Villalobos Rescue Center
A rescue, rehabilitation, and placement facility for abused and abandoned Pit Bulls
Tia Maria Torres, Pit Bull trainer and former gang counselor, sits down and tells our readers about her love of Pit Bulls.
Q: who runs the organization?
I do; I'm the founder and owner of Villalobos.
Villalobos was established in 1991, when I was rescuing other types of dogs, and it was 1995 when we focused on rescuing the Pit Bulls. Villalobos Rescue Center is now the country's largest rescue facility for Pit Bulls where we rescue, retrain and rehabilitate over 200 dogs so they can be placed in forever homes.
would have to say our mission is to represent the breed in the most responsible way possible, and yet still be able to show what great pets Pit Bulls can make. I would also have to say that our priority is to adopt dogs out, yet still remain within
Q: what do see is the biggest difference in the image of pit bulls now versus 10 to 15 years ago?
The turning point for the breed, in my opinion, came with the Michael Vick case. Finally people got it. Finally people saw these dogs that were abused beyond the dog fighting, but also tortured beyond belief. And yet, the majority of the dogs remained loving animals. It's sad that it took sacrificial lambs to have to prove this.
Q: what are your biggest obstacles to overcome?
Stereotypes. I keep thinking I'll get used to it, but then I run into someone who is supposed to be "intelligent" and "educated" and they say some of the stupidest things I've ever heard. I still can't believe that some politicians managed to brainwash some other politicians to go on a mass killing spree of all Pit Bulls in Denver, Colorado. I mean, this is America, land of the free. Sounds pretty third world to me.
My favorite accomplishment by far is our 10-year run on the free Pit Bull obedience classes, "For Pit Bulls Only," that we do through the City of Los Angeles. We started classes back in March of 1999 and thought that our weekly group classes would only last through one round, but 10 years later we now have a waiting list to get in. We also have our "Pets in the Hood," which is our juvenile hall program where we work exclusively with high-risk youth. And we offer an adult parolee program, "The Underdawgz, Inc." to inmates awaiting their last year of incarceration.
After being featured in 2007 in the L.A. Weekly Magazine and being voted one of L.A.'s Most Important People, we were told that Animal Planet wanted to go with more "edge" in their lineup of shows. Edge is our middle name. Pit Bulls and Parolees debuted on Animal Planet October 30th, 2009!
We've had over 500 adoption applications since the show first aired at the end of October"”all people wanting to adopt one of our Pit Bulls.
Because my training background comes from movie training, it's all motivational training. We use lots of praise and food. It's a lot like training a man!
Currently, VRC has over 400 volunteers and they are allowed the fun job of walking the dogs.
Q: how do you handle dogs that are food, toy, dog or human aggressive?
Dog aggression can be "normal" for this breed, so a lot of times, it's just a management issue for the owner. Food and toy aggression are totally something that can be corrected with training. Food aggression sometimes stems from trust issues or deprivation because of the way these dogs are treated. But human aggression is a trait that is considered a flaw in the breed. Pit Bulls just aren't human aggressive. Or at least they're not supposed to be. If we can't determine why the behavior exists (neglect, abuse, etc.) then in our opinion it's a liability to have this dog out in the "real world." We don't need dogs like this making it on the evening news and ruining it for the rest of the breed. If it is a privately owned dog, then we give them options if the behavior can't be corrected. If we get a dog like this that is here for adoption, we won't go that route. We will euthanize him/her. It's sad. Thankfully, in all these years this has only had to happen a handful of times.
Q: how do you decide which dogs to rescue or save, and do you pull pitties from the kill shelters?
We prefer to pull from the shelters. But, of course, we will give priority to emergency abuse situations. People get mad at us because we can't take every dog we get a call on. I've actually had people call me, after I've told them we have no empty kennels, and ask, "Well, can't you just put the dog in your car?" Unreal. We do what we can with what we have. I don't have a money tree out back. Only tumbleweeds.
To raise the amount of our adoptions, which is already happening. We would also like to make our training program bigger, and with more options for the public.
Watch Pit Bulls and Parolees on Fridays at 10 PM E/P on the Animal Planet channel.