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Cruel isn't Cool: Illegal dogfighting is still around

Posted Sunday, July 22, 2007, at 9:16 PM

With the recent incident of NFL star Michael Vick's indictment by a grand jury for sponsoring a dogfight operation, the brutal sport is back in the news. I watched in horror as a homemade video was shown on CBS last week, taken by a PROUD dog owner, who was getting his dog ready for one of these illegal fights. He had his wife film him grooming the dog like a prize fighter, while his young son looked on.

Then we got to watch two Pit Bulls locked in a death grip, while a crowd of viewers cheered them on.

After that cheery video, we learned the fate of the losers at Vick's "Bad Newz Kennels." Some were hung by their necks to die, one was slammed to the concrete, and one was wet down with water and electrocuted. This was the fate of the dogs which their owners so "treasured," until they lost too many fights.

The 27-year-old Vick, of course, denied the charges and said that he knew nothing of the operation, which had been going on since 2001. He and three other defendents - Purnell A. Peace, Quanis L. Phillips, and Tony Taylor - could spend 6 years in prison and face $350,00 in fines and restitution.

Judging from the money involved in these fights, $350,000 would hardly be a slap on the hand, but six years (if they get it), probably wouldn't be much fun.

Police conviscated somewhere around 57 Pit Bulls, many of whom were chained to car axels, just barely out of reach of one another - a method used to work the animals up to a fever pitch and make them more vicious and eager to fight, once they're let loose on each other. They often aren't fed for a period of time before a fight, so they'll be more "hungry" for their opponent.

I recently did a story for the North Stoddard Countian about a stray Pit Bull picked up in Marble Hill and housed at the city pound. I called around to several nearby cities to check on anti-Pit Bull ordinances and found that even Marble Hill had an ordinance prohibiting the breed. Advance also has such an ordinance, and Dexter just passed one this last week, I understand. Neither Cape nor Jackson prohibit Pit Bulls, but they do require a license and adequate restraint of the dog.

My daughter, who works with a national animal rights group, says that her organization supports the pit bull bans, because it will reduce the demand for the dog. Their objection to Pit Bulls is that so many people are not responsible enough to keep the dogs securely. Chaining is a very bad idea for any dog, since a chained dog is three times more likely to attack than an unchained dog. A 5-year old Georgia child with Down's Syndrome was recently killed by a chained Rottweiler who lived three houses from her own home.

The Marble Hill Pit Bull was, by all accounts, a gentle dog - and I have heard that it is the owners who make the dogs vicious. I've known Pit Bull owners who defend their dogs as being very sweet-natured. Fortunately for the dog at Marble Hill, she was adopted by a law enforcement officer, who understood the problems involved.

Meanwhile, the debate over Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and other "vicious" dogs rages on.

Who is the vicious one? Is it the dog? Or is it the owner?

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

I agree with the Illinois new law. Felons can't have certain types of dogs in their care or under their ownership. This would eliminate a large percentage of owners who are in the "bad owner" group in our state from legally owning them.

If you are a responsible pet owner of a banned breed, the act of banning your buddy is as cruel as taking a family member. Pit bulls are known as sensitive dogs, in tune with their owners. Bad owners, bad dogs. Confident and kind owners who are not push overs usually makes for a well-mannered and adjusted terrier or working dog.

In every breed, there are going to be dogs with temperaments unfit for the majority of pet owners. Some dogs are too dangerous for anyone to own. That does not include the Pit Bull Terrier as a group, but that does mean there are a few individual pit bull terriers, like there are Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and Benji types out there that are born bad dogs. They are rare.

-- Posted by rescuedogsandcats on Sun, Jul 22, 2007, at 9:50 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
The Illinois law sounds like a good compromise to the banning of a specific breed, though I'm not sure how it would have affected Michael Victor. I have no idea if he had a record before this incident. I'm not familiar with NFL rules, but I wouldn't think they would accept felons.

I think I read that owners of the banned breeds came to the public hearing in Dexter to protest a ban, but I also read that none of them showed up at the meeting where the aldermen actually enacted the ordinance. What's that all about? Did they figure it was just a lost cause?

I say take the four (namely Vick, Peace, Philips and Taylor) and chain THEM to a few car axels, one not quite within reach of the other, let them go without feed for a few days and then turn 'em lose on each other till there's only one left standing. The one left standing can serve the time. Hopefully, the other three will not have that option.

-- Posted by bringwine on Sun, Jul 22, 2007, at 10:16 PM

It is the owner!

I would think that putting the "accused", once they are convicted, into the pit that is used to fight the dogs and just let the DOGS have their day of justice.

-- Posted by D.W.B. on Mon, Jul 23, 2007, at 8:33 AM

Ban the breed, and they will just pick a new one to use.

History has shown that these type of people move from one breed to another. First it was German Shepherds, then Dobermans, than Rottwielers and now the Pit Bull. Go ahead, ban the breed, you won't stop the people.

What some may not know is that there are breeds out there much more dangerous than the Pit Bull when placed in the wrong hands. Dogs that are larger, stronger and have infinately worse temperaments when put in the wrong situation.

So, by banning the breed, you will just put people and children in more danger. It isn't the dog (and no, I am not a big fan of Pit Bulls, I believe that in most cases they are unstable at best and have proven that they will turn on a loving owner at any time) that is the problem. If you don't stop the stupid owners, the problem will only escalate.

My mother owns a Pit Bull and right now she is one of the sweetest dogs I have ever met. But that came through dedication of time and never letting her play an aggressive games such as "tug of war" and the like. I do still watch her like a hawk, though, looking for signs of aggression.

But it really isn't the breed that is the problem. It's all the drug dealers and felons who train and use them as weapons that are the problem. Kudos to Illinois, that sounds like one of the best solutions I have ever heard!!

-- Posted by Sacha C. on Mon, Jul 23, 2007, at 9:04 AM

This is another one of those "protect stupid people laws." Like it was said above, if it is not this breed it will be another one. Its kind of like saying, the pencil misspelled the word, not the writer. Of course it is the owners.

-- Posted by mobrigade on Mon, Jul 23, 2007, at 10:55 AM

Yes, its the owners. I can't imagine what punishment must be imposed to fit this crime. Regardless of the breed involved. Whatever is on the books now isn't enough. There are a bunch of sick people in the world if they find this "sport" amusing.

The biggest problem with pit bulls is that they have been selectively bred for their aggressive tendencies. Can you imagine what a problem it would be if people started breeding St. Bernards to be as agressive? It can happen with any breed over time. Sad, but true.

I could go for a law that says if you're convicted of animal abuse or animal cruelty you can't ever be found with an animal again. If you are the penalty doubles, and on and on. Heck, we don't let convicted felons own guns.

-- Posted by Ducky on Mon, Jul 23, 2007, at 8:48 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Good responses here from several of you. Sasha, you were talking about even more dangerous dogs than Pit Bulls or the other more recognizable breeds - German Shepherds, Rotties, Dobermans.... My sister and I were talking about that Canary Island breed that mauled a woman in the hall of her apartment --- with the dogs' caretakers right there ( a lawyer couple). Seems to me that they tried to blame the attack on the victim's perfume.

Do you remember that? I can't remember what state it happened in...

I suspect that the only reason Vick and his associates are being prosecuted is because of their extreme mistreatment of so many dogs. Dog fighting has a rich history. Heck, dog fighting was even conducted during the Alaska gold rush. Jack London even wrote about it in Call of the Wild, that was based on his experiences in the Klondike.

There are many violent "sports" involving humans, who can give their consent to being kicked, shoved, and beaten. So if dogs could somehow give their consent to fighting other dogs, would it be any different than the way people are exploited by fight promoters and gamblers?

-- Posted by FJGuy on Tue, Jul 24, 2007, at 1:12 AM

The lady you were referring to happened in California by dogs that were trained for fighting. Her neighbors were dog setting for a friend. That is the best that I can remember of it. I use to own a Rottie. She was the best dog I owned. She was very protective of my son and a very lovable, loyal dog. I use to own a yorky terrior also, she was more vicious than the Rottie, she would get peoples' ankles. The Rottie would keep in their vehicle, just by the looks of her. Some breeds of dogs have a more aggressive temperment than others, but it is the job of the owner to bring that behavior out. Any dog or animal is going to be mad and aggressive if trained to be that way not letting it eat.

Another issue is what goes on at these fights; drug sales and use among others. The dogs do not deserve this. It is not like greyhound racing where the dogs can be adopted out when they get old and start losing, these dogs cannot be made as pets.

-- Posted by aztecmomma on Tue, Jul 24, 2007, at 6:20 AM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Excellent point about the adoption possibilities of the dogs. Just who would want to "adopt" a killer?? In fact, I was curious about the Canary Island dogs, so I googled "Canary Island dog attacks," and got the whole story, which I remember reading in 2001. A soccor coach was killed in the hallway of her apartment by a Canary Island/mastiff cross named "Bane", who belonged to a Pelican Island Peneteniary inmate - who himself had been "adopted" by a pair of kooky lawyers. It was the lady lawyer who was walking the two dogs, a male and a female, when the victim came out of the elevator of the upscale apartment to go to her apartment. The dogs attacked her and Bane ripped out her throat!

(This type of reading is not a good way to begin my morning...)

I haven't yet been able to find out what happened to the lawyer couple, but I have read that it's the crossing of the Canary Island breed with the mastiff which created a "dangerous" breed of dog, simply because of its size and temperament....


It wasn't a Canary Island breed mixed with a mastiff. The dog breed is referred to as the Presa Canario and is considered a type of mastiff -- another way of saying a giant breed.

There are several types of mastiff breeds -- Bullmastiff, English Mastiff, French Mastiff, Tibetan Mastiff, I could go on and on. As a person who owns two English Mastiffs, I don't want people to believe that my two large, lovable lugs would be capable of killing someone. They are guard dogs, true, but they aren't capable of killing.

The Presa Canario was bred in the Canary Islands, with a beginning of being property and flock protectors. However, the breed was also used for dog fighting, a tradition of the English settlers. Canary Islanders consider these fights "honor fights" and not the sole purpose of the animal. Presa type dogs were referred to as the "perro de la tierra" or "dog of the land."

The breed became nearly extinct after dog fighting was outlawed in the 1940s, but the breed was revived in the 1970s with the help of several crosses by various breeders. This period is generally known as the reconstruction of the breed, with atypical specimens becoming less common.

While a Mastiff was mixed in a very long time ago, this breed shows no characteristics of the typical English Mastiff.

Some other dogs that are being used in the same way that are much larger than a Pit Bull include the Fila Brasileiro and the Cane Corso, both of which are considered a Mastiff breed because of their "giant size."

I believe that the lawyers were eventually charged in the woman's death and each earned a jail sentence.

-- Posted by Sacha C. on Tue, Jul 24, 2007, at 10:01 AM

Sacha you have such good information and present it so well. Thanks.

I remember the story, but not the end of the story. I seem to remember that the lawyer couple's client/adopted son was a drug dealer - thus the desire for a big, mean dog.

-- Posted by Ducky on Tue, Jul 24, 2007, at 1:12 PM

Thanks Ducky! Luckily, dogs happen to be my specialty, so I can at least sound a little smarter than what I believe I actually am!!!

-- Posted by Sacha C. on Tue, Jul 24, 2007, at 3:08 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Thanks for clearing that distinction up, Sasha! I guess there's a lot of inaccurate information out there on the internet. I'm sure I read that the breeds were crossed.

Are your mastiffs anything like the Japanese mastiffs that our local animal welfare volunteer, Marilyn Neville (Ace of Animal Behavior), has? She calls them "tosas." They are enormous and so sweet and gentle!

As for the dogs that I read about this morning, I'm not sure I'll sleep well tonight with those images in my head!!

No. Marilyn's dogs are called Tosa Inus. They are a Japanese dog and not as large as the two English mastiffs I have. The English Mastiff is the world's heaviest dog, while the Irish Wolfhound holds the title of world's tallest dog.

Of course, there are exceptions in other giant breeds like the Neopolitan Mastiff, where some of them may actually outweigh an English Mastiff. The male English Mastiff should be a miminum of 30 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 165 and 200 pounds (if not more). Females should only be slightly smaller, weighing in at at least 150 pounds (although that is a little small for most Mastiffs, even females).

While it is still a guard dog, the English Mastiff is basically a big goober. They love to lay around with their family and have fun. They also love to drool and then sling said drool all around the room they happen to be sitting in. My two boys are a constant source of laughter for our whole family and we love them very much!!

-- Posted by Sacha C. on Wed, Jul 25, 2007, at 9:06 AM

Sasha, you are a veritable encyclopedia of useful information about the dog world!!

Thanks so much for your input here! I realize that I know nothing whatever about the canine species!! (Of course, if they don't herd goats...I usually don't keep them around....)

-- Posted by goat lady on Wed, Jul 25, 2007, at 9:24 PM

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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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