Man rescues 3 puppies from kids sicking pit bulls on them

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ST. THOMAS - Three puppies bounded over each other playfully on Wednesday at the St. Thomas Humane Society.

They were in much better state than when John Rivera found them Monday evening near a dumpster, quivering at the feet of a pair of snarling dogs.

"They were so frightened," Rivera said.

Rivera, who is a self-described animal lover and activist, said that he found the puppies while feeding strays at a local dumpster.

"I heard the puppies screaming," he said.

Startled by the noise, Rivera looked over, past the site and saw about a dozen youths - most of them not even appearing to be in their teens yet - surrounding the puppies.

With the youths were two pit bulls, both of them snapping at the puppies aggressively.

"The kids were trying to aggravate the dogs, to make them go at the puppies," Rivera said.

He started yelling at the youths, who then fled with the two grown dogs while they were laughing.

Though Rivera reported the incident to the police, he said that they found nothing.

Rivera himself picked up the puppies - one female he named Dobi and two males he named Sundance and Raindance - and brought them to the St. Thomas Humane Society.

All three puppies, believed to be mixes of a terrier breed and pit bull, were unharmed by the incident.

"They're doing great," said Rhea Vasconcellos, the shelter manager.

Unfortunately, it is not the first, or likely the last, time that she has taken in puppies, or even full grown dogs, that have been mistreated in the pursuit of training "fighting" dogs, she said.

The practice has been going on for years, she said, and, although it is somewhat more underground than in the past, it is still very alive in the territory.

Aside from having dogs come in to the Humane Society after being used for "bait" - being used to encourage aggressive, fighting behavior - she also has heard reports of dogs being killed and discarded because they no longer are in shape for fighting.

"They shoot them, they burn them in bags, you'll find them with duct tape wrapped around them," Vasconcellos said.

The Humane Society takes in dogs monthly that have been, in one way or another, affected by dog fighting practices.

Currently, the shelter has more than 100 dogs and nearly 100 cats that are waiting to be adopted.

Abuse and neglect are all too common, Vasconcellos said, and many of the animals come in starving, wounded and diseased.

"It's a shame, too, because you don't always put them down because you have to. It's just sometimes there's not enough space. We're already criticized for having too many animals," she said.

The shelter is "beyond full" at the moment, she said, and is in dire need of people to adopt, volunteer and to travel to Boston, where the shelter has a partnership with the local Humane Society there.

"You can't save them all," she said, but added that they have to try.

As for the puppies, they too will be up for adoption, likely within the next week after they are treated for intestinal worms.

The puppies are about nine weeks old, according to the Humane Society staff.

Although these three puppies escaped a gruesome fate, that is not always the case.

"This kind of thing happens more often than you want to believe," Vasconcellos said.

For more information about the puppies, or other animals at the St. Thomas Humane Society, go to or call 775-0599.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email

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