INDIANAPOLIS — Amani hasn't always been a good boy.
A few short months ago, this golden brown pit bull with deep, soulful eyes was an absolute terror around other dogs.
"We have our suspicions with Amani that he was potentially used or was in the process of being trained to be used as a fighting dog just due to the intensity of his aggression," said Michael O'Brien, a trainer who specializes in rehabilitating the most difficult dogs.
Amani would pull, struggle and belt out a horror-movie scream at the mere sight of another dog, O'Brien said.
But now, after months of intense, daily training, Amani is ready to be adopted into the right home.
Amani is a lucky dog.
Dog fighting is a big problem. About 40,000 people participate in organized dog-fighting operations in America, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
In Indiana, federal authorities seized about 100 dogs from suspected dog-fighting rings operating in Indianapolis, Muncie and Anderson. Those raids led to federal charges against 21 people in September and another seven people in December.
The future is bleak for many of those pit bull survivors of the fighting pits, said Laurie Collins, founder of Lucci’s House Bully Rescue, the non-profit that is caring for Amani and other lost, abandoned or homeless pit bulls.
"They won't make it," Collins said, speaking through tears. "They won't get that and they'll be put to sleep. And they'll never know the love that Amani knows, or that any of the dogs in our rescue know."
Kelsey Clayton, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Myers, said the dogs seized in the Indiana raids last year were taken to a secure location where they underwent behavioral assessments. The goal is to get these animals adopted and placed in safe homes, she said.
Collins said she believes the dogs have been placed in kennels outside of Indiana where they'll be kept until the criminal cases are resolved. She said she fears they won't get the kind of intense training it takes to turn a fighting dog into a pet.
Collins said her group takes in two or three dogs each week that, like Amani, are hyper-aggressive and may have been used in dog-fighting rings.
"People don't want to believe that that happens in, you know, white picket fences and cornfields," Collins said. "They don't want to believe that people, their next door neighbors, or you know, their aunts or their cousins or their brothers are doing this stuff."
There can be a future for these dogs, Collins said. Lucci's House rescued 232 dogs last year. The group currently has 149 dogs, including 32 puppies, ready for adoption.
“Most dogs don't want to inherently fight other dogs," Collins said. "They do it to please their owners because that's what they're trained to do."
Amani is a success story. He's learned to coexist with other dogs and is ready to find a family who will love and care for him.
"We have really high hopes for him," O'Brien said. "He's super cute, and he's super sweet, and he's super silly so he's a lot of fun."
Amani is not interested in playing with other dogs, O'Brien said, but he doesn't want to fight them anymore.
Amani loves being with people. He loves being petted and loves belly rubs. He'll be a loyal companion to a family that can give him the time and attention a strong and active dog needs, O'Brien said.
"Someone is going to fall in love with him," O'Brien said. "And he falls in love with everyone he meets."
Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @vicryc.