Friday, January 21, 2011

The OTHER victims of dog-fighting

Dogs are not the only victims of dog-fighting. In fact, because in many states simply watching a dog-fight is a felony, young boys in the inner-city are increasingly losing their chance at a successful life because they have allowed themselves to get involved in the sport.

Philadelphia, PA has a serious problem with young men getting involved in dog fighting. Three years ago, only 300 cases of dog-fighting were reported in Pennsylvania. That number has shot up to 1,200 cases anually.

In particular, since Michael Vick signed with the Eagles, the number of animal fighting investigations in Philadelphia rose from 245 (in 2008) to 903 (in 2009).

Some believe Michael Vick has encouraged dog fighting:

"By hiring Michael Vick, the Eagles brought clear attention to a very awful thing that's done to animals," said Tom Hickey Sr., founder of the Pennsylvania advocacy group DogPAC. "But also by hiring him, they also said it's OK to do this kind of stuff."

George Bengal, the PSPCA's Director of Law Enforcement, said that "Philly's always been a Mecca of dogfighting, but after Vick it exploded. [...] He's an idol."  Bengal mentioned that he has arrested dogfighters as young as nine. 

The penalties are increasingly severe; which is a good thing for the dogs, but a bad thing for these young men. Some men make a living off of gambling on dog fights and if you are growing up in a rough neighborhood with the wrong crowd, it is easy to get involved.

For that reason, Shawn Banks, a former drug dealer and dog fighter, who used to bet thousands of dollars a week on dog fights, has joined up with the Human Society to work with inner-city youths to stop dog fighting in Philly. The End-Dogfighting Campaign actually helps kids train their dogs in a postive way. Human Society President and CEO, Wayne Pacelle said, "Rather than just say, 'Don't fight dogs,' we say, 'Love your animal. Train your animal.' And we will provide a setting to give them a new experience with their pit bulls." He continued to say it causes them to have real pride in themselves and their animals, and the program has actually been successful in Chicago and Atlanta.

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  1. Very true, and very scary. Dog fighting affects the whole community. It is long passed time it was put to an end.

  2. I volunteer with the same program in Chicago ( I admit, I have very mixed feelings about it. The experience itself is amazing and enlightening and sends me home feeling like I've made a difference in the world. The very idea that animals actually have feelings once completely re-routed a whole class from the curriculum as we took time out to demonstrate to the students the many ways their pets express their feelings even though they cannot speak. The program is powerful and makes an even greater impact because some of my fellow volunteers are reformed dog fighters themselves who really do want to stop others from following that path. On the other hand, despite this fantastic program, I feel the the US Humane Society has made a poor decision in choosing to use Vick as a spokesperson and I have yet to hear him truly express remorse and regret for what happened to the animals in his "care." I know where I stand on the Michael Vick issue. I know where I stand on the the End Dog Fighting Campaign. But how those two entities collide within the realm of the USHS still makes me uncomfortable.


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