There Is A Disease in the Dog Community: You Can Help Cure It.

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The American Pit Bull Terrier - the breed of Dog Most Commonly Affected by Dogfighting

Jaxon Black, Middle School News Writer

In January 2013, a 33-year-old man was found in the middle of one of  Wilmington, Delaware’s woods with 67 dogs trained for dogfighting. Dawan Nelson was the man who used the dogs for the sole purposes of entertainment and monetary gain. There were dozens of medicines, such as steroids, to make the dogs heal faster after combat so that they could continue to fight.  Nelson had previous legal cases against him for dogfighting but had not been convicted for many years, until now. Dawan was sentenced to seven years in jail and is suspected to perpetuate dogfighting in Delaware to this day.

Dogfighting gangs like those of Nelson are responsible for the killing of an estimated 16,000 dogs per year according to the PETA. Communities are making organizations to stop dogfighting, but it seems to keep happening. The relentless dogfighting that seems to be ever-present, then, forces legislative officials to consider the options at hand to mitigate such a practice. 

 For years, the American Pit Bull Terrier has been the image of dogfighting. Cities, towns, and neighborhoods are now setting laws which detail where you may live if you own a Pit Bull in certain areas. Many people only see Pit Bulls as aggressive, harmful animals; this idea of Pit Bulls is not an accurate representation at its roots but rather the cumulative image that has been created by their dogfighting owners. Pit Bulls have been responsible for 65 percent of dog attacks in the US, according to Mr.Adam S. Kutner. Analysts of such situations, however, such as Mr.Cesar Millan, show that these attacks are caused by their owners, not the dogs themselves. Cesar Millan, a famed dog trainer once had a Great Terrier Pit Bull named Daddy, who was known for his outwardly fierce disposition friendly personality.  This phenomenon of the friendly Pit Bull is not uncommon; many owners of the American Pit Bull Terrier make the choice to either raise their dog in an aggressive or friendly manner. The issue of the abusive treatment of domestic dogs at the hands of their owners, therefore, can be traced as the cause of the spread of dogfighting. It is merely a scapegoating tactic to assert that the dogs themselves are inherently aggressive.

Mary Woodward, Wilmington Friends School faculty and dog trainer, deals with many pit bulls each year and has seen almost a thousand dogs in her classes. In a conversation about the natural tendencies of the American Pit Bull Terrier, Ms.Woodward commented that “It makes them have a scary reputation for people who haven’t known any of them personally or only knew scary ones that were possibly used in dogfighting.”  Clearly, Pit Bulls do not deserve this negative reputation. They are extremely loyal to their owners, and commonly just want to be loved.

However, the harmful practice of dogfighting does not only affect and shape the personalities of the Pit Bull Terrier. Smaller dog breeds are actively being stolen from pet stores and used as bait to make larger dogs, such as the Pit Bull, more ferocious. These smaller breeds of dogs also are kept isolated in very small cages and heavy chains for most of their short lives. They may also have their tails docked and ears chopped off so that other dogs can’t bite them. The crude trainers of these dogs may use inhuman techniques to train their dogs, such as scaring them if they do not follow their instructions to fight another dog. The extent of animal abuse that occurs in dogfighting gangs has become so abhorrent that the owners of losing dogs often take the lives of their animals following an unsuccessful match. For example, in late June three men in Wilmington, Delaware were charged with dogfighting. Before the police could take the dogs, however, the owners thereof attempted to dispose of the animals in a suspected effort to hide evidence. The dogs were later rehabilitated and sent to a local Veterinarian office, fortunately. 

Dogfighting can also have extreme psychological effects on the animals themselves, which is indicative of the pure inhumanity of the practice. Veterinarians often feel that dogs that are victim to harmful treatment, such as dog fighting, cannot be family pets anymore because they have been brainwashed by their owners to inflict harm on their surroundings. Ms.Mary Woodward highlights the effects of recognizing the harmful consequences of dogfighting on a larger scale. “Michael Vick, as horrifying that situation was, there was a silver lining.  Almost all of those dogs got adopted, and it has been many years ago but many people were like ‘oh my gosh!’ These dogs were used in fighting, you can see the scars on the dogs. Now, they’re playing with babies and they are wonderful and gentle”, says Mary Woodward. Clearly, Ms.Woodward has a comprehensive understanding of the harmful nature of the practice and highlights that the violent behavior of dogs is not inherent to them; rather, it is encouraged to the point of habit by their owners. Although Micael Vick’s situation was horrible, and his dogs were very aggressive when they came out of his possession, every single one of the dogs was rehabilitated if possible. This recovery shows that these animals do not need to be put down, or kept in a cage their whole life if they are victims of dogfighting. They can indeed still have the potential to be family dogs and embraced despite their difficult pasts.

It is clear, then, that Delaware and many other states nationwide need to have tighter laws as consequences for dogfighting. Aside from encouraging heightened legislation, you can help victims of dogfighting if you are willing to contact a local organization or veterinarian to donate to the rehabilitation of these dogs. There are a variety of actions that can be taken against the crisis of dogfighting. Let’s put a stop to this.