It was an unseasonably warm December day in Cleveland. Serving a search warrant for a home on Cleveland’s east side Cleveland Police officer Sergeant Carl Hartman and Detective Tom Ross along with other members of the Cleveland Police entered the home of then suspected dog fighter Collin Rand Jr. What they found not only changed the course of their lives, but would soon change the lives of many in the rescue community as well.
They became known as the Cleveland 27. They were scared, emaciated, over bread, neglected wearing the battle wounds of their lives as bait dogs. The first dog encountered would soon be known as Turbo and would one day become the face of Badges for Bullies. One by one they were loaded into vans and take to animal control. Two little girls in desperate medical need were taken to an area shelter with an open clinic for life saving surgery. The dogs arriving at animal control were evaluated and aside from their obvious physical signs of abuse they had one other common characteristics – they all desperately wanted to love and be loved, they were all friendly to the humans that were interacting with them.
A call went out for volunteers to help care for and begin the process of rehabilitating the dogs. The volunteers flooded the kennels, volunteers from many different rescue and support groups including volunteers from the Cleveland Police and City Council. Dogs were soon given names and referred to by that name rather than a cage number.
We came together for these dogs from all walks of life. These dogs became our friends and we would be their voice, their protectors. We would advocate for them for justice, for their safety. We would care for them until foster homes and adopters could be found and we would love them, always. This was our unspoken promise.
In the weeks that followed their arrival at the City of Cleveland Kennel we would learn that 26 of the 27 dogs were ill. Sick with a tic born blood parasite common in dogs from fighting rings and very expensive to treat, one by one the dogs were testing positive for Babesia. Hearing this news there was only one thing we could do – our friends needed us, so we decided to hold a fundraiser to pay for the dogs’ treatments - an event we’d call Badges for Bullies was hosted by Cleveland Police with support from all the area rescues groups and volunteers that stepped up to save the dogs. The community responded and it was overwhelming! The event was a smashing success raising enough money to provide each rescue the funds needed to treat each dog they had taken in for their Babesia.
From that event – the concept of Badges for Bullies was born. What started as a one-time fundraiser to help a group of dogs in need is now a movement! A partnership between area police and local animal welfare groups Badges for Bullies is now an animal welfare organization that seeks to promote a more humane society for companion animals.