Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Even after Brutal Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Michael Vick Sent to Jail on Dog Fighting Charges Practice Continues

We all remember the story of the cruel Michael Vick - http://geari.blogspot.com/2007/08/michael-vick-former-quarterback-of.html

Apparently the practice still continues. This story is regarding Mississippi, but the problem is still nationwide.

Sadly, as mentioned below, "...an estimated 40,000 Americans participate in the sport and use some 250,000 pit bulls, according to the Humane Society of the United States, one of the few agencies to provide such figures."

Article:

Dog fighting a dangerous problem

http://www.djournal.com/pages/story.asp?ID=258832&pub=1&div=News

Dog fighting a dangerous problem
11/19/2007 4:48:58 AMDaily Journal

11/19/2007 4:48:58 AMDaily Journal

BY EMILY LE COZ AND DANZA JOHNSON

Daily Journal

The recent discovery of 49 pit bulls alleged to have been used in a Benton County dog-fighting ring reflects not an isolated case but a widespread and elusive problem, several experts say.

Dog fighting, a gruesome sport where canines are thrown into a ring and fight until one either gives up or dies, has been around for ages. But this year's case against suspended NFL quarterback

Michael Vick put it in the national spotlight. Vick pleaded guilty in August to federal charges in connection with a Virginia dog-fighting operation.

It's an issue that has law-enforcement officials and animal activists stumped, because, according to Debra Boswell, director of the Mississippi Animal Rescue League, these operations are "harder to infiltrate than a drug ring."'It's an epidemic'"It's an epidemic," Boswell said, "not only in Mississippi, but nationwide."

An estimated 40,000 Americans participate in the sport and use some 250,000 pit bulls, according to the Humane Society of the United States, one of the few agencies to provide such figures.

Numbers are hard to track because of the sport's highly secretive nature, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which has been combating dog fighting for more than a century, according to its Web site.

ASPCA officials did not return calls for comment. Tracking it locallyTracking difficulties also pose problems in Northeast Mississippi, where law-enforcement officials get tips about the illegal activity but rarely - if ever - bust a dog-fighting ring.

The exception was in Benton County last month, where sheriff's deputies discovered an operation while on call to indict a resident on separate narcotics charges.Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson, Itawamba County Sheriff Philip Crane and Lafayette County Sheriff Buddy East say they haven't found any dog fighting in their counties. "We have had some complaints throughout the county about people fighting dogs, but we haven't been able to locate any dog fighting rings," said East. "We investigate, but we just haven't been able to find any signs."Those most likely to come in contact with dog fighting are animal shelter workers, who sometimes recover pit bulls that appear to have been injured in a match. Boswell said it's impossible to estimate how many rings exist in Mississippi, but at her Jackson-based shelter last year she said she took in about 200 pit bulls that exhibited fight-experience signs, such as scars and an overly aggressive nature.

Those dogs were euthanized, as were the several dozen involved in the Benton County ring. They can't be rehabilitated, experts say, because they are bred to fight and kill other dogs. "They're not aggressive toward people, they're aggressive toward other dogs," said Loretta Willis, manager of the Corinth-Alcorn County Humane Society.Willis said she takes in an average of 10-12 fighting dogs a month from her area, but she called this an improvement from several years ago when there used to be more.

In Tupelo-Lee County, animal shelter director Debbie Hood hasn't seen any evidence of a fighting ring since she took the reins about nine months ago. The reports are similar in Starkville-Oktibbeha County and Oxford-Lafayette County, where the areas' animal-control officers also say they see few, if any, fought canines."We hear rumors, and occasionally we'll find a dog that's scarred up pretty bad and we think that's what it's all about," said Rich McKaee, one of the Starkville's two animal control officers. "We know it goes on it's just hard to catch them."A springboardThe activity isn't just a problem for the dogs - which can suffer atrocious wounds and even death from the sport - but it's a springboard to other illegal deeds, law-enforcement officials and dog-fighting experts say.

The blood sport has strong links to the drug trade and has been connected to other crimes including theft, brutality and even murder.So serious are the implications of dog fighting that even the feds sometimes get involved, said FBI spokeswoman Deborah Madden.Most recently, she said, the bureau was involved with Vick's indictment because he allegedly violated several federal laws, including participation in the interstate transport of dogs for the purpose of fighting.Why the risk? It's about money, experts say. Breeders can earn up to $5,000 for each puppy of a grand-champion winner - a dog that has won five times - Boswell said. And stud fees for these canines can run in the thousands of dollars.Fights rake in even more money. The ASPCA reported seizures of more than $500,000 involved in major dog fights and called pots of $20,000 or more "standard fare."

In Mississippi, Boswell recalled a case a few years ago where two people arrested at a traffic stop were found with $12,000 won in a dog fight. In an Arkansas case, she recalled police discovered a bet pool of more than $80,000."This is big money," she said. "It's a dangerous business."And those involved will do anything to protect their profits and way of life. Boswell read an ad from an underground dog-fighting magazine, "Sporting Dog Journal," soliciting officers to track the sport: "Officers needed to work with our enforcers to catch thieves and killers and recruit new and trusted people to eliminate snitches," Boswell read. "Need 10 officers in each state.

Requirements: martial arts degree, black belt or higher, must be familiar with all types of firearms, be familiar with all blood lines, travel throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and South America."The danger involved in this sport has prompted 46 states - including Mississippi - to make dog fighting a felony crime.

Here, those convicted face up to three years in prison and $5,000 in fines. Even spectators face punishment - up to one year in prison and $3,000 in fines.Once the state files its charges, Madden said, the FBI might want a crack at participants."Should anyone in Mississippi have knowledge of dog fighting - or cock fighting - they should contact either the local authorities or the FBI," she said, "because we will investigate."

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