For many people, both pit bulls and parolees are to be feared. For Tia Maria Torres, they're what keep her going.
On the Animal Planet series Pit Bulls and Parolees, Torres runs the Villalobos Rescue Center for "bully breed" dogs. With more than 200 pups on her hands at most times, she and her daughters Mariah and Tania and twin sons "Moe" and Kanani work tirelessly on getting them adopted into good homes. But Tia also admits her mission would never be so successful without the help of the parolees she hires to work for her — a program that was born out of an idea from her husband AJ.
Although Torres has been rescuing dogs for years, the case on Saturday's episode (10/9c) is the worst she's ever seen. "That dog should've been dead," she tells TVGuide.com.
Keep reading for more about the heartbreaking case (with a happy ending!), how her ex-convicts have become celebrities and why fan-favorite bulldog Chong will make another appearance on this week's episode.
Tell me why this was a rescue that stood out to you.
Tia Torres: That dog should've been dead. I don't know how Jolie was walking. There was not one ounce of fat on her. She was just a skeleton with organs and some skin stretched over the top of her. I've never ever seen a dog that skinny and so alive.
When you met her, she immediately embraced you with her tiny tail wagging. Did that shock you?
Torres: I always say to people that the amount these dogs go through, they should actually hate us. But that's not the case, it's the exact opposite.
Jolie's adoption and a fundraiser for Villalobos brought you to New York. How was the trip?
Torres: I've been to Long Island, but that's suburbia, I've never been to the city. We had our sheriff friend Trevor with us, and he had family in Manhattan so he was able to help me navigate otherwise I wouldn't have made it through here. I like being in the middle of nowhere with the dirt, getting muddy.
Fan-favorite bulldog Chong makes an appearance this episode. Should we be worried about his cancer?
Torres: I can say that [the outcome] is going to be a very big surprise — we're still surprised by it.
Does the fame still surprise you?
Torres: My kids and I are still trying to understand. Mariah handles it best. She was a former beauty pageant queen and is really used to this kind of stuff. The twins are in their own little world. We always joke around that it took them three seasons to realize we had a show because they'd walk around like, "Why are they staring at me?" and I'd say, "You're on a TV show." Tania and I have the hardest time. We keep to ourselves and don't show emotion. It's very overwhelming for me when people start coming at me.
Have you found that the show has changed people's perceptions of both pit bulls and parolees?
Torres: I would say that everything combined, the TV show and being active on the Internet, it's improved the image of the dogs tenfold. We get cops now asking us to save a dog whereas 10 years ago that wouldn't have happened. I would have to say one of the things I enjoy most about the TV show is what it does for the guys on parole. Like Mr. Earl, he is a celebrity! It's so cute to watch him walk around and have people ask for his picture. You would never know Earl was a robber, because he's so gentle!
The exposure must also help them succeed because the stakes are raised.
Torres: I tell any guy that comes to work here that not only do you have to do the job and do it right and do it good, but if you don't the whole world is going to see it. If you want to screw up, go for it, but everybody is going to know. Some guys hang in there and some don't, but for the guys that do it's really neat to see them get attention and have people look at them differently.
This season you moved Villalobos to New Orleans. Do you miss having your rescue in California?
Torres: Nope, not one iota.
Any update on former parolee Jake who moved to North Carolina?
Torres: Haven't heard a word from him. That's a whole other story there.
Pit Bulls and Parolees airs on Saturdays at 10/9c on Animal Planet. To adopt a Villalobos rescue dog head here.