StubbyDog Hero: Tia Maria Torres

November 13, 2012  

Founder of Villalobos Rescue Center and star of ‘Pit Bulls & Parolees’

Originally posted on Oct. 11, 2011

Q: Can you tell StubbyDog readers about Villalobos Rescue Center?

A: “VRC” is a rescue, rehab and adoption facility for pit bulls. We always say that “sadly and unfortunately,” we are the largest in the country.

Q: What motivated you to start VRC?

A: I grew up with animals of all sorts – livestock, dogs and exotics – so they’ve always been a main component of my life. But it was a chance meeting at a local animal shelter when I saw them bringing in a brindle female pit bull with her ears chopped off to her skull. She was confiscated during a double homicide/meth lab scene. She was the only living survivor on the property and witnessed everything. I petitioned to get her after the case was over, and she became my first pit bull: Tatanka (taken from “Dances with Wolves” and meaning “buffalo” in some Native American culture). She was what started me looking more into the plight of the pit bull.

Q: How did “Pit Bulls & Parolees” come about and how has it helped (or hindered) your efforts?

Some time ago, LA Weekly magazine not only voted me one of the most important people of Los Angeles but also did an article on the organization itself. After the story came out, several production companies approached us to do a reality show. The TV show has good and bad that go along with it. On a good note, it has increased our adoption rate quadruple-fold! Along with that, we are helping change the image that the pit bull has had to carry around for so many years. Nothing like an international reality TV series to show everyone how great these dogs can be!

As for the downside, I think the only little thing that gets in the way is when our TV world collides with our real world. What I mean by this is because we are not, and I repeat not, a scripted show, everything you see is real and genuine. So, for example, this past season we did a high profile adoption of a very well known dog of ours, and we can’t announce it because we have to wait until that episode airs so that it’s a big surprise for everyone. But that’s the kind of stuff we’re talking about. We’re very fortunate that we have a great production company who loves our dogs and our parolees, and Animal Planet has been the best to work for too!

Q: How has VRC evolved and grown so far, and what is your ultimate goal for it?

A: VRC has grown more confident in our message. We’ve also grown some pretty thick skin. There is no way that anyone can look at what we do and say it’s wrong. And it’s because of this that we are able to stand strong and continue to fight for what we believe in. I would have to say our ultimate goal would be to have the finances to expand so that we can make more of a difference.

Q: Do you take all pit bulls in need, or how do you decide which to take?

A: There’s really no rhyme or reason as to which dogs I take. I wish I could say I had a system, but I don’t. Because we get literally hundreds of calls and e-mails a week, it’s just a matter of picking and choosing, and seeing if we just happen to have an open kennel. But we do tend to take in more shelter/abuse cases as opposed to owner turn-ins.

Q: What’s your biggest challenge?

A: Finances are always our biggest problem – especially in today’s economy. People tend to think because we have a TV show that money just pours from the sky, but nothing could be further from the truth. And I would have to say we still deal with the stigma of working with pit bulls, and now taking on the parolees makes it twice as hard. There are a lot of haters out there.

Q: If there was one thing you could convey to the general public about pit bulls, what would it be (in one sentence)?

A: Until we solve the “people problem,” we will never solve the “pit bull problem.”

Q: In your line of work, how do you stay positive and motivated?

A: I would have to say that knowing that my kids and my dogs completely depend on me is what keeps me straight. And trust me, I don’t stay “positive” all the time. I have some pretty dark days. But the one thing I am is a fighter and that never alters. It’s something that is just inside of you, and I’ve always been like this. So it’s because of that, that I am able to put one foot in front of the other on a daily basis.

Q: We think you’re a hero. If you could have one superpower to make a difference for pit bulls, what would it be?

A: Well, firstly, I absolutely do not consider myself a hero. Taking care of animals, kids and humans in general should be a priority in everyone’s life. So to me it’s a given. But I will take that superpower if you’re going to give it to me! I think I would like to be invisible so that I could infiltrate dog-fighting organizations. One of the biggest problems in busting a dog-fighting ring is catching them in the act. So by being invisible, I could follow them and listen, and be able to alert the authorities.

Photos courtesy of Villalobos Rescue Center

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18 Responses to “StubbyDog Hero: Tia Maria Torres”
  1. It is because of Pit bull & Parolees my family adopted Sasha. While doing my homework my daughter and I were flipping through the channels and came across a marathon of Pit bull and Parolees which opened my eyes to pit bulls and their loving nature in spite of their circumstances. My family contacted Villalobos about Krunch however, after viewing one emotional episode where Creature (a blue pit bull) who’d been with Villalobos for a while adoption didn’t go through my family contacted Villalobos about him. Fortunately, unfortunately my co-worker told me about a local organization where I adopted my two pit bulls. However, I like to thank Mrs. Torres for opening my eyes and mind to this loving bully breed.

    • StubbyDog says:

      @theprettychic Thanks for sharing, I’m sure she has opened many more minds about the wonderful pit bull.

  2. servalsquest says:

    I remember Creature! He was hilariously cute!!

  3. RenayBellPeters says:

    Tia, her family, staff and all the amazing volunteers are so awesome. My husband and I go there and volunteer every weekend and sponsor a dog as well. There is nothing better than coming home stinky, tired with a pittie grin on our faces each Saturday. We have learned so much and love our VRC family! They are all such inspirations and there is never a dull moment 🙂 I am so thankful to have the opportunitie to help such a great rescue and look forward to each and every Volunteer Day.

  4. JulieSpaur says:

    I love pit bulls. They are so eager to please and loving, I don’t understand how people can be so cruel to them.

  5. JeneenBurns says:

    I did not like pit bulls till I met a few. All you got to do is met them and find out they are great dogs.

  6. KekeMartinez says:


  7. NatashaAEaton says:

    We finally got this show over here in the UK and I’m addicted!! What amazing rescuers Tia, her family and the Parolees are. I’ve told so many of my friends and now there all watching it and have changed quite a few opinions amongst them. Keep up the great work TIa, we think your one in a million. I hope this show runs for a long time!!!

    • StubbyDog says:

      we do too and we are so happy you can see the show in the UK and be addicted like we’ve been for years!

  8. ReneeMKeller says:

    I love Tia and VRC!!  She is a hero!!

  9. sillyfox4lyfe says:

    I personally think what Tia does is amazing, I have done 2 stints so far at VRC (about a week and a half each time) cleaning kennels and giving love to the pups, and I promise to keep coming back, as long as it takes to change people’s perceptions about these amazing dogs we call Pit Bulls, because they need the most love, so a few times a year I travel 1500 miles just to hang with the dogs, and Tia, she is truly amazing, I love the VRC family, they’re all truly amazing!

  10. larshine says:

    Tia’s my hero, even if she thinks she’s not one. She’s a strong woman who has the courage of her convictions. Keep on fighting that good fight!

  11. We admire Ms. Torres and the work she does. However I think she would agree (I am not speaking for her) that some pits are not “wonderful dogs”. We own a 2 1/2 year old male named Syrus. He was dropped in our lap as a pup. We have socialized, trained and loved him. Even as a 6 week old pup he was difficult. Reactive and a little fearful. He is dog and people aggressive. He is slowly coming out of that place but he is what I would call a poorly bred dog. I love him dearly and work with him daily. We have two excellent trainers and a behavioral expert that work with us. Very, very expensive and draining. I would only say to folks wanting a pit…they are a lot of dog. Beautiful, powerful but not a good first dog. Choose with great care and some expert help.

    • Al says:

      BrinkleuBurns I agree with you but that type of behavior goes for every breed. One of my long-hair Dachshunds was completely out of control. I socialized him, had him trained, disciplined, etc, etc. After 12 years of pretty much being terrified about his uncontrollable behavior I had to put him to sleep. His aggression became a threat to all of us.

      Also, a member of my family had a Springer Spaniel that, in spite of being a show dog with the highest ribbons (Best in Show)had sporadic aggressive behavior and also turned on his owners. That being said, just like people there are good ones and bad ones but fortunately most of them are good.

  12. Nikki Hailey says:

    I will have to say I am 30 and have 2 children I have ALWAYS only ever had pit bulls! They are the most loyal and forgiving (more so than is humans at times)animal! I don’t think I would ever in my life have anything other than I pit bull…they have a horrible reputation to the point that here in VA you can’t have them in apartments and what not..ridiculous!!! I love what Tia and her family including the parolees are doing and the fact that she is non profit is amazing!!!!!! I LovE my pit and wouldn’t trade her for the world! God bless Tia!!!

  13. Sydney says:

    Tia does a great job with the dogs