Pit Bulls: Saving America's Dog
June 30, 2009 : 5:29 PM
Officer who rescued two pit bulls from abuse and living on chains is trying to find homes for the loving dogs
by Jillian Blume, Best Friends Network volunteer
For Officer Bruce Petitt, it was just a normal day driving around the town of Wadley, Georgia, as he does every day he’s on patrol. But for two very lucky, and ultimately very sweet natured pit bulls, that June day turned out to be the end of a miserable life tied to a tree by a four-foot logging chain.
It was two kennel crates in a field that piqued Officer Petitt’s curiosity and made him stop his car to investigate.
The two dogs he found were emaciated and covered with cuts and scars. There was no shelter, no water and no food—but if the dogs had been on ten-foot chains, they would have been able to reach the crates in the field for shelter. Even more disturbing was the sight of a litter of dead puppies just out of reach of the dogs.
“The dog that is now called Ellie had the puppies. They died because they were about three feet and four inches away, and she only had about three feet to maneuver,” says Petitt. “She couldn’t get to her babies.”
The town of Wadley has no form of animal control and no shelters, but Officer Pettit knew a man who helps rescue dogs and contacted him. The two dogs were brought to the local veterinarian clinic and Pettit began researching the procedure for prosecuting a suspect of animal abuse.
“Nobody had ever attempted to prosecute an animal abuse case in this county, and nobody knew what to do. Luckily, with a little bit of research on the Internet, I found a guide for law enforcement that explained how to successfully prosecute animal abuse,” says Petitt.
Only one day later, Pettit started receiving calls from the veterinarian clinic where the dogs were boarded saying that they had to be removed or they would be euthanized.
Says Pettit, “I started getting panicked, so I hit the Internet and found a number for a local rescue group. I left a message that said I needed someone to call me because these poor dogs were going to be put down. I emphasized the fact that these dogs were recoverable as pets.
He adds, "It’s a contradiction of my previous 24 years of training dogs. I’ve never had one care in the world about pit bulls. If you would have asked me two months ago, I would have told you every one of them needs to be put down.”
According to attorney Kelly Jenkins, who works for the superior courts and is also a member of the local rescue group Old Fella, pit bulls are viewed in a very negative light in this area of Georgia.
Although her dogs are mostly pit bulls, she already serves as a foster home for a local rescue, and she could not offer the accommodations needed to care for Sallie and Ellie. Because of limited resources and high rescue demands, Old Fella was not able to take Sallie and Ellie either. It did, however, agree to cover the costs to spay both dogs. Luckily, the veterinarian in nearby Waynesboro was more sympathetic and he agreed to board the dogs.
This area of the country is rife with dog fighting, which is often carried out in the open without repercussions. Officer Petitt found himself without support for his campaign to save these two dogs, which was part of his recent decision to transfer to the Waynesboro police department.
Petitt adds that Chief Wesley Lewis of the Wadley Police Department encouraged the case and provided information on how to go about obtaining warrants. Says Petitt, "It was the system after the fact that let us all down."
Pettit has in-depth experience with dog handling and training. He worked with the Department of Defense in 1994 to train dogs used by the military and spent seven years as a drug- and bomb-dog handler in the army.
Pettit devoted himself to working with Ellie and Sallie. “They had a complete distrust of people, and my opinion was that anytime people were around them, they either got beat or put into a fight situation,” he says. “It took quite a while just sitting four feet away and letting them approach inch by inch until they accepted me. Once one of them accepted me, they both did.”
Today, Ellie and Sallie are loving, safe dogs who are reveling in the discovery of human interaction and love.
“These two dogs are baby dolls,” Pettit says. “I’ve got two boys, a seven-year-old and a five-year-old, and they’re just as hyper as they should be at that age. I had my boys run from one side of the parking lot to the other. I had them come running directly into the dogs. I had completely read the behavior of these dogs, and I knew what they were going to do, but I just needed to see it tested. There was no danger.”
He adds, “My boys and I go out to the vet clinic and handle them and walk them around, and the dogs lick and love and do everything that a good dog should do.”
There is a felony warrant out for the owner of the dogs, who has left the area. “We have a great animal cruelty/animal protection statute, but the problem is in the enforcement,” says attorney Jenkins. “The officer has to go outside of his comfort zone just to save the animal because vets only have to hold the animal for a stated period of time and after that, they’ll euthanize them. I work closely with law enforcement, and I’m very excited about trying to bring some humane education to law enforcement in the area.”
“What an amazing difference a few weeks of TLC has made in the lives of these two dogs,” says Pettit. “They are completely different animals than what I found that day in Wadley. These dogs have learned what it is to feel loved and to be social with someone.”
Pettit believes the dogs never fought because they wanted to. “If they ever did fight, it would have been because they wanted to eat and not be beaten. There is little to no prey drive in these dogs.”
The dogs are available for adoption, which will be facilitated by Jenkins. “I really want to see at least these two get their happy ending. I think it could be the beginning for some great momentum for this area,” she says.
Officer Pettit believes the dogs were born to be family pets and encourages people looking for a loyal, loving dog to consider these two ladies. “These dogs would be great in a home for anybody,” he says.
How You Can Help
The dogs have been boarded at the vet office since their rescue. If you are interested in adopting Sallie and/or Ellie or can be a foster home, contact Kelly Jenkins at firstname.lastname@example.org
For More Information
Read Officer Petitt's assessment of the dogs and more at the
Pet Justice Project.