By DIEGO JESUS BARTESAGHI MENA
bartesaghi@montclairlocal.news

Two pit bulls found abandoned at Eagle Rock Reservation on two different days may have been used for backyard breeding then discarded, animal rescuers said. 

The dogs — a male found on Sunday and a female discovered on Monday — were both malnourished. 

Montclair resident Daryn Sirota was contacted by a friend and West Orange Recreation department employee who found the dog on Sunday morning. Sirota, a self-described “rescue groupie” is a member of multiple Facebook groups for people interested in animal rescue, and has helped make connections between people looking to help animals and foster homes.

“I said, ‘Bring the dog to my house. I can watch him until I get in touch with the Montclair Animal Shelter,’” Sirota said. 

Montclair animal control officers nicknamed the male white pit bull “Smooch.” Sirota and Michele Shiber, Montclair Township’s animal control supervisor and animal cruelty investigator, both suspect he was neglected — his nails were overgrown to the point that it hurt when he walked, and his ribs were showing. 

“He was the sweetest thing,” Sirota said. “He came when he was called. He put his paw on my leg when I was sitting down, smooching on my face. I put my hand on his chin and he just looked at me. I mean, this dog will melt your heart. He was so breathtaking, docile and obedient.” 

Sirota took care of him until the Montclair Township Animal Shelter opened on Sunday. 

The female dog was found by West Orange resident Jennifer Tunnicliffe’s son the next day. She nicknamed that dog “Baby.” 

“I made some eggs and brown rice for her and gave her some organic peanut butter, because she’s really skinny and looks like she hasn’t eaten for a really long time,” Tunnicliffe said in an interview for CBS New York

Smooch and Baby are now being taken care of at the animal shelter.  

Sirota believes the dogs were treated with kindness at one point of their lives before being neglected, because they are both so docile and friendly. 

By law, the shelter has to hold the dogs for seven days in the event the owners come forward. If they don’t, then the dogs will eventually be put up for adoption. They may first be placed in foster care to first get them up to a healthy weight, so that they can be spayed and neutered before being put up for adoption, Shiber said.

“We are going to take it day by day and see how they do,” Shiber said. “These are new dogs to us. We don’t know their temperaments. We don’t know previous behavior or interactions with other animals. So, we have to pick the right foster home carefully.”

Shiber said the dogs may have come from the same owners and may have been used for backyard breeding — a practice of mating dogs for profit performed at home, which many animal advocates consider unethical. 

“We don’t really know what the situation was. The likelihood that they came from the same place is very strong. But we really have no way to know that,” Shiber said. 

Shiber said an investigation is underway. Sirota has started a GoFundMe campaign, looking to raise reward money for anyone who steps forward with information "that will help us get justice" for the dogs "and perhaps make it harder for those responsible to continue this cycle of abuse."

If no one responsible for abandoning the dogs is found, her campaign says, half the proceeds will go to the Montclair Township Animal Shelter and the rest will be divided among other pit bull-friendly rescues: Fly Away Home Rescue, Traveling 4 Paws Rescue and Buddha Pooch Dog Rescue Project.

Shiber said she hopes that more dogs don’t show up at the reservation, but the shelter will be on the lookout for any leads. 

“Nobody should be abandoning an animal. It is a crime and when we find out if somebody indeed abandoned them, they will be prosecuted,” Shiber said. 

Shiber asked anyone with information about where the dogs came from or who saw anyone abandoning them to reach out to the Montclair Township Animal Control at 862-621-9113.

If anyone wants to contribute financially toward the care of the dogs, and any animal at the shelter, they can do so through the Friends of Montclair Township Animal Shelter by visiting fomtasnj.org

“It takes a village,” Sirota said. “If you see an animal in need, please don’t look the other way. Please intervene.”