American Bulldogs Seized in Houston from "Torture Chamber"

It just doesn’t seem to stop, does it?

On Thursday, Houston SPCA officials pulled over 80 American Bulldogs out a kennel that one official described as a ‘torture chamber’. Over 30 of the animals were already dead by the time they arrived. 45 other sick and starving dogs, and a handful of cats, were removed. An SPCA officer at the scene described the dead animals as “recently decaying” or “absolute skeletons.”

This wasn’t what I suppose people typically think of as a ‘puppy mill’, with poorly bred dogs and no concern for bloodlines. Picket Pride had apparently been a serious breeder of American Bulldogs, according to customer testimonials, and a trainer who had worked with dogs sold by the kennel.

Dan Linder, a dog trainer at Action Dogs USA in Navasota, said he was shocked to hear that authorities had found such a grisly scene. Linder has trained about a dozen bulldogs people had purchased at Pickett’s Pride.

“They were pretty proud of those dogs at one time, so I don’t know why they would neglect them,” Linder said.

Rather, this seems more like a case of a breeder who let their kennel get out of hand, acquiring and keeping too many dogs to be able to care for them all. There’s a fine line sometimes between ‘breeder’, and collector. Animal collecting, or hoarding, has recently become to be regarded as a form of mental illness. Author Kelly Luker writes “For these people, one pet is too many, and a thousand is not enough as they obsessively collect more animals than they can possibly care for. They’re depressingly familiar to virtually every animal control agency, and have inspired articles, psychological studies and, of course, horror stories within the animal-welfare world.”

Other American Bulldog breeders regarded Picket Pride as having good dogs, but had heard rumors that the dogs weren’t being kept in great conditions.

Bo Waston, a Midland breeder of American bulldogs, said he had done business with the owners of Pickett’s Pride.

“In the past few years, I have heard from other breeders that there were terrible conditions. With as many animals as they had, it wouldn’t be hard for them to be in poor condition. They had too many dogs,” Watson said.

This wasn’t the SPCA’s first visit to Picket Pride kennels – in fact, SPCA cruelty investigators had been to the property before, but had never found conditions as severe as they did Thursday. According to a police official on the scene, authorities had visited the kennel about two years ago to investigate reports of poor conditions, but had not visited the site since owners made improvements after the earlier complaints.

A question could be raised here about why more follow up visits weren’t made, if officials already knew that the owners were having a hard time keeping up with that many dogs. Regular, monthly inspections could have gone a long way to saving the lives of these dogs. Hopefully this case might make some changes to the way that follow up visits are made in the Houston area. I can’t imagine that what Humane workers and police found at that kennel will be easily forgotten by any of them.

I suppose it’s also an awfully good thing that these are American Bulldogs, and not American Pit Bull Terriers. After all, in Texas there’s apparently ‘no such thing as a good pit bull‘. It’s ironic how different the fate of these dogs would have been if they were Pit Bulls, considering how close in looks and temperment most ABs and APBTs are. Our closest shelters regularly label all dogs with blocky heads and rose ears ‘Pit Bulls’, regardless of the fact that half of them are probably lab/bulldog crosses, or American Bulldogs, or Cane Corsos, or whatever. Semantics shouldn’t be  all that stands between life and death, but for more and more ‘pit bull type dogs’, it all comes down to a name.

The SPCA now has the dogs on a starvation recovery diet, and has the ultimate goal of placing them for adoption. If you can, a donation to the Houston SPCA would go a long way to helping them care for these dogs. They happen to have the highest efficiency rating of any animal charity in their area, according to the ever-helpful Charity Navigator.

Read the full story after the cut, along with a video clip of the raid. Read more