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Opie Taylor, 38 

President and Co-Founder of Ring Dog Rescue

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST

In 2003 Opie Taylor’s pit bull, Grace, was stolen from her East End backyard. Taylor scoured the neighborhood, posted a $3,000 reward and even consulted a pet psychic. Then the police called at 1 a.m.; they’d found Grace during a Church Hill raid.

The dog — its mouth duct taped shut and legs scarred from being used as dog-fighting bait — wasn’t Grace. Taylor christened her the Biscuit and eventually adopted her. But once she glimpsed the appalling world of dog fighting, Taylor knew she could never turn away.

In 2004 she founded Ring Dog Rescue, a nonprofit focused on adoption, education and advocacy for pit bulls and other bully breeds. The group has found homes for more than 600 dogs.

Taylor also serves on the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force, champions anti-tethering legislation and testifies as an expert witness in dog-fighting cases. After spending five years as an animal control officer for the city of Richmond, she’s working on a criminal justice degree from Virginia Commonwealth University.

She wants people to understand that bully breeds are good family pets when treated right. Taylor brings trained therapy dogs — two of which were seized from dog-fighting busts — to schools to show children that pit bulls aren’t mean. But when animal control calls on Taylor to evaluate rescued fighting dogs, she says she’s “brutally honest” about whether they’ll ever be adoptable.

These many years later, Taylor’s still looking for Grace. “My hope is that she fell into somebody’s hands who was like me,” she says.

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