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The deadly life of pit bull fighter isn't fit for a dog
'Game' animals bred to be vicious, must be muzzled for mating
Huntsville police seize 20 pit bulls from a local man's home and charge him with dog-fighting for the second time in two years. Imagine the life of a fighting dog, as described by experts at stopping this kind of animal abuse.
Deadly life of pit bull fighter isn't fit for a dog Dog. More likely, though, he defines himself through you. His self-worth rests on how tough you are.
Not that he sees that. He's no more capable of making the connection than you are. He thinks he's a player in an old and noble sport of ''game'' animals and ''curs,'' the two classes into which his kind divide all dogs.
Once inside the pit, your body is washed with warm, soapy water to make sure you aren't coated in some chemical that could influence the fight. You accept this handling, because you've been trained to accept it. Grown people don't affect you. Your focus is smaller things.
''Are both corners ready?'' the referee asks.
He fires orders quickly.
''Cornermen out of the pit.''
''Face your dogs.''
The timekeeper makes a note as you lunge like a brown torpedo toward your work. How quickly you can kill, cripple or turn the other dog is one of the measures of just how ''game'' you are.
This was what you were born for. You are the product of two dogs allowed to breed solely because they had ''game'' potential. So game were your parents, in fact, both were muzzled for the very act of breeding, lest one kill the other.
Put another way, you are the perfect inversion of 50,000 years of canine evolution. Normal dogs, even wild ones, typically fight only long enough to decide dominance. That quaint concept is long gone from your genes. You would no more submit to another dog than you would stand up on two legs and sing an aria. And if a dog shows his belly to you, it's the last time he submits to anything.
That's what they bred you for, and it's how they trained you. They stole a poodle or a spaniel from the yard down the street or grabbed a stray abandoned on a country lane just to give you the taste for blood. Only when you killed were you a ''good dog.''
Before you reached the blooding day, your life was treadmills, long swims in big barrels and long walks dragging logging chains, all to develop strength and stamina.
Recently, your owner sought new tools and techniques to give him an edge on the hundreds of Web sites devoted to your ''sport.'' Chalk up another victory for the Internet in bringing a community together.
If you win tonight, you may fight next week near Birmingham and the week after that in Georgia or northwest Florida. Win just three or four big fights and you may become famous enough to retire to stud like a champion horse or show dog.
Lose or turn tail and you'll probably be shot in the head. Why spend money or time on a dog that can't make money in the ring or in breeding?
This time, you don't win or lose. You're seized in a raid. There are raids, because just being at a dog fight is a felony for humans in Alabama.
But your pain won't end at the local animal shelter. Listen to Laura Bevan, Southeast region director of the Humane Society of the United States, describe what should happen to you now.
Death. Even for any puppies taken with you.
''I would not trust them around small children or other animals. We very strongly recommend against trying to rehabilitate adult dogs,'' Bevan says from her Tallahassee, Fla., office. ''If that dog ever gets loose, its potential to do damage is tremendous. You're rolling the dice with the lives of other animals in the area.''
As for the pups, Bevan is equally frank. Unwanted dogs flood every shelter in America, she says, and that means hard choices. Why would a person wanting to save just one of them pass over a terrier that could provide a life of love and companionship for a dog bred for violence? Why, unless that person is a dog fighter himself?
''In general, to me, it's not worth it,'' Bevans says. ''What's the point?''
Bevan believes dog fighting is on the rise. It's a street thing now - ''my Rottweiler can kill your pit bull'' - as well as a professional sport. Local criminal investigators like Sgt. Terry Ergle of the Madison County Sheriff's Department tend to agree with her.
''A lot of people think it's only blue-collar people doing it,'' Ergle said last week. ''It's not. People in suits and ties do it, too. And they'll tell you they don't fight them, they just breed them. But they do fight them.''
Ergle is looking for a rumored dog-fighting site in Madison County now. His boss, Sheriff Joe Whisante, has the love of dogs of a man whose own pet was rescued from a shelter. Whisante's orders to Ergle about dog-fighting: ''It ain't going to happen as long as I'm here.''
Bevan has a checklist, just in case people wonder if the guy next door is in the dog-fighting game.
Does he have more than a few dogs, staked out separately with their own dog houses? If the dogs are sharing one pen, they aren't fighting dogs.
Does he haul the dogs off at night and bring them back several days later?
Do the dogs ever appear injured?
Is there ever a crowd around the house on a weekend? Do you hear cheers, but no growls or barks? Fighting dogs are deadly quiet.
Do you see treadmills or other equipment that might be used to train a fighting dog?
If any of these signs are present, call Whisante or the Huntsville Police Department. They will investigate.
But if you're a fighting dog, it's probably already too late. There will be no good life for you.
Any time they take you for a ride, it's fight or die.