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Pitbulls overwhelming shelters, victims of opioid epidemic

PLYMOUTH, Ind. -- The drug epidemic has impacted so many lives: the addicts and the families torn apart.

But the four-legged victims are often overlooked.

"The drug arrest [happens] and then they have dogs. It's not different than the ones where they have small children," says Nancy Cox. "They almost always have a pet and it's almost always a breed we can't find a home for.

Cox is the Director of the Marshall County Humane Society.

The building holds just 14 kennels.  About half of those kennels are filled with Pitbulls.

As of Wednesday, two of those Pitbulls are from drug busts within the past couple of weeks. 

"If there's a dog, we're immediately dispatched and we go," explains Cox. "Almost always, when we pick up a dog, Child Protection Services is there getting the children. It's sad."

The Pitbulls are the hardest to find homes for.

"When people go back to look at them, they bark aggressively. They're a little afraid of them," she adds. 

Potential adopters are afraid and unsure of their backgrounds, their personalities, and their health.

"We never know if its a meth bust, if the [owners] are cooking meth or something. So you don't know what these dogs are exposed to and what their health is," says Cox. "That could be the reason why they turn aggressive after a couple of days in their cage. They could be going through a withdrawal too."

The uncertainty leaves these pups in precarious positions. 

With so little space in the tiny building, tough decisions have to be made. 

The humane society runs on space and often relies on surrounding shelters and rescues to help take surplus animals.

"We reach out to other rescues and Pitbull rescues, but they're always full. Some of them have to be euthanized," Cox says.

It's never easy for them,

"We cry every time. Every time. Because it's not their fault," she explains. "They're a victim of this epidemic. This drug epidemic. And it's very sad and very heartbreaking."

It's a heartbreaking reality for this humane society, but Cox says she's sure they're not the only ones.

"My guess is that other counties probably have a lot of Pitbull breeds also from the drug epidemics," she says. "Because every time there's an arrest, and they have a pet, they come to us."

There's no easy solution. A lack of funds and resources makes this problem a difficult one to solve.

"We have to continually fundraise just to keep our lights on. So expanding isn't an answer. The answer is spaying and neutering," says Cox simply. "People need to stop breeding dogs and selling dogs to people who are only going to use them for protection."

But until that happens, she doesn't see an end to these tragic tales.

"[The addicts] love their dogs," she say. "They just love their drugs more."

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