March 4, 2016 12:18 pm
Updated: March 4, 2016 4:14 pm

Assist from Don Cherry nets financial boost to group trying to save ‘fighting’ dogs

Animal Justice is calling the 'Coach's Corner' host a hero for supporting the group in its fight to save 21 dogs.

AP Photo/Jason Dearen File
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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 is calling the TV personality a hero 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.

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READ MORE: Don Cherry takes to Twitter to appeal for lives of alleged fighting dogs

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.

Pit bulls are banned in Ontario and can be euthanized simply because of their breed.

“I feel for the innocent beautiful dogs caught in this mess and they might pay for it with their lives,” the “Coach’s Corner” host tweeted.

“If you want to be a part of helping these dogs, please donate to http://animaljustice.ca/donate

READ MORE: To kill or not to kill? Ontario SPCA seeks to destroy 21 alleged fighting dogs

An investigation last October by police and the OSPCA in Tilbury, Ont., led to more than 300 charges being laid against four people.

Chatham-Kent police say charges were laid against a fifth person this week after searches of two properties resulted in the seizure of another seven pit bull-type dogs.

Labchuk said her organization plans to file its motion in the case next week and will be at the next court appearance slated for March 10 to argue for their intervention.

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 lawyer representing a rescue group based in Ottawa filed a motion in a Chatham, Ont., court Thursday to intervene as well.

“The hope is to get a re-assessment done on the dogs,” said Elizabeth Quinto, who filed the motion on behalf of Bullies in Need, a rescue organization that focuses its efforts on pit bulls.

READ MORE: OSPCA seeks to euthanize 21 dogs seized when alleged dog fighting ring busted

Last fall, the OSPCA and Chatham-Kent police raided a rural property in Tilbury, Ont., and seized 31 dogs. Three of those animals were euthanized for medical and behavioural reasons. After an assessment by two people 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 21 dogs remain at an undisclosed location in separate pens somewhere in Ontario pending the court’s decision.

The OSPCA says it’s not asking the court to destroy the dogs because of their breed, 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.”

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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