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U.S. Dog-Fighting Rings Stealing Pets for "Bait"
National Geographic News ^ | February 18, 2004 | Maryann Mott

Posted on 02/19/2004 9:15:26 AM PST by ZULU

U.S. Dog-Fighting Rings Stealing Pets for "Bait"

Maryann Mott for National Geographic News February 18, 2004

For years the Pima County Sheriff's Department found the chewed-up bodies of dead dogs in the Arizona desert. But it wasn't until four years ago that the truth behind the killings emerged: Stolen family pets were being used in bloody training exercises by dog fighting rings. The problem is not confined to Arizona. Animal-welfare groups and law-enforcement officers say pets throughout the country are frequently nabbed for "bait"—animals used to test another dog's fighting instinct. The "bait" is mauled or killed in the process.

Like all good detectives, Mike Duffey of the Pima County Sheriff's Department pieced together the clues. Four years ago he was assigned to investigate animal crimes full-time.

Duffey knew the dead dogs found in the county's rural areas weren't strays, because the pads of their feet and their nails had not been worn down from a life on the streets. So Duffey checked the lost-and-stolen-animal reports kept by the local humane society.

"We found that a lot of the dogs found in these desert dumping areas were in fact, at one time, [reported] stolen," said Duffey, co-chair of the Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona, an organization made up of law-enforcement, criminal-justice, and animal-protection professionals. "So we began looking for a connection."

That connection was made when the veteran detective found a copy of the American Patriot. The journal, he said, was filled with pictures of fighting pit bulls kept in the very same areas where officers were finding the remains of mauled dogs.

Duffey says a large number of animals are reported lost in Pima County. Within the last six months, 3,396 animals have been reported missing. Of that amount, Duffey estimates 50 percent may have been stolen.

"Animal control has enough people out on patrol, so if [an animal] was truly a stray, they'd encounter it," Duffey said. "But they never turn up as strays; they just turn up as missing. Then somewhere down the line, we find one in the desert that matches the description of four or five that were reported stolen."

In January the sheriff's department began to tally local pets stolen by dog-fighting operations. Officers match the descriptions of animals found dumped in the desert to those reported missing.

National statistics on how many pets are taken each year and used as bait by dog-fighting rings are not available.

"I think every state has a problem with it, whether they know it or not," said Patricia Wagner, head of the National Illegal Animal Fighting Task Force for the Humane Society of the United States.

Wagner said news reports about stolen pets in the U.S. have appeared in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas, among other states.

To protect pets from being stolen, owners should care for their animals like they would a four-year-old child says Marsh Myers, director of education and community outreach for the Humane Society of Southern Arizona in Tucson. Both children and pets, he says, have similar levels of curiosity and vulnerability.

"Pet owners need to play that role of parent," Myers said. "We live in a society that has some dangerous people in it, and they will target your pets if they're allowed to."

Small dogs, kittens, and rabbits are more at risk of being stolen for bait, experts say. Pit bulls, though, are commonly targeted by dog fighting rings for potential breeding stock.

In Arizona state representative Ted Downing introduced a bill last month that would make stealing an animal for use in dog fighting a felony with penalties up to two years in jail and fines as high as U.S. $150,000. If the bill becomes state law, Downing says, it could be the first of its kind in the country.

Cruel Contest

Dog fighting is illegal in all 50 states and a felony in 47. Still, law-enforcement officials and animal-care professionals say they've seen a recent increase in the blood sport.

"There's so much of it going on [nationally]," said detective Mike Vadnal, who for 12 years has investigated animal crimes for the Broward Sheriff's Office in Broward County, Florida. "It's out of control."

Last April the alleged publisher of Sporting Dog Journal, which is thought to be the largest underground magazine for the dog-fighting industry, was arrested in New York, according to Vadnal.

Vadnal said the last printed edition of the magazine listed about a thousand fight reports. The fights were by "professionals" who breed and fight animals throughout the country for profit, Vadnal said. There are also other, less organized groups who spar their dogs for bragging rights and quick cash.

In such contests, according to law-enforcement officials, two dogs are placed in a pit or similar area enclosed with plywood walls. They attack each other while crowds of up to 200 people watch and cheer. Bets ranging from U.S. $10,000 to $50,000 are made on fights.

The bloody battle often lasts two hours or more, ending when one dog is no longer able to continue. The breed most often used is the American pit bull terrier. Experts say dogs that survive often die hours, sometimes even days, after the fight—usually of blood loss, shock, or infection.

The practice has been linked to other crimes. In Arizona, for example, Duffey said spectators and dogfight operators are often involved in auto theft, drug dealing, arms smuggling, and money laundering.

The Humane Society of the United States keeps a database of news reports on dog fighting. It estimates 40,000 people are involved in the blood sport and 250,000 pit bulls are used.

The Internet has helped fuel dog fighting by making it easier for criminals to communicate, says Wagner of the Humane Society. At last count there were about 500 message boards and chat rooms devoted to dog fighting, and the number keeps growing, Wagner said.

As dog fighting proliferates, the number of stolen pets has also grown. Whether the two are directly linked is unclear.

Sandy Christiansen, a program coordinator for the Tallahassee, Florida-based Humane Society of the United States, says his office receive reports almost daily from animal shelters around the country about neighborhood pets being nabbed.

But Christiansen, a former animal control investigator in Rochester, New York, says teenagers, not professional dog fighters, may be to blame.

"My experience mostly has been in an urban environment where the dogs that are being stolen are often used by less sophisticated people who are looking for the thrill of watching their dog beat up another dog," Christiansen says.

A Humane Alternative

Concerned by the increasing number of youths involved in dog fighting, former animal control officer Sue Sternberg decide to do something about it.

In 2002, Sternberg started Lug-Nuts, a program that encourages inner-city teens to enter their dogs in weight-pulling contests instead of fights.

"Weight pulling is a very macho sport, and it's incredibly humane," said Sternberg, who now runs a boarding, training, and adoption kennel called Rondout Valley Animals for Adoption in northern New York State.

Owners encourage their pets—harnessed to plastic sleds filled with dog-food bags—to move forward with words of encouragement and tasty treats.

Monthly contests are held in Harlem's Marcus Garvey Park, drawing about 15 entries and a large crowd of onlookers, Sternberg said. Winners receive cash prizes and pet supplies.

Sternberg said the program also encourages owners to neuter and spay their animals and offers to pay for the surgical procedure.

Shelters in the Northeastern U.S. are filled with dangerous dogs, Sternberg said, because teenagers involved in dog fighting are breeding their animals every six months for profit. Some teens are making between U.S. $1,500 and $2,000 each year selling puppies.

Consequently, shelters are filling with pit bulls and pit bull mixes that are not adoptable, because they've been trained to be aggressive toward other animals and sometimes humans.

Sternberg is currently working on a Lug-Nuts training manual and video for animal-care professionals interested in starting the program in their areas.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: animalrights; dogfighting; dogs; pitbulls; workingdogs
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To: freeeee
"Libertarian U.S. House candidate Stephanie "Vs. The Machine" Sailor "

Gasp!!! My dream woman!!!!
41 posted on 02/19/2004 11:13:57 AM PST by ZULU (GOD BLESS SENATOR McCARTHY!!!!)
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"Our inner cities are a mess. A total disgrace. The end result of YEARS of failed liberal policies, of encourging reproduction out of marriage, of absentee parents, of children raising children"

I guess it takes a particular chutzpah to quote oneself but there's a sentence I wrote in "Art & Part" that referred to a couple of 'lost youths" in Amsterdam as, "the end product of a system that confused freedom with the absence of restraint."
42 posted on 02/19/2004 11:17:09 AM PST by jim macomber (Author: "Bargained for Exchange", "Art & Part", "A Grave Breach"
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Lowlives and creeps are found in every race, and none of them has a monopoly on stupidity or cruelty.

I agree. And I'd add "religious belief" and many other characteristics to that list.

And I defy you to prove that there is NOT a direct connection between the secularization and atheization of our society and MOSt of our social problems.

Are you claiming atheists are inherent animal abusers, and theists are incapable of such?

43 posted on 02/19/2004 11:17:53 AM PST by freeeee ("Owning" property in the US just means you have one less landlord)
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Yes, she's amazing!
44 posted on 02/19/2004 11:20:17 AM PST by freeeee ("Owning" property in the US just means you have one less landlord)
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I do not doubt that anything you say is true, particularly that dogfighters exist and are a menace. The sole point of my skepticism was the numbers coming from HSUS - an unverifiable statistic from an unreliable source. The actual numbers could be less, or could be greater - I'm simply not going to take HSUS's word on it. I'd love to see hard stats from a reliable source.
45 posted on 02/19/2004 11:20:19 AM PST by Slings and Arrows (Am Yisrael Chai!)
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To: Flyer
You got that right. A good friend of mine left our local SPCA and went to the Dark Side.

My sympathy.

In the Houston area there are 3 - 4 big dog fighting bust a year. I don't know how accurate the numbers are, but if you include spectators/gamblers, it could be that high.

Noted. I certainly don't doubt the problem exists and is nontrivial; I just don't trust HSUS and their I-Pulled-It-Out-Of-My-*** Method of Statistical Analysis.

46 posted on 02/19/2004 11:23:44 AM PST by Slings and Arrows (Am Yisrael Chai!)
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To: Swede Girl
I blame the upbringing of these monsters. It almost always points to the parenting...or lack of.

No doubt, but there comes an age when they have to take responsibility for their actions.

G-d will judge their souls; I'd just like to arrange the meeting.

47 posted on 02/19/2004 11:25:53 AM PST by Slings and Arrows (Am Yisrael Chai!)
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My new next-door neighbor has a beautiful dog, looks to be part Husky with black rings around her eyes. I began befriending her ( the dog ) about a month after they moved in, and she would want to come to the fence but her instincts said no. She would stand there and tuck her tail so hard that she would be contorted, and she would actually pee herself !!! The urinating really disturbed me. She finally gave in to me after I bought her some treats. Now when I go in the back yard I pretend to ignore her, and she starts to howl and whine as if to say, " Here I am, over here !! ". She's a sweetheart and, if you ask me, neglected to a point. I hate seeing any animal hurt or neglected. I'd sure like to buy a .357 and go hunting for missing dogs in that town.
48 posted on 02/19/2004 11:46:34 AM PST by Rainmist
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To: Semaphore Heathcliffe
There is a correlation between the incidence of gang related violence and the increase in dog-fighting IMHO. I started noticing missing pets increasing when there became an increase in the numbers of minority drug dealers and addicts. This has been going on for greater than four years in this area. Mentioning it to the Police Department or Sheriff's department will be at one's peril. This act of stealing pets for "bait" is commonplace. Profiling and law enforcement will be the only way to break the cycle.
49 posted on 02/19/2004 11:52:47 AM PST by vetvetdoug
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To: soozla
Those puppies are so PRECIOUS!
50 posted on 02/19/2004 12:31:06 PM PST by Muzzle_em
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To: Rainmist
HOPEFULLY, she is an older puppy and that is the explanation for her peeing on herself. I have a beautiful lab who was never abused, yet she behaved the same way when we first got her- around 9 months old. We got her from someone we know well. She would get very excited when we arrived home from work, but would way her tail only tenatively and pee all over everything! She is now 9 years old and VERY social to everyone.
51 posted on 02/19/2004 12:36:13 PM PST by Muzzle_em
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Some folks jez need a killin'.
52 posted on 02/19/2004 12:39:35 PM PST by najida (Where is Snake Pliskin when you need him?)
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To: rintense
let's just say a pissed off, pet-loving woman with a gun (and probably PMS) would be the worst thing they'd want to deal with.

The hell with the gun. That's why we have teeth and nails. A gunshot could maybe kill him fast!
53 posted on 02/19/2004 12:51:07 PM PST by Xenalyte (I may not agree with your bumper sticker, but I'll defend to the death your right to stick it)
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To: Xenalyte
Yeah, I'm learning some good stuff in martial arts. Mess with them a bit, then just say, 'oh hell with it', pull out the gun and BOOM!
54 posted on 02/19/2004 12:56:17 PM PST by rintense
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To: freeeee

What I am stating is that people, MOST people, need a standard of behavior and ethics to follow and guide them in their lives. Some atheists are capable of structuring their lives without a formal code of behavior and living like decent human beings. Some so-called "Christians" are not.

Most human beings do not fall into the former category. Most human beings require some code of behavior and ethics to guide them and teach them respect for themselves and others. Christianity provides that. So does Judaism, Buddhism and a number of other belief systems - some of them God oriented and some not (Stoicism comes to mind - but most inner city youths and young people today would not read or understand Marcus Aurelius)

Freedom is NOT license and license is where our youth are headed without a system of guidelines and restraints emphasizing self-respect, honor and respect for others, including other living non-human creatures.
55 posted on 02/19/2004 12:57:00 PM PST by ZULU (GOD BLESS SENATOR McCARTHY!!!!)
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To: Slings and Arrows
"I'd love to see hard stats from a reliable source."

Agreed. But whatever the source OR numbers, I'm confident they are more than should be tolerated.
56 posted on 02/19/2004 12:58:23 PM PST by ZULU (GOD BLESS SENATOR McCARTHY!!!!)
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To: rintense
The Dread Boston Salty was in finishing school (okay, it was really more like boot camp) for two weeks around Christmas. When we got him home, he had lost a little weight, and was exhausted and didn't sleep well for two nights - instead of breathing deeply and regularly, as usual, his breathing was shallow and short, almost a whimper. We stayed up very late rocking him to sleep those nights.

The second day, I thought he'd been abused and not well fed. I had two nights of revenge fantasies: figuring out who abused my dog, grabbing him, tossing him in the trunk of my car, and taking him to a secure undisclosed location for a loooong leisurely chat with me and Mr. Katana.

I figured I was wrong when Salty and I went back for our first people 'n' dog lesson the next week, and he couldn't get in the door fast enough and jumped all OVER the trainers with his little tail wagging so hard, he almost took off.

He was just way tired from working out (up to 10 times a day for 15 minutes at a time) and playing with all the bigger dogs. He's back to his old self, except not quite as sassy. (He still gives me attitude every now and then, just to keep his hand in.)
57 posted on 02/19/2004 1:01:39 PM PST by Xenalyte (I may not agree with your bumper sticker, but I'll defend to the death your right to stick it)
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Participating in this "sport" exclusively with one's own dogs is sick enough -- it' a crime, and it should be. But stealing other people's pets - their property - to do it is a much more serious crime that should be punishable by very long and very hard jailtime.
58 posted on 02/19/2004 1:04:32 PM PST by Mr. Mojo
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Crucifixion (sp?) is far too kind. If these bastards ever so much as looked at my dog like it was a pawn for sport then I'd have them praying for death.

59 posted on 02/19/2004 1:05:15 PM PST by StoneColdGOP (McClintock - In Your Heart, You Know He's Right)
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To: soozla
I'm getting the red X in the thread but I copied the url and looked at your cuties! They're adorable.

Here's the link to a picture of mine as a pup. He was wandering around in the middle of the street and my ex-sister-in-law nearly ran over him. She picked him up and brought him home to me.
60 posted on 02/19/2004 1:07:58 PM PST by Sally'sConcerns (It's painless to be a monthly donor!)
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