Pit bull Baker Red was the MVP of Animal Planet’s 2014 summer TV press tour presentation for “Pit Bulls and Parolees.” The reality series tells the story of Tia Torres and her New Orleans-based pit bull rescue, Villalobos. Baker Red took the 48-hour journey with Torres to the Los Angeles press event, and spent the majority of panel kicking Torres kisses and trying to sit on her lap.
Torres explains that Baker Red is exactly the type of pit bull that their show likes to showcase — though she admits he is lacking in a few manners, as he stood up on his hind legs and tried to lick her face. There are a lot of misconceptions about the breed, but Baker Red is a model example of how great pit bulls can be.
“Every breed of dog is created for a reason,” Torres says. The pit bull has all the traits of a terrier, and also is bred to be extremely forgiving of humans. It’s for that reason that they often have their behavior taken advantage of, and are villainized as a result.
Torres describes how a pit bull can be sent into a dog fighting ring, get torn apart in a fight, but still lick its owner’s face when it is drawn back out. “Pit bulls are their own worst enemy,” Torres says. “These dogs are used by those bad people … The bad guys take advantage of [pit bulls’ forgiving behavior].”
Though Torres focuses her life on rehabilitating abused dogs and released parolees, she also acknowledges that not every dog can be saved. “I don’t believe every dog can be rehabilitated, and that’s with every breed of dog,” she says. “[Brutal] types of dogs we don’t want out in public.”
“Pit Bulls and Parolees” debuted in 2009, and since then Torres and her team have seen plenty of positive changes thanks to their increased visibility. “It’s absolutely changed the image, not only for the dogs, but for the guys as well,” she says. “It’s helped raise adoptions. It’s helped bring in donations.”
Earl Moffett, a top parolee at Villalobos, says that thanks to the exposure he now is in the process of buying a home. “I think this program has provided all that for me,” he says. Torres quips, “It’s way nicer than my house.”
But the increased visibility of Villalobos also has caused some heartbreaking problems for the pit bull rescue. “That exposure is now sort of backfired on us. We’re now getting more dogs than ever dumped on us,” Torres says. “Dumped” means left in cages outside Villalobos, chained to fences or even literally dumped in the rescue center’s dumpster.
At least viewers can take comfort knowing that the uplifting and tragic stories that “Pit Bulls & Parolees” tell aren’t fictionalized for TV.
“It is absolutely real. You can’t direct a dog. What Tia and her family and her team does is absolutely authentic,” executive producer Lisa Bosak Lucas tells reporters. “We know that Tia and her team would be doing this if our cameras were there or if they weren’t.”