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‘A need to help’: Dogs saved in major dogfighting bust visit State House
Daniel Kittredge
Beacon photos
SO LOVING: Heather Gutshall of Cranston-based Handsome Dan’s Rescue shares a moment with Tillie, one of the dogs rescued several months ago during an extensive dog fighting bust in the South.

More than five months ago, authorities in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia rescued more than 360 dogs during what is thought to have been the second-largest dog fighting bust in American history.

On Monday, two of those canines were at the State House to highlight local efforts to aid dogs that have been through such trauma.

“We really feel a need to help in dog fighting cases,” said Mark Stoutzenberger of Cranston-based Handsome Dan’s Rescue for pit bull-type dogs, as Tillie and Famous Amos greeted visitors in the Bell Room. “It’s really kind of shocking to see the conditions these dogs were found in.”

The rescue organization is named for Handsome Dan, one of 22 dogs transferred to the care of Best Friends Animal Society after NFL quarterback Michael Vick was arrested on dog fighting charges. Handsome Dan was eventually adopted in Rhode Island, the second of the “Vicktory dogs” to find a permanent home.

Stoutzenberger, who was joined by Handsome Dan’s co-founder Heather Gutshall and Trisha Torres, said his group assists with the care and placement of dogs in shelters, rescues and other facilities.

For Tillie and Famous Amos, Stoutzenberger said, the process of finding new permanent homes is “just beginning.” He drove both dogs to Rhode Island from a temporary Humane Society of the United States shelter in the South, and upon arrival the canines were subject to a five-day quarantine under state law. In all, five dogs from the August raids have been brought to Rhode Island.

Tillie, who Gutshall said had been used for breeding, was found tied to a chain attached to a car axle and has “major medical issues” stemming from the broken legs, tail and sternum she suffered before her rescue, will require costly treatment before she can be placed or adopted.

“You would not know it from her personality,” said Gutshall. “She’s great. She’s so loving.”

Famous Amos has already been placed in a foster home. Amber McNulty said her new arrival is the eighth dog she’s hosted.

“He’s just so friendly,” she said, adding that her willingness to help is “all for the dogs.”

Gutshall said Famous Amos “has the most beautiful, submissive smile.” Stoutzenberger called him the “quietest but happiest guy,” and “such a special dog.”

Stoutzenberger said Handsome Dan’s Rescue has strong support from volunteers, foster homes and other organizations. The group previously operated in Providence, and has been based in Cranston for two years.

Handsome Dan’s is licensed by the state Department of Environmental Management, and runs several different programs, including socialization gatherings for dogs at Roger Williams Park.

Stoutzenberger urged those looking to help dogs and other animals in need to reach out to facilities in their own communities.

“Those people need help way more than we do,” he said.

Stoutzenberger also said that while dogs like Tillie and Famous Amos often face long odds after being freed from horrific situations, there are countless success stories.

“Almost every single time, these dogs prove people wrong,” he said. “The right home finds these dogs. It’s amazing.”

For more information on Handsome Dan’s Rescue, visit www.handsomedansrescue.org.

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