Don Cherry called a hero for supporting efforts to save dogs
Paul, a pit bull that the Pennsylvania SPCA says was rescued Sunday from a dogfighting ring, shows scars during a rally at the organizations's headquarters Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009, in Philadelphia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Stehle
Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, March 4, 2016 12:06PM EST
Last Updated Friday, March 4, 2016 2:03PM EST
An animal rights group trying to save 21 alleged fighting dogs that could be euthanized says Don Cherry's public support for their cause has led to a bump in donations.
Camille Labchuk of Animal Justice called the TV personality a hero Friday for using his voice to fight for the animals -- all pit bulls seized from an alleged dogfighting ring near Chatham, Ont., last October.
The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) has filed an application in court to have the dogs destroyed, arguing they pose a danger to the public.
But Animal Justice says the dogs are innocent victims that can be rehabilitated, and is considering a legal intervention in the case.
Cherry took to Twitter on Thursday to praise Animal Justice and called on anyone who wants to be "a part of helping these dogs" to donate to the group.
"I feel for the innocent beautiful dogs caught in this mess and they might pay for it with their lives," the "Coaches Corner" host tweeted.
"If you want to be a part of helping these dogs, please donate to http://animaljustice.ca/donate."
The animals were among 33 dogs seized last fall, when the OSPCA and Chatham-Kent police raided a rural property in Tilbury, Ont. Three of those animals were euthanized for medical and behavioural reasons. After an assessment by two experts from the American SPCA, the organization decided to apply for the court's permission to euthanize 21 other dogs. The rest of the animals were deemed healthy and safe.
The investigation led to more than 300 charges being laid against four people allegedly involved in a dogfighting ring. Chatham-Kent police say charges were also laid against a fifth person this week after searches of two properties resulted in the seizure of another seven pit bull-type dogs.
The 21 dogs seized in October remain at an undisclosed location in Ontario pending the court's decision.
Labchuk said her organization plans to file its motion in the case next week. In the meantime, she's thankful for Cherry's support.
"I think he's a tremendous voice for the animals," she said. "He's a perfect example of somebody who uses his position for the right reasons."
Meanwhile, another animal group based in Ottawa filed a motion in a Chatham, Ont., court Thursday to also intervene in the case.
"The hope is to get a reassessment done on the dogs," said Elizabeth Quinto, a lawyer for Bullies in Need, an organization that focuses its rescue efforts on pit bulls, which are banned in Ontario.
The OSPCA says it's not asking the court to destroy the dogs because of the ban, but due to their behaviour that they say presents a menace to people and other animals. In the past, the OSPCA has transferred healthy pit bulls to organizations in other provinces, where pit bulls are not banned, to avoid destroying them.
Animal Justice says the dogs can be rehabilitated, citing the case of NFL player Michael Vick, who was convicted of dogfighting-related offences in 2007. Nearly all of the 51 pit bulls rescued from Vick's operation, the group says, were rehabilitated and are in homes with families and or in animal sanctuaries.
"None of the Vick dogs have been reported as injuring humans since their rescue, and many of them have even become therapy dogs," Animal Justice says on its website.
However, Elizabeth Marsden, who has trained dogs professionally for 15 years and worked with some of Vick's dogs, cautions against the idea of rehabilitating dogs.
"No matter what you do, you can't guarantee the dogs will be safe in a neighbourhood," Marsden said in an interview.
"And we don't know what has happened to those dogs after they were adopted out -- there is no agency that is keeping track of them."