Originally created 01/24/04

Dogfights a bloody blight



Last month, a cockfighting raid resulted in 123 arrests in Aiken. And this week, the even more heinous blood sport of dogfighting was raided in Covington, Ga., netting 123 arrests. The two-state crackdowns on these ugly spectacles should be welcomed by all civilized Americans. The events are a blight on decent society.

The dogfight site in a rural makeshift arena, according to the Newton County Sheriff's Department, was sickeningly gory. One dog lay dead, another was near death - later euthanized - and blood splattered the walls and soaked the carpet. The group, mostly gamblers, had gathered to watch the dogs fight for a $50,000 winner-take-all purse.

The scene was a grim reminder that the so-called sport of dogfighting - which, in fact, is no sport at all - is really all about big money and mammoth cruelty.

Remember that cruelty to these animals doesn't begin with the fight-to-the-death event; that's when it ends. The training and conditioning of the dogs in preparation for the fights are also rife with cruelty.

Among the training methods are chaining the canines, often pit bulls or Rottweilers, to fences with weights attached and food placed just out of their reach to make them pull and yank to build up their strength and aggressiveness. Another conditioning method: locking the dogs up in dark, confined spaces to make them fierce and mean.

This kind of treatment of animals, especially ones that are supposed to be bred to be pets, is beyond the pale. Persons who engage in it are not to be trusted around humans either. Would you want an insensitive, mean-spirited "dog trainer" looking after your children or grandchildren?

The proper place for such people is in prison, and that's why we hope Newton County throws the book at the dog owners - that would be up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine on each conviction of felony dog fighting. Additional charges of gambling and animal cruelty could boost the penalties even higher.

It would be heartening to report that the crackdown on blood sports was turning back the tide, but sadly that's not the case. Often the punishments meted out are the minimum - not nearly severe enough to deter what is a billion-dollar industry.

According to law-enforcement officials, gambling and brutality make dogfighting and cockfighting popular sideshows in the world of drug culture. Hence, they continue to grow despite more raids and crackdowns.

This has prompted the Humane Society of the United States to push Congress to stiffen federal animal fighting penalties as a tool to encourage U.S. attorneys as well as local and state police to step up law enforcement against an abominable spectacle that demeans the human family.

Urge your federal legislators to support House Resolution 1532 and Senate Bill 736.