When pit bull terrier Number 27 arrived at the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons in Wainscott this summer, years of neglect were visible on her little frame. Emaciated, bloodied and frail, she had been used for her muscular build and strong jaw as one of 18 contenders in a dog-fighting ring in Nassau County.A noise complaint was filed back in January, tipping police off to a horde of dogs inside a neighbor’s garage, where illegal dog fighting had been taking place. Number 27 was found in the ring, but her fate changed at that point.
After months of veterinary care and social rehabilitation, Pretty Girl, as she is now called, is healthy, happy and ready for adoption, according to ARF’s executive director, Sara Davison.
“Pretty Girl is a lucky dog,” she said. “She probably would’ve died. She’s been an A-plus-plus student. She is sweet as can be.”
When the dogs were rescued, they were all taken to local animal hospitals and the Town of North Hempstead’s animal shelter to be treated cared for. Unfortunately, three of them had to be euthanized because of the extent of their injuries. Pretty Girl’s wounds healed after she received veterinary care funded by the animal shelter and the Nassau County district attorney’s office.
When ARF made the decision to take Pretty Girl in to continue her rehabilitation, the shelter diagnosed her with a blood-borne parasite, Babesia gibsoni, which is a tick-borne illness that dogs can pass from one to another during vicious fights. With help and a little bit of luck, Pretty Girl made a full recovery. The dog she had been fighting with, Number 26, whose new name was Red, was not so lucky—he died of the disease.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, dog fighting is a contest in which two dogs—specifically bred, conditioned and trained to fight—are placed in a pit, generally a small arena enclosed by plywood walls, to battle each other for spectators’ entertainment and gambling.
Fights average one to two hours, ending when one of the dogs will not or cannot continue.
A major bust was made in June 2012, when 47 dogs were reportedly saved after police and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals workers discovered a dog-fighting ring in the basement of a Bronx apartment building.
According to Ms. Davison, dog fighting rings are more common in New York City but still occur on Long Island.
“It’s a terrible problem across the country. It’s not common, but it still exists out here,” Ms. Davison said. “This goes to show how important it is that neighbors be alert.”
She said signs of dog-fighting rings include treadmills, dogs barking and a fluctuation of people.
The person who initiated Pretty Girl’s dog-fighting ring bust complained about noise coming from the home.
In the state of New York, dog fighting is a felony, and anyone charged with dog fighting could face a maximum of four years in prison or a maximum fine of $25,000. Even spectators can get in trouble: the spectator charge is a misdemeanor and the penalty is typically one year in jail or a $1,000 fine. Those found to be in possession of fighting dogs could face a misdemeanor charge and could spend one year in jail or have to pay a $15,000 fine.
Ms. Davison said that Pretty Girl has come a long way since she was rescued from her former life.
All the rescued dogs were evaluated by the ASPCA’s Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team, and many of them exhibited aggression toward other dogs. Despite her dog-aggressive tendencies, Pretty Girl was assessed by the ASPCA as an “affectionate social dog … a good candidate for rehabilitation.”
“Pretty Girl has been brave,” Ms. Davison said. “All she needed was love and support, not to be starved and put into an aggressive situation.”
The 30-pound copper-colored pit is full of energy and loves to meet people, she added.
On Thursday, Pretty Girl greeted strangers at the ARF shelter with big kisses and a wildly wagging tail.
One of her trainers, Mike Hinz of Sag Harbor, watched her take off toward a ball hiding in the grass in one of ARF’s fenced-in yards.
“She’s very good, quiet, obedient and knows when to listen,” said Mr. Hinz, who has worked at ARF for two years. “It’s been fun to watch her grow through this. I enjoy helping the dogs out by pushing them in the right direction.”
In Pretty Girl’s case, trainers took her through basic obedience training and worked to desensitize her to other dogs. Long walks in the woods with other dogs, with Pretty Girl muzzled at first, and time spent with humans have brought her back, according to Ms. Davison. Now, she joins other dogs unmuzzled in play groups. She even has a best friend: Tiger Lily, a big hound mix.
For information on adopting Pretty Girl, call 537-0400 ext. 203.