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February 8, 2010

Mark Lockhart Takes Atlanta by Storm

Mark and Storm's progress with End Dogfighting in Atlanta

The Humane Society of the United States

  • Mark and his dog Storm have switched gears from dogfighting to agility training. Ralph Hawthorne

by Ariana Huemer

Mark Lockhart is an instrumental part of The HSUS' End Dogfighting in Atlanta program.

Having spent a good deal of his youth engaged in the violent underworld of dogfighting, he knows well the pull—and the perils—that street-dogfighting presents to urban youths.

A recent CNN story reports on how Mark reshaped his life. He now advocates against dogfighting and for responsible pit bull ownership.

A tough road to triumph

But, as HSUS' lead dog trainer Amber Burkhalter recalls, Mark's launch into his current leadership role against dogfighting was less than auspicious.

The first time he and his dog Storm showed up to class, "Storm was a nervous wreck," recalls Burckhalter. "She was totally unsocialized. She would not follow any commands and was not interested in agility work."

Fortunately, Mark was not discouraged. He and Storm showed up every weekend to the Pit Bull Team Training classes, rain or shine, sometimes even bringing his children along.

An outspoken advocate

Today, it's a different story for Mark and Storm. "Mark and Storm completed our class with flying colors," says Burckhalter. "They were the star pupils at our fundraiser. He has become very outspoken on the program."

But Mark hasn't stopped there. He takes his newfound skills and perspective back to his neighborhood. He tells us that after seeing an old friend neglecting—and even still fighting—his pit bulls, Mark spoke up. He persuaded the man to give up custody of the dogs and allow Mark to find better homes for them.

"What my pit bulls have taught me: you gotta respect dogs and they will respect you," says Mark. "It's a two-way street."

Watch CNN's coverage of Mark and his inspiring work in the End Dogfighting program.

Ariana Huemer is animal cruelty case manager for The Humane Society of the United States.

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