Friday, June 29, 2007
The Sun Times reports that dog fighting among athletes and rap stars in on the rise. Even Madison Avenue has embraced the culture in ads and apparel. America has never had a discussion about the reprehensible blood sport of dog fighting quite like the one that's going on right now. Although 48 states call it a felony, dog fighting is undergoing a resurgence, transformed from a once largely rural and illicit sport into a fashionable pastime with a certain outlaw cache in many urban neighborhoods. Embraced by street gangs starting in the late 1980s, who were drawn to it for their own sport then discovered it could be a profitable enterprise, the new world of dog fighting ranges from highly organized, well-attended matches featuring tens of thousands of dollars in betting pools and prize money to impromptu bouts on street corners and in playgrounds. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that as many as 40,000 people participate in dog fighting either as spectators, organizers or breeders of dogs, and tens of thousands of dogs are bred for the ring. Magazines and Internet sites openly sell training gear and display the "Cajun Rules," an intricate, 19-point system for adjudicating dog fights. Videos depicting dog fights are available for sale online, including recently at Amazon.com, according to a suit filed against the retailer by the Humane Society. One reason for the growing popularity of dog fighting is that it seems to have come into vogue among professional athletes and entertainers, whose attentions have given the brutal pastime a certain street cred. In 2005, National Basketball Association player Qyntel Woods pleaded guilty to animal abuse charges after abandoning a pit bull that had wounds consistent with dog fighting. That same year, former NFL running back LeShon Johnson pleaded guilty to possessing fight dogs and encouraging dogfights. And Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis, when asked about Vick, expressed an attitude that appears all too common among pro athletes: "It's his property; it's his dogs. If that's what he wants to do, do it." Rap music also glorifies the blood sport. The rapper DMX, who appears with a snarling pit bull on the cover of his album "Year of the Dog Again," has sung: "Place your bets/You can imagine what the bloodline is like," and "All my pups is crazy, 'cause off the leash/They can eat, stand a match for three hours at least." Madison Avenue has been quick to seize on such attitudes to instill a certain street cred in its own advertising. In 2003, the clothing company Nike, which has endorsement deals with numerous top athletes including Vick, released a gritty-looking TV ad dubbed "The Battle" which featured a brief glimpse of a growling pit bull and Rottweiler about to face off. A Nike representative denied that the ad encouraged dog fighting, but explained, "People have to understand the youth culture we cater to. Our market is the urban, edgy, hip-hop culture." But the scariest revelation is yet to come. That culture has reached down to schoolchildren, who increasingly seem to think that two dogs at each others' throats is cool. A survey of schoolchildren by the Anti-Cruelty Society of Chicago in 2001 found that 20 percent had witnessed a dogfight. Earlier this year, Los Angeles police arrested a 13-year-old boy who had organized a dog fight in an alley. Have you ever noticed that the majority of african american children, when inquiring about a dog, ask if it's a Pit Bull or Rottweiler? The story finishes: But stepped-up police work and prosecutions are only part of the solution. We are in danger of raising a generation of kids who view animal abuse as a sport, and it is up to responsible adults to change that way of thinking. Well said, but I would go even further. We are raising a generation of kids who have no respect for life at any level, be it their peers, animals or adults. Responsible adults do raise their kids to respect others. It's the irresponsible adults that allow their kids to get caught up in street culture. That's a tougher nut to crack. Full story here.