Monday, March 05, 2007

Dog Fighting also a Problem in Australia

A disturbing reality.

Article:

Dog fighting is becoming a big problem in the country of Australia

http://www.dogflu.ca/

The sight of the pit bull newly rescued from the ring haunted all those who laid eyes on it at the RSPCA's Brisbane headquarters in Australia.

The intelligent eyes of the adult pit bull fighting dog gazed back, from a totally lacerated head. Every square centimetre of the tight, short-haired skin has been cut, torn and ripped by another dog's incisors.

His upper lip is partially torn off, his eyelids are red scabs and his ears are missing, previously cut off to avoid them from being crunched in the vice-like grip of an opponent.

It's a grotesque representation of a dog-like head - a one-glance story of the brutality and suffering endured by these unlucky animals.

This particular dog is just one of many involved in the cruel, secret, illegal dogfights which occur regularly across Queensland and Australia.

Just this week, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals fostered an American Staffordshire terrier who's ears had been sheared off. Charges against the owner have yet to be filed, but to look upon the young dog, say RSPCA officers, is a reminder that ear removal is a sure sign the animal was subjected to illegal dogfighting.

"We definitely know dogfights happen in Queensland. From information received, we believe they are more common in rural areas," said RSPCA inspector Daniel Young. "The most information we usually get is an anonymous call from someone involved or who has been asked to come along. Or they have changed their ways and believe it's cruel."

How Dogfights work:

The known network of gamblers and "sportsmen" interested in attending dogfights are contacted with information such as the secret meeting place.

"It's all hush-hush, highly illegal and a lot of money is involved," Young said. "A fight will be organised in a secluded area, but they have been held inside suburban houses. There was once one at Chinchilla where the dogs fought in a lounge room."

If neighbourhood residents notice signs like a large number of vehicles showing up at a house and dogs being removed from the vehicles, they should be suspicious.

"There could be a handful of people," Young added, "but we have had reports of 20 cars arriving at an address."

The internet has allowed information to be shared quickly and easily between organizers of illegal dogfights. There are rules to conducting fights and an assortment of chat rooms and other "safe" internet havens. One document in RSPCA hands specifies the use of a ring 4.2 metres in diameter with a 60 centimetre high wall.

"A fight can take place in an empty above ground pool, or they'll make an arena with a plywood surround," Young said. "They usually put carpet down, for a non-slip surface."

If you're suspicious of illegal dogfights in your neighbourhood, you'll have to use your eyes more than your ears for clues.

"Don't expect to hear a lot of yelping and barking," he said. "The dogs are quite silent when they fight."

RSPCA officials have obtained warrants and raided many places where there existed strong suspicion of dogfighting. Other criminal activity often goes hand in hand with dogfighting. If there are scarred, separately tethered or caged dogs to be found, fight preparation and cruel training equipment are usually located as well.

"Dogfighting attracts a lot of ferals," said RSPCA community relations officer Michael Beatty.

"A fight is a very big ordeal and the dogs need to be at their peak to last. In the past we have found treadmills used to get dogs' fitness levels up," added Young.

Inspectors have also seized "breaking sticks", used to lever open the clamped jaws of a fighting dog in battle.

One dogfight website brags about animals tearing into each other for 23 minutes straight.

"Dogs do die, but that's not the purpose of a fight," Young said.

An article by former RSPCA chief inspector Byron Hall stated that fights can be as long as three hours.

"The dogs are fought for the simple pleasure of man in order that man satisfy his need to act violently," it read. "The dogs are subjected to hours of brutality to end up either being hailed a champion or killed because they failed to fight to the satisfaction of their owners."

"Drugs and weapons are also frequently located on properties where pit bulls are found," it continued, "which make the job of an RSPCA Inspector even more hazardous than it already is."

Hall also cited an Ipswich case where a man was convicted of keeping a place for the purpose of fighting animals.

"He was found in possession of 35 pit bulls, a fighting pit, dogfighting magazines and other implements used for dogfighting," he related. "This conviction was the first of its kind in Queensland. The defendant was fined $1000 and ordered to pay $3007 costs to the society. Five dogs were euthanised due to their inability to be rehoused with the public. Through no fault of their own they had been programmed to kill, making their rehousing too great a risk for the society to take. The owner of the dogs was also found in possession of 236 cannabis plants and an unlicensed firearm."

Hall continued: "In order that a dog achieve champion status, it must win three fights. To achieve grand champion status, the dog must win five fights consecutively and to remain a grand champion it must either keep winning or retire undefeated."

According to information kept by the RSPCA, breeds such as Staffordshire terriers, mastiffs, Dobermans and Rottweiler’s are often paired off in preliminary fights before the main events.

A Queensland Police spokesman said statistics on stolen animals did not specify breed, "but," she added, "I'm sure dogs have been stolen for use in dogfights. Anecdotally, I'm sure it is happening."

Young said that catching offenders in the act is difficult, but essential in proving a concrete case in court.

With 11,180 reports to investigate last year alone, most of them involving at least one visit, Queensland's corps of 12 RSPCA inspectors is severely undermanned. But the society's kennels are regularly inhabited by "black tag" animals – dogs seized by inspectors or which are the subject of investigations.

"We see a lot of cases of neglect," said Beatty. "The majority of our work is educating people to their responsibilities. But a lot of people we investigate have far bigger issues. We are not in a position to make an assessment on them but it's usual to deal with people with mental issues, for want of a better word."

"There is a proven link between animal cruelty and violence on human beings," he said. "A survey in the United States looked at a list of serial killers and 88 per cent had a history of animal violence."

Domestic violence and animal cruelty also have well-established links. In one recent Brisbane case, a woman in a refuge had a live recording delivered to her, made by her husband as he tortured her pet dog.

If anything, Young said, cockfights are even more common than dogfights, because breeding fighting cockerels can be done quietly and without causing suspicion.

Cockerels make very little noise and are trained with sheaths over the razor-sharp steel spurs attached to their legs.

Organised cockfights are a tradition in some Asian countries, but are banned in Australia and can lead to fines of up to $22,500 or 12 months in prison.

People with any suspicion or information related to dog and cockfighting can call the RSPCA in Australia at 1300 852 188. Anonymous information is accepted.

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