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A Painful Irony: The Seized Pit Bulls of Tilbury, Ontario

The irony in the case of the 21 pit bulls “rescued” from a dog fighting ring by the OSPCA in Tilbury, Ontario, is as heart-breaking as it is infuriating. The OSPCA (Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), the agency whose mandate is to protect animals from cruelty, who were responsible for removing these dogs from a horrific situation, have now submitted an application to the Chatham Court, asking to have these dogs euthanized, citing that they are not fit for rehabilitation. Let me reiterate: 21 innocent victims of dog fighting, something into which these dogs were forced at the hands of  humans, may now die at the hands of the agency who are supposed to save them. These 21 pit bulls have remained in the custody of the OSPCA, reportedly in complete isolation, with no daily rehabilitation nor personal affection of any kind, for nearly 6 months. It hurts me to think of how these dogs must be feeling. It literally keeps me awake at night.

This case is further complicated because the dogs that were seized have been labelled as “pit bull type dogs” by the OSPCA, who are illegal in Ontario where BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) laws apply. The OSPCA states that they cannot, in good conscience, release these dogs to any rescue or rehabilitation centre in the province because of the ban. That is somewhat understandable, in light of the ban, however, several dog rescues, behaviourists and sanctuaries from out of province, including in the US, have offered to help these dogs, covering all costs. Those who have offered to help, thus far, have been completely ignored by the OSPCA. My own attempts to contact the OSPCA have also been ignored, with the exception of an initial reply, directing me to the public statement about this case on their website, which stated that euthanasia is always a last resort for the OSPCA, blah blah blah … I have since e-mailed asking what specific care the dogs have received, in relation to the psychological and physical abuse that these animals have endured. No response. I am left to assume that is because the answer is “none”.

The background of this case is as follows: On October 9th, 2015, the OSPCA, along with the Chatham-Kent Police Services, seized 31 dogs they labelled as “pit bull type dogs” and multiple items associated with dog fighting. Three people were arrested (a fourth person was arrested at a later date) and they have each been charged with over 100 offences, including counts of Unlawfully Owning a Pit Bull Type Dog and Cruelty to Animals. Just yesterday, another 7 pit bulls were seized in connection to this case, and another arrest was made. I have yet to hear any information about the OSPCA with relation to these 7 pit bulls. As if this case wasn’t tragic enough, fourteen puppies have been born since the pit bulls were seized last October. I have not heard anything about the status of their care but that will be my next e-mail to the OSPCA. I certainly hope those puppies do not have to endure the prejudice of BSL from those at the OSPCA.

Initially, a publication ban was imposed on this case, however, in a recent article from CTV News, very disturbing details were given on evidence in this case. It was reported that among the items seized in relation to dog fighting were treadmills, steroids, training and fight schedules, breaking sticks, fight contracts and rape stands, to name a few. At the time when the dogs were seized, it was reported that most of them bore scars that indicate they were used in dog fighting. In light of this evidence, I will refrain from using the words “alleged” or “suspected” in reference to the charges of dog fighting. I am not an idiot.

There are so many disturbing factors in this case that I don’t even know where to begin. The more details you learn, the harder it is to get your head around how the hell something like this could be allowed to happen. I will not even bother to go into details about how ludicrous BSL is in the first place – that’s for another separate Blog entry entirely.

OSPCA Inspector Brad Dewar, to whom I have addressed all of my (ignored) e-mails, was first called to this residence where the dogs and paraphernalia were seized back in June of last year, at the request of the Chatham-Kent Police Department, after reports of suspected dog fighting were filed. Dewar reported seeing pit bulls chained to stakes on the property, and yet no intervention was made at that time.

Equally disturbing is the fact one of the accused in this case was previously convicted of dog fighting, using pit bulls, in 1998. He appealed his sentence and his 30 days’ jail time was overturned. He only had to pay a $1,000 fine. In contrast, last week in Florida, a man was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being involved in dog fighting with a lifelong ban on ever owning another dog. That’s more like it.

What is almost laughable, if it wasn’t so damned sad, is that the lawyer for the accused in this case wants the dogs returned to their owners if they are found not guilty of the charges. The OSPCA say they do not own these dogs – they are still the property of the accused – and therefore do not have the authority to make any decisions for them until the court hearing on March 10th. This is why there is a public outcry over 3 dogs that were already put down in this case. How was the OSPCA allowed to destroy these dogs? And what qualifies them to apply to destroy the remaining dogs?

I went to my local OSPCA recently, to ask some questions, and they informed me that whenever pit bulls are turned into their offices, which has been very rare since the ban was imposed in 2005, they are sent to Saskatoon’s SPCA. While these dogs were not rescued from dog fighting (I was told they are most often stray dogs), my point is there are other options, despite Dewar’s comments that they have no options to send the dogs out of province.

Protest for blog

On Saturday, February 20th, my family and I attended a peaceful protest for these pit bulls, outside of the OSPCA headquarters in Newmarket, Ontario. This protest event was hosted by the BSL Awareness and the Ontario Pit Bull Co-op advocacy groups who work tirelessly in cases like these. It was a road-side picket, with about 60 people in attendance, and most attendees proudly displayed signs they had made with their feelings on the situation made loud and clear. It was a good opportunity to network with fellow pit bull advocates. I was given the opportunity to publicly voice my discontent on City TV, as I was interviewed by reporter Audra Brown who reported on the event. In speaking to Audra, she told me about her own conversation with the OSPCA about this case. She said that they were adamant with her that the breed of dog had nothing to do with their decision to euthanize these dogs – I politely explained to her why that was complete bullshit. And she said that the OSPCA said advocates cannot always liken every dog fighting case to that of Michael Vick because different “training” (the OSPCA’s word, definitely NOT mine) methods are used with different equipment. I consider myself very well informed on the Vick case and so I explained to Audra that of the 51 pit bulls that were rescued from that God-awful situation, 48 were fit for rehabilitation and many of those dogs went on to live lives as members of families, some with young children, and some have even been certified as therapy dogs. There have never been any reports of aggression from those dogs who were adopted. I understand that not all rescued and rehabilitated dogs can live with children, and some of them cannot live in a home at all and remain at rescues and sanctuaries for the rest of their lives. But there is absolutely no way that I will believe that if 48 dogs who endured a true hell on earth can be rehabilitated, that these 21 cannot and need to die instead.

The community of pit bull lovers, parents and advocates out there is a beautiful thing. I have been involved in advocacy for this breed for over 3 years and have never seen our local community come together as vociferously as they are now. Recently, Canadian icon Don Cherry added his voice to the outcry over these pit bulls. I have read that an alliance of lawyers have said they will try to intervene in this case, in order to get a fair evaluation for these dogs, hopefully leading to their release to an outside agency for a genuine rescue and subsequent rehabilitation. I pray for their success.

I am aware that rehabilitating dogs is no fairytale experience. While it is not something in which I have personally been involved, I know that there is a substantial investment of time, money and resources required on the part of the rescue agency. It is no easy undertaking by any means. But for the admirable people among us who do rescue and rehabilitate dogs, and I know some of these people, the rewards are immeasurable. And most importantly, it is possible to rehabilitate the most abused dogs. How dare members of the OSPCA, an agency who, in light of the BSL in Ontario, have very little experience dealing with pit bulls, make the assumption that these 21 dogs (possibly now 28) are beyond help. They have NO authority.

Plays with Pit Bulls

This case has a personal irony for me. I understand too well the toll that being abused can take. Both physical and psychological abuse is corrosive and it can take years to even begin to reverse its effects. The journey to finding yourself again is a long process. For these dogs, the journey to rehabilitation, assuming they are given that chance, may be a long one. But this is a journey that can be so worthwhile if rescue workers (and I mean true rescue workers, not the OSPCA who, in light of this case, I now consider as hypocritical as PETA when it comes to the protection of animals) are successful. As innocent victims, these dogs deserve the chance to go on and live better lives with people who will truly love them. These dogs have so much love to give back! The irony for me comes from the fact that a pit bull was largely responsible for my own rehabilitation towards a better life. My American Staffordshire Terrier (deemed a “pit bull type dog”) is a rescue dog and while we do not know the extent of her abuse and neglect from her previous life, we certainly know that she learned to love with all her heart and is a most valued member of our family today. When I came into her life (she was a package deal with my (now) husband), I was very broken and she helped put me back together, teaching me about trust and unconditional love like only a dog can. She does the term “Nanny Dog” great justice with our infant daughter. They say that often times, when you rescue a dog, the dog rescues you right back. I can vouch for that. While I cannot generalize all pit bulls to be like my own, I know that these 21 dogs deserve a chance at their own stories of redemption.

Those of us advocating for these dogs are fighting an uphill battle. But we never lose hope. Without hope, you have nothing. One of my favourite quotes is from the late Nelson Mandela who once said: “It always seems impossible, until it’s done”. We cannot give up the fight for these dogs who cannot fight for themselves. We cannot let the OSPCA decide what happens to them. The moral good has to prevail here and we will not rest until our voices for the voiceless are heard loud and clear. For ways that you can help in this case, please visit this website: Help Us Save 21 Dogs

There is another peaceful protest planned at the Newmarket OSPCA office on Sunday, March 6, and again at the Chatham-Kent courthouse on Thursday, March 10, at which time a Justice of the Peace will decide the fate of these 21 innocent victims. Please stand with us for these dogs. Be their voice.

Published inAdvocacy for Targeted Dog Breeds (BSL)


  1. Kathy Green Kathy Green

    I thank you for this fantastic article. You have clearly captured and conveyed your passion in animal advocacy, specifically in the fight for pit bulls — the misunderstood breed. This specific case is a heart-wrenching one on so many levels. But the primary focus is to do what-ever we can to save the 21 victims of the alleged Tilbury, Ont dog fighting case. There is no illusion that some, may not be be saved, as they may in fact be deemed unadoptable, but the goal is to save as many as we can, since through no fault of their own, they have been dealt this cruel fate.

    I firmly believe with more media attention being garnered through both local media & social media outlets, times are about to change here in Canada where the laws around animal welfare and cruelty are so archaic that it is time that we get in tune with the times. Awareness about the injustices such as this, need to be brought to the forefront, so we can all stand together, as a united Voice for the Voiceless and support the many initiatives for change across all levels of government. Strength lies in numbers to get the many missions complete, although it will always take time; too much time, in my humble opinion.

    • Flo RAMOS-Dumont Flo RAMOS-Dumont

      Everyone is helping by speaking out: by not letting the whole issue die down. I would think that legislators need to be made aware and compelled to get involved. This would be helped by being discussed in the evening news… By perhaps getting famous people to advocate–people who love animals–and there r plenty of them. And by letting high school and junior high kids and college students incensed by this. If this is happening in one place–then it’s happening in others. Tom T Moore and I think other forward-thinking, caring, progressive, people have spoken out about the eventual bills of rights that channelers have predicted that animals will eventually have! One person who COULD do something about it this is Cesar Milian.!!!!! TV reporters likely could get in touch w/’him to see how he sees and feels these pit bulls to be. People in the area–and who know more of the particulars than I do–need to get involved in any and all of my suggestions. Another organization would be PETA!!! I have found them to be caring about animals who r abused–and not scared to make plenty of noise about situations like these!!! Most people anywhere would want to write letters or sign whatever petitions or nasty letters that u all can come up with. There r MANY people who love animals in this world!! Their voices could certainly be LOUD when they yell as one!! ;). I’ll be glad to help if I can! There r veterinary organizations as well that would be outraged. Just saying!!
      Flo Ramos-Dumont.

  2. Heather Heather

    Wow!!! Very well done! I consider myself a huge ‘Pitbull” advocate & pet lover in general. I believe the BSL is a joke and just as wrong as Human discrimination! But, it’s even worse in a way, because it’s being done to a poor defenseless animal, that has no voice to speak up! …..

    I belong to a lot of rescue sites on Facebook….So I see daily what the human race is capable of. I also ask myself every day, how these people can even think to hurt these sweet animals….never mind the other things they do. But, I have to say the more I get involved with the Chatham 21 (or 28 now), the more information I find out about our OSPCA!!! And although I am totally disgusted by what dog fighters and haters do, I am even more disgusted by what the OSPCA is capable of!!

    What makes them worse in my eyes is the fact that they publicly state, every chance they get, that they are here for the benefit of the animals. That they rescue and save these animals from Abuse and their only concern is the well being of these animals, that their breed means nothing to them, that they help all animals in need…..When in actual fact, they do the complete opposite!! They are yet another Government Office that thinks they can do what they want, when they want, with out a repercussions!! Because they never have to answer to anyone!!

    They abuse their power more then anyone knows and then hide behind the laws, when it’s in their benefit and only their benefit!! I expect an office that was started to be a rescue for the sweet abused animals out there to do everything in their power to help & save these creatures, not take the easy way out and then lie about it, when they get confronted!! This isn’t a one time occurrence either. This is only the one time they’ve been caught by enough people that the press has picked up on it!!

    I pray that our voice will be loud enough for the powers that be to decide we need to do everything possible to some how try to make it up to these 21/28 dogs, that humans have failed up till now! I hope their lives mean something to everyone, not just the people speaking up for them. I hope the judge & lawyers involved understand that we need to do everything in our power to give them a chance at life…a loving life, filled with compassion & understanding…..I pray that they get a chance to finally live the life of a dog…..not a source of income!

    But, if for some reason the judge doesn’t hear our voice, if for some reason the judge feels these dogs don’t matter, and that their lives are over…..I pray that the people of Ontario step up and demand change!! Demand that offices like the OSPCA be held accountable for their decisions & that the press finally prints the stories of discrimination & hate, that these dogs have had to deal with and that they help us make a change in Ontario…..Help us realize it’s not a race, or breed of dog that is the problem, it’s the Humans who have touched the life of that dog that need to be held accountable!!

    We need to get rid of the BSL!! We need to stop killing these animals, that for no fault of their own are being discriminated against, because of the shape of their heads, or the size of their body!! We wouldn’t let this happen to a human, we would be outraged and demand that the people or peoples responsible for such discrimination be held accountable!! So why is it ok to do it to a dog, or thousands of dogs? Because they don’t have a voice, because they can’t speak for themselves, or because “it’s only a dog”?? Discrimination is discrimination, even when it’s against 4 legs and not 2!! And we need to be just as outraged or maybe even more, because it is being done to a loving creature, with no voice, who would do everything in their power to protect us & save us from the exact same discrimination that humans have said it’s ok to do to them!!


  3. Well said Emily! I’ve been so emotionally affected by this story. Partly because of what I know about dog fighting, the Vicktory dogs & how BSL hurts people & their pets, but also because of the powerful all-consuming love I’ve had for my three boys – all rescued out of either abusive, neglectful and/or horrible situations. It still brings me to tears when I think of how they once suffered in their lives, alone, abandoned and literally ‘kicked to the curb’ until they were given a second chance by someone who cared. It breaks my heart just thinking of what these 21 (as you said – now potentially 28) dogs have been through and are going through NOW…in the ‘care’ (more like ‘possession’) of people who don’t want to save them or don’t believe they should be properly assessed and possibly rehabilitated. If this is their attitude, then how are these animals being treated while they await their fate? I shudder to imagine. How can anyone – especially an organization claiming to advocate for the rights and humane treatment of animals – turn a blind eye, refuse to budge and remain silent!? On behalf of the Tilbury dogs, and all dogs everywhere who need someone to stand up for them and fight – including my own adored fur kids – Thank you for being a voice for the voiceless and for taking a stand…we are standing right there with you and will not give up ‘until it’s done’!!!

  4. Kathryn Astle Kathryn Astle

    Beautifully written Emily. The whole situation is heartbreaking. I like to think that people like Michael Vick will meet their Karma. Animal cruelty laws are being strengthened which is a good thing and long time coming.. We all need to fight for the animals.

  5. Debrah Bailey-Auger Debrah Bailey-Auger

    Thankyou for posting your amazing, heartfelt, well-informed and most eloquent letter Emily. I would love to see and hear this read in court during the upcoming proceedings. I agree with you….these dogs deserve a second chance. Through no fault of their own, their fate hangs in the balance. Past experience with rescued ” fighting breeds” being rehabilitated with time, patience , love and care is well documented. Their original owners failed them miserably….let’s not fail them a second time. We do need to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.

  6. Amanda Amanda

    There is no valid reason to kill these dogs! What is the overriding factor they are relying upon to do so? BSL? Or maybe just the simple lack of knowledge???
    Having just watching ‘The Champions’ last night, and seeing the extent of the work put in to the Vicktory dogs, I cannot begin to fathom the mindset of the OSPCA on this case!!
    Once again, wonderfully written Emily!

  7. Nora Nora


    Thank you for fighting for these dogs, many of whom are surely viable pets. This is what it takes to educate people who just don’t know, who have been taken in by the sensationalism promoted by extremists – who just don’t really know! I used to be one of those who ‘would never own a pit bull – because they can just turn on you in an instant for no reason’. Then I worked in a shelter housing hundreds of pitbull type dogs that were seized in a fight bust. So many of these dogs were just simply dogs. All they wanted was food, shelter and someone to love them. This was where my eyes were opened. This is where I found my Jasmine – one of the dogs in this very shelter. When her group of dogs was released by the courts, I just had to adopt her! She was one of the most energetic and ‘crazy’ dogs in the shelter – but she was also one of the favored ‘helper dogs’ that helped other dogs be rehabilitated and learn to be around other dogs. She absolutely adores people and so craves our attention and affection. She is an amazing individual – like all dogs – and should be judged solely on who they are and how they behave – not on what they look like. These dogs deserve a chance at least to be evaluated. We, as the superior species, owe it too them as it was humans that put them into the fight ring to begin with.

    I hope this leads to a chance at life for these dogs, and some eye-opening on why BSLs are wrong in so many ways.

    Thank you Emily for fighting the good fight!

  8. Dianne Kafes Dianne Kafes


  9. Christine Cooper Christine Cooper

    Thank you Emily for continuing to be such an articulate, well informed and strong advocate, not only around the topic of BSL but around the topic of animal welfare, protection, abuse and rescue. As you are well aware, you and I are very on the same page when it comes to these issues. Every single animal that has been in my our lives has been a rescued animal. We simply wouldn’t have it any other way. We must stand resolute in our position on animal welfare. So for all of that, I want to thank you.

    What I think is so insightful about this post, while largely focused upon the ridiculous and inept actions of the OSPCA , is your willingness to be so open about how in fact Bella, was in large part, a pivotal creature in reclaiming your own life. I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance now for several years and I saw for myself your personal journey. The woman I see now is miles apart of the woman I first met years back. I have been appreciative of our personal connection and the common ties that bind us. In your journey, your advocacy has provided you with a way to unleash yourself from the 30 lb. weighted chain that held you down and in doing so, you not only found your own way back to the world, but you have given a tangible and real voice for a community of animals in need. For that, I say, thank you. #SaveThe21

    Much love & respect, Christine

  10. Connie peddir Connie peddir

    I am with you 100%. If these dogs are put down that makes our legal system as bad as the people who fought and abused these dogs.

    • joan johnson joan johnson

      This is a disgrace to the OSPÇA and I for one will never coñtribute to this organization again if these dogs are killed!! You are wrong about them not being able to rehabilitate them, most of Mike Vicks dogs were rehomed, so there is no excuse for this court order. You have been keeping these helpless animals all this time just to kill them?? SHAME, SHAME, SHAME on you. You will lose a lot of supporters if you do this, because we can’t trust you to do the right thing!! So right Connie!!

  11. Lisa Charlton Lisa Charlton

    A most articulate, informative, appreciated and heartfelt article. What part of this does the OSPCA not get! Fire them all and hire true animal advocates like this article’s regarded author.

  12. joan johnson joan johnson

    This is a disgrace to the OSPÇA and I for one will never coñtribute to this organization again if these dogs are killed!! You are wrong about them not being able to rehabilitate them, most of Mike Vicks dogs were rehomed, so there is no excuse for this court order. You have been keeping these helpless animals all this time just to kill them?? SHAME, SHAME, SHAME on you. You will lose a lot of supporters if you do this, because we can’t trust you to do the right thing!!

  13. Frances Lawton Frances Lawton

    Another well penned article! Thank you for everything that you have done and are doing to help save these innocent victims.

  14. beatrice weber beatrice weber

    Wonderful article. Thank you!
    It is so disheartening to hear people making negative comments about pitbulls because of fear and ignorance.
    You make difference in sharing your experience with Bella.

  15. Aneik Wilson Aneik Wilson

    Another wonderful piece Emily and such a profound subject. We struggle with the same injustices in Australia. It’s frustrating and can be devastating. Thank you for not giving up and continuing to push with an amazing group of people for the right thing to be done. From your biggest fans in Australia, the Wilson Pack xx

  16. Kelly Anderson Kelly Anderson

    This makes me cry. What an outstanding and informative article. The dogs are lucky to have you in their corner.

  17. Diane Miller Diane Miller

    Thank you for using your voice on behalf of those who have none. It is very ironical indeed that a society deemed to rescue and protect is seeking , with such a one-minded focus, to destroy these dogs. Something inherently wrong here.

    Praying for a successful outcome.

  18. Stacey Cobb Stacey Cobb

    These poor dogs deserve a chance at a good life. They shouldn’t pay the price of death because of the monsters who abused them!

  19. Lesley Lesley

    We cannot adequately express our pride in our daughter Emily as she advocates for these wonderful dogs. Our thanks also go to Micheal for sharing his life and his dog, Bella, with our family. Change will never happen if we do nothing. Love to you all.

  20. […] On Thursday, March 10th, my husband and I left our home at 5:30am and drove 3 hours to Chatham, Ontario, to be a part of another peaceful protest in support of the 21 dogs seized by the OSPCA from a suspected dog fighting ring and now awaiting possible euthanasia. Previously, we had attended 2 protests in Newmarket, outside the OSPCA’s headquarters there, but this was the first time we were taking a road trip for a protest outside a courthouse (you can read more about this case and our previous protests here). […]

  21. Lola Olive Lola Olive

    Based on their public display of ignorance and bigotry the OSPCA representatives openly advocating for the pit bulls to be killed for no valid reason should be removed from our society. These individuals are the REAL DANGER here. There is no hope of rehabilitation for them and the OSPCA organization.

  22. Theresa Walters Theresa Walters

    I have been a supporter of Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary in King City, Ontario one of the many organizations that are offering to take in these dogs at no expense to the province or the OSPCA. This sanctuary are world renowned for their efforts in rehabilitating dogs of many breeds in North American and abroad. They are currently legally in court against the OSPCA trying to save the so called Tilbury 21. The previous owners of the dogs have actually signed over custody of the 21 to Dog Tales so hopefully the courts will see the logic in all of this and grant them the exemption to attempt to rehabilitate they have also confirmed with legal documentation to the courts that in the event they do not feel the dogs should be adopted out to families then they will remain in their custody on the farm in King City until they pass from natural causes. Let’s make our position know on this matter and send as many letters and petitions as we can to ensure these babies don’t suffer once again at the hands of humans. There was a meme I saw the other day that said ” humans cut my ears, humans crop my tail, humans beat, neglect and abuse me but I am the one sentenced to death for my actions that they forced me to do how is that fair……………………..

  23. […] Back in October of 2015, the OSPCA (Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), along with the Chatham-Kent Police Services, seized 31 dogs, from a location called “Dirty White Boy Kennels”, that they immediately labelled “pit bull” type dogs, along with multiple items associated with dog fighting. Several arrests were made in connection to this seizure and countless court appearances for both the criminal case (involving the perpetrators) and the OSPCA’s application (filed in February 2016, to euthanize 21 of the dogs) followed over the course of the following year. Yes, you read that right: The OSPCA, the very agency whose mandate is to protect animals from cruelty, who were responsible for removing these dogs from a horrific situation, submitted an application to the Chatham Court, asking to have 21 of these dogs euthanized, citing that they were not fit for rehabilitation (you can read a more detailed account of this case on my blog here and here). […]

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