Please sign this petition to try and get the Ontario Pit bull “types” ban overturned!
Breed-specific legislation (BSL) is a law that bans OR restricts certain types of dogs based on their appearance, usually because they are perceived as “dangerous” breeds or types of dogs.
**It is a common misconception that BSL refers only to breed bans. BSL is seen in two forms: bans and restrictions.**
A breed ban usually requires that all dogs of a certain appearance (“targeted breed”) be removed from the municipality wherein the ban has been implemented. After the effective date of the ban, dogs in the municipality that are identified as targeted breeds are usually subject to being killed by animal control, though in some cases, such dogs may be saved if relocation is an option. Breed bans may have grandfather clauses that allow dogs of targeted breeds to stay in the ban area (provided they are registered with the municipality by a certain date, and likely subject to various breed-specific restrictions
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COMMENTARY© By June Maxam at North Country Gazette: Original article
Jump right to the petition: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/378/625/628/save-wicca-from-a-death-order/
MONTREAL,CANADA—It’s yet another horrific story of animal abuse, of a government targeting an animal, another case of breed specific legislation.
Worldwide opponents to breed specific legislation are focused on the city of Montreal in an effort to save yet another dog on death row. So far, the dog has been denied its day in court, held to be guilty without proof, guilty until proven innocent.
It’s yet another case of governmental abuse, the arbitrary and capricious application of BSL laws by the city of Montreal, even against dogs that don’t live in areas that are covered by the draconian BSL.
And perhaps the person most responsible for Wicca’s death order is Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay.
UPDATE: This posting from the Save Wicca FB page: “It’s over for Wicca guys. The Judge begged the city to give us 10 days in order to file a motion but he asked this on moral grounds since legally, he did not have the power to overturn a death order. The city refused. Wicca’s execution stands. Believe me when I tell you all how devastated we are over this but we will not stop. The laws will be changed. You mark my words! Wicca will not have died in vain. LONG LIVE WICCA!”
Email responses received from Berger Blanc, the animal shelter where Wicca is being held indicates a support for the dog and said that while they are sympathic to the cause to save Wicca, they are obliged to carry out the euthanization order of the court. But now the court is seemingly saying he doesn’t want the order carried forth, seeking further court proceedings.
Contact details for various members of the Council are top left of the page below. Save them all – Link exchange Call and mail. Link for mails is here http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/
portal/ page?_pageid=5977%2C42999681&_d ad=portal&_schema=PORTAL&submi t=true
Phone number is: 514-872-0311 no country code required from the US, for outside North America, it’s +1.
SHE’S NOT DEAD YET!!! Don’t let her down, fight, please.
It has to stop, innocent, beloved family pets can’t continue to die because of a government’s abuse of power and government’s unconstitutional acts against dog owners as well as the dog. Dogs have rights too and it’s the court’s obligation to uphold those rights instead of cavalierly, arrogantly and inhumanely ordering their death.
The individuals in governmental offices in such cities as Belfast and Montreal are gravely staining and damaging the public trust, creating a huge disdain for the government, failing to carry forth the wishes of the people who they have been elected to serve. Belfast is feeling the wrath, Montreal will be the target of the next boycott. When you murder innocent animals and fail to exercise compassion and understanding, you strike at the heart and soul of the populace and there will be repercussions.
The world’s outrage at the same unjust breed specific legislation that killed Lennox, a American bulldog/Labrador mixed breed in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is being exercised in Montreal. There are already talks of a boycott and such could seriously economically impact a city which relies heavily on its tourism trade.
The city of Montreal placed Wicca, a much loved five-year-old American Staffordshire Bull Terrier, on death row Monday following two court orders for the dog to be euthanized although so far, due process has totally been denied both the dog and her owner.
City dog wardens are claiming that the dog jumped on a woman June 7 in Villeray and bit her as well as a paramedic who arrived to treat the woman. However, there’s no proof of any bite, it appears any so-called “injury” was no more than a scratch and likely caused by the woman’s sudden movement towards the dog.
According to reports, a leashed Wicca was lying next to her owner on a terrasse when the woman spooked the dog. The dog allegedly scratched the woman on her abdomen but the woman has never testified in court to that matter. She was not seriously injured, she was not hospitalized.
Normally such a benign incident would warrant a 90-day muzzle order, a fine and an evaluation by a canine professional.
But Wicca has been denied that right. Her case is going before the Court of Appeals today, July 25. Two lower courts have ordered the dog killed.
A petition to save the dog’s life now has nearly 28,000 signatures targeting the city of Montreal to spare the dog’s life. firstname.lastname@example.org
As of Wednesday morning the dog was reportedly still alive, primarily because of the public outcry exercised in the case. The borough of Villeray was reportedly still deciding when and if it would fax the execution order to the animal shelter where the dog is being held, Berger Blanc. Should that happen, its likely strong public protests will erupt in Montreal, supported by the world.
Wicca’s owner, Chris Papakostas said goodbye to his beloved dog on Monday as it was led away to be placed on death row for euthanization.
Sophie Fournier, founder of Sophie’s dog adoption and a legal team from McGill University have filed a class action lawsuit to save Wicca’s life and to stop breed specific legislation in the city of Montreal. A hearing will be held Wednesday, July 25.
The city has now been sued for discrimination and its unconstitutional acts including lack of due process and unequal treatment in the case and the imposition of a kill order for a bite or scratch that has not yet been proven in court.
Last month the court rejected Papakostas’ motion to have the kill order reversed and for the dog to be evaluated by an behaviorist.
But the city is already starting to backtrack, although it says any change it makes in its BSL laws will not be enough to save Wicca. City officials say they want make sure that in future cases where an euthanization order has been issued that the dog owner will have 24 hours to have a dog expert confer with the borough’s dog expert which might lead to any kill order being reversed.
Such should be done in the case of Wicca. She doesn’t deserve to die because she bit when spooked. If all dogs who jump up on people are automatically sentenced to die, there will be an unwarranted mass extermination of dogs worldwide.
The city is reviewing its dog laws.
The city is claiming that Wicca jumped on a woman and scratched and bit her abdomen on June 7 on Jarry St. W.in Villeray. Police felt the woman needed medical attention and called an ambulance.
Reports indicate the woman was treated on the scene with little more than ointment for the scratch.
Police say that a paramedic visited Papakostas to ask if the dog was up to date on her vaccinations. Although Wicca was leashed, Papakostas let go of the leash when the paramedic said he wasn’t afraid of dogs, and Wicca allegedly jumped up at the paramedic He was not seriously injured.
Papakostas was not cited for any violations until the case gained notoriety and efforts intensified to save the dog’s life.
Papakostas’ attorney Elaine Rosenberg said her client received three citations in the mail on Tuesday, two for the alleged dog bites and one for Wicca being unlicensed.
She says she has no legal recourse to reverse the euthanization order issued for Wicca. She said the tickets will be contested as there has been no proof of any bites.
“If we win, the dog will have been killed for no reason”, she says.
The euthanization order should by law be stayed until the citations are heard in court.
The case has become an international outrage. An injunction is in place to stay the execution of Wicca. Emails are being requested to be sent to the animal shelter and the city of Montreal, saying the injunction is known internationally and the world will hold Berger Blanc and city of Montreal responsible if they kill Wicca. They are required to comply with the injunction
A court hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m.
A sample letter is here:
We have been made aware of the awful situation whereby an allegation has been made against this beautiful dog. The result of which has lead to an order to destroy Wicca, despite there being little evidence, just words and a picture! the trauma that poor Wicca has been put through, firstly being startled but this female, secondly taken from his home, his loved ones totally disregarded.
We are also aware that at this point in time there is an injunction in place to Prevent (and rightly so) this family member from being destroyed. In being aware of this, we are also aware that “if” anything were to happen we would hold Berger Blanc and the county of Montreal responsible and you would be sued. The world will be seeking answers, you may have already realised that the injunction is due to the world standing united on this ridiculous action and victimisation of certain breeds. Lennox died for no reason other than appearance, we won’t let it happen again! Let Wicca go home to his family, please. We, the world, will not stop in our support for Wicca and his family. We, the world, will not stop looking for answers if anything happens!
Emails protesting the city’s planned killing of Wicca can be sent to:
send faxes to 9825 Henri-Bourassa est, Montréal, Qc H1C 1G5 tél: 514.494.2002 fax: 514.494.3180 e-mail: email@example.com
The Mayor of Montreal Monsieur Gérald Tremblay,firstname.lastname@example.org
The City of Montreal inspector who allegedly ordered Wicca’s death sentence is Benoit Lacroix. email@example.com
A Facebook page has been set up here https://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-Wicca/450404848326080
I haven’t posted or updated this site in a while for various reasons, the main one being because my pitbull Chena passed away in December. I haven’t been dealing with it very well, or talking about it to anyone, in fact I still can’t even look at pictures of her. She was 13 years old and had had diabetes for 6 years and recently started suffering from cushings disease which was really taking a toll on her, in addition to arthritis and the diabetes of course. We were trying to treat the cushings for about a month or 2 but her suffering and misery was so great, her health was only getting worse and she had started to wet herself almost constantly. Having been my dog for that entire 13 years, rescued at 6 months old, it was really hard for me to see her like this and after a particularly horrible weekend, christmas weekend, we took her in to put her to sleep on the 26th.
It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, the biggest loss I have ever had and I still cant talk about it and don’t enjoy writing about it, in fact. I will add a photo to this post and end it, then have another good cry.
Chena will continue to represent the site and be a face for Anti BSL advocacy for as long as I am alive.
Halloween is always my favorite time of year, as Chena gets older, she looses interest in dressing up but at least we get a couple photos out of her before she goes back to sleep for a few more hours.
Chena as Santa
It’s snowing in Colorado right now so Chena looked best as Santa this year!
See more at Sure Fit Slipcovers Facebook contest!
Controversy around violent video games is nothing new, but now a shocking cell phone game exists that marries animal cruelty with video game violence. KG Dogfighting is a game that allows the player to virtually train dogs to fight against other players’ dogs. Despite the cruel nature of the game, Google refuses to remove it from its cell phone application marketplace.
Dog fighting is illegal in all 50 states because of the cruel nature of this “sport” in which dogs must fight until they are too injured to continue, or until one of the dogs dies. Injured dogs are often used as bait to excite other fighting dogs. To make matters worse, statistics show that people who abuse animals are exponentially more likely to harm human beings. This behavior shouldn’t be encouraged–even in game form. Tell Google to remove this game from their marketplace.
Hopefully once this is banned, the game for ipone and android will follow!
Sign the petition here: No More Playing around with dog fighting!
Sara Gunther is providing a refuge for the ‘dogs of death’ that can be put down under British law
He was once branded the ‘dog of death’ by a British tabloid. These days Raymond, a pit bull terrier, jumps and frolics playfully outside an Irish cottage that is offering a safe haven for dogs under death sentences in the UK.
The pup gained national notoriety this year when he was bought online by a British Sunday newspaper from underground dealers in fighting dogs. Like others, Raymond is illegal in Great Britain and could be put down at any time because of the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991, which banned the breeding, sale or exchange of pit bull terriers and some other breeds.
The hyperactive ginger pit bull has now been ‘rescued’ and relocated to an isolated corner of Co Galway, where pit bulls and other dogs in danger live in exile. His saviour is German-born dog-lover Sara Gunther, who has turned her rented cottage into a refuge for breeds that are banned in Britain as well as dogs that Irish owners have either neglected, starved or exploited. On arrival, Gunther nervously asks for ID cards to verify who the strangers at her door are.
‘I have to check you out because of the Farmers’ Boys,’ she said, referring to a notorious gang running illegal dog-fighting rings in Ireland. The Ulster Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals labelled the group the ‘Manchester United of the dog-fighting world’.
‘They know that I have pit bulls here, some of whom come from fighting stock,’ added Gunther. ‘I have received threats on mobile phones that these gangsters want my dogs and will take them from me.’ She pleads that The Observer does not print the precise location of where she lives with 22 rescued dogs and her four-year-old son. ‘I have to protect myself and my family,’ she adds.
Gunther says that she grew up with pit bulls in Frankfurt. She says this is why she has no problem allowing her son to play with dogs that have such a fearsome reputation on the other side of the Irish Sea.
‘The only dog that ever attacked me in my entire life was a golden labrador, but no one in the media will ever do a report about someone being attacked by an Andrex puppy lookalike,’ she added, as Raymond leaped around with a fellow rescued pit bull named Bowie, after the rock star.
Gunther revealed that her cottage is home to yet another pit bull media star. Nipper was sold to Panorama, the BBC’s investigative current affairs show, during a programme on dog-fighting rings. An undercover reporter bought Nipper from European pit bull dealer Paul Dunkel in Helsinki. Nipper was described on the programme as a lethal dog descended from a legendary Texan fighting dog called Little Killer. He was subsequently sold to the documentary makers but has ended up, Gunther claimed, at her sanctuary to avoid being put down.
‘My son is four and he plays with Nipper,’ she said. ‘I am even able to foster him out part-time. Nipper has more scars and injuries than any of the other dogs we look after, but he sits and watches cartoons with my son.’
Asked if she was prepared to take in more pit bulls and other illegal breeds that face being destroyed in the UK, Gunther replied: ‘I have to be very clear about this. I will not break the law in Britain, so I won’t go over and take a dog there. But if someone comes to Ireland with a dog and hands it over here to me in the Republic, then that is different.’
The organisation that speaks for rank-and-file Irish police officers, the Garda Representative Association, is currently campaigning for an Irish version of the UK’s Dangerous Dogs Act brought in by John Major’s government in 1991. The GRA highlighted the lack of legislation after one of its members was subjected to a ferocious attack by a pit bull terrier in Galway earlier this year. The officer had to receive more than 100 stitches during a raid on a house in the city when he was savaged by the dog belonging to a suspected drug dealer.
The prospect of an Irish Dangerous Dogs Act which would outlaw certain breeds like pit bulls horrifies Gunther. She pointed to her T-shirt, which reads ‘Deed Not Breed’, referring to a campaign that fights against ‘breed-specific legislation’. Gunther argued that legislation would only drive the problem underground and result in dogs such as Nipper and Raymond being put down ‘just because of their looks’.
6:00 am September 29, 2010, by Bob Barr
Municipal governments from New York City to Miami, and from Council Bluffs, Iowa to Denver, have responded to fear of pit bulls and similar breeds of dogs, by severely restricting their ownership or banning them entirely from their jurisdictions. Now, thanks to a rule issued recently by the U.S. Department of Justice, such actions are subject to being struck down. Jurisdictions now considering such overreactions, such as Douglasville, Georgia, would be well-advised to review the Justice Department’s opinion before proceeding.
Dog owners and humane societies have long-opposed such arbitrary and overly broad laws that penalize thousands of pit bull owners who maintain their canine companions properly and without incident, because of a small number who fail to properly train and control the dogs. Courts generally have permitted such ordinances to stand, based on deference to the so-called “police power” of local governments to protect the public “safety and welfare.”
The 20-year old, federal Americans With Disabilities Act (”ADA”), however, may put a stop to such “breed-specific legislation.” The ADA protects measures designed to help persons with disabilities, which includes dogs used by disabled persons for assistance. Laws that outlaw ownership of entire breeds, including those that might be used for assistive purposes, would limit the ability of persons with disabilities to use such pets, and would therefore violate the ADA and be deemed by the Justice Department to be unlawful.
In what some might consider a rare example of the federal government recognizing that laws can be overly broad and therefore harmful to individual liberty, the Justice Department’s opinion on breed-specific legislation noted that such laws sweep too broadly; and that it is inappropriate to outlaw an entire breed of dogs because a small number cause problems. Such problems are the result of owners not restraining their dogs properly or inadequately training them, rather than the result of a particular breed’s disposition, and can be addressed by more narrowly-crafted legislation.
Unfortunately, there are still those, like the mayor of Douglasville, Georgia, who favor overly restrictive measures. The mayor recently noted in support of the city’s proposed pit bull ordinance, that he had no problem singling out pit bulls, because he sees them “on TV” causing “incidents.” One would hope that local government officials might on their own possess some understanding of limited government and individual liberty; but if the Justice Department at least in this instance will ensure that they do so by way of a federal law, then the feds are serving as an important check on excessive government power.
September 20, 2010
Read the original article or listen to the interview on NPR here ( plus lots of interview highlights and related stories).
In July 2007, Michael Vick and three other men were arrested and charged with operating an interstate dogfighting ring. When the authorities arrived, they seized 51 pit bulls from Vick’s Virginia fighting compound, which he’d nicknamed the “Bad Newz Kennels.” The pit bulls showed clear signs of being abused and tortured.
Much attention has been paid to Vick and whether he should have been eligible to return to the NFL when he was released from prison. It turns out there was also an extremely successful effort to rehabilitate the pit bulls rescued from his compound. Many found new lives as pets, and others live peacefully with other dogs in animal sanctuaries.
Jim Gorant, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated,has been following the 49 surviving pit bulls the past three years. He’s written a book about their story called The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption.
Gorant joins Dave Davies for a conversation about the rehabilitation of the dogs. He’s joined by Hector, a pit bull rescued from Vick’s compound; dog trainer Andrew Yori, who adopted Hector, and Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, a psychologist and ASPCA animal behavior specialist who worked extensively with the Vick dogs.
Zawistowski explains that the Vick case offered a rare opportunity to have both the knowledge and the resources to rehabilitate the pit bulls at the center of the case.
“I’ve been working in the field for over 20 years now and when I first started, when we did dog busts at the ASPCA, typically the dogs were euthanized,” Zawistowski says. “Part of it was because our ability [to understand] dog behavior and knowledge hadn’t really developed to the point where we really understood the opportunities and the trajectory of a rehabilitation program.”
He says the Vick case was quite unusual and drew a lot of attention — particularly because of the $1 million Vick was required to put aside for restitution. Zawistowski assembled a team to evaluate and test the 49 surviving pit bulls to see what might be possible for their rehabilitation.
“We thought maybe if we found a handful of dogs [that could be saved] it would be a precedent, it would be great for us. It would be great for the dogs,” Zawistowski says. “The target might have been five or 10 dogs out of this particular group. That was what we were thinking we might get and if we got that, we’d be happy.”
Forty-seven dogs were given to sanctuaries to be rehabilitated. (One dog had to be euthanized for behavior and another because of injuries.) Some of the dogs remain at those sanctuaries today while others have been successfully adopted.
Hector, who accompanied the three guests to the Fresh Air studios, bore some of the worst fighting scars of the Vick dogs. But with Yori’s help, Hector eventually became one of four former Vick dogs to become a certified therapy dog. Hector and Yori now live in upstate New York, where Yori works for the Animal Farm Foundation.
The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption
By Jim Gorant
Hardcover, 304 pages
List price: $26
Excerpt: ‘The Lost Dogs’
by JIM GORANT
An article I wrote about the Michael Vick dogs appeared on the cover of the December 29th, 2008, issue of Sports Illustrated. In the weeks after, the magazine received almost 488 letters and emails about the story and the dog pictured on the cover, the most we got in response to any issue for that entire year. By an overwhelming majority the letters were supportive, but there were some detractors.
My greatest fear was a flood of complaints from people with friends or loved ones that had been injured or lost to pit bull attacks, but there were remarkably few of those. Most of the complainers fell into two groups. The first: What does this have to do with sports? A fair question, if you take the narrowest view of the subject — if all you want from your subscription is games and players and straight up analysis — then that’s a legitimate gripe. I would argue, however, that what defines Sports Illustrated and has set it apart for more than 50 years are well-told stories that attempt to put sports into a larger perspective, to offer a deeper and broader view of how the people and events in question reflect and contribute to the larger social and moral make-up of our society. To each is own, I suppose.
The second complaint was more troubling. In its simplest incarnation it usually went something like this: Why does it matter, they’re just dogs? The more verbose in this camp might elaborate: People are dying and starving every day and we’ve got bigger problems. No one cares if you kill cows or chickens or hunt deer. What’s different about dogs?
What is different about dogs? I had not directly addressed the question in the article. On some level it seemed obvious to me, but at the same time I couldn’t put a satisfying answer to words. As I started work on this book, the question hung over my head. As I was interviewing experts, reading books on canine history and behavior, touring shelters and talking to dog lovers, I processed a lot of the information through the prism of that question.
The answer, cobbled together from all those readings and conversations, took me back to the beginning. Men first domesticated dogs more than 10,000 years ago, when our ancestors were hunting for their meals and sleeping next to open fires at night. Dogs were instant helpers in our struggle for survival. They guarded us in the dark and helped us find food by day. We offered them something too, scraps of food, some measure of protection, the heat of the flames. In an article about the origin of dogs that ran in the New York Times in early 2010, one expert on dog genetics theorized that, “dogs could have been the sentries that let hunter gatherers settle without fear of surprise attack. They may also have been the first major item of inherited wealth, preceding cattle, and so could have laid the foundations for the gradations of wealth and social hierarchy that differentiated settled groups from their hunter-gatherer predecessors.”
Certainly, as man rose in the world, dogs came with us, perhaps even aiding the advance. They continued to guard us and help with hunting, but they did more. They marched with armies into war, they worked by our sides, hauling, pulling, herding, retrieving. We manipulated their genetic makeup to suit our purposes, cross breeding types to create animals that could kill the rats infecting our cities or search for those lost in the snow or the woods.
In return we brought them into our homes, made them part of our families. We offered them love and companionship and they returned the gesture. From the start it was a compact: You do this for us and we’ll do that for you.
Our relationship with dogs has always been different than it has been with livestock or wildlife. The only other animal that comes close is the horse, which has undoubtedly been a partner in our evolution and a companion. But a horse can’t curl up at the bottom of your bed at night, and it can’t come up and lick your face when you’re feeling down. Dogs have that ability to sense what we’re feeling and commiserate. There’s a reason they’re called man’s best friend.
As for why our bond with them matters, there are reasons for that, too. If you hang around animal activists for a while you’ll inevitably hear repeated a famous Gandhi quote: “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” The idea being that in order to lift the whole of society, you must first prop up the lowest among its many parts. If you show good will and kindness toward those who cannot stand up for themselves, you set a tone of compassion and good will that permeates all.
To this day, I believe Donna Reynolds, one of the founders of Bad Rap, a rescue organization at the center of the Vick case, said it best. “Vick showed the worst of us, our bloodlust, but this showed the best. I don’t think any of us thought it was possible — the government, the rescuers, the people involved. We like to think we have life figured out, and it’s nice that it can still surprise us, that sometimes we can accomplish things we had only dreamed of. We’ve moved our evolution forward. Just a little bit, but we have, and I’m happy to have been a part of that.”
I’m happy to have witnessed the effort and told the story.
Excerpted from The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant. Copyright 2010 by Jim Gorant. Reprinted by arrangement with Gotham Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
September 27, 2010 fromKQED
Scientists are hoping that a new DNA database for dogs will help track — and prosecute — people who breed dogs to fight. But advocates say there’s a risk that the DNA records could be used against the dogs, or against people who adopt them.
The idea is to have a canine version of the FBI’s CODIS — a database of human DNA that is used to connect criminals to crime scenes. But in this case, the DNA might help prove that breeders supplied dogs to a dogfighting ring.
In July 2009, a dogfighting operation was raided in northwest Missouri. Tim Rickey, the senior director of field operations for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, recalls the scene from that morning.
“I very vividly remember getting out of the truck, and one of the first images I seen was a dog that had one of its legs chewed off in a fight,” Rickey says. “And then the owners just amputated the leg.”
More than 500 dogs were seized from sites across seven states that day, and authorities arrested 26 people. It was the largest dogfighting raid in U.S. history. Rickey says he has heard all of the excuses.
“What their cover is, is that they’re just breeding the dogs,” he says. “They don’t fight the dogs, you know — they’re just breeding dogs because they’re a lover of the breed.”
In the Missouri case, DNA samples from the dogs proved that these weren’t just random pound dogs. They were all related. Prosecutors believed this was evidence that the dogs had been bred to fight.
And that makes sense, says Beth Wictum, who directs the forensics lab at the School of Veterinary Medicine at University of California, Davis.
“Essentially by breeding these dogs they’re creating a subpopulation, almost a new breed,” she says.
“Just as with Labradors, they may try and concentrate certain aspects of pointing or retrieving, there are behavior traits that they’re trying to concentrate within this subpopulation.”
Working with the ASPCA, Wictum is compiling a database called the Canine Combined DNA Index System. So far, it includes about 400 samples taken from inside the cheeks of fighting dogs, including those seized in the Missouri raid. It’s designed to help law enforcement go after not just the fight operators but also the breeders.
Rickey says that’s where the money is.
“For most of these fighters, it all comes down to creating a champion, and then to breed that champion,” he says.
Breeders can get as much as $20,000 for a puppy from a champion bloodline, according to Rickey.
And genetic proof of that bloodline could go a long way in court, he says, by helping convince a jury that a suspected breeder is supplying dogfighting rings across the country.
Still, the dog database makes some people very nervous — among them, Ledy VanKavage, an attorney for the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah.
“I’m not convinced this is a good thing for dogs,” she says.
VanKavage is also the owner of Karma, a pit bull whose DNA is in the database. Karma was a fighting dog rescued from the Missouri bust in 2009. By VanKavage’s account, she Karma has turned out to be a wonderful pet, whatever her DNA might suggest.
“We know that if DNA was the be all and end all, all of Secretariats’ foals would be champions and win the Triple Crown. And they don’t,” VanKavage says.
She said she worries that the genetic information could be like a scarlet letter on the dogs, precluding even the gentle ones from being adopted. Companies could refuse to sell homeowners insurance to people who adopt former fighting dogs. That would be unfair, she says, because as with people, DNA is not destiny.
“We’re not a prisoner of our genetics,” VanKavage says. “Each dog, like each person, is an individual and should be judged on their own character.”
Rickey and Wictum agree on that point — that the DNA records say much more about people who breed dogs than it says about the dogs themselves. In the Missouri dogfighting case, everyone who has been charged with a crime has pleaded guilty.
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