Tia Torres, host of Animal Planet’s “Pit Bulls and Parolees,” sat with us to talk about the new season and to offer tips when it comes to adopting your first — or next — pet.

THE PITS: Torres hopes that “Pit bulls and Parolees” will engage audiences, clear up pit bull prejudices and misconceptions and highlight the importance of adoption. Photos: Courtesy of Animal Planet

How has “Pit bulls and Parolees” opened the conversation surrounding pet homelessness and adoption?

Tia Torres: There is no other breed in the world that is more abandoned, abused, neglected and yet maligned at the same time [than pit bulls]. Just the mere mention of the “P” word makes people stop and listen, whether they want to or not. If we have to put our dogs out there in the public eye to make sure people listen — by having a TV show based around a problem that plagues other breeds as well — then so be it. Whatever it takes to show the enormity of the issue is what we will do.

With the recent flooding in Louisiana, what can people do to adopt the pets or give back to this community?

The “Great Flood of S.E. Louisiana” was so bad that words cannot express what is happening out here. Sadly, as the waters receded, so did all the attention. There are still people living in their cars — many with their pets. To give some of the animal shelters in the area some relief, by adopting or fostering, would be monumental. Donating to these same shelters directly is the way to go. The Denham Springs Animal Shelter, Tangi Humane Society, Livingston Parish Animal Shelter and the Sorrento Animal Shelter (aka C.A.R.A.) were all directly affected by the massive flooding. I cannot count the number of people we had to give money to because some of these larger organizations gave them “pennies” or nothing at all.  

“Despite this, we are all here for one reason, and that is to save man's best friend of any and all breeds...”

From your experience, what are some qualities that pit bulls have that can shatter the negative stigma they hold in our society?

Trying to change society's negative perception based on the breed's true temperament and behavior becomes a subjective argument and everyone ends up going round and round like a hamster on a wheel. The only way to put forth the proper information is based on statistical facts. For example, the American Temperament Test Society of the United States rates dog breeds based on how many of the thousands of dogs they test. They conduct it properly, based on a percentage of the amount of dogs they are working with. For the many years that I have followed their work, the American pit bull terrier always rates as one of the top five most stable breeds of dogs in the country. 

It is a slanted statistic to say that out of 360 dog attacks in an 11-year period, pit bulls made up for 64 percent of them. The bigger and more accurate question should be, “Out of how many pit bulls?” What I mean by this is, if there are more pit bulls in this country than any other breed, then of course there will be more pit bull attacks. The more you have of any entity, the more of an effect that entity will have on society, both good and bad.

A RESCUE: There's a lot of heartache that goes into saving dogs' lives, especially when at times it isn't possible. But Torres hopes viewers will focus on the good, and assist in saving lives where possible.

What is the most important message that you want viewers to walk away with for your new season?

People are so quick to judge. Whether it is towards another human based on their past, their race or their beliefs, our society can be so shallow-minded. Here at VRC, we are all such a bunch of dysfunctional yet functioning misfits. Despite this, we are all here for one reason, and that is to save man's best friend of any and all breeds, shapes and sizes with the hope of helping them find a home that will cherish them as we do.  

Is there a major theme that viewers can look forward to in the upcoming season?

As “glamorous” as some people try to make our life out to be, there is unfortunately much heartache that comes with what we do. [The theme is] probably more heartache than heartfelt. What we focus on are the dogs’ and humans' lives that we can save, so we tell viewers to focus on the good and never forget the ones we lost.

For this upcoming season, the stories are even more compelling and yes, sometimes very sad, but the lesson to be learned here is that all of the situations we find ourselves in are so preventable, and that we are simply picking up the pieces that a human created in the first place. But on the flip side, our happy endings make all of the heartache so worth it, and this is [the] message we want viewers to take with them after every episode.

What are your tips for first-time pet owners?

Do your homework. If you are adopting a specific breed, learn everything there is to know about that particular breed. Make sure your lifestyle is compatible for this type of dog.

If you are thinking about getting a puppy, realize that they are exactly like having a human baby — waking you up in the middle of the night, peeing and pooping faster than you can clean it up, energetic, chew on things, etc. It [frustrates me] when we get emails and phone calls from people giving up a puppy and say things like “he's got way too much energy for me” or “how can I get him to stop chewing?”

And lastly, no matter what type of dog, age of dog, if this is your first dog, volunteer first at a shelter or kennel and get a good feel for what taking care of a dog is like. Spend the day with a friend or relative's dog and truly understand how much time goes into being a great dog owner. Adopting a dog should not be like buying a new pair of shoes; if they don't fit, [you can’t] just return them. No matter how the “fashion” changes, adopting a four legged, lifetime companion should never go out of style.