NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A pit bull is trapped at the bottom of a pumping station near a New Orleans levee. Rescuers joined by a Louisiana prison inmate out on work release are frantically seeking to pull the dog to safety. This is real-life drama and the television cameras are rolling.
Tia Maria Torres, star of Animal Planet's "Pit Bulls and Parolees," has moved her long-running reality TV series from southern California to New Orleans, where hurricanes and overbreeding have left many pit bulls abandoned or abused. Not to mention, she will have to contend with the blood sport of dog-fighting, a scourge in Louisiana and illegal in every state.
Torres, the tattoo-sporting founder and owner of the nation's largest pit bull rescue center, has long paired abused and abandoned dogs with the parolees who care for them. She launched the Villalobos Rescue Center more than 20 years ago in greater Los Angeles and last year relocated to south Louisiana.
The show's fifth season premieres Saturday at 10 p.m. (ET/PT) and joins a growing list of Louisiana-based reality TV shows, among them the popular A&E series, "Duck Dynasty," and the just-premiered A&E series, "The Governor's Wife," which follows the flashy former Louisiana governor, Edwin Edwards, and his much younger third wife.
For the first time, "Pit bulls and Parolees" will include an employee who is an inmate on a special work release program who is nearing the end of a 10-year sentence for drug and firearm possession. Matt Eldridge, an inmate from a correctional center in Jackson, La., has 15 months to go on his sentence.
"How fantastic that they offer that," said Torres, who has never done jail time and doesn't drink, smoke or do drugs, but feels misjudged — much like the people and dogs she works so hard to help.