shot at the animal when it charged at him.

Franklin said he is afraid that most of the dogs have been ruined by the aggression they were taught, but he held out hope for some.

“I have heard that even some of Michael Vick’s dogs were salvaged,” he said. “It just depends on each dog and how much they can take.”

The former NFL star was released from federal custody July 20 after serving 18 months of a 23-month sentence for his role in running a dogfighting operation.

Schindler wasn’t ready to give up on the southern Indiana dogs.

“They will be assessed, and then we will see where they go from there,” he said. “We always hope for the best possible outcome for them because they have suffered cruelty at the hands of humans and they deserve a kind and loving end. Hopefully, there will be dogs happy in new homes.”