If it looks like dog fighting …

When I saw the words “bait dog” in the headline I debated whether I should, or even could read the article.  But I did. The bad news is that another innocent dog was intentionally disfigured and then thrown to a pack of fighting dogs as a training aid.  The good news is that he escaped, was found by a kind dog lover and is now being medically treated and rehabilitated by some extremely good people of the local rescue organizations. They’ve named the dog Malachi.
For those readers who live with their heads underground, dog fighting is an insidious organized blood-sport crime that takes place right in our own backyards. Dogs, usually pit bulls, literally bite and rip the flesh off one another while on-lookers cheer and place bets on which dog will win the match. Guns, money, liquor and children are involved, too. Generally, the loser of the match dies from his injuries or is killed because of these injuries, usually shot. The animals that survive never see a vet regardless of the gravity of its injuries.  From an animal welfare standpoint, dog fighting is one of the most serious forms of animal abuse not just for the acts of violence that the dogs endure during the fight but because these dogs suffer their entire lives.
Fighting dogs are trained with the use of “bait dogs”. Often pets (dogs and cats) are stolen from backyards or otherwise obtained from “free to a good home” ads to be used as live bait in training exercises to improve a fighting dogs’ endurance, strength, or skill. The muzzles of bait dogs are duct-taped closed to prevent them from fighting back. In Malachi’s case, his teeth were removed rendering him defenseless.  These dogs are short-chained in a confined area or, my particular personal horror, suspended by the neck from a tree, dangling until they are torn apart. Yep, they’re alive when this happens.
Dogfighting is a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. However, South Carolina maintains its position at the top of the bottom by continuing to be one of the hot beds of dog fighting nationwide. Last week’s article states that Beaufort County animal control officers have not seen evidence of organized dog fights since 2007 though damaged pit bulls routinely show up at the shelter. Difficult to believe.
Granted, rule of law is based only on hard evidence. Though I have seen evidence of dog fighting equipment in yards in Dale and Lobeco and reported my suspicions to authorities all the way up to the states Attorney General, it appears that little can be done unless agents walk directly into an active dog fighting match. Apparently, that’s difficult to accomplish.
Look around as you drive the back roads around here. You’ll see signs of dog fighting, too — treadmills, catmills (jennys), springpoles (jumppoles), flirtpoles, chains/weights, and electrical cords dangling from trees used to secure bait animals. Ever wonder why that one house has a pile of dog crates in the yard? Perhaps they are used as transport to dog fighting matches. Evidence of dog fighting is all over the place and it is not a big secret in Beaufort County.
Dogs like Malachi are being hurt and killed every day. We all have to become involved if we want this barbaric practice to stop. Animal lovers in this community need to start making some noise, not just right now on behalf of Malachi, but every single week. Set up an email group including the police, the sheriff, your representative, the mayor, the local papers and anyone else you think might be interested and when you come across dog fighting evidence, send a note. Make it easy. Make some noise. It will take just a fraction of your day to help.
Note: Malachi was a mess as you might imagine. The veterinary and rehabilitation expenses are enormous. There is a fundraiser 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 24 at Montana’s Grizzly Bar in Bluffton. Or, contributions can be sent to Holly Zusack at Three Black Dogs, 33 Ulmer Road, Bluffton, 29910. Mark the envelope “For Malachi.”

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