Two years after settling down in New Orleans, Tia Torres and her Pit Bulls and Parolees crew are busier, but happier, than ever before.
"New Orleans couldn't be better," Torres tells TVGuide.com. "I wish we had discovered this place 10 years ago."
The hit Animal Planet series follows Torres as she runs the Villalobos Rescue Center, a rescue, rehabilitation and placement facility for abused and abandoned pit bulls. Helping her cause are her daughters Mariah and Tania, twin sons Moe and Kanani, and the group of parolees she hired. After almost two decades of running her facility in Los Angeles County, Torres relocated to the Big Easy, where she's found overwhelming support from the community, but an even more overwhelming amount of dogs that need to be saved.
It seems like there are even more dogs in dire need of rescue in New Orleans.Tia Torres: Yeah, the problem is way bigger and way worse than Los Angeles could even imagine. Add to that, there are not the amount of resources we had in L.A., so looking back, we were very spoiled there.
How has the community been now that you're settled?Torres: The community has been overwhelmingly receptive. We have our facilities in New Orleans, but we do have some smaller locations out in the country and swamp areas. In these little river towns and swamp towns, they don't even have animal control there at all, so if there's a stray dog, it's on its own or they call in the local sheriff. So it's pretty overwhelming to see that when you go out to these towns outside of New Orleans and you see dogs dying of starvation. People will say, "Well, there is no one to take the dog because we don't have animal control out here."
As the show and VRC have gained popularity, how hard is it to balance touring with staying at the facility?Torres: It's very hard to balance because I do want to get out and bring awareness, but that also means leaving a very busy facility. I'm coming back from Salem, Mass., and while I was there, I got two different phone calls. One from Mariah saying, "Mom, one of my friends found a dog under an abandoned Katrina house. Can we bring it to the warehouse?" The other call was from one of our workers saying that there was a man [threatening] that if we don't take the dog, he'll let him loose in front of the warehouse. And also we're a public facility now, so it's tough.
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In the premiere episode, Tania and the parolees get very emotional during a rescue. Does that make it harder for them to get the job done?Torres: Even though it was an emotional rescue, we don't let our heart override our head because if we did, then we couldn't do our jobs effectively. And if we didn't have any emotion whatsoever, then it's the same thing - we couldn't do our job effectively. So it's a 50-50 thing. If we lose any piece of our head or our heart, then we need to get out and find something else to do with our life.
How are those dogs from the Mississippi rescue doing?Torres: One of our employees adopted two of them actually, and then one of the big red males recently got a home out in Texas.
One of your parolees, Earl, is back this season. How's he doing?Torres: Earl is doing great. He's just a very genuine guy and what you see is what you get with him. He helps with the tour of the facility and when people meet him, they just fall in love with him. I'm going to give myself some credit on that one because when I met him I said, "I can tell you've got a good soul about you."
Any other familiar faces?Torres: All four of my kids are still rocking and rolling. They grew up in this, so they're not going anywhere as much as they would like to sometimes. And one of our parolee characters, Mando, has returned because he relocated to Louisiana.
Are there any cases this season that stand out to you?Torres: Last season, we did some of these rescues and I thought, "Wow, nothing is going to top this" and then we do something else and it does. We've had some pretty urgent things, like a dog running in and out of a moving train, a puppy stuck in a storm drain, but I would have to say the premiere episode stands out. There is a rescue with a dog down in the bottom of the pumping station and I was like, "Holy crap." ... I wish you could've been there because you can't feel what 40 feet looks like until you're looking down that hole and seeing a dog down there.
Season 5 of Pit Bulls and Parolees premieres on Saturday at 10/9c on Animal Planet. Watch a sneak peek of the new season below: