CLEARWATER — Zayla took a liking to the plush, squeaky ladybug that was lying in the yard. She'll have some competition for it, though, because Bill likes it, too.
If it weren't for the bust of a dogfighting ring spanning Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Texas, the two American Staffordshire mix — what most would call pit bull — puppies could well have been starved, beaten and ready to rip each other apart for the entertainment and financial benefit of their abusers.
In August, a Department of Justice-FBI raid on the ring delivered 367 dogs, including these two, from that fate. Zayla and Bill are two of six puppies that arrived at the Humane Society of Pinellas on Tuesday, soon to be up for adoption.
“It's horrific,” said Sarah Brown, executive director of the Humane Society of Pinellas. “We're just happy that we're able to help on the other end and to see these animals get a second chance.”
Earlier, the six puppies — none more than 10 months old — were recovering at an ASPCA rehabilitation facility in an undisclosed location.
The federal government enlisted the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States for the rescue effort, and the Humane Society of Pinellas and several other shelters in various states assisted by taking some of the rehabilitated dogs into their adoption facilities.
Before this week, these dogs may never have run about in an open lot — not one that wasn't packed with other rescue dogs, anyway.
Conditions in the yards where the dogs were found were nightmarish. Dogs, ranging from newborn pups to 10 or 12 years old, were flea-ridden and emaciated. They slept in small, corroding, makeshift kennels in sweltering heat. Neither food nor water was anywhere in sight.
As a result of the raid, 10 people were arrested on felony dogfighting charges, among other offenses.
Those interested in adopting should call the Humane Society of Pinellas at (727) 797-7722.