Underdogs abandoned by society, wayward canines and criminals are given another chance at Villalobos Rescue Center, featured on Animal Planet’s Pit Bulls & Parolees. Meet Tania Torres and Mariah Harmony, two young ladies who work at the center and are strong enough to take on the demons of damaged cases and rehabilitate them together.
People look at you and sneer, they avert their eyes, they cross the street—being a pit bull or a tattooed person on a public sidewalk is not all that different. The incarcerated are stigmatized in much the same way as those who are inked and the dog breed America fears most. Although the penal system is designed to rehabilitate, society often views convicts who have been given their freedom not as human beings but as, well, vicious dogs.
It takes a big heart to recognize that the negative actions of either group of “beasts” are often the result of having been mistreated or misunderstood. To make it your life’s work to help these lost souls is heart-meltingly commendable.
And that’s just what Tania Torres and Mariah Harmony do at Villalobos, their mother’s pit bull rescue facility that also welcomes parolees so that the two damaged groups can heal together. The Torres sisters are changing lives, one dog, one person, and one Pit Bulls & Parolees viewer at a time.
INKED: How did Villalobos begin?
Tania: We started out as a wolf-hybrid rescue.
Mariah: One day when we were little, our mom took us to an animal shelter. One of the pit bulls managed to get loose and came running toward us.
INKED: Were you okay?
Mariah: Yeah, [she] pretty much knocked us down and licked us to death.
Tania: Her name was Tatanka. Our mom fell in love with her on the spot.
Mariah: That pretty much started the whole rescue.
INKED: So you two have been a part of it since the beginning?
Tania: Yeah, we were raised into it.
Mariah: I was pretty much born into a dog kennel.
INKED: Pit bulls aren’t that popular. How was the reaction of your community?
Tania: Nobody really accepted us. They thought that everybody we worked with were monsters and the dogs we were saving were monsters. Where we lived at the time, we were being treated like criminals. We were not hurting anybody, and we were just trying to make the world a better place.
Mariah: It’s always been the same. People that love us are going to stand by us, and the people that don’t like what we do absolutely hate us. There’s almost no gray area.
INKED: Do you see that changing anytime soon?
Tania: Over the years it’s been getting better. I think that as time goes by, people are starting to understand the breed and not believe everything that they hear.
Mariah: Because of the show, we get letters all the time from people saying that we’ve changed their opinion or their parents’ opinion, and it’s opened their eyes.
Tania: Things will change. There are a lot more positive stories coming out of the media. More and more people are starting to own pit bulls. If you’re out and you see the dogs with kids and with families, you can’t help but think about it, and it changes people’s minds.