Just last week, authorities in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, along with the ASPCA raided eight crime scenes, seizing 23 suspected fighting dogs. It’s a chilling and sad reminder of how prevalent dog fighting is in America today and a further indication of why it was necessary for us to declare April 8 National Dog Fighting Awareness Day.
Even though dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states, the ASPCA’s participation in two major multi-state raids in the last year alone refute any claim that dog fighting is a rare activity, or that it’s restricted to certain parts of the country or people with whom we wouldn’t normally associate.
The truth is dog fighting is not a relic of times past or random, isolated incidents. In addition to last week’s Wisconsin dog fighting case, nearly 100 dogs were seized in a multi-state raid just over a year ago across Texas, Missouri and Kansas. Just eight months ago, hundreds of dogs were seized in what is believed to be the second largest dog fighting case in U.S. history across Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Texas.
The truth is dog fighting is not a “southern problem.” The blood sport has been reported in urban, suburban and rural settings in all regions of the country.
The truth is dog fighting participants represent people you may know. Lawyers, judges, teachers, high school football coaches and veterinary technicians have all been arrested in connection to dog fighting. People involved in dog fighting also span racial and socioeconomic boundaries.
These are the relatively pleasant truths. Unpleasant truths include stories of animals being routinely and viciously attacked, beaten, electrocuted and drowned. They include stories about “rape stands” used for breeding, and “bait dogs” used for fighting practice. Bait dogs are typically stolen pets or dogs that refuse to fight. Their teeth are often removed so that other dogs can practice fighting without getting injured.
As I wrote recently, it’s not enough to see dog fighting as just a crime. Society discourages, yet tolerates a number of crimes—some are even glorified. But dog fighting is a deep stain on our national character, a cultural embarrassment we should all feel. This is not about just locking up bad guys; this is about doing everything we can to bring this nightmarish practice to an end. We can’t rest until it does.
That’s why National Dog Fighting Awareness Day isn’t just another way to fill a calendar box; it’s a necessary measure to help stop one of the most horrific forms of animal abuse imaginable.
Of course you probably don’t know about dog fights going on where you live. But chances are you know some children, and can talk to them about the value animals bring to our lives, as well as the humanity we owe them in return.
The August 2013 raid spanned Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia, and after ASPCA responders provided veterinary care and behavior enrichment to the dogs, many of the dogs went to ASPCA partner organizations to find loving homes.
Buddy, who was just a puppy at the time of his rescue, was transported to the Charleston Animal Society, an ASPCA Partnership graduate agency. He was then placed with a foster parent, Michele W., who described this adorable pup as a “love bug” who quickly learned to get along with his foster parent’s four resident dogs.
Soon after, Buddy was adopted by Nicole M. and Andrew M., and it was love at first sight.
Nicole reports that Buddy is their constant companion. He loves to snuggle and play outside, and he bonded quickly with their resident dog, Cinnamon.
We could not be more pleased to share this happy ending to Buddy’s story. The ASPCA has designated April 8 as National Dog Fighting Awareness Day (NDFAD) to shed light on stories like Buddy’s and to encourage animal lovers across the country to take action against this brutal form of cruelty. Get involved by joining our NDFAD Google Hangout on April 8.
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The ASPCA is currently on the ground assisting the Milwaukee Police Department and the District Attorney of Milwaukee County with a multi-site dog fighting raid in the City of Milwaukee. Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission is transporting, sheltering and caring for the dogs.
Today, eight search warrants were executed at eight crime scenes, where 23 suspected fighting dogs were seized. Investigators also discovered blood on basement walls as well as other evidence of dog fighting, including treadmills, wound treatment supplies and muscle building supplements.
Experts from the ASPCA Field Investigations & Response (FIR) team are on hand to assist with evidence collection and documentation. The ASPCA has been assisting local authorities with this dog fighting investigation for nearly a year.
Dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The ASPCA is committed to eradicating the blood sport. We have designated April 8 as the first National Dog Fighting Awareness Day to advance the conversation about dog fighting, and to encourage animal lovers across the country to take action against this brutal form of cruelty.
ASPCA President & CEO Matthew Bershadker responds in a NY Post op-edto the Jets’ signing of Michael Vick.
On Friday, the New York Jets signed Michael Vick to a one-year contract worth $5 million. His return on that investment is unknown, and frankly I don’t care.
Vick is free to do as he pleases both on the football field and off. But one thing he can’t do is absolve himself of his direct participation in horrific and fatal animal torture and abuse. And whether he takes our home team to the Super Bowl or spends the season riding the pine, we’re not obligated to forgive, and it’s essential we don’t forget.
History bears repeating: The Michael Vick investigation began in April 2007 with a search of Bad Newz Kennels, located on Vick’s Virginia property. We at the ASPCA were involved early on, assisting in the recovery and analysis of forensic evidence from Vick’s property, including carcasses and skeletal remains of numerous dogs.
The ASPCA also led a team of certified applied animal behaviorists in behavior evaluations of the rescued dogs, making recommendations to the USDA and US Attorney's Office regarding the dispositions of the dogs.
It became clear over the course of the investigation that this was not a crime of passion or a case of obliviousness. Michael Vick was fully involved in a six-year pattern of illegal activity that included dogs being savagely electrocuted, drowned, and beaten to death.
We fully acknowledge Vick has "done his time" and even participated in some public outreach, but that does not erase the crime.
The ASPCA has been closely following the progress of the federal Farm Bill for months. This mammoth bill contains many complex rules and provisions on a wide array of issues, most of which you haven’t heard anything about unless you’re a politician or a farmer. Now that it’s passed, one provision in particular deserves your attention because it will make a big difference in the fight to end animal cruelty.
Thanks in part to the work of the ASPCA and advocates from around the country, the Farm Bill includes a measure to strengthen federal animal fighting laws by making attending an animal fight a federal offense. It also imposes additional penalties for bringing a child to an animal fight.
These changes send a clear message: animal fighting is so vile, so unconscionable, that accountability shouldn’t end with those participating directly. Anyone attending an animal fight is a participant, and any participation is wrong—especially when you bring along impressionable children or facilitate the events through illegal wagers and admission fees. No child should witness animals being forced to maul each other beyond recognition; or be exposed to grownups torturing animals mercilessly, gleefully, profiting from their pain. It’s not just a traumatic experience for them; it breeds desensitization to violence, abuse, and atrocity. That paints a pretty bleak future.
And if you think animal fighting is a rare event restricted to small communities, think again. You need only go back to last year’s major dog-fighting raids, one in March involving nearly 100 dogs in Missouri, Kansas and Texas, and another in August involving 367 dogs in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Texas. We were proud to play a leading role in each, but we also know that for every fight we disrupt, many more go on undisturbed.
While we celebrate this law as a victory for animals, we also express relief for what it didn’t include: namely, a dangerous amendment introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) that would have decimated state animal cruelty laws across the country by preventing states from passing and enforcing their own laws regarding the production of “agricultural products.” Such products could include farm animals, dogs in puppy mills, and even locally grown fruits and vegetables. Grabbing that power from the states would set a dangerous precedent and leave animals unprotected.
History shows us time and time again that where there’s money to be made, defenseless animals often pay the highest price. Thanks to our collective efforts, Congress took a stand for them, and for children. It may not be the part of the Farm Bill getting the most attention, but it’s the part best protecting the most vulnerable among us.