March 14, 2013
Former MAS director and current Bernalillo Co Animal Services director Matt Pepper recently explained to a local TV news reporter why he killed 13 Pitbulls seized from an area residence:
“If you look at the conditions in which they were kept, and you look at their behavior you can understand why, why they had the significant aggression that they had,” said Matt Pepper with Bernalillo County Animal Services.
The contention here appears to be that the 13 Pitbulls had to be taken from the owner because they were being kept in terrible conditions and then they had to be killed because they had become aggressive as a result of the conditions. Oh and they were allegedly being used for dogfighting.
The owner’s landlord and neighbor says the owner is from Cuba, where he worked as a veterinarian. He says the former vet took care of his dog once after he had gotten into a fight. And he would put his life on the fact that the owner was not fighting dogs.
But hey, we can’t know anything for certain based on one man’s opinion. So let’s look at the evidence:
Veterinary medical supplies and something else point to a dog fighting ring.
“Maybe a foot long to 18 inch piece of wood that they use if the dogs are fighting to open up the jaws,” said Pepper.
M’kaaaay. So the former vet had veterinary medical supplies. And pieces of wood.
All responsible Pitbull owners should keep breaksticks at hand in case of emergency. But not every “piece of wood” lying around someone’s property is a breakstick. And the presence of breaksticks do not necessarily indicate criminal dogfighting.
The fact that the dogs were killed without the benefit of an evaluation and opportunity for behavior modification training (if warranted) by qualified individuals means there is no evidence remaining to support or refute the allegations of dogfighting. So we can not look to the 13 dogs for evidence since they were never given a chance.
But there was another dog seized from the owner – a 14 year old Doberman. That dog is still alive. I don’t know any specifics on the health of that dog but anyone who can keep a Doberman alive to the age of 14 is probably doing something right.
I can’t help but wonder if this was a case where the dogs could have been sheltered in place while authorities worked with the owner to improve conditions at the residence. However poor the living conditions may have been there, the dogs were alive, which is more than can be said now.
A judge has until tomorrow to indict the owner on animal cruelty charges. The investigation is ongoing. Tragically, there will be no investigation or cruelty charges against those responsible for killing the 13 dogs. Because they’re the good guys. Right?
(Thank you Clarice for the link.)
August 1, 2012
One of our many Congressional nutters here in the U.S. is Rep. Steve King (R-IA). During a recent tele-town hall, he made a comment about dogfighting that naturally got picked up by various media outlets. This is what he said:
When the legislation that passed in the farm bill that says that it’s a federal crime to watch animals fight or to induce someone else to watch an animal fight but it’s not a federal crime to induce somebody to watch people fighting, there’s something wrong with the priorities of people that think like that.
In fairness, I don’t think he intended to indicate support of legalized dogfighting, as some have interpreted the remark. Rather, I chalked it up to yet another asinine comment from a moronic hater. I didn’t intend to blog about it DOT DOT DOT
But then he came out with this “clarification” of the animal fighting remarks and I just sort of didn’t feel like giving him a pass anymore:
By the way, in case any kiddie rapists are paying attention, what Rep. King says is “not against the law in the United States of America” is in fact totally and completely against the law in the United States of America. I would not recommend anyone use the Steve King Defense at trial.
May 3, 2012
On Tuesday, the Genesee Co Sheriff’s Department and Genesee Co ACOs seized 28 Pitbulls from two homes in Flint, MI. Both homes were apparently owned by the same person and authorities allege the properties were being used to breed and train dogs for fighting:
[Genesee County Animal Control Director Walt] Rodabaugh said the dogs were transported back to the animal shelter where they will be inspected by a veterinarian.
See more photos here.
On Thursday, it was reported that every single one of the 28 seized dogs had been killed due to “viciousness”. Was this the result of the inspections by the vet or did someone else deem these 28 dogs dangers to society with no hope of rehabilitation? Whatever the case, one day is not enough time to properly evaluate the dogs. One day is not enough time for the dogs to recover from the traumatic experience of the seizure, never mind whatever they might have endured previously. One day is not enough time to exhaust all reasonable options for rehabilitation/training. The only thing one day is enough time for is killing.
Killing is not rescue. These dogs were better off with the alleged dogfighter. At least then there was a hope that they could be rescued by someone willing to help them transition to normal lives as pets or failing that, get them to sanctuary. Now there is no hope.
See more photos here.
April 24, 2012
Celebrity singer Chris Brown is a violent convicted felon. Domestic violence often stems from a male preying upon a female he perceives as unable to defend herself against his brutality. It’s not surprising that there is a well established link between domestic violence and animal abuse – in both cases the victims are chosen for their vulnerability.
Chris Brown is currently on probation for beating up a former (?) girlfriend. If I was his probation officer, I’d be checking out his latest online venture: selling Pitbull puppies who come with a “four generation performance pedigree”. For those unfamiliar with dog pedigrees, they trace the puppy’s family tree and, in the case of dogs bred for a specific purpose, the ancestors’ accomplishments are listed next to their names. For example, a puppy bred for dog shows will include designations in the pedigree such as BIS (Best in Show) and CH (Champion) next to the names of ancestors who have achieved these performance titles. Likewise, animal abusers who force dogs to fight in organized illegal dogfighting rings include dogs’ win records in the pedigrees of puppies being sold for dogfighting. Since dogfighting is a crime in every state in the country, the pedigrees containing the dogs’ fight records are often advertised as “performance pedigrees”.
I have no idea what sort of “performance” records the dogs in Chris Brown’s puppy pedigrees have. Maybe they are all AKC obedience title winners or top weight pull competitors or some combination of other ‘performance’ events. I’m not saying that, based on this online puppy selling, Chris Brown appears to be a dogfighter or has any connections to the world of dogfighting. What I’m saying is that I hope his probation officer is exercising due diligence and looking into the matter.
December 17, 2011
On September 26, 2011, sheriff’s deputies in Adams Co, MS responded to a tip about dogfighting. At the scene, they found 5 chained Pitbulls with injuries, blood on the leaves on the ground, a bloody breakstick and medications for treating dog wounds. Photographs of the injuries and of the scene were taken for evidence. The dogs were removed from the scene by members of the county humane society to a local vet clinic. One of the dogs had his face partially ripped off and another dog’s tooth embedded in his gum. The embedded tooth caused a systemic infection which lead to organ failure and the dog was euthanized. (Warning: There is a photo of this dog’s face at the link.) The remaining dogs were left at the clinic for treatment and boarding to the tune of a $3000 vet bill.
Shortly thereafter, two area men were arrested and charged with felony dogfighting. One of the men reportedly admitted he was the owner of the dogs.
A preliminary hearing was held for the men yesterday. The county prosecutor subpoenaed two sheriff’s deputies to testify as to what they saw at the scene of the suspected dogfight. Nobody told the sheriff about the hearing. Nobody told the humane society staffers about the hearing either so they did not testify as to what they witnessed nor were they able to present the veterinary records on the dogs. One of the deputies said he thought he had told the prosecutor there were evidence photos in the case file but the prosecutor said he didn’t know about any photos so none were presented to the judge. The man who had previously confessed to owning the dogs apparently changed his wording at the hearing to characterizing them as hunting dogs.
In the absence of physical evidence, the judge dismissed the case. She ruled that there was no probable cause that dogfighting had occurred at the scene or that the suspects had committed the crime. She also said that the deputy’s description of the dogs’ injuries was just his layman’s opinion.
It sounds to me as if the prosecutor invested minimal, if any, effort in this case. By failing to contact all the relevant witnesses, secure expert veterinary testimony, and inquire to the sheriff about all available evidence obtained at the scene, the prosecutor had this case stumbling at the starting gate. I hope he gets his act together and seeks justice for the victims of this sad crime. There is a glimmer of hope:
The case can still be presented to the grand jury for review, and District Attorney Ronnie Harper said he met with the sheriff and is reviewing any action, if any, he can take in the case.
I’d like to think the DA has taken the county prosecutor to the woodshed on this and that we’ll see the case move forward with a grand jury presentment soon.
December 6, 2011
If a shelter does not list every pet in its care online and make every pet available for the public to see, owners of lost pets may not be able to reclaim their pets. If a pound has a policy that dogs confiscated in dogfighting busts are not available to the public but instead held as evidence until legally released and then killed, owners of lost dogs may not be able to reclaim their dogs. One very good reason for shelters to list every pet online – including fight bust dogs – and make them available for the public to see is that it allows owners of lost dogs to find them.
Case in point: A family in NC had their Pitbull stolen from their yard in October. They searched for their dog, Morgan, but could not find her. About a month later, local police arrested 2 people on felony dogfighting charges and seized 5 Pitbulls. When the local paper reported on the story, it was front page news and the paper included a photo of one of the seized dogs at the Cleveland Co shelter. That dog was Morgan. The owners saw her face and ran down to the shelter to reclaim her.
I called the Cleveland Co shelter to ask if they post ALL their pets – including fight bust dogs – online and was told they do not. They do have a page that lists recent impounds but there are no photos. I asked specifically if the owners had not seen Morgan’s picture in the paper, would they have had any way of finding her. I was told no, the owners would never have been able to find the dog had her picture not appeared in the paper.
I looked at the shelter’s 2010-2011 annual report and for dogs and cats, the Cleveland Co shelter’s kill rate was 88%. Nearly as tragic, their return to owner rate was only 4%. The pound has no weekend hours and, depending on the weekday, is only open either 12 – 4pm or 2 to 4pm. Clearly the practices Cleveland Co has in place are not working to save pets’ lives. The lady who answered the phone there did mention they were hoping to list all their pets online in the future and I voiced support for the idea.
In this case, the newspaper photo was key for the owner finding the lost dog. Obviously most owners are not going to be lucky enough to have their lost pet’s face show up on the front page of the local paper. What about your local shelter – do they list ALL their pets online, include dogs being held as evidence in court cases? I am waiting for a response from my local municipal shelter regarding this question and will share what I find out.
April 25, 2011
You may have heard about a new app for the Android market called “Dog Wars”. Basically, you can play dogfighter on your phone. Yay. There has been a huge outcry from pet advocates, condemning the app and asking Android (owned by Google) to block it.
Android tells advocates to quit bitching because “it’s just a video game”. I bet Android is happy that HSUS and Michael Vick have been mum on the controversy thus far.
If you are opposed to the promotion of dogfighting as a game, sign this petition. It’s already got about 7700 signatures. I haven’t scrolled through to see if Michael Vick or Wayne Pacelle are among them. I imagine they are still working the “How can we fundraise off this?” angle and haven’t had a chance yet to publicly comment.
December 15, 2010
September 12, 2010
Update, 9-18-10: The winner of the book is Preston. Thank you to everyone who entered.
You may well remember the December 2008 cover article of Sports Illustrated that featured the Vick dogs and was written by Jim Gorant. The publisher of a new book by Mr. Gorant called The Lost Dogs – Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption is offering a free copy of the book to a reader. If you’d like to enter your name for the drawing, simply leave a comment on this post between now and Friday, September 17 at 11:59 p.m. I will draw one name at random and post the winner as an update to this post next weekend. Winner will also be notified privately and will need to e-mail me a mailing address so I can send that to the publisher.
Below is Chapter 1 of the book, used with permission of the publisher:
A BROWN DOG SITS in a field. There’s a collar around her neck. It’s three inches thick and attached to a heavy chain, which clips onto a car axle that’s buried so one end sticks out of the ground. As the dog paces in the heat, the axle spins, ensuring that the rattling chain won’t become entangled.
The dog paces a lot, wearing a circle in the scrubby weeds and sandy soil around the perimeter of the axle. She paces because there’s little else to do. Sometimes a squirrel or a rabbit or a snake crosses nearby and she barks and chases it, or she lunges and leaps after the dragonflies and butterfliesthat zip and flutter past.
She flicks her tail at mosquitoes and buries her muzzle in her fur, chewing at the itchy crawly things that land on her. If she’s lucky she digs up a rock that she can bat around and chew on, but otherwise there are just the weeds and the bugs and the hot sun inching across the sky.
She is not alone. Other dogs are spread around this clearing in the trees. They can see one another, hear one another bark and whine and growl, but they can’t get to one another. They can’t run, they can’t play, they can’t anything. They can get close to their immediate neighbors, stand almost face-to-face, but they can never touch, a planned positioning meant to frustrate and enrage them. For some it does; for many it simply makes them sad.
Out in the field are mothers, fathers, off spring, littermates. The families are easy to spot. There’s a group of sand-colored dogs, some with pink noses, some with black snouts. There is a group of red dogs, some small black dogs, a few white ones, a few black-and-whites. A handful of other colors and shapes are mixed in.
All are pit bulls and many have that classic pit bull look, stocky and low to the ground, front shoulders higher than haunches and a wide muscular chest that dwarfs narrow hips, so that they look as if they’re waiting for their backsides to grow into their fronts. Their necks are thick and hold up rectangular heads. Some are bigger, as big as seventy pounds,while another group is more compact, reaching maybe twenty-five pounds. These smaller ones are actually Staff ordshire bull terriers, a close relative of the American pit bull terrier.
The brown dog has a soft face, with searching eyes and an expressive brow that furls into deep ridges and undulating rolls when she’s scared or nervous or trying to figure out whether she needs to be either. Her uncropped ears rise from the top of her head until they fold over, but one of them folds differently from the other, so that it hangs lower, making her look as if she’s eternally asking a question.
To help fight the heat, there’s water spread about in large tubs, sometimes a little dirty but drinkable. Once a day a man comes to put food in the bowls. At least it’s usually once a day. Sometimes two or three days go by before the sound of his all-terrain vehicle breaks the monotony. As he gets off the vehicle and makes his way across the clearing, all the dogs run to the end of their chains, barking and wagging their tails as if they’re excited to see him. But when the man actually gets close to them, they tuck their tails and skulk away. Only after he has moved on do they creep back over to their bowls and eat.
They can’t see anything beyond the perimeter of the clearing, but they are not alone. Another clearing lies through the trees where another fifteen or so dogs live on chains, and beyond that, at the edge of the woods, is a small compound with kennels, freestanding pens, and four sheds. The buildings are small and painted pitch black, including the windows. One is two stories tall, and the men who own these sheds, who live and work here, they call that one “the black hole.”
A breeze stirs the trees—scrub pines and sugar maples, a few pin oaks. The lilt of songbirds mixes with the whine of cicadas and the low, singular whoooo, whoooo of a mourning dove. The summer heat draws moisture off the Atlantic, thirty miles beyond, adding the weight of humidity to the air.
Within the perimeter of each axle there’s a doghouse. Rough-hewn plywood structures, they provide something else for the dogs to chew on and claw at to while away the hours. They also offer a break from the sun but not much relief from the heat—just as in winter they stop the wind but don’t do much to protect against temperatures that can drop into the thirties.
Curled up in their little houses the dogs look and listen and sniff the air. They are incredibly intuitive creatures. They learn by watching—trainers sometimes let young dogs watch experienced dogs in action so they see how to behave. They can detect odors 100 million times more faint than people can. They can hear sounds at a broader range of frequencies than humans, and they can hear them from four times as far away. People who train dogs for search and rescue contend that dogs can hear a heartbeat from a distance of five feet, which gives them insight into the mood and disposition of the people and animals they come in contact with.
As pack animals, they are keenly aware of the behavior of those around them. One dog can tell what another is thinking and intending simply by observing the way he acts. When two dogs meet, there is a detailed ritual of movements and gestures. The way they hold their ears, tail, head, their posture. Everything means something. Attitudes, feelings, intentions, dominance, and submission can be established immediately. So can achallenge.
Dogs understand what’s expected of them. When people are around, dogs see what wins them rewards and praise and what leads to scorn. Something deep inside of them, woven into the very fabric of their being, a genetic impulse, compels them to please those around them. But sometimes, the things that men want from them cut against their natural inclinations, setting off an internal chain reaction of anxiety and uncertainty, triggering hormones and nervous system fluctuations. When they are extremely scared, dogs secrete a powerful musk that other dogs can smell from great distances.
The things they see and hear and smell have an impact on them, too. Studies have shown that if two mammals are placed side by side in boxes and the first one is given electric shocks, just by listening to the suffering the second one produces identical brain waves and nervous system activity; the trauma isn’t limited only to the animal that’s experiencing the pain.
Out in the field is the little brown dog with the floppy ear— none of the dogs know what’s happening around them, but they do know something isn’t right. They’ve seen things they are not supposed to see. They’ve heard terrifying sounds and they’ve smelled fear and pain drifting in the air. The brown dog lays her chin on the ground and exhales. Her brow folds into a furry question mark. The afternoon is fading and the heat has begun to fade too, but little else is certain.
Sometimes men come and take a few of the dogs away. Sometimes those dogs come back tired and panting from running and running. Sometimes the dogs come back scarred and limping. Sometimes they come back looking the same, but acting completely different. Sometimes they don’t come back at all, as if they’ve simply disappeared. As if they’ve vanished into a black hole.
June 15, 2010
The parole hearing for convicted breeder of fighting dogs David Tant, originally scheduled for tomorrow, has been postponed.
Tant, 63, formerly of the Charleston area, pleaded guilty in November 2004 to more than 40 counts of illegally breeding fighting dogs, and one assault count connected to a surveyor who was wounded by a booby trap after he wandered onto Tant’s property in southern Charleston County.
The surveyor was showered by an explosion of birdshot, injuring him slightly. The device was described as a “directional mine” meant to ward off intruders.
Mr. Tant was originally sentenced to 40 years although the term was later reduced to 30 years. This will be his first parole hearing:
Attorney General Henry McMaster and numerous local animal activists had planned to attend the hearing to argue why they believe Tant, formerly of Charleston, should stay locked up.
In connection with the case, 47 dogs were seized and killed. While the conviction of Mr. Tant remains a very heated subject among SC dog owners, it does seem that the 47 dogs, presumably killed without receiving fair evaluations from qualified individuals, are often forgotten.
Every dog deserves a fair evaluation.