Where are they now? 9 dogs rescued from alleged Gaston County dog fighting ring to be rehabilitated

Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 3:46 PM EDT
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GASTON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Nine dogs that were rescued from an alleged dog fighting ring in Gaston County earlier this week are on their way to be rehabilitated.

Janette Reever is the Program Manager of Global Anti-Dogfighting for the Humane Society International. She was part of the crew that helped rescue the animals from a Gaston County home earlier this week.

Reever says the dogs left North Carolina at about 7:45 Friday morning. They will be taken out-of-state to an undisclosed shelter that is run by Humane Society specialists. She says they will undergo intense therapy and rehabilitation for the abuse they endured.

“It’s not just medical, it’s therapy with mind and body. As if they have PTSD,” Reever explained.

She says the animals have already been treated with antibiotics and pain killers for their injuries.

“Just removing them off their collars, you can see their relief. It’s almost as if they know they’re being taken away,” Reever said.

Reever says the animals seized from the home are American Pitbull Terriers. The dog breed is often used for dog fighting.

“What’s so unique about American Pitbull Terriers, or pitbulls in general, is that they are so loyal,” Reever said. “That’s why they are terribly exploited. You can do horrific things to them and they will still love you and still want to fight to the death for you.”

She describes the animals as being very resilient and forgiving. Some will make full recoveries and be able to be adopted into loving homes.

“I’ve adopted several American Pitbull Terriers that have come from dog fighting cases,” Reever said.

But Reever adds that each dog is different. Some will not be able to make full recoveries or cannot be in homes with other animals because of their history.

“Most of the dogs that we saw are very handalable. So, we really have high hopes for these dogs,” Reever said.

Danielle Kharman is the co-owner of The Dog Wizard of Charlotte. The Dog Wizard specializes in dog training and rehabilitation. Kharman says they work with dogs from all kinds of backgrounds, including some that have a history of abuse including dog fighting.

“You want to be very conscious of how you can rehab them through those social skills,” Kharman said.

Kharman said it takes time to rehabilitate a dog that comes from such a violent background. She says there are many steps to take in understanding how the dog interacts with other dogs and humans.

“Some dogs cannot [be rehabilitated],” Kharman said. “They’ve been too damaged from whatever happened to them and their experiences have created a constant instinctive activity. Or, they’ve been attacked so much that they are always defensive and that’s the only way they know how to be safe.”

She says some dogs can be rehabilitated to live somewhat normal to fully normal lives.

“You have to give them as many positive, stress free experiences that will outweigh the negative ones,” Kharman said.

She says it is important to be practical. Not all dogs will be able to go to a dog park or a brewery with other animals.

“They can have a perfectly good life they just can’t be in play groups with other dogs. They can have a very healthy, happy life with an owner that cares for them, that is nurturing them, and nourishing them, giving them mental stimulation and physical exercise,” Kharman said.

She says it is important for the adoptive family to understand the limitations the dog may have even after rehabilitation and training. It also may take time for the dog to warm up to humans.

“You can’t be disillusioned to think that things are going to be great, they’re going to go to the dog park and have fun. Maybe not. You cannot have unrealistic expectations,” Kharman said.

Reever encourages citizens to say something if they see something. She says this case stemmed from someone calling police without specific details, just that they were concerned about how the animals were being cared for.

Reever says seven dogs were rescued from dog fighting on Wednesday. Two weeks prior, two dogs were rescued from animal cruelty.

Rico Pagan is facing 18 felony charges related to dog fighting, cruelty to animals, and possession of drugs. Pagan is being held in the Gaston County Detention Center on a $175,000 bond.

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