Dog rescuers with compassion for pit bulls

It's been said how we treat animals is a sign of where we are as a civilization. If that's true sometimes it seems we're not doing great. Case in point, last month a dog was found stuffed in a garbage bag, barely alive, mouth taped shut. But when we visit the New York Bully Crew shelter in East Patchogue, Long Island, where he was rescued, some of that faith is restored.

At any time the Bully Crew shelters dozens of dogs—mainly pit bulls, thus the name. On the day of our visit, we saw 50 canines who are alive only because of the dedication and love of seven staffers here. The rescued dogs come from all over. Some skinny ones were found in Queens. Meantime, some dachshund-pit bull mixes are from Puerto Rico. They are refugees from the hurricane.

John Votta explained that pit bulls are often exploited. They have a reputation as fighting dogs. Once they are done fighting, they get discarded and left to die.

Votta takes his work home, literally. Fathead was a rescue with a cancerous tumor on his ear that had to be removed.

Libbey and her daughter Julia already have two dogs but make time to help the ones they can't foster by volunteering at the shelter.

Some of the dogs that come in here are adopted after a week and some stay for over a year. But since the policy is that this is a no-kill shelter, some dogs stay here for the rest of their lives. And that is what happens because the Bully Crew shelter would rather keep a dog than place it in the wrong household.

Votta said not everyone is suited to rescue a pit bull, even if they have the best intentions. The crew often needs to reform the dogs to acclimate them to home life.

The crew's formula to reform dogs can be seen in their faces—tails wagging, responding to positive enforcement. After all, this isn't just about showing dogs love but showing who we are as a civilization.