Rescued Laguna pit bulls still need help

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Jennie Fajardo-Panes, with her adopted pit bull, Nana. Jennie, a dog trainer and owner of dog daycare Pup Culture, volunteered to take care of the rescued pit bulls in 2013.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — In 2012, the Criminal Investigation Detection Group rescued 226 pit bulls from a dog-fighting arena in Laguna. The dogs were in a terrible state — skeletal, dehydrated, and severely injured. Many of them were put to sleep.

Today, 123 of the Laguna pit bulls (LPB) remain alive; 17 of them have been adopted.

Led by Korean nationals who were arrested for a similar operation in Cavite, the LPB case was the biggest dog-fighting bust in the Philippines. The rescued dogs were brought to the care of the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), which was later aided by the Compassion and Responsibility for Animals Welfare Philippines (CARA) and the Island Rescue Organization.

CARA has taken responsibility for the remaining pit bulls, who have been transferred to a new and safer location.

Most people think the American pit bull terrier is an inherently aggressive dog. But it’s just one of the many misconceptions about it.

According to PAWS, a “pit bull” isn’t a dog breed: it’s a general term for “bully” breeds, namely the American pit bull terrier, bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, and the Staffordshire bull terrier.

Rescued_Laguna_Pitbull_03_CNNPH (1).png Jennie with her rescued pit bull Nana, West Highland terrier CJ, rescued aspin (asong Pinoy) Q, and labrador retriever Eddie.

PAWS said pit bulls are not vicious dogs per se, although their history reveals they were bred for inhumane spectator sports: bull- and bear-baiting, and later, dog-fighting. The trait for dog aggression was bred, or developed by humans, into their genetic line.

“But you have to understand, a characteristic of pit bulls as a breed is that they really want to please,” said Maria Parsons, a CARA advocate. “So if you train them to fight, they will do it for you, until they die.”

Hence, unless a pit bull has been poorly bred or purposefully trained to attack humans, they are loyal, friendly, and generally loving towards people.

As journalist and Marley & Me author John Grogan said, "There are no bad dogs, just bad owners."

250 for a Pittie

When the pit bulls were brought into the care of NGOs, there was a call for volunteers. One of them was Jennie Fajardo-Panes, a dog trainer and owner of Pup Culture, a daycare for dogs.

Maintaining a dog shelter can be expensive. CARA spends an estimated P230,000 a month at the pit bull facility, and most of this budget goes to food.

CARA launched the fundraiser “250 for a Pittie Program,” which asked people to donate P250 per month to the shelter, to cover upkeep, food, and medical costs.

“For us to generate our monthly budget with 250 for a Pittie, we need at least 600 committed donors who can give us P250 a month,” Jennie said.

rescued_Laguna_Pitbull_03_CNNPH.png Profiles host Mitzi Borromeo with Jennie at the Laguna Pit Bull Rehabilitation Center.  

After their rehabilitation, LPBs are put up for adoption. Prospective adopters are invited to the pit bull shelter so they can find which dog suits them best.

Some of the LPBs were beyond rescuing when they were discovered by authorities, so CARA decided to take the most humane course of action for some of them — they euthanized rescued dogs to end their suffering.

“Others were beyond help,” said Jennie. “They were traumatized, emotionally unbalanced, and then CARA started rehabilitating them.”

According to Jennie, the dogs were “in a really bad state,” they  were emaciated and lived inside drums.

Having pets is a responsibility

For Jennie, providing dogs with basic needs like food and water is not enough. It is the responsibility of pet owners to enrich their dog’s life, and they can do this by giving them enough exercise, walking them, teaching them, and stimulating their minds.

“The number one thing that I tell people is to get to know their dog a lot. Get to know the specie itself, because when you understand your dog, you know how to go about things with your dog,” she said.

Jennie believes our country needs to understand that dogs have to be socialized so they could harmoniously live with humans.

“So you would know how to react and interact with them properly. And then the dog will take on from there because they just need guidance.”

Watch Jennie Fajardo-Panes and the Laguna Pit Bulls on Profiles this Friday, March 11, with replays on Sunday 11:30am, and Monday 1:30pm.