New York Times Responds
Houston, TX - In response to the recent Harris County dogfighting bust, The New York Times has written an article about the subculture of dogfighting in Texas. It is a compelling narrative that covers the scope of the investigation, as well as the types of people immersed in the world of dogfighting. The piece also reveals the fate of the seized dogs: all of them were euthanized. We recommend that you read the full article, we've enclosed some highlights below:
- The ring broken up in Texas had links to dogfighting organizations in other states and in Mexico, suggesting an extensive underground network of people devoted to the activity.
- Besides well-established dogfighters, the sport attracts young people from hardscrabble neighborhoods where gangs, drug dealing and hip-hop culture thrive.
- The 17-month long investigation led to the indictments of 55 people and the seizing of 187 pit bulls, breaking up one of the largest dogfighting rings in the country.
Where the Matches are Held
- The fights were held in out-of-the-way places -- an abandoned motel in the refinery town of Texas City, a horse corral in a slum on the Houston outskirts, behind a barn on a farm near Jasper and at a farmhouse in Matagorda County, south of Houston.
- People came to the contests from as far away as Tennessee, Michigan and the Czech Republic. Every weekend, fights were held throughout the area for purses that usually ran about $10,000. The undercover agents documented at least 50 fights.
Fighting the Dogs
"The ring members called the fights "dog shows." The two dogs would be suspended from a scale with a thin cord tied around their neck and torso. If one of the dogs did not make weight, the owner would forfeit his half of the prize money, or the odds would be adjusted. After the weigh-in, the owners washed each others’ dogs in water, baking soda, warm milk and vinegar to make sure their coats were not poisoned.
Then dogs were forced to face off in a portable plywood box two feet tall, usually with a beige carpet on the floor, to show the blood, officials said. At the command of "face your dogs," the animals were turned toward each other. When the handlers released them, the dogs would collide with a thud in the center of the ring, tearing at each other’s mouths, jaws, necks, withers and genitals, officials said. A referee usually would let the dogs fight until one backed off, then the handlers would take them back to their corners and wash them for 30 seconds."
During the fight, the exhausted animals would sometimes overheat, lock onto each other and lie in the ring. The handlers would blow on them to cool them off and force them to fight. The fight usually ended when a dog refused to cross a line in the center of the ring to confront the opponent, known as “standing the line.” Such dogs were usually drowned or bludgeoned to death the next day, officials said. "These guys take it very personally," Sergeant Manning said. "It’s a reflection on them."
Most of the dogs seized were kept outside in muddy yards, chained to axles sunk in the ground, with only six feet of tether and no shelter, beyond, in some cases, a toppled plastic 40-gallon barrel. All suffered from multiple parasites. Dr. Timothy Harkness, of the Houston Humane Society said, "These dogs were kept in more than cruel conditions -- they were subjected to torturous conditions. Death was more pleasant than what they had to exist for."
What is perhaps the most eye-opening aspect about the article is what Harris County Assistant District Attorney Belinda Smith tells the New York Times: "There are a lot of people doing this," she said. "We could have gone on and on and on with this investigation." It is undeniable that the dogfighting subculture -- dogfighters and breeders of dogs for the purposes of fighting -- contribute the most to dangerous pit bulls in our neighborhoods and animal shelters.
In 2005, an article was published by the Michigan State University College of Law. It was also published by the Animal Legal and Historical Center (www.animallaw.info). Of the many online sources regarding dogfighting, we believe this is the most comprehensive, as well as concise. In the Conclusion section, the author states: "We are in the midst of a dogfighting epidemic in America." We imagine more and more authorities agree.
- Introduction: What is Dogfighting
- History of Dogfighting
- The Scope of Dogfighting
- The Culture of Dogfighting
- The Victims of Dogfighting
- The Sociology of Dogfighting
- The Criminal Link
- Legal Status of Dogfighting
- Legal Issues
11/19/08: $5,000 Reward Offered in Massive Harris County Dogfighting Bust
11/16/08: Massive Dogfighting Sting in Harris County, Texas