CLEARWATER — Zayla took a liking to the plush, squeaky ladybug that was lying in the yard. She’ll have some competition for it, though, because Bill liked it, too. If it weren’t for the bust of a dog fighting ring spanning Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Texas, the two American Staffordshire mix — what most would call pit bull — puppies could well have been starved, beaten and ready to rip one another apart for the entertainment and financial benefit of their abusers. In August, a Department of Justice-FBI raid on the ring delivered 367 dogs, including these two, from that fate. Zayla and Bill are now two of six puppies that arrived at the Humane Society of Pinellas Tuesday, soon to be up for adoption. “It’s horrific,” said Sarah Brown, executive director of the Humane Society of Pinellas. “We’re just happy that we’re able to help on the other end and to see these animals get a second chance.”
Prior to this, the six puppies – none more than 10 months old – were recovering at an SPCA rehabilitation facility in an undisclosed location. The federal government enlisted the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States for the rescue effort, and Humane Society of Pinellas and several other shelters in various states assisted by taking some of the rehabilitated dogs into their adoption facilities. Prior to this week, these dogs may have never run around on an open lot before; not one that wasn’t packed with other rescue dogs, anyway. Conditions in the yards where the dogs were found were nightmarish. Dogs, ranging from newborn pups to 10 or 12 years old, were flea-ridden and emaciated. They slept in small, corroding makeshift kennels in sweltering heat. Neither food nor water was anywhere in sight. As a result of the raid, 10 suspects were arrested on felony dog fighting charges, among other offenses. One law enforcement official involved said the defendants were betting between $5,000 and $200,000 on a single fight. That world is now miles away for the boisterous pups, who are tended to — and doted upon — by volunteers and staff. Brown expects to find homes for them quickly. Even adult dogs rescued from similar situations have little trouble getting adopted, and these six were tiny, if they were even born yet, at the time of the raid. They show no signs of aggression, but they’re as hyper as any puppy. Brown said those interested in adopting should consider their own lifestyle. “We’re hoping anyone who would want to come in would be somebody who would be patient, loving, potentially active because they have a lot of energy,” she said. “They’re going to have quirks and you’re going to have to learn to live with each other. Like living with anything else. Just having that patience and that love, it will be the most rewarding experience possible.” They should be up for adoption, once they’re vaccinated, spayed or neutered and microchipped, which will likely be next week. Those interested in adopting should call the Humane Society of Pinellas at (727) 797-7722(727) 797-7722.