Dogfighting prevalent in county

Dog fighting is a felony in the state of Florida and 48 other states, except for Wyoming and Idaho in which it is considered to be a high misdemeanor.      

According to the Florida Statute 828.122, The Animal Fighting Act, states it is illegal to fight animals, this includes owning, possessing or selling equipment, leasing, managing, operating or having control of any property kept or used for any activity.

Michael Vick, former Atlanta Hawks quarterback, was convicted by Georgia Statue 16-12-37, which also condemns dog fighting as a felony. Vick lost his NFL salary and endorsements to serve a 23-month jail sentence. Vick now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles, after being fully reinstated after his prison release.

In 2008, three Tallahassee residents were alleged to be involved in a dog fight. These individuals were charged with dog fighting and possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana. One of the alleged was also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, carrying a concealed firearm, dog fighting and possession of cocaine and cannabis with intent to sell. The case went to trial but was dismissed due to lack of evidence.

There are three types of dog fighting: professional, hobbyist and street fighter. Professional dogfighters can make thousands of dollars. The “Champion” dog can then breed “Champion” fighting puppies, which will then bring in more money. Hobbyist dog fighters just try to make a quick buck, setting up an informal ring to fight. Then the street dog fighters are those who feel they have the toughest dog in the neighborhood and put them up against other dogs. Though at the end of the day, the dogs are in a lose-lose situation. Whether the dogs win or lose, they still have to fight for their lives to see another day.

In 2007, Katrina Arnett of Tallahassee was given a citation for inhumane treatment when animal control officers and Leon County deputies investigated a complaint at a home near Oak Ridge Road. Officers impounded two pit bulls whose injuries suggested they were involved in dog fighting. One had a gaping wound. Arnett also gave up another dog and its six puppies. During the investigation, information led to the seizure of four pit bulls believed to be involved in dog fighting.

“One of them had an injured leg that he couldn’t walk on,” Richard Ziegler said, director of Leon County Animal Control and president of the Florida Animal Control Association.

Ziegler said the injuries to the dogs seized at the Mustang home were the worst he’s seen in a couple years.

“I’ve seen an increase in dog fighting in Leon County,” Ziegler said. “Dog fighting takes place in the southern part of the county, more rural and less prying eyed neighborhoods.”

Lt. Glenn Sapp, assistant patrol commander for the Tallahassee Police Department, sends a unit out when a call comes in about suspected dog fighting. Animal control is also sent when investigating the call.  

“If you want to gamble, there are other ways to gamble legally other than dog fighting, which is illegal,” Sapp said. “It lends itself to other crimes to the community. It’s a part of the larger picture of cruelty and corruption.”

Ivanhoe Carroll, director of the division of animal Control in Wakulla County, works with 25 dog rescue groups located throughout the United States. Fortunately in Wakulla County, she has not had any recent dog fighting cases. However, she does have issue of owners abandoning dogs because of breeding problems.

“We have so many backyard breeders in the southeastern region,” Carroll said.

“They breed these pit-bull mixes and when they don’t look a certain way, they just abandon them.”

Currently at her shelter, she has four pit-bull terrier mixes that were found wandering. They have not been suspected of being involved in dog fighting.

Art Fyvollent, pit-bull activist and owner of dog rescue group Pit Positive in Tampa, helped a countless number of dogs find a place to call home after a life of violence.

“Up until 20 years ago, pit-bulls were trained to be the best family pet,” said the owner of four pit-bull terriers. “They [pit-bulls] are incredibly loyal to their owners and they do what their told. They get turned into fighters through manipulation of loyalty.”

Fyvollent said pit-bulls are trained to become tough fighters through food deprivation and electric shock. To breed these fighter dogs, female’s teeth are taken out so males can mount them without a fight. “Rape racks” are used to force males upon females to breed.

“People have to understand it’s not the pit-bulls fault, but the owners who raise them that way to fight,” Fyvollent said.