April 8th is National Dog Fighting Awareness Day. "Dog fighting is a sadistic 'contest' in which two dogs specifically bred, conditioned,and trained to fight are placed in a pit (generally a small arena enclosed with plywood walls) to fight each other for the spectators' gambling and entertainment." This illegal sport attracts people from all walks of life. Dog fighters and spectators often involve their children in dog fighting. Research indicates children involved in dog
fighting learn that violence is entertainment and acceptable and it is ok to inflict cruelties.

Evidence exists that dog fighting is occurring in Maine communities. This horrific activity often involves drugs and gambling. Purses can total hundreds of thousands of dollars. Gambling results can be published in underground magazines dedicated to the "sport". The majority of the drugs found at dog fights is for recreational use, drugs however are also used for fighting dogs: amphetamines to increase stamina, power, and aggression; steroids to promote muscle mass; anti-pain and anti-inflammatory to keep "gameness" in the fighting dogs. Maine being a rural state, makes for easy access for dog breeders, those that fight their dogs (dogmen) and spectators who have easy entry and exit from the state. Maine also has an "I don't want to know" attitude which contributes to an open environment condusive to this barbaric "sport".

There are three types of dog fighting: pit/arena fighting; street fighting; and the hobbyists; who breeds and sells dogs for fighting purposes, once in a while fights a dog to support the hobby. Street fighting is two "handlers" walking on a street towards each other with the fighting dogs on a leash. When the "handlers" are close to each other the fighting dogs are released – the fight commences. Spectators will be parked in their cars or milling around the street. The spectators blend into the background making it difficult for passerbyers to be aware a dog fight is being staged. If the "handlers" are suspicious that they are being observed by enforcement, they simply leash the dogs, pass the leash to the opposing "handler" and say "Sorry I dropped my leash here's your dog"and walk away making it difficult for enforcement – no law against returning a dropped leash.

A spokesman from the Animal Welfare Program – Department of Agriculture states that Maine is one of the top three states in the country for its animal welfare laws. It is a class C felony crime for fighting animals. A class D felony crime to be a spectator for animal fighting. A bill, LD 994 was introduced to Legislature to change the status of of being a spectator at animal fighting from a class D felony crime to a class C felony crime. Unfortunately the bill was withdrawn by its sponsor.

Starvation is used in training a fight dog to encourage malice.  Beatings and torture to build endurance. Forced exhaustive exercise to build muscle mass – often treadmills or swimming pools are used. Spring poles to condition a dog for fighting by building up neck and jaw muscles. Rawhide, knotted rope, tires, or small animals are suspended from a beam or a sturdy tree branch. The dog bites and holds onto the substance to build strength and endurance. A Jenny
mill or a cat mill encourages prey drive: they resemble a miniature horse walker. The dog is harnessed to a spoke projecting from a rotating center shaft. Often these small animals are obtained from "free to a good home" adds or from Craigslist.

Vitamins, drugs, and vet supplies are commodities found in connection with illegal dogfighting operations. A few commonly used drugs include Dexamethozone (steroid), Amoxicillian and Ampicillian (antibiotics), Canine Red Dog (iron supplement), and Winstroid (steroid). Wash tubs and sponges are used for bathing dogs prior to fighting. Bathing is conducted under supervision of a referee. Handlers bath and examine the opponent dog for poisonous substance that might have been applied to the dog's coat. Some "dogmen" feed their dog rat or roach poison because it makes a bitter taste to the opponent dog so it won't bite as hard or as much. Often a "handler" will bite the fur of an opponent dog to test for bitterness.

Fighting pits measure between 14 to 20 square feet and have walls two to three feet high. The walls are constructed with cardboard, plywood, chain link fence, or hay bales. The floor is dirt, plywood or carpeted. The diagonal scratch lines are drawn in two opposite corners. The dogs are placed at the scratch lines and a referee in the middle of the ring will commence fighting. When a dog turns from the opponent (called a turn) the dogs
are brought back to the scratch line and commence again. The dogs are allowed to fight until turns don't happen anymore, or until one is incapacitated, or killed. Dog fights take place in abandoned houses,vacant garages, isolated warehouses, secluded parks and woods, farmhouses and barns.
 
Characteristics of dogs used in fighting are; short, cropped ears not done by a vet; wounds and scrapes to head, neck, throat, chest, shoulders and legs; puncture wounds and lacerations; ripped and missing lips, ears, jowls, noses and eyes. Bleeding dogs and bloodstains in confined places are also tell tale signs.

The above are all prominent signs of dogfighting – a horrific, barbaric disrespect to man's best friend. Evil presides when good people do nothing. Please – if you see something say and do something.
 
Animal Welfare Program – Department of Agriculture: 287-3846
Maine Animal Coalition: 773-2215
HSUS – Maine Chapter: (207) 999-2323
 

Debra Rollins
 

Dog Lovers Beware! by Debra Rollins

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