By:  Date: 07/24/2007

For Immediate Release:   July 23, 2007                           
For more information contact:National Animal Interest Alliance
Patti Strand, National Director 503-761-8962
naia@naiaonline.org      http://www.naiaonline.org/

By Patti Strand
National Director, National Animal Interest Alliance


As most informed citizens already know, Atlanta Falcons 27-year old quarterback Michael Vick was charged on July 18 of running a felony dogfighting operation on his estate in Surry County , Virginia.   In an 18-page indictment, federal prosecutors say Vick actively participated in dogfights on his property, personally paid at least one winning bet, and allegedly authorized the electrocution of one dog that lost a fight. The indictment cites dogfighting activities going back to 2001.

The media lost no time in digging out repulsive video footage of actual dogfights and stomach-turning accounts of the deliberate cruelty and savagery of this so-called "sport."   Bleeding, crippled animals with lower jaws torn off, eyes gouged out, faces and bodies slashed to the bone; all make for heartbreaking news coverage. And the story grows even more horrific as reports surface revealing that thousands of American pets reported as stolen by their owners were the victims of dogfighting rings that used them for bait in dogfight training. It can't get much sicker than this. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/02/0218_040218_dogfighting.html .

NAIA supports the prosecution and sentencing of criminals associated with dogfighting to the full extent of the law. We support both the formal criminal proceedings against Michael Vick and the private sanctions flowing from morals clause interpretations in his NFL and endorsement contracts which can, and should result in his immediate suspension pending the outcome of his court case.

Dogfighting has been illegal in most U.S. states for 140 years. It is illegal in all 50 states today and is a felony in 48, but has resurged in the last decade or more, where the crime is popular with urban gangs who utilize fierce "fighting dogs" as part of their cool "gangsta" image.

According to many long-time observers, the emotionally-charged anti-dogfighting campaigns of the last 20 years actually glamorized the underworld of dogfighting and inadvertently promoted it, especially among disaffected young people who are seeking a "rebel" image.   Indeed, this boomerang effect is a well-known social dynamic.   A recent study by the University of Georgia has found that "The more exposure middle school students have to anti-smoking ads, the more likely they are to smoke."  

It's not just the well-known animal rights groups with their "conflict fundraising" methods that romanticize the gangster dogfighting culture, though. Mainstream news outlets also do it with breathless reporting that focuses more on "bad boy" celebrities (a term literally used by NPR and others about Vick, for example) and less on the unconscionable nature of the crimes in question…and the animals at stake.

In fact, America 's dogfighting epidemic received little media attention until this month, when suddenly – as is so often the case – celebrity involvement fueled a media frenzy.

If the new level of public awareness is channeled properly, it could lead to greater enforcement of anti-dogfighting laws, targeted programs for inner city youth, and more funding for animal control, a course that NAIA strongly supports.

Unfortunately, though, this kind of news can also trigger misguided reactions. The call to ban specific breeds has already started. But going after dogfighting isn't easy. It's more than animal cruelty; it's organized crime. Experts report that dogfighting has been pushed further underground in the last decade making it even harder to uncover whether in rural or urban areas. And dogfighting commonly occurs in areas where crime rates are high and where law enforcement has a difficult time under the best of circumstances. In recent years, dogfighting has proliferated in inner cities among minorities, where going after it can also lead to charges of racism.  These factors do not encourage the drafting of effective laws or good enforcement.

People who care about dogs and  animal welfare need to get involved with their local animal control agencies and county government now. Help provide a rational voice for solving the horror of dogfighting. Now is the time for developing programs that target at-risk youth before they get involved; for encouraging greater funding of animal control and collaboration among animal control personnel, police and federal authorities. Now that the tragic episode of Michael Vick has come to light, let's use this energy to end the scourge of dogfighting once and for all. Contact us at naia@naiaonline.org for information on programs and referrals.


For a narrative account, see National Public Radio’s article by Monica Villavicencio, “A Brief History of Dogfighting” which is paraphrased below. (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12104472).


43 A.D. – Roman armies invade Britain and are impressed by their fighting dogs.  Romans import British fighting dogs, interbreed them with Italian bloodlines, and later begin using fighting dogs as part of gladiatorial entertainment in the Coliseum.

900 to 1100 A.D. – Bear baiting and bull baiting, using trained vicious dogs to attack these larger animals, becomes a popular spectator sport in England.

1100 A.D. to 1500 A.D. – Bear and bull baiting reaches its peak of popularity in England.

1600s through 1776 – Dogfighting is legal and was sanctioned and promoted by American colonies, according to a 2005 study by the College of Law of the Michigan State University, cited by wikipedia.org.

1835 -- British Parliament outlaws all baiting activities, but dog-on-dog combat remains legal and grows more popular as a replacement.

1850s – U.S. Army crossbreeds to generate their own version of what they called an American Pit Bull Terrier, to be used as a trained combat animal. Illegal dogfighting a popular spectator and betting sport in the U.S. and parts of Europe, Asia and Latin America. (Editor's note: Historically, dogs used for fighting regardless of breed were called pit dogs because they fought in pits. People who keep, breed and preserve the true American Staffordshire Terriers, also known as the Pit Bull Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier and Pit Bulls, rightfully object to the habit of reporters referring to fighting dogs as Pit Bulls because it impugns the reputation of their beloved breeds, when in fact, fighting dogs today tend to be street-bred crosses, similar perhaps to the crossbreds mentioned above that the US army produced a century and a half ago, not conscientiously bred and cared for, pedigreed dogs.)

1860s – Most U.S. states outlaw dogfighting but the sport simply goes underground and continues, mostly in rural areas.

1860s to 1990s – most nations around the world outlaw dogfighting, with prominent exceptions being Russia and Japan.  According to wikipedia.org, dogfighting is widely practiced in much of Latin America, especially in Argentina, Colombia and many parts of Brazil.

1992-1997 – Urban gang culture embraces dogfighting and ownership of “tough” breeds as part of the “gangsta” image.

2003 – With the ejection of the Taliban from Afghanistan, dogfighting is legalized in that nation and becomes immensely popular…as well as a big business.

2007, dog fighting is a felony in 48 U.S. states and a misdemeanor in Idaho and Wyoming.

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