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July 26, 2007

Dogfighting Shifts from the Shadows to Spotlight

Since last week’s indictment of Michael Vick, major news outlets across the country and the world—from NPR to CNN, from The Independent to USA Today—have headlined the ugly world of dogfighting, exposing the ghastly cruelty of this underworld.

One of the most riveting of these exposés was The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s “Dogfighting: A shadow world of bloodlust.” This article provides an insider’s account from Eric Sakach, who heads our West Coast Regional office of The Humane Society of the United States but before that time spent 19 years as an investigator for us.

With a special skill for infiltrating animal fighting rings, Eric helped to secure the arrests of more than 500 individuals involved in illegal animal fights.

The Journal-Constitution piece spans every grisly element of a dog fight, from the sights to the sounds to the smells:

Quickly, the referee says, "Release your dogs!" Or, "Let go!" And almost instantly the dogs are going to collide somewhere in the pit. It's a frenzied blur of biting, each dog attempting to gain an advantage over the other. It's like a wrestling match with teeth.

A lot of dogs are known by their style of biting. There are nose dogs (they go for the nose), leg dogs ... Their handlers are encouraging the dog by clapping or whistling. They'll yell, "C'mon, boy, get you some." That kind of stuff. They're not allowed to touch the dogs.

Some people are totally rabid, in a betting frenzy, calling out bets like, "100 on the red nose!" If someone acknowledges your call, you have a bet. There's people that lean over the side of the pit, seemingly trying to get the closest view of every bite.

I encourage you to read the entire piece.

As Eric notes, fights can happen “pretty much whenever and wherever people are willing to assemble.” Dogfighting is a highly organized underground movement, and thrives across the country in both urban and rural areas.

The HSUS has been focused on stamping out this spectacle for decades and will continue to lead the charge. But we can’t do it without you, and that’s why we’ve targeted ten ways you can take action to end dogfighting.

Perhaps most important, we’ve outlined telltale signs of dogfighting that you can watch for in your community. These include an inordinate number of dogs (there were 66 dogs on Vick’s former property in Virginia), usually pit bulls, being kept in one location, who are chained and seem unsocialized; and dogs with scars on their faces, front legs, and hind end. Read more signs to watch for here.

If you suspect dogfighting in your neighborhood, alert local law enforcement. The HSUS offers tools, advice and assistance for local officials, and has a standing $2,500 reward for information leading to a conviction of individuals involved in illegal dogfighting.

As dogfighting moves from the shadows to the spotlight, I hope you’ll stand with us to eliminate this despicable, criminal activity. Consider, if you would, a donation to our campaign to end animal fighting. If you detect animal fighting in your community, report it. And please, help spread the word—ask your local radio station to air our new dogfighting PSA, available in both English and Spanish.

We have public opinion on our side, and now we just need to execute a plan to rid the nation of this barbarism.

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