Pit bull fighting a concern in the Lubbock area

Dogfighting in the Lubbock area is an issue, depending on who you talk to.

Police say they haven’t had any recent calls on dogfighting activities, but local Humane Society representatives say they get frequent calls and see signs of possible dogfighting right in the heart of Lubbock.

Sgt. Jonathan Stewart of the Lubbock Police Department says there haven’t been any recent calls on dogfighting and there has been no indication of “organized fights.”

There have been times when police find a stray dogs having marks or scars on their bodies, but there is no proof the dogs were involved in organized fighting activities, Stewart said.

However, the president of the Lubbock Humane Society, Mary Hatfield, says she’s seen areas in the heart of Lubbock where a pit bull is tied to a light pole on one side of the street and another one tied on the opposite side.

“It looks like a sign that there is a dogfight somewhere near but you can’t really tell,” said Hatfield.

Lauren Cline, one of the founders of Saving Grace Pit Bull Rescue, says she’s only had one incident where dogs were rescued from a fighting situation, and that was eight years ago.

After doing a little research, she found the majority of pit bull-type dogs come from ZIP codes 79403, 79404, 79415 and 79416.

“I know it goes on, but I do not feel it is extremely prevalent,” Cline said. “I wish it did not happen at all. I wish the abuse that goes along with it didn’t exist, but unfortunately, it is underground and hard to know when and where it happens.”

Abuse included in the training for dogfights can be clipping of the ears or starving and beating dogs to encourage aggressive behavior.

Generally during training, owners will find “bait animals” for pits to practice their “attack and kill” strategy. Smaller pits, dogs and cats are typically used as bait, but any type of animal can be used. Owners try to find animals that will not fight back with the pit.

According to aspca.org, most law enforcement experts divide dogfighting activities into three categories: street fighting, hobbyist fighting and professional fighting.

■ Street fighters engage in dogfights that are informal street corner, back alley and playground activities. Stripped of the rules and formality of the traditional pit fight, these are spontaneous events triggered by insults, turf invasions or the simple taunt, “My dog can kill yours.” Many people who participate in these fights lack a semblance of respect for the animals, often starving and beating them to encourage aggressive behavior. Many of the dogs are bred to be a threat not only to other dogs, but to people as well. There is often no attempt to care for animals injured in the fight and police or animal control officers frequently encounter dead or dying animals as an aftermath. This activity is very difficult to respond to unless it is reported immediately.

■ “Hobbyist” fighters are more organized, with one or more dogs participating in several organized fights a year as a sideline for both entertainment and to attempt to supplement income. They pay more attention to care and breeding of their dogs and are more likely to travel across state lines for events.
■ Professional dogfighters often have a large number of animals (generally 50+) and earn money from breeding, selling and fighting dogs at a central location and on the road. They regularly dispose of animals that are not successful fighters or breeders using a variety of methods, including shooting and blunt force trauma. Professional and hobbyists fighters may dispose of dogs that are too human-aggressive by selling them to street fighters or anyone else looking for an aggressive dog.

Over the years, a fourth category of dogfighters has emerged with some wealthier individuals from the sports and entertainment worlds allegedly using their financial resources to promote professional dogfighting enterprises.

Cline, Stewart and Hatfield all agree that street fighters seem more of what the Lubbock area is seeing in terms of “non-organized fights.” It’s difficult to tell who is fighting dogs when the fights are unplanned and a spur-of-the-moment thing.

Though there is no concrete evidence of dogfighting going on in the area, there are signs showing some type of suspicious activity. A lot of dogfighting may go unreported because of fear.

Hatfield says the Humane Society will keep callers anonymous if they call in reference to a fight in their neighborhood. She stated there have been callers in the past who’ve thought their neighbors were fighting dogs, but when she asked for locations, they refused to respond.

There are severe penalties for people involved with dogfighting as well as those who watch. Being an activist in dogfighting is a state jail felony and can result in up to two years in jail with an additional fine of $10,000. Being a spectator or having equipment for dogfighting is a Class A misdemeanor and can result in up to a year in prison with an additional fine of up to $4,000.

How do we prevent dogfighting in the Lubbock area? Stewart says show concern for our animals.

“A lot is showing concern for the dogs,” he said. “There should be concern for the dog’s welfare rather than looking at them like a piece of property or some type of prize.”

To comment on this story:

• 766-8742

leesha.faulkner@lubbockonline.com • 766-8706


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