ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WUSA) - An update on a story we brought you Only On 9 last month, when authorities in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County seized nine dogs from a suspected dog fighting operation.
Charges are still pending in the case, but in following up on one of the dogs rescued from the suspected dog fighting ring, we learned more, not only about the pit bull, but about the system that failed him.
This is Popeye the pit bull, almost 14 years old and a veteran dog fighter. Remarkably, at least five different veterinarians treated his injuries over the years, yet none of them contacted authorities to report he was potentially being used to fight.
"A lot of them like Popeye have pieces missing from his ear, pieces missing from his tongue. He has large scars on his body. These are some of the telltale signs," said Joy Wilson, Animal Control Director at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria.
Popeye was the oldest of nine dogs seized last month from a home in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County. Since fighting dogs are a significant investment, it's not unusual that their owners seek top-notch veterinary care.
"They will spare no expense. They will take them to some of the best-known veterinarians in the area. It's not always underground vets or at-home remedies," said Patrick Cole of the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria.
"I was shocked to learn they looked at him multiple times, and this was multiple vets, and none of them picked up the phone to call authorities, whether it be their police department, HSUS or their local animal control," said Wilson.
" Veterinarians are really the voice for these animals that are abused or neglected but can't speak for themselves. And they should be aware of the warning signs," Cole said.
Humans failed Popeye, until now. His sweet disposition won the hearts of animal control officers who are now helping to care for him at the Alexandria shelter.
"Since he's been with us, we've seen his behavior change. Basically, he's done a complete 180. He has full run of one of our offices. He's exuberant, he's enthusiastic and his tail's always wagging," Cole added.
The law varies from state to state, but in Virginia, veterinarians are required to report suspected abuse or neglect.
While the other eight dogs that were seized remain in the care of Fairfax County, Popeye is actually expected to be available for adoption within the next few weeks. He will obviously need a very special home and an owner who can give him the care and attention he didn't have for most of his life.or call their office at 703 746 4774
For more information about Popeye or other dogs and companion animals available at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, visit the organization's website.