When Dogfighters Come to TownPosted by Stephan Otto, ALDF's Director of Legislative Affairs on January 17, 2012
Especially where groups of neighboring urban buildings are involved, empty foreclosure properties present an increasing challenge for law enforcement as incoming criminals replace outgoing residents.
Dogfighting is decidedly toxic to communities, as a chilling case from Chicago illustrates all too well. A September 3, 2011 news report describes a 7-month-old German shepherd puppy who was stolen from his home, sold for $10 and later discovered to have been decapitated in a nearby area of foreclosed properties known to be heavily used by dogfighters. A 16-year-old boy reportedly admitted to the alleged crime and was arrested and charged with felony counts of animal cruelty and animal torture. Horrified neighbors are left to lament their ongoing fears as police continue to investigate:
… “People around here are scared. The kids around here know that they are fighting dogs back there all the time,” the man said…
…A police source in the Austin area told me that within the past eight months, officers have recovered at least 10 dogs from the same vacant building this owner believes his dog was taken to…
…Despite a new ordinance that is supposed to force banks to secure and maintain foreclosed properties, many decaying properties like this one in Austin are being taken over by undesirable elements. And these criminal squatters are making it difficult for legitimate residents to enjoy their own homes.
“There have been several dogs missing in this area, and I am also hearing that someone is catching cats and [gouging] their eyes out,” the dog owner said. “All of a sudden, these things are happening. If these are the kind of people that are coming into the neighborhood, we can’t stay here. We have worked too hard to have to live like this.”…
Pet Theft is but one ugly aspect of dogfighting culture. Acquired by theft or deception (for example, by answering “Free to a Good Home” ads), some dogs are stolen for fighting or breeding, while disposable “bait” animals are used to incite dogs to fight and test for “gameness.”
The financial and societal costs of dogfighting are heavy and insidious, creating a ripple effect across a jurisdiction. Egregious animal cruelty combined with the inevitable elements of weapons, drugs and gang violence motivate already overburdened local, state and federal criminal justice bureaus to devote resources to dogfighting cases. Citizens not directly exposed to the crime are nonetheless disadvantaged by law enforcement agencies stretched beyond their means, as well as animal shelters overwhelmed by animal victims and costs of care. There are children who are regularly exposed to the ruthlessness of dogfighting from a young age – while children who witness violence of any type suffer the effects, juveniles who ultimately become participants in the dogfighting world face particularly ominous futures.
Resolve to acknowledge the impact that dogfighting has on your community, regardless of its geographic proximity to your home and family. Find and support local programs which seek to prevent future dogfighters by educating youth, and contact your legislators at all levels of government toward supporting law enforcement and animal shelters by enacting and strengthening laws which deter and penalize dogfighting.