What started as a way for a pit bull rescue in California to pay their mounting monthly bills has turned into one of the most heartwarming and inspirational reality shows on television today: Animal Planet’s “Pit Bulls and Parolees.”
Tia Maria Torres, who owns and runs the largest pit pull rescue center in the United States (Villalobos Rescue Center in Tehachapi, California), tells XfinityTV.com, “I’ve always been a fan of underdogs and pit bulls are the underdogs of the canine world. Someone needs to show the beauty of this breed.”
Inspired by her husband, Aren Jackson (A.J.), who was having trouble finding work after a stint in jail, Torres decided to pair the often-misunderstood breed of dog with the often-feared parolee to give them both a sense of belonging and purpose. Two seasons later, Torres has helped hundreds of dogs and dozens of men get a new lease on life.
See One Of Tia’s Most Successful Adoptions:
We chatted with Torres to find out how this whole thing started…
How did the idea of pairing parolees with pit bull rescue come about?
The idea of the pairing was originally my husband’s. He knew firsthand how hard it is for guys just out of prison to find a good job and be given a second chance. And for me, pit bulls are the breed of dogs that need that same second chance so it was just a natural fit. So now, the guys and the dogs rehabilitate each other to become productive members of society.
Tell us about the first time you rescued an animal.
I was 20 years old and it was an Australian shepherd pit mix named Cougar. It was a difficult time in my life and I actually wound up on the streets. It was Cougar that kept me going and back on to the right track.
What kind of effect does this work have on parolees?
When the guys work with the dogs it’s the first time in a lot of their lives that they’ve cared for another living thing other than themselves, and in return they get unconditional love from the dog. Ultimately, it gives them confidence and a sense of responsibility that allows them to move ahead in life.
Are there any extra special cases or stories on the show that really stand out?
The rescue of Isis was memorable because it was truly a life or death situation. By the time I had gotten to her, Isis was struggling to survive. It was so heartbreaking because even after we went through together it didn’t work out in the end.
What’s the best reaction from the show so far?
By far the kids. We get second and third graders drawing pictures and sending me good wishes and believe this is the generation that could help change dog abuse.