By Bonny Corbeil
The recent high-profile NFL athlete Michael Vick’s alleged dog fighting involvement and indictment has exposed this important subject for us to carefully examine here in the islands.
Dog fighting’s violent nature and appeal to gamblers have made the blood “sport” a brutal, yet popular, pastime since its introduction to America in the early 1800s.
Although the practice has since gone underground, the underlying theme hasn’t wavered — dogfighting remains a malicious exploitation of animals.
“Dogfighting is severely cruel,” said Deputy Manager of Animal Fighting Issues for the Humane Society of the United States John Goodwin. “Pit bulls are intensely loyal dogs and dog fighters exploit their positive characteristics to create violent animals.”
Fighting dogs are bred, conditioned and trained to do one thing — win. No matter the outcome, every fight has the potential to be a dog’s last. Dogs who make it out of the pit alive often receive little or no aftercare for broken bones, deep bite wounds and internal injuries inflicted during fights.
“It’s not unusual for a dog to die from blood loss or infection afterwards,” said Goodwin.
Those who do survive bear the hallmarks of fighting dogs.
“These dogs are often riddled with scars from previous battles,” said Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Laura Maloney. “Some bleed to the touch due to deep scarring that never completely heals. Some dogs’ broken bones heal over, which causes deformities, and many dogs, once outside the ring, are barely provided with the basics they need to survive — food, water and shelter — and live in extended isolation.”
“Fighting dogs live on chains their entire lives, only getting off for training or a match,” Maloney added.
The dogs aren’t the only ones who suffer. It’s impossible to estimate how many other animals and humans have been harmed by violent people who are desensitized to brutality, in part as a result of watching or participating in dogfighting and other forms of animal cruelty.
“Violence begets violence,” Maloney explained. “Research proves that people who abuse animals are more likely to abuse other people. In addition, fighting enthusiasts often bring young children to the fights, desensitizing them to violence and teaching them that violence is accepted by society.”
The dogs themselves, while victims, can also be extremely dangerous. Bred and conditioned to be animal-aggressive, fighting dogs pose a real threat to people and animals in the communities where the animals live. Children and pets are especially at risk for attack due to their small size.
Animals in communities where dogfighting exists are also in danger for another reason — birds, cats, small dogs and other animals are often captured or stolen and typically killed during training sessions where they are used as bait for fighting dogs.
In addition, dogfighting is connected to other forms of crime, including money laundering and drug trafficking.
“Crime doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” said Goodwin. “When you have violent people betting large sums of money, you’re going to have problems. Dogfighting is heavily linked to gambling, drugs, gangs, and guns.”
The blood sport continues to menace communities. Dog fighting is illegal in 50 states including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and our Virgin Islands.
While 48 states have made dogfighting a felony crime, most states impose only misdemeanor-level penalties for attending dogfights, which does little to discourage animal fighters or encourage law enforcement to pursue cases.
And sadly, even when charges are successfully brought against suspected dog fighters, animals continue to pay the price. After being confiscated, fighting dogs are typically put down due to their highly aggressive nature and unsuitability for adoption. These are all facts about dog fighting.
This is the impact that we can see. What is even more important in looking at this issue is this:
When we as human beings are involved with this kind of “power and control” as masters over dogs in forcing them to be violent and fight each other — often to the death — and consider it entertainment, what impact does it have on our own pysche, our minds and how we learn to think and act?
Next Paws Column will take a look at these important questions.
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