A View to No-Kill: Manatee shelter seeks homes for dog-fighting victims

December 17, 2013 

The winter holidays often bring out the best in all of us as we open our hearts to family and friends. Manatee County Animal Services asks you to open yours to special needs dogs victimized by dog fighting.

Take Louie. He used to be all black, but white tufts of fur have grown over scars scattered over his face and body. Each of his ears are torn in two; long jagged cuts separate the folds. I approach his cage and he looks at me with uncertain eyes and quickly retreats to the back of his cage, tail tucked and head down.

He reluctantly leaves his kennel, but leans against walls and desperately looks for places to hide under as we walk through the halls and out the front door. Outside, he does not throw his nose up to savor freedom, but continues to look for asylum; a safe haven. He will not accept treats, he will not wag his tail. His physique is damaged beyond belief.

On the other side of the shelter is another victim of abuse. She is about 20 pounds underweight and her face is lined with black scars. Her nipples sag and her bones protrude.

Careful examination reveals her teeth have been filed down. She has been used as a breeder and a bait dog.

Miraculously, she wags her tail and prances out of her kennel as I open it. Once outside, she eagerly explores the play yard and periodically comes up to lick me and be petted.

Unlike Louie, she has not given up on a chance for happiness. We named her Blessing.

The fate of Louie and Blessing and so many more like them lie in our hands. We cannot change the past but, as a community, we can address the present and future.

As a community, we must continue to aggressively pursue criminals who engage in the barbaric sport of dog fighting and turn otherwise loving dogs into "bait" for their sick sense of entertainment. If you suspect dog fighting, call Crime Stoppers at 1-866-634-TIPS (8477) or submit a tip online at manateecrimestoppers.com. Your information will be taken in strictest confidence. Your identity will be protected and you will never have to give your name. All tips eligible for a reward are paid to Tipsters using an anonymous process.

If you are a community leader, teacher or religious leader and have the ear of people who might be engaged in dog fighting, please try to change hearts and minds. Please educate our youth to care for animals and dissuade congregants from cruelty so the Manatee County pet population can look to a

better future.

For the present, as a community, we must care for the victims of this heinous abuse. Manatee County Animal Services is charged with animal control and adoptions. We impound an average of 430 dogs and cats per month, and have more than 100 dogs for adoption at any given time.

We handle all this with an average working shelter staff of five. We are simply not equipped to deal with rehabilitation.

Louie and Blessing need YOUR help. Despite their treatment, neither Louie nor Blessing are people aggressive, but both need to get into special homes as soon as possible.

If you are a rescuer or have experience with special needs dogs, come see Louie and Blessing. They are just two of the dogs at Manatee County Services who deserve your compassion.

If you never have to look into the eyes of a dog or cat and make a choice, you are lucky. One day, we all would like to be, lucky too.

Check out Manatee County Animal Services on Facebook. Like us and share us with all your friends. Our web site mymanatee.org/pets has a wealth of information, including your new family member for adoption. Or call 941-742-5933 for information.

Kris Weiskopf, chief of Manatee County Animal Services, writes this weekly column for the Herald.

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