image by Greg Murray Photography

On July 6, 2006, three dogs – including Preston, were taken from a home in Akron, Ohio by humane investigators during a drug bust where they were alleged victims of dogfighting. The dogs were then brought to the county humane society where they would stay until the conclusion of the case. The owners were never officially charged with animal fighting crimes, just the drug offense(s), hence the use for the word – alleged.

Things were grim for dogs like them in those days, and especially for dogs who came from suspected dogfighting backgrounds. This, of course, preceded the Michael Vick case and all the exposure it brought to dogfighting and the victims of that barbaric and illegal activity, in a state which had statewide laws called breed specific legislation (BSL), that restricted the ownership of such dogs. Those “pit bull” dogs who found their way into city and county shelters in Ohio were often systematically killed without much, if any, publicity.

These breed specific laws, also known as breed discriminatory laws, spread like wildfire in the 1980s, and pushed by local and state politicians as a public safety measurement. When the mainstream media began publishing articles in the late-1970s about dogfighting making the general public aware for the first time in decades about the crime, and subsequent high-profile attacks involving dogs labeled “pit bull” began making news headlines more frequently in the early ’80s, the response for many cities in Ohio and across the U.S. was to legislate against the dogs, leading to the height of the Pit Bull Problem of 1987, when Ohio passed their statewide restriction.

So, Preston (estimated 1 year of age) and the two other dogs he came in with were saved once from a home who was abusing and exploiting them, just to be needing saved again once they entered the shelter system. Enter Shana Klein, founder of Cleveland-based – For the Love of Pits

Shana was a frequent visitor to the shelter he went to. She would temperament and behavior assess the dogs to see what personalities were out there, and decide if she wanted to bring any into the rescue. She had heard about this little black dog (Preston), who was becoming a shelter favorite, but initially wasn’t able to meet him because he needed time to recover and heal the open wounds he wore on his legs and other parts of his body.

When he started feeling better, Shana was permitted to begin spending time alone with him around the perimeter of the property. A couple weeks later, she was told the other dogs Preston came in with were euthanized. As Shana later stated – “Then, on a Friday (July 28, 2006), I received a phone call – a courtesy call as they called it, that Preston would be euthanized by 4pm…I know I can’t save them all, but I was saving him.”

She drove to the shelter to talk to the Executive Director and plead if they could delay for one more day, and the scurried to locate a foster home where he could stay. The following morning, Shana arrived at the shelter with Preston waiting in the lobby for her to pick him up.

While in the rescue he passed several obedience training courses and achieved his Canine Good Citizen (CGC), and being passed up by potential adopters for the next two years. Until May 15, 2008, when Cleveland filmmaker, Jeff Theman, visited Shana’s home looking for information on dogfighting and to get b-roll footage of “pit bull” dogs for his first documentary film, where he met Preston, and fell head over heels in love with him.

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