Saturday, September 8, 2007

An Article That Separates Fact from Fiction On the Dog-fighting Issue

Maintaining our vigilance against animal cruelty


IN THE WAKE of Michael Vick's federal indictment, the Humane Society of the United States reported that nearly three dozen dogfighting operations were broken up by police units around the country.

One positive outcome of the Vick scandal is that more ordinary people and law enforcement agencies are on the alert for signs of animal cruelty and specifically dogfighting. That's certainly true in Passaic County, where one man was arrested a few weeks ago and paraphernalia associated with dogfighting was confiscated.

However, in a dramatic, made-for-TV fashion, three of his pit bulls taken into custody were sprung from the Paterson animal shelter last week: The shelter's Rottweiler guard dog was distracted or drugged into docility, an opening was cut in the fence, and the dogs in custody were removed from their cages.

In a perfect world, a jailbreak like that might signify the owner's love for his dog. But this dog-napping should not be taken lightly. It suggests the owner is so passionate about his blood sport that he is willing to risk getting into more trouble than he's already in.

The purloined pit bull caper is the act of someone afraid of what the dogs' condition might reveal to investigators. The evidence was damning. These dogs' injuries were common signs of life in the ring -- scarred faces and ripped up nails.

Busy nights when people are coming and going, dogs howling and barking, dogs confined to a boarded-up basement, a dog injured repeatedly -- all these could be signs of dogfighting activities, animal cruelty experts advise. Dogfighting is happening right under our noses.

Public activism

Public vigilance plays an important role in getting the problem under control. A much more difficult but still valuable goal is convincing dogfighters that what they see as sport is actually cruel treatment of animals.

The Humane Society sent me some quotes from a widely circulated guide for breeding and raising pit bulls: "The Complete Gamedog -- A Guide to Breeding and Raising the American Pit Bull Terrier," by Ed and Chris Faron. Proud owners' personal recollections of memorable nights at the dog ring are quoted in graphic detail:

"Sadie had destroyed [Jolene's] face so badly that her sinuses were crushed, her whole face was pulsing up and down as she breathed, and air was bubbling out of the holes on her muzzle and around her eyes.... We sat there helplessly, watching our pride and joy take one last faltering breath, and then Jolene was gone."

This is not sport. It is evil being perpetrated in the name of sporting competition.

Beyond the money feeding the growth of dogfighting, is the "joy" of competition that drives its adherents. Pit bull fighting, outlawed in every state, brings in gambling purses and purchase fees for good dogs, said Paterson's chief animal control officer, John DeCando.

As an underground sport with about 40, 000 proponents nationwide, dogfighting has spiked over the past few years, the Humane Society says.

Animal control officials in Jersey City reported that 65 percent of the dogs in its shelter in one recent year were pit bulls. Some of them, too badly injured to continue fighting, had been given away by owners. But, still very aggressive, they could not be put up for adoption.

In Paterson, the three pit bulls stolen from the city's animal shelter were evidence in a case where a treadmill was found that is commonly associated with exercises to toughen up fighting dogs. Animal cruelty charges are pending against the owner.

We can hope that further local investigations will lead to others who put their dogs through the torture of being ripped apart in the ring for their owners' pleasure.

Other articles on the dog-fighting issue:

Is the Animal's Rights Movement Being Manipulated?

Help - The Animal Rights Movement is Being Hijacked

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