Ex-Cons and Pit Bulls Help Turn Each Others' Lives Around on New Show
Tia Maria Torres believes in pit bulls. "How can you hate them?" she asks. "So many have come from such awful backgrounds, yet they still come bounding up to you, happily licking your face. There's so much need to help this breed."
To do her part, the mother of two founded Villalobos Rescue Center outside L.A. about three years ago, and tonight, Animal Planet premieres a new series about her efforts. Called Pit Bulls and Parolees, the show follows Torres's somewhat unconventional program, which employs ex-cons to help train and care for more than 200 pit bulls, who are eventually adopted out to loving families. "Some of these guys are really rough around the edges," she tells PEOPLEPets.com. "But this program is a great stepping stone to get them back into the real world. When they leave prison, they can't quite work at like, Home Depot. But here, it's just enough customer service that it filters them into society slowly. And the dogs bring out the little boy in them."
Many of the men who come to Torres's rescue center are referred through parole officers, the court system and fellow ex-cons. "I've never had a problem with any of them," she says. "They're polite. I see them sitting on the ground playing with the dogs, and that tough-guy image is out the window."
Though most don't stay with Torres for much longer than a year, she feels the benefits for both the parolees and the pit bulls are priceless. And it's not just ex-cons working at the center – it's families, elderly couples and other volunteers, too. "That's what's really cool about the facility," she shares. "A lot of people volunteering here are not pit bull people, and I think that helps change the perception, as well."
While Torres's goal is first and foremost to rescue these loving pups, she hopes that Pit Bulls and Parolees will also change people's views on the breed itself. "This show has given the entire pit bull community hope. It's what people have waited for, and I think it will make haters take a step back and have some compassion." She continues, "Animal Planet took a huge chance in taking on such a controversial show, and I think it's going to be great. I'm so lucky to have this honor."
Catch Pit Bulls and Parolees tonight at 10 p.m. on Animal Planet. And check out our sneak preview clip above!
On Newsstands Now
- Kim's Delivery Room Drama!
- Katie: A Year After Split
- Princess Kate: Palace's Baby Plan Revealed
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine