'Pit Boss' Star Shorty Rossi Puts Passion for Pit Bulls First
(Courtesy Animal Planet)
Having worked with pit bulls since he was in junior high, Pit Boss star
Luigi Francis "Shorty" Rossi knows a thing or two about the breed. In fact,
he can relate to their plight: jailed for nearly 11 years at age 18 and
standing at just 4-ft. tall, he's been known to feel like an outcast, too.
"People don't understand how good pit bulls are, just as they don't always
understand little people," Rossi, now 35, tells PEOPLEPets.com. "We're both
short and stocky and have an attitude!"
Rossi's passion for pit bulls really took off several years ago, when he
went to L.A.'s North Central animal shelter to adopt a dog. "I saw a dog,
paid for her, and was told to come back in four hours when she was fixed,"
he says. "When I came back, I was told to pick out another dog because mine
was actually on death row and set to be euthanized. I threw a fit. Someone
suggested I walk out the back door with the dog, so I did. And I've had her
since then." He plays dad to five other pit bulls — including Hercules, a
trained service dog (above) — as well.
The accomplished actor — who runs a talent agency for little people called
Shortywood — rescues and rehabilitates pit bulls with the help of his
friends, also featured on the Animal Planet show. "If you come to our
office in Venice, Calif., it's like nowhere in the world," he says. "You've
got costumes flying, little people running around, me yelling and four or
five pit bulls barking and having a blast."
When Rossi gets a dog, he evaluates its temperament and health, and has it
microchipped. "If we can't find the owner, we foster it out, and spread the
word," he says. "We don't have any kennels." He has an ally in Exorcist
star Linda Blair, who runs the rescue-focused World Heart Foundation. "She
helps us take dogs and adopt them out," he explains. Proceeds from
Shortywood benefit Blair's non-profit organization.
Though placing pets is a big plus, another of Rossi's goals is reshaping
the way people think of pit bulls. "These dogs aren't born to maul or kill,
they're taught that by people who don't train them the right way," he says.
To prove his theory, he brings his dogs to retirement homes, schools and
other spots to promote pit bull awareness. "We didn't realize the response
we'd get," he says. "People say, 'You changed my mind,' or, 'You showed me
that they're great.' They see these dogs are not what everyone says they are."
So with the first season of his show behind him, Rossi is looking forward
to season two, recently announced by the network. "It's all reality, so we
just have to see what happens," he says of upcoming episodes debuting this
summer. "But I know we'll be doing whatever we can to promote these dogs."