SIKESTON -- Pit bulls seized late last year during a Stoddard County dogfighting bust aren't living happily ever after -- yet the opportunity to do so is definitely there.
Earlier this month the Humane Society of Missouri received permanent custody of 22 pit bulls and one beagle seized by the Stoddard County Sheriff's Department in association with a dog fighting investigation in October.
The dogs were seized Oct. 20 from the residence of Jamie D. Sifford, 29, of Dudley. Jessey Short, 30, of Cape Girardeau and Curtis Pickering of South Fulton, Tenn., were also arrested and face felony dogfighting charges.
"Realistically, you wouldn't want them in our kennel three months from now. When you keep them in a kennel situation so long, they start to deteriorate," Hill said.
Earlier this month the Humane Society began accepting applications from the general public for the adoption of the puppies and beagle and from rescue groups for the placement of adult pit bulls. Five remaining pit bulls continue to be under the care of the Humane Society.
"As good as our shelter is, it's not a home," said Debbie Hill, vice president of operations for the Humane Society of Missouri, who is coordinating and evaluating the placement of the dogs.
Potential adopters must live in an area and dwelling that allows this type of dog, fill out an application and special questionnaire and be available for a personal interview.
"For those considering adopting the puppies, they shouldn't be first-time dog owners. Pit pulls are 45 to 60 pounds, and terriers, as a general rule, are just bundles of energy and movement. They love people but do need to be busy all the time," Hill said.
Since it began accepting applications for the dogs, the Humane Society of Missouri has placed one animal with the rescue group out of Kansas City, which has also expressed interest in a second animal, Hill said. It's also working with another rescue group in California that received one of the dogs from the Michael Vick case, she said.
"I don't think we're at a point that we're at a happy ending yet," Hill said. "What we provided the dogs with is an opportunity that they wouldn't otherwise have had.
She continued: "These animals have been given that second chance, and now we need other partners to help us get to that happy ending. The happy ending is when an animal is ultimately placed in that home."
The dogs have been rehabilitated and reconditioned by learning what's appropriate play behavior and getting used to walking on a leash, Hill said. "The last thing you don't want to do is to put the animals in a cage and not touch them for months," Hill said.
Generally, there's a three- to six-month window to place the animals in a home, Hill said.
Lanette Baker, executive director of the Sikeston Area Humane Society, said people need to think long and hard before adopting any animal, especially one with a history like these dogs.
"The problem you've got is they're pit bulls," Baker said referring to the details involved with owning one in the area.
For example, to own a pit bull in Sikeston, insurance and registration with the city are required, Baker said. Often times, pit bull owners don't follow the regulations, and their dogs wind up in shelters, she said.
"They're nice animals, and it's a shame because their owners didn't follow the rules," Baker said.
And some towns don't even allow pit bulls. Parma Dexter, East Prairie and Bloomfield don't allow pit bulls, and the only pit bulls allowed in New Madrid are the ones that are grandfathered in, Baker said.
"I like pit bulls. They're great. My problem is to adopt something out that may be fighting -- and that would happen with any dog, not just a pit bull," Baker said.
However, Baker said she knows fighting pit bulls, in general, do well with people. They just need that special owner.
"It takes the right person and somebody who has a lot of knowledge and experience with animals (to adopt one)," Baker said.