In December 2019, eleven dogs were rescued from a suspected dogfighting ring on Detroit’s east side.
The dogs were being held in two boarded-up houses where a concerned citizen noticed some evidence of this felony and called the police.
Along with the dogs, agents recovered 60 pounds of tow chain, two treadmills, brake sticks and other conditioning items, and injectable drugs.
All of these are common dogfighting paraphernalia.
Why Dogfighting is a Felony
Some of you might remember the highly publicized case of ex NFL player Michael Vick. He was arrested in 2007 for his extensive involvement in dogfighting.
Vick was suspended from the NFL, lost millions of dollars, and spent 18 months in prison.
At that time, our country was introduced in a new way to the horrors the dogs go through, as well as some of the shocking practices of dogfighting.
In 2009 this “blood sport” became a felony in all fifty states as well as a federal felony.
Spectating dog fights is a felony in half of the states, while it remains illegal – and a misdemeanor – in the remaining half.
Penalties in Michigan for Operating and Watching a Dog Fight
In Michigan, both operating and watching a dog fight is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison. Penalties range from $1,000 to $50,000 in fines. For more, please see Michigan Penal Code 750.490.
Dogs that participate in fights sustain terrible injuries, such as bruising, deep lacerations and cuts, and broken bones.
Although battles aren’t often to the death, many losing dogs die of their injuries or shock in the hours or days after the fight if they aren’t killed as soon as they lose.
Michael Vick admitted to strangling, beating, and drowning dogs to death as part of his operation. He also provided a place to hold fights, financed training, and trained some fighting dogs himself.
Not only is it a common practice for losing dogs to be put to death, sometimes cruelly as part of the “sport.”
However, every dog that is bred to participate in dogfights – winners or losers – is abused. They are often chained on short chains or hidden inside in dark rooms their whole lives. Their tails and ears are often cruelly removed to keep them from being easily grabbed by other dogs during fights. They are starved and beaten as part of conditioning from puppyhood.
As many law-enforcement officers know, cruelty to animals is a precursor to crimes like homicide.
The Dogfighting Industry
You might think dogfighting isn’t all that common. Sure, maybe it takes place in bad parts of big cities, but it doesn’t affect most of us.
The truth is that it’s a billion-dollar industry in this country despite its being a felony. It’s a much more common crime than you might realize, and it takes place in every type of community.
There are an estimated tens of thousands of dog fighters in the U.S. today, forcing hundreds of thousands of dogs to endure this horrific abuse.
Dogfighting is a lucrative criminal endeavor, and jail time is often seen as the price of doing business.
That is why the change in the law has made a big difference in the pursuit of these criminals.
Dog fights attract other criminal actions such as illegal gambling, drugs, and firearms.
One of the more disturbing things about this crime is that young children are often found at dogfighting events.
Dogfighting is also a gateway crime for teens in some communities; it’s a way to gain credibility and a form of protection to own a vicious dog.
In both cases, watching and participating in this cruel “sport” desensitizes children to violence and promotes a life of crime.
Takeaway – What You Can Do
Dogfighting remains a hidden crime in many communities. You can report the signs listed in these articles to authorities if you see dogs that might be used as fighting dogs or paraphernalia associated with fighting.
You can also report any animal cruelty and neglect to the Humane Society at 318-872-3401 for the Detroit area or 313-262-4022 statewide.
Do you know what Micheal Vick did after he served prison time? He teamed up with the Humane Society to speak to many thousands of children about the dangers of animal cruelty.
Facing Criminal Charges?
If you are facing criminal charges related to dogfighting or animal cruelty, you need the legal representation of a dedicated defense attorney as Michigan treats these crimes very seriously.
Please call my office today for a free consultation.