Police and agents with the OSPCA raided a compound in

Tilbury, Ontario in October 2015. Seized in the raid were 31 dogs, part of an alleged dogfighting ring. The dogs were found attached to chains that were tied to metal stakes in the ground. Most of the adult dogs had severe scarring consistent with dogfighting. Behind a sign that read “Dirty White Boy Kennels” was a

building that held the grim and hard core evidence of dogfighting. Agents seized more than 200 items, including medical kits with injectable solutions, vita- mins and anabolic steroids, suture and skin staple kits, syringes, surgical tools, lists of names of dogs with training and weight schedules, a train- ing kit with weights, muzzles, sticks and harnesses used for weight training, and dogfight- ing contracts. Three of the dogs confis-

cated were immediately euth- anized for medical reasons. The ASPCA was called in to evaluate the remaining 28 dogs. The assessment deter- mined that twenty-one of the dogs could not be rehabilitat- ed. The OSPCA applied to the courts to have the dogs immediately “destroyed for behavioral reasons” leading to a public outcry that went global. Shelters have used assess-

ment, or had their original assessment scores been a result of false positives? “The assessment tests are artificial and contrived,” Dr. Gary J.

Patronek, an adjunct professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, quoted in The New York Times. He and Janis Bradley published a paper in 2016 that concluded the tests used by animal shelters to evaluate dogs are no better than flipping a coin. The court finally ordered

the OSPCA to release the dogs to a relatively new facility in Florida, National Canine Center, to begin rehabilitation through Dogs Playing for Life. The dogs made their journey to Florida with Rob in August 2017. Dogs Playing for Life

Aimee Sadler, founder of Dogs Playing for Life and Eyebrow, one of the

ment tests for 20 years to determine whether or not a dog is aggressive. The results can be a matter of life or death for the dog. However, researchers and some developers of the tests, are now concluding that they are unreliable predictors of whether a dog is aggressive. Dog Tales and Animal Justice, an animal rights organization,

went to court on behalf of the dogs. Their position was that the dogs needed their own defense. The judge denied their attempts to intervene in December 2016. During this time, OSPCA confined the dogs to crates and allowed little to no human interaction. “When dogs are held as evidence during criminal investiga-

tions, oftentimes they are not allowed to be touched; sometimes they are never even removed from the cage. This is not responsible nor is it ethical,” Aimee told us. “Dogs will begin to break down.” In February 2017, Dog Tales launched a social media publicity

campaign using the hashtag SaveThe21. Rob pushed for a second behavioral assessment. In the meantime, two of the dogs died while in OSPCA’S custody. A third dog was found to be dangerous and the court ordered euthanasia. After the second assessment was completed, 18 of the remaining dogs showed some signs of improvement. Had the dogs actually improved while in confine-


original Ontario 21 dogs now in Florida at the National Canine Center. Aimee is a nationally recognized trainer and speaker specializing in behavioral problems. Her techniques have been derived from twenty-five years of working with multiple species, from dogs and cats, to exotic and

marine mammals, as a private trainer, within the entertainment industry and within animal sheltering.

(DPFL) is an innovative program that provides social- ization and enrichment for shelter dogs in the form of structured playgroups. Focused on improving the lives of this country’s most at- risk dogs, it also enables shel- ter staff to better understand each dog’s personality. This important information can then be shared with potential adopters, increasing the like- lihood that participating dogs will find safe and loving homes. Shelter directors who have incorporated Dogs Playing for Life into their programs say it is a more revealing and humane way to

evaluate behavior. The approach is now being used at many large shelters throughout the country, including New York City, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Florida. Dogs thrive on routine and social interaction. Undoubtedly,

the transition to a shelter can be traumatizing with the noise, smells and confinement to an isolated kennel that is cold and hard. A dog afflicted with kennel stress can swiftly deteriorate. Signs may include spinning, pacing, jumping, drooling and loss of appetite. The dog may appear to show signs of aggression. Some dogs shut down in self-protective, submissive mode, masking what may be aggressive behavior. Many dogs in shelters are misdiagnosed as dog-aggressive.

Aimee’s goal is to train dogs effectively and then get them out of the shelter as quickly as possible. “Playgroups give this large-breed dog population the opportunity to do what dogs do: run around, socialize, learn from each other, and show their personalities,” said Aimee, who began working as a private dog trainer in the late 1990s.

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