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Animal behaviorists say animals with troubled past can still make great pets

By Alex Cabrero | Posted - May 22nd, 2013 @ 10:20pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — An Idaho couple has adopted one of the 64 pit bulls involved in a dog fighting operation that were discovered after a triple murder in Idaho. Dispite the dog's rough past, they say it is a great pet.

Investigators found 64 pit bulls during the investigation into the southern Idaho murders that left three people dead. The animals were rescued by the Idaho Humane Society, and the workers believe that the animals were part of a dog fighting operation.

Kyle and Janet, whose last names have been withheld for privacy, followed the triple murder in the news. When they heard the dogs were taken to the Idaho Humane Society in Boise, they wanted to adopt one and give it a loving home. They said the dog fighting didn't bother them, and they adopted "Tess" the first part of May.

"She's just excellent," Kyle said of their new pet. "Pretty amazing what they went through and what they look like now. It's real amazing."

Kyle and Janet don't want their neighbors to know that their new pet used to be involved in dog fighting because of the negative stigma associated with it. They said that with proper care, Tess has been a perfect dog and the right fit for them.

"(She's) spunky, and just her personality," Janet said. "Every time we threw the ball and called her name, she would come to us."

They had a lot of fear issues. They've never walked on a leash, they didn't know what treats were. None of them played with toys. They didn't have a clue what a toy was.

–Hannah Parpart, Idaho Humane Society.

Workers with the Idaho Humane Society said the pit bulls had a lot of issues when they were rescued.

"They had a lot of fear issues," said Hannah Parpart, representative of the Idaho Humane Society. "They've never walked on a leash, they didn't know what treats were. None of them played with toys. They didn't have a clue what a toy was."

Workers in Idaho knew the dogs' history, but they said that often when dogs are brought into shelters, their past is unknown.

Employees at Salt Lake County Animal Services said they have to perform a behavior assessment with the animals to test if they are violent.

"We kind of scruff them a little bit, you know?" said Hannah McNabb, animal behaviorist. "(We) scruff them to see if a little kid were to grab a hold of them, how would they react."

With the behavior assessment, workers can find out if a dog or cat is good with children and what type of home to place them in.

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"We really work hard to make sure we set up our dogs for success," McNabb. "With our training program and our behavior assessments, we want to make sure we are putting them in the right home so they don't come back."

Shelter dogs also get medical checkups so future owners know exactly what they are getting.

"I think we do ourselves a disservice if we're not up front," said veterinarian Dawn Kelly. "And, obviously, we do the animal and the owner a disservice because some of these medical issues are expensive."

Temma Martin with Best Friends Animal Society said shelters and rescue groups do their best to find out a pet's history, but private breeders and pet stores aren't always honest.

"You really do need to be aware of who has your best interest as the pet owner at heart," Martin said. "They're out there to make money, and you're far more likely to have things hidden from you when you're buying from some of these businesses."

Of course, not all pet breeders or pet stores are bad, and often stores like Petco and PetSmart will feature dogs by humane societies that are up for adoption.


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Alex Cabrero

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