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It was a year ago this week that the Humane Society of Missouri played a leading role in the largest dog fighting raid and rescue in U.S. history. And this week, on the anniversary of that triumph, they’re celebrating another bittersweet victory. KSMU’s Chasity Mayes reports.
After a seven month investigation, the Humane Society of Missouri Animal Cruelty Task Force, with the help of the Stone County Police Department, rescued seven adult pit bulls and eight puppies from an alleged dog fighter near Kimberling City on Wednesday.
For many, it’s hard to understand the reasons behind forcing two animals to fight, but like most things, dog fighting is a struggle between money and power.
“It is extremely hard to understand how someone would take pleasure in basically what is systematic torture of an animal.”
Debbie Hill is the vice president of operations for the Humane Society of Missouri. She says dogs that are bred to fight can bring up to 5,000 dollars. Gambling is at the center of each match along with the owner’s need for a certain type of “entertainment.”
“The other part of that is basically to satisfy the participant’s own thirst for the violent, bloody activity,” says Hill.
Missouri’s Humane Society says dog fights can last anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours and because of that, most owners use chemicals and steroids to give dogs more stamina and a higher pain tolerance. 30 pound log chains and thick collars are kept on the dogs to not only keep the dog secured, but to also build muscle. Despite all of the torture, Hill says all dogs, including the abused ones, simply want companionship.
“What we have learned over our years of experience in these types of cases is when given the opportunity to make a choice, many of these animals who come from this environment, will choose not to fight,” says Hill.
After the rescued dogs are nursed back to health both physically and mentally, the Humane Society will be looking for homes for the animals. And although most of the abused dogs will become someone’s new companion, Hill says a few of them could be given very important new jobs as service animals or to help in therapy.
“Can you imagine a three legged dog walking into say a children’s hospital where children are faced with sort of life altering traumas and medical conditions and here’s this dog who’s just, you know, has been through some of the things they may have gone through and has recovered and is loving and active and gets along very well on their three legs. You know, that’s a powerful interaction,” says Hill.
Hill also says that some people might have concerns about adopting a dog with a fighting background, but what most people don’t know is that the dogs are only trained to be aggressive toward other animals, not humans. She says in most matches, there is a referee who’s in the ring with both dogs. Also, the owners of each animal are allowed to look the other person’s dog over before the fight begins to make sure there isn’t any type of chemical on the dog that could interfere with the other animal’s performance. Generally, dogs are killed by their dog fighting owners if they are even somewhat aggressive to humans. They are also killed if they refuse to fight.
Hill says very few people realize that it isn’t the dog that people should be worrying about.
“We know from studies that have been done in the past by FBI that people who are violent toward animals will often times progress to violence against humans. So, it is in everyone’s interest to stop this activity,” says Hill.
Hill also says that people realize the seriousness of the crime they are committing. In last year’s raid, the Missouri Humane Society rescued 500 dogs from Missouri and Illinois. To date, 17 defendants in last year’s bust have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to time in federal prison. She says that case is still being prosecuted.
No names are currently being released involving the most recent rescue in Stone County. However, all animals were willingly turned over to the Humane Society.
For KSMU News, I’m Chasity Mayes.