INKED: Do you feel that your work can change the negative image of the breed?
Mariah: People get bit by other breeds all the time but that doesn’t make good news. Pit bulls are what the media wants to show.
INKED: So it’s your family against the mainstream media. That’s no small feat.
Mariah: No matter what we do, there’s always going to be a bully breed. That’s never going to go away. It’s how the news works, it’s how people’s brains work—it’s more exciting to them.
Tania: Everybody wants to hear about the pit bull attack. Nobody wants to hear about the cocker spaniel that bit a kid. We’ve come to terms with it.
INKED: But in all fairness, these negative stories aren’t fabricated.
Mariah: Yes, owners need to be responsible. For instance, I have a dog that needs to be medicated. He’s chemically imbalanced, he has a lot of issues, and I know that, so I don’t yet take him around people. You need to be aware. All you can do is be a responsible owner and make sure that your dog is taken care of properly so that you are not the one having an incident.
Tania: There are people that hate what we do and hate the breed and they’ll shove that down our throats about whoever got bit in what state. We’re not claiming perfection at all. We just love this breed of dog.
INKED:Your family also helps the recently paroled adapt to life on the outside. By watching them work with the dogs, do you find that they are both going through similar crises?
Mariah: We really don’t have to do much—they fix each other. It’s rewarding, but people are going to try to put us down even more than they would if we just had regular employees.
INKED:So the dogs make it easier for the parolees, and vice versa.
Tania: I can’t speak for all of the guys, but if I’m having a bad day the animals change me. They make me happy, and they make me trust. For these guys that are getting out of prison, or a dog who’s just been abused, they’re both distrusting of most people. So when you put the two together they just sort of learn from one another. They learn how to trust and how to forgive. You see a completely different person at the end of the day and a completely different animal. It’s kind of surreal.
Mariah: Especially the guys that have done a long stretch—they come out and it’s like they’ve got shell shock. You see them slowly start to come out of their shell, and it’s always with the dogs. You’ll sneak in on them and hear them using baby talk or singing to the dogs. It’s comforting for the guys to be around them.
INKED:Do you search for employees, or do they find you?
Mariah: My mom has gone to parole hearings and said that she was looking for guys to hire. Now that they know where we are, people have come to the house and filled out an application, and my mom will set up an interview.
Tania: The only thing we don’t do is hire sex offenders. It’s our only rule. I would rather help someone that killed somebody than someone that molested a child. I know that sounds mean and people are going to hate me for saying that. I don’t care about getting hate mail over that.
INKED: Clearly you’ve gotten this far by sticking to your guns.
Tania: We’re very opinionated. Working with the type of dogs that we do, and the people that we do, we kind of have to be. If we weren’t, then people would just chew us up and spit us out.