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Help Save The Pit Bulls

Eight years later, the rescues still fight, but this time around, it’s for a second life.The Laguna Pit Bulls Sanctuary is on a mission to rescue and rehabilitate the survivors, placing their quality of life as the highest priority.

It is 6 am and a lone woman waits for the service that will take her out of town. The city center is still quiet. And in the time of quarantine, it would seem like the city has taken the time to breathe. The ever-punctual service arrives and stops in front of our heroine. Steph Francisco, the current senior volunteer of Save the Laguna Pit Bulls Sanctuary, gets in and takes the time to rest before the full day ahead of her.

The Laguna Pit Bulls Sanctuary (LPB) is under the supervision of Compassion And Responsibility for Animals (CARA). In 2012, the Philippine Authorities raided a dog fighting ring in San Pablo, Laguna run by a syndicate of repeated animal welfare violators. The dogs were made to fight for online viewers from different countries, who would then bet and watch the carnage unfold. When not fighting, the dogs stood or laid in the mud and dirt with only metal barrels as homes—some were left just out in the open—leaving them vulnerable to the erratic weather including scorching heat and heavy rain. Chained or heavily collared, some of these dogs had difficulty just keeping their heads up. All this in about a hectare of land. It has thankfully been eight years since the last time this scene played out.

Volunteers Kimberly and Steph with LPB Mary | Laguna Pit Bulls Sanctuary

Steph makes it to the site at around 7:30 or 8 am, with no traffic thanks to the quarantine. Normally, this would be a two to three-hour trip. She takes the dogs for a walk up until 9 in the morning. This has to be done quickly enough so that the dogs get enough exercise before it gets too hot to walk. “Medyo mainit kasi ang singaw ng lupa,” Steph says. Afterwards, she spends time with the dogs in the center’s dog runs. “They’re like playpens where the dogs are taken off their leash so they can play with the volunteers,” she recalls. “Doon kasi medyo malilim, so they can spend time with them there when it’s too hot to go for a walk.” Then finally, rest. Having to wrestle with the strength and excitement of happy pit bulls is no easy task. Volunteers get to rest, as well. Soon after, the volunteers are treated to a tour of the compound where they get to meet the rest of the pit bulls.

During the fighting days, all the dogs had to their name were painted numbers and marks showing if they were male or female. Two to three dogs were taken at a time to fight, where one would be a bait dog. The bait dog would usually be the smallest and most torn apart of the pit bulls. The fighters were often injected with steroids to make them more fit for the ring. It was always a life and death situation for any of them.

When the dogs were rescued, some had to be put down for humanitarian purposes. Many passed away prematurely due to the drugs that were forced upon them. But CARA saw the potential in a number of dogs and put them through rehabilitation. It was a tough and long road as the dogs had undergone severe trauma and scarring. But through the wonders of animal welfare, the pit bulls are now able to mingle and bond with people once again. Most, if not all, are finally ready for adoption.

Before, the caretakers could move the pit bulls in and out of the compound with ease. But because of the increasing tensions brought about by the quarantine, it became harder and harder to provide and move them. “Minsan kapag may medical needs ang dogs, it’s hard for us to find a vet for emergency purposes.” says Steph. “So what we would do is transport the dogs from Laguna to Manila, then back to Laguna.” Averaging around 8 years and older, the dogs’ health is far from ideal. Apart from this, many of them are still dealing with health complications as a result of either time, or the rough journey they had successfully gone through. Apart from complications arising from steroid shots and other standard dog fighting supplements, the effects of past trauma—both physical and emotional—somehow still remain.

Still, this does not dismiss the will to live of these animals. The pit bulls may have had a rough history of abuse, but they made it through to rehabilitation and—for the luckiest ones—adoption. The adoption process is also as stringent as the rehabilitation process. Applicants looking to adopt must undergo thorough background checks to see if they are fit to handle the dogs. CARA places top priority in the quality of life of these dogs and makes sure that they get the homes that they deserve. “We check the intention of the adopters…because sometimes they want to breed them with their other dogs.” Steph says. This strictly goes against the values of CARA Welfare.

LPB often go as far as checking the adopters’ homes to see if they have enough space (for the bigger dogs) or if the home seems generally safe. They also need to consider the capacity of potential adopters to address the pit bulls’ special needs. “These are senior dogs, they have medical needs na talaga…so we still make sure that they can provide for their vet bills, their diet for the food…” Steph enumerates. “So usually mga failed na adopters, doon madalas (bumabagsak).

At present, there remains to be around 30 pit bulls at the center—all survivors of a long and tiring journey, but all surprisingly moved by human affection. In each of them, a remarkable shift has happened. Many of them have overcome high hurdles to be able to once again love human beings, much less trust them. And in spite of their old age, they stand as proof that these frequently misunderstood beings are able not just to persevere, but to flourish again and again.

Volunteer Jerwin with LPB Alfonso, Volunteer Kimberly with LPB Farrah | The Laguna Pit Bulls Sanctuary

There may yet be many more milestones for the Laguna Pit Bulls. Adoption and fostering are not the only ways to help but are definitely acts of love and kindness that will change the lives of these rescues forever. You can be part of their journey and choose to volunteer or donate through their official website, or you may also decide to sponsor any of the pit bulls.

Any amount of help, big or small, is appreciated. You can reach out to Save the Laguna Pit Bulls Sanctuary through Instagram, Facebook, or through their website.