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April 25, 2011

Chorus of Outrage over Dogfighting Smartphone Application

Michael Vick was immersed in dogfighting for two decades, until his federal arrest and then conviction in 2007. Now, since his prison term ended, he’s volunteered with HSUS to speak to youth in urban communities throughout the country about the evils of dogfighting, in order to warn young men and kids away from the barbaric enterprise. Today, he’s joined our call to request that Android Market end its promotion of a new dogfighting application.

“I’ve come to learn the hard way that dogfighting is a dead-end street,” Vick said in a statement released by The HSUS today. “Now, I am on the right side of this issue, and I think it’s important to send the smart message to kids, and not glorify this form of animal cruelty, even in an Android app.”

A scarred pit bull rescued from fighting
Michelle Riley/The HSUS
The HSUS runs outreach programs and works
with law enforcement to tackle dogfighting.

The Internet is rife with outrage over a mobile app called "Dog Wars," which simulates the experience of raising dogs to fight and setting them against one another. It’s a stupid concept, really, and it’s puzzling at some level that anyone smart enough to develop an app in the first place would imagine that he or she could promote this one without provoking widespread anger. Perhaps they want to provoke, as a means of cashing in. 

This game gives detailed instructions concerning the selection of dogs, food, a feeding schedule, and items to properly condition dogs for fighting. These are virtually identical to the conditioning methods our anti-dogfighting team typically finds when working with law enforcement to raid these criminal operations.

During the last several decades, The HSUS has spearheaded the national effort to criminalize animal fighting and to see that laws against this barbaric practice are enforced. We have upgraded nearly all of the laws against animal fighting at the state and federal levels, worked with law enforcement on hundreds of criminal cases, trained thousands of law enforcement officials on investigating such crimes, and developed tip lines and rewards programs to deter and to arrest people involved in dogfighting.

Like a lot of cruelties, however, dogfighting seems at times ineradicable, with lawless people staging fights between dogs for money and the thrill of the bloodletting. That’s why, even with the general soundness of the laws, we must continue to press the battle and to work to root out animal fighting wherever we see it.

We also must work to make dogfighting as unappealing as possible to the people at risk of getting involved in the activity, challenging those who celebrate it and making it socially radioactive, since at base it is a despicable and degrading spectacle.

We must exhibit a zero-tolerance policy for this branding of dogfighting as a socially acceptable enterprise, a sort of cyber training ground for the activity. To that end, HSUS will raise these same concerns with Google, the owner of Android Market, and other stakeholders that may not have realized that some small person has developed and is distributing this Dog Wars app.

The developer of Dog Wars is hyping the game as something you’ll never see in the iPhone app store. That’s probably true, and there’s a reason for it. Cruelty is never “just a game,” and there’s no case to be made for an app that promotes one of the most widely criminalized forms of mistreatment of animals.

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