By Marissa Wetterau, Sports Editor
Pit Bulls & Parolees is a reality television series on Animal Planet which confronts the misunderstandings of the pit bull breed. The series debuted on October 30, 2009 and stars pit bull trainor, Tia Torres. It features the Villalobos Rescue Center, originally located in Agua Dulce, California, but is now located in New Orleans, Louisiana.
In 2011, Torres had planned to move Villalobos Rescue Center (VRC) to a small town called Tehachapi, California, around 75 miles north of where it had operated in Agua Dulce. It appeared to be an ideal place for VRC to relocate with the overabundance of pit bulls in Kern County and a prison facility in town, with newly released inmates looking for work. VRC secured all the proper permits; yet, at the final moment, Kern County did not grant permission for the rescue to conduct their business in the remote area of Old West Ranch, Tehachapi.
Losing all of her personal savings spent on the Tehachapi project and hundreds of man hours, VRC was forced to remain at the Agua Dulce location. As the rules regarding kennel permits were becoming increasingly strict and expensive in Los Angeles County, the rescue announced on November 13, 2011, that they would be moving the facility out of California in order to survive financially. After much consideration of various locations, it was the memories of the rescue efforts of VRC during Hurricane Katrina that led the non-profit group to choose Louisiana for their new home.
It took almost a year to make the entire move complete; on January 1, 2012, Tia Torres arrived with the last group of dogs, making the state of Louisiana, their one and only permanent location. The new rescue and adoption facility is located in the Upper 9th Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana, with various other “satellite” locations scattered throughout the South Louisiana area.
Pit Bulls & Parolees depicts the day-to-day operations at the Villalobos Rescue Center, including rescues of abused, neglected, and abandoned dogs, and the center’s efforts to adopt out dogs to new owners. Torres, the center’s founder, agreed to be on the show to help pay part of Villalobos’ then $25,000 per month bills.
Since moving the entire rescue group, including all the dogs, parolees, and her family to New Orleans, the expenses have tripled. They are now $80,000 per month plus. The show also depicts the interactions between Tia, her daughters, and twin sons. All four help run the center, with Villalobos’ staff of volunteers and employees, many of whom are parolees.
Tia Torres appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on September 24, 2014 and stated that her organization has approximately 400 dogs and that the notoriety of the show has resulted in “four times” as many dogs being directed to her organization. Villalobos Rescue Center is now the United States’ largest pit bull animal shelter as a result of having over 400 dogs.
Tia Torres and Villalobos Rescue Center are in constant need of donations. On April 23rd, Villalobos Rescue Center’s Facebook page included a plea to the public to help with donations since the center is at a breaking point. Without much needed donations, this pit bull rescue may not be able to stay open much longer.
Villalobos needs donations from their Amazon wish list here as well as any monetary donations here. If anyone is interested in adopting a dog from this rescue please click here for more information and if you would like purchase merchandise with all of the proceeds going directly back to the rescue please visit the L.A. Pit store.
I recommend this show to anyone that is an animal lover because this is the only reality show on television that is not at all scripted. Everything that Tia, her family, the parolees, and the rescue center go through are real … there is no way to script what happens.
I do have a warning for potential viewers, there will be some moments that may be hard to deal with and watch because of either how touching the story is or how bad of shape a dog might be in. Despite this, I highly recommend this show to every animal lover. I also recommend that any type of donation is given to this rescue because they are saving man and man’s best friend, while handling their own issues themselves.
Pit Bulls & Parolees returns to animal planet Saturdays at 10pm/9c starting September 19th. The preview for the upcoming season can be viewed here. Warning the season preview trailer will bring tears to your eyes and a warm feeling in your heart.