Numerous groups in Chatham, Ont., court today seeking to save 21 pit bulls

The owners of 21 alleged fighting dogs believe they have found a solution to save the animals from a potential death sentence.

The owners of 21 alleged fighting dogs believe they have found a solution to save the animals from a potential death sentence.

Ken Marley, who represents three people accused of running a dogfighting ring near Chatham, Ont., said his clients have agreed in principle to transfer ownership of the dogs to a rescue organization north of Toronto.

“As an interim measure at least, my clients would prefer to see the dogs saved and adopted as opposed to being put down,” Marley said.

Several lawyers representing three animal rights and rescue organizations attended court Thursday in Chatham, Ont., in an effort to intervene in an application by the Ontario Society for the Prevention and Cruelty to Animals to destroy 21 dogs it seized from an alleged dogfighting ring last October.

The court appearance was put over to March 18, and that is only to set another date to hear the society’s application. Elizabeth Quinto, who represents Bullies in Need, has already filed a motion to intervene with the court.

The OSPCA seized 31 dogs on Oct. 15, 2015, and has already euthanized three of them for medical reasons. The society had members of the American SPCA evaluate the dogs behaviourally and they concluded that 21 of them, all deemed pit bulls, are a menace to society and cannot be rehabilitated.

While the dogs are currently in the OSPCA’s custody at an undisclosed location somewhere in Ontario, Dog Tales is hoping the new ownership will allow them to work with the animals at its opulent sanctuary in King City, Ont., which is owned by one of Canada’s richest families.

“At Dog Tales we are fortunate enough to have the facilities and the resources to provide for our dogs in ways that many other shelters cannot,” owner Danielle Eden said in an email.

“We are prepared to take full responsibility for these dogs, including veterinary care and unconditional love, all at no cost to the OSPCA. There’s no catch here, just a simple, straightforward solution that would save 21 lives.”

Dog Tales and Animal Justice say they will now try to intervene at the appearance next week.

Because the dogs have been deemed pit bulls by the OSPCA, there is an added complication because pit bulls are banned in the province. Only a pound can take in pit bull-type dogs and Dog Tales is not a pound.

Lawyer John Nunziata said the sanctuary is applying to the local municipality in an effort to get that designation.

Brian Shiller, who represents the OSPCA, said it doesn’t matter who owns the dogs.

“When a dog is bred to fight, it’s very dangerous to have them out there,” Shiller said.

“What if the OSPCA acquiesces and says they can all be rehabilitated and then one dog goes to a family and rips into a five-year-old? We can’t take that risk.”

The dogs’ plight made its way to the Ontario legislature on Wednesday, with Rick Nicholls, the MPP for Chatham-Kent-Essex, demanding the province step in to save the dogs.

Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi, whose department provides about $5 million annually to the OSPCA, said the government cannot do anything.

“The government does not have any authority to tell the OSPCA what to do or what not to do,” Naqvi said.

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