Dallas’ ear-to-ear grin and bright brown eyes seem to sparkle with joy.
The 3-year-old pit-bull-type dog’s radiance makes it difficult to believe he once was in a fighting ring and later the subject of multiple court battles, narrowly escaping a death sentence.
Now Dallas’ demeanor is leading him to a new life: He is among the first pit bulls ever rescued from fighting to train as a police K-9. Next month, after about six weeks of training to sniff out narcotics, he is set to join a force in southwest Virginia.
His love for balls was key, said Jen Deane, founder and president of Pit Sisters, a Florida rescue group. “We knew that his combination of ball drive and his wanting of human praise was the perfect combination to be a police dog.”
That would have been hard to predict in 2015, when police and agents from the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals seized Dallas, then a puppy, and 30 other pit bulls from a compound in the Canadian province.
The dogs were chained to metal stakes in the ground, and evidence of fight training — schedules, muzzles, sticks, steroids and suture kits — was found on the property, according to court documents described in Canadian news reports. An inspector noted “severe scarring consistent with dog fighting,” the Globe and Mail reported.
Five people were charged with weapons, animal cruelty violations and violating an Ontario ban on pit bulls.
Rob Scheinberg, co-founder of Dog Tales rescue and sanctuary in Ontario, said that when he read news accounts of the raid, he knew he wanted to save as many of the seized dogs as possible.
“I thought, ‘There is no way there are not a few good dogs,’ “ Scheinberg said.
He hired a lawyer and for two years waged a court battle in protest of an OSPCA application to euthanize 21 of the dogs, including Dallas, based on a behavioral assessment that deemed them dangerous. By this spring, celebrities had gotten involved, and #Savethe21 was circulating on social media.
After various twists and turns, the court eventually ordered the dogs’ owner to surrender 18 of the animals for rehabilitation; two others died in OSPCA custody, and a third was deemed dangerous and ordered to be euthanized, media reported. It helped that Dog Tales had pledged to pay for the animals’ care and transport out of Ontario, with its pit bull ban.“We were relentless,” Scheinberg said of the court fight. “They knew we were not going to stop.”
All 18 dogs were sent to rescues or were adopted, and Pit Sisters took in 10. Dallas was enrolled in the group’s program that matches hard-to-adopt dogs with prison inmates, who socialize, train and care for the canines.
Police K-9 trainer Bruce Myers later traveled to Florida to assess him.
Myers, an 18-year veteran of training police dogs, is working with Dallas in up to three daily sessions to teach him to sniff out narcotics.
“He will save many lives,” Myers said. “If he helps take one brick of heroin off the street, that can save 1,000 people. And he will be incredibly proficient by the time he leaves here.”