Monday, July 30, 2007

My Essay That I've Been Working On All Week (2nd Draft)

Dog Fighting
Some perpetual problems in society don’t show their ugly faces until a celebrity is involved. Such is the case with dog fighting. Dog fighting, as with all animal fighting, lies beneath the surface of most people’s conscience, rarely covered by mainstream news outlets. Until the last few weeks when star quarterback Michael Vick was indicted on felony charges for running a dog fighting ring, dog fighting was rarely discussed outside of the world of organized crime. It is much more prevalent than most realize, and despite all the legislation banning it, dog fighting is a growing trend in the United States. In a country that all but deifies dogs, it is amazing that such unwarranted cruelty takes place on a daily basis in communities around the country. To stop this barbaric practice the American people must demand that legislation prohibiting dog fighting have consequences with “real teeth” and that it is strictly enforced.
The “sport” of dog fighting has been around in one form or another for almost a thousand years. The rules have altered little from the time of the nineteenth century. In a typical case, which is usually privately contracted, the owners’ agree with one another to fight their dogs, “stipulating the rules governing the battle, especially the weight of the animals, the principles of the wagering, and what constitutes victory and defeat.” (Curnutt, pg. 285) The rules regarding the declaration of victory vary, but there are a few constants for ruling the loser. If the dog jumps out of the pit, refuses to fight, or if the dog’s handler picks it up, those all comprise forms of defeat. Of course, dead dogs lose as well, but fatalities are rarely reported.
“The fighting is performed in an enclosure, referred to as the “pit”, is about 15 feet wide, with sides 2 ½ or 3 feet high, often carpeting covers the floor area. The dogs are brought into the “pit” by their respective handlers, usually the owners, who hold the canines in opposite corners behind a line. Sometimes a referee is present and he signals for the fight to commence. Then they begin in a simultaneous “scratch”, in which the dogs are released at the same time to rush at each other across the pit and join battle. When one dog pins the other with an immobilizing bite hold, the two are pried apart with a “breaking stick,” a wedge shaped rod used to separate the jaws, and are then taken back to behind their lines. After this, alternate “scratches” begin, with the leading dog given the opportunity to attack first.” (Curnnot, p.285) “ The matches can last anywhere from 20 minutes to 10 hours depending on how long it takes for one dog to become too weak to fight.”(Bacon) The losing dog may be disposed of by electrocution, beating or drowning. Even the “victorious” dog suffers untold abuse. The breeders staple the dogs wounds, pump them with antibiotics and fight them until they are the loser.
The rearing and training of the fighting dogs is as ugly as the events themselves. Many of the dogs have been stolen or adopted from shelters where they are trained as puppies to be aggressive and violent. “They are kept chained and locked in crowded cages, far enough away not to kill each other, but close enough to put them in a constant state of agitation… Sometimes they steal other peoples’ dogs from their own backyards to use as “bait” in training. The conditioning also includes…. hours of running on a treadmill or tied to the bumper of a moving car.” (Curnnott, p. 285)
The popularity of dog fighting is growing mainly because of the growing involvement of rap and hip hop celebrities, as well as professional athletes. It has been observed that rap music, in particular, glorifies dog fighting by writing songs about it. Th rapper DMX, sings the following lyrics in his album “Year of the Dog Again.”
“Place your bets/ you can imagine what the bloodline is like…All my pups is crazy, ‘cause off the leash/ They can eat, stand a match for three hours at least.”
Furthermore, a number of professional players have been directly linked to dog fights. For example, in 2005 the well known NBA player Qyntel Woods pleaded guilty to animal abuse charges for having abandoned a pit bull that had wounds from a dog fight. Also in 2005, the former NFL running back LeShon Johnson pleaded guilty to owning fighting dogs and encouraging dog fights. (Sun-Times) Moreover there is a perpetual attitude among a number of pro athletes that dogs are the others property and they should be free to do what they want to with them. (Sun-Times) Many who run dog fighting rings gain lucrative profits. On the lowest end of the scale $50,000 to $60,000 is at stake, while at the high end, for the more “sophisticated” games, the payoffs can be close to $1 million. (Bacon)
Although no federal agency is responsible for tracking national arrests, there are an estimated 40,000 people that take part in this “sport” and the true number is probably much more than that. Much of the proof of the widespread nature of the problem of dog fighting is anecdotal. For example, several months ago 36 pit bulls, treadmills and fighting equipment were confiscated in Charlotte, North Carolina and the owner was accused of engaging in illegal dog fighting. These types of indirect proofs are common occurrences as indicated by recent court filings. ( – Newsweek – July 18) But, there are other proofs of the frequency of this illegal activity including the growing web activity, the increase number of publications and the flooding of dog shelters with pit bulls, the most popular fighting breed. One animal advocacy group,, found 122 suspected dog fighting cases nation wide in 2002. However, this only represents the tip of the iceberg. (Newsweek – July 18) The problem in obtaining statistics, in part, lies with the secretive network that runs the business. “You have to know somebody, who knows somebody to get into the rings…It takes time and money to infiltrate these underground operations (that) Animal Control just doesn’t have.” (WCNC – July 18)
Despite dog fighting’s prevalence in the United States, it rarely makes the news, that is until a high profile celebrity like Michael Vick, gets arrested for running a dog fighting operation. Michael Vick, star quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons, along with three other men were indicted on July 17, 2007, for their alleged running of a dog fighting ring on Vick’s property in Richmond, Virginia. “Vick was charged in the 19 page indictment with competitive dog fighting and conducting the venture across state lines. It was also alleged that Vick was highly involved in the operation, alleging that he attended fights and paid off bets when his dogs lost. It said he also was involved in the executions of dogs that did not perform well.” (Maske) If convicted, Vick faces up to six years in prison and a $350,000 fine. Not to mention, he will lose tens of millions of dollars in endorsements and his career will be ruined. Furthermore, the NFL will additionally penalize him, even if he is not convicted.
Dog fighting is illegal in all 50 states and is a felony in 48 of them. The only two states that they are a misdemeanor are Wyoming and Idaho. But the severity of the actual penalty varies from state to state. Although until 1975 no state made it a felony to engage in dog fighting, by the year 2000, forty five states classified as a felonious crime, punishable by up to five years in prison. (Curnott, p.286) The harshest punishment to date for dog fighting was a sentence of seven years in state prison after a man in Sacramento, California pleaded no contest to dog fighting charges. The police seized fifty-five highly aggressive dogs at the felon’s residence, all of whom were so aggressive, they had to be euthanized. (Curnutt p.286)
America has never had a serious discussion about the reprehensive sport quite like the one that’s going on right now (Sun Times). Until this past month, the media, law enforcement agencies, and the American public have “ignored the surging popularity of dog fighting.” The under-reporting of this crime, along with the overall lack of of education on the issue, has in part contributed to the prevalence of dog fighting. The Michael Vick case has now brought dog fighting into the national spotlight. This case not only made dog fights a front news story, but has resulted in a lengthy soliloquy on the U.S. Senate floor by Senator Robert Byrd who repeatedly stated that dog fighting is a “barbaric practice” that deserves the death penalty.
Despite increased public awareness and the vocal public outcry against such abusive practices, dog fighting is likely to continue to thrive until there are adequate legal responses. Although all 50 states have laws that prohibit dog fighting, prosecution of the crime is often long and difficult. For example, the law in Georgia requires that police catch dog fighters in the act before they can make an arrest. (ABC News - July 19)
As a result, prosecutors often “plead down” dog fighting cases to misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty, disposing of them quickly. Instead of jail time, many accused dog fighters receive probation and small fines. (Sun Times 2007) Many experts say the judicial response is perceived as just a “slap on the wrist” and are “written off as a minor cost of the highly lucrative industry.” (ABC News)
Recently, Congress passed the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act, “which provides for a three year jail sentence and fines of up to $250,000 for interstate animal fighting.” This is a step in the right direction, but still does not address the main problems in adequately prosecuting dog fighting cases. First, the legislation applies to dog fighting that involves “interstate” transactions. Local dog fights, that which does not involve any commercial transaction that crosses state lines, is not covered by this legislation. Secondly, the threatened jail time of three years is wholly inadequate to dissuade many in the dog fighting community to give up this “barbaric” practice. Third, the business side of dog fighting is so lucrative that to many, even a fine of $250,000 will seem worth the risk.
For legislation to have the necessary deterrent effect, the penalties must be significantly increased. Many states have learned this lesson with other criminal behaviors. In Florida for example, the use of guns in criminal activities had reached epidemic proportions when the legislation passed into law a provision known as 10-20-Life. The first time an individual is found guilty of using a gun in the commission of a crime, they receive 10 years in prison. The second time, they receive 20 years. And, if they are convicted of using a gun in commission of a crime a third time, they receive a life sentence. This is legislation with teeth.
Likewise dog fighters should be forced to face serious penalties, like 10-20-Life, for engaging in such horrific actions. Aside from the inhumane nature of dog fighting, and the cruelty that the dogs themselves must endure, society as a whole pays an enormous price for condoning such barbaric practices. For one thing, there is a strong connection between dog fighting and other gang crimes. “The game breeds a sub-culture where illegal gambling, drug use, and guns are common.” (ABC News – July 19) Several large cities, like Chicago and Los Angeles, have started to recognize this reality and created special police units to investigate these cases of abuse.
But, perhaps the greatest danger is to our children. Many people are afraid to let their children play outside for fear they will be attacked by one of these aggressive dogs that may not be able to distinguish between another dog and a young child. All too often, innocent children are the victims of unprovoked attacks by dogs who are internally bred for the aggressive characteristics. Worst of all, however, school children are being indoctrinated that “two dogs at each other’s throats is cool.” (Sun-Times) According to a 2001 study by the Anti-Cruelty Society of Chicago, 20 percent of school children had witnessed a dog fight (Sun Times). Even teenage girls are passive observers, hoping to meet a “cool” guy. The National Human Society observed attendance at dog fights can lead “young child speculators (to) grow up insensitive to animal cruelty, enthusiastic about violence and disrespectful of the law.”
For all these reasons, dog fights need to be dealt with by state and federal legislation in a way that truly deters any form of participation, whether owner, promoter, gambler, or passive observer. Nothing short of legal culpability will deter participants from this reprehensible crime. Our children deserve better, our society deserves better, and our dogs deserve better. It is our duty to protect all three.


yingerman said...

LOOONG one huh?
I alway thought animal fighting came from the Roman arenas, where they also used humans.
Cruel beginnings usually stay cruel till the end.

MAK said...

Yay! Thank you for reading it! After I posted it, I looked at it and went NO ONE is going to read this. But, I got so much info on dog fighting you would not believe. Actually, "dog baiting" started with several dogs beating up bears and stuff like that. It was only later that they did dog against dog.

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andrea said...

aqnd i do not bite izzy fortune