Thanks to Michael Vick, the ugly world of dogfighting has emerged from the underground. When he and three others were indictedÂ this week on allegations of a massive and particularly hideous dogfighting operation that spanned many states, millions of Americans had their eyes opened to the horrors of this illegal blood sport.
So far, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback has denied wrongdoing. But no longer can anyone deny the spreading consequences of dogfighting, which has made its way from rural hollows of the South to our urban and suburban communities.
Dogfights can last for hours, leaving animals dead or crippled for the sake of high-stakes gambling and perverse human blood lust.
For the dogs, their destiny is not just the horror of the fighting pitâ€”but lives of misery from beginning to end. They are often kept in deplorable conditions, at the end of a heavy chain, with nothing more than a box and a mud puddle to call their own. A breed that craves human attention, the pit bullÂ is driven to the edge of insanity by this kind of social isolation.
And then there is the tragic moment when the dog is no longer wanted. For some, this moment comes when they are mauled by other fighting dogs whose killer instincts are being tested. Like moldy bread, they are then discarded. Other dogsÂ are dumped on the street when they lose in one of these horrific fights.
What happens to them? By the mournful thousands, they flood into animal shelters coast to coast.Â The burden of rehabilitating or euthanizing these animals is handed over to taxpayers. The cost of suffering to the dogs is incalculable.
|Between dangerous fights, the dogs languish on a chain.||Â|
The Price of Popularity
The story doesn't end there. Not all pit bulls in shelters are direct victims of dogfighting. Due to the glorification of dogfighting in popular culture, such as in music videos like the unedited version of Jay-Z's 99 Problems, a macho-looking pit bull has become a status symbol in some quarters.
Backyard breeders, whose concern lies more with turning a quick buck than with a dog's temperament, churn out pit bull puppies for this market. More often than not, these animals are not spayedÂ or neutered and lack access to the basics of animal care. It's no surprise that many of these dogs wind up roamingÂ city streets, waiting to be picked up by animal control.
All of this adds up to a sad and costly burden on animal shelters. Approximately 30 percent of the shelter dog population across the country is comprised of pit bull or pit bull mixes. This number increases to 75 percent in some urban shelters.
No Second Chance for Many Dogs
Some of these animals, those without fighting backgrounds, will be adopted for a fresh life with a loving family. But sometimes even the most even-tempered and gentle of these creatures is passed over because of stereotypes. Still others never get a second chance because they wind up in shelters that have enacted policies forbidding the adoption of pit bulls.
The culprit in all this anguish is dogfighting. Our society should have rid itself of this brutal scourge long ago. There is nothing glamorous in the spectacle of a death struggle between our noble friends. There is nothing edgy, nothing "cool."
This year, Congress passed and President Bush signed a law raising penalties for dogfighting to a felony level. This is a leap forward. But we need a social consensus nowâ€”not laterâ€”that something as horribly wrong as dogfighting should no longer darken our lives.