Dear Critter Chat,

Ever since the Michael Vick case broke the world of dog fighting wide open my wife has wanted to adopt a dog that was rescued from a dog fighting operation. Rescue people we’ve talked to have told us the dogs are not aggressive and would make good pets but I’m worried, both about having an ex-fighting dog around our two small children and about liability if the dog got out and hurt someone or another dog. Should we take a chance and adopt one of these dogs?

–Doug P., San Diego

Dear Doug,

That’s one heckuva loaded question, Doug. I admire your wife’s desire to rescue a dog that came from a dog fighting location and yet completely understand your concerns. A few thoughts: Through no fault of their own most dogs used in dog fighting are either bred to be aggressive, are trained to be aggressive, or both. Let’s face it, a dog that’s not aggressive – at least toward other dogs – isn’t worth much in the dog fighting world. Even though a dog taken from a fighting location may seem perfectly friendly, you don’t know the dog’s breeding background or what it’s been trained to do, so you can’t necessarily predict the dog’s behavior. And while the dog might be okay with humans, it might be aggressive toward other dogs, which will definitely dictate what you will have to do to insure thatyour dog doesn’t hurt anyone else’s dog. And by the way, these questions apply to any dogs, not just dogs that are rescued from fighting situations.

On the flip side, not every dog taken from a fighting location is human-aggressiveor dog-aggressive; some dogs are kept around specifically because they aren’taggressive, to be used to train other dogs. Kind of like the way punching bags are used by boxers.

I can’t tell you whether to adopt a dog taken from a fighting location. That’s something you and your wife will have to decide. But I will say this: If you’re at all concerned, why take a risk when there are thousands of other dogs out there waiting to be adopted?

P.S.: Bill Plaschke wrote a great piece for the L.A. Times describing the painful psychological scars a dog rescued from Vick’s property still bears. Click here to read Mr. Plaschke’s article.

Critter Chat is a weekly column from attorney Deborah Knaan, who seeks to answer your animal-related questions. Email questions to [email protected] with subject line CRITTER CHAT.