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Animal Cruelty Related to Dog Fighting and Mistreatment

By Samuel F. Bosco, MD, FACEP

Animals subjected to training associated with dog fighting and the dog fighting itself, are some of the cruelest forms of animal abuse and show a total lack of respect for the life of those animals.

In addition, other innocent animals are frequently sacrificed in an effort to help train a more vicious and aggressive animal. We would like to point out that in addition to the potential injuries and violence that can be perpetuated on human beings; the dogs have become the real victims in this battle.

Whether it be a Pit Bull, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Doberman or other breed, any dog can be made to be aggressive and trained to fight. It is important not to make specific breeds of animals responsible for what human beings have trained them to do. The animal learns and attempts to satisfy his or her master's wishes. Specific breeds of dogs are chosen to do terrible things by very misdirected people because of their strength, loyalty and dedication to the owners they try to satisfy. Any breed of animal can be trained, tortured, and inappropriately handled to become vicious. The same breeds that are currently being used for this purpose have been some of the best companions for people and children over the years. They only need an average and reasonable chance in life by responsible owners. As an example, pit bulls were one of the most popular family breeds of dogs in the 1950s. They are not born vicious and aggressive.

It is known that abuse against animals is sometimes a precursor to even more serious violence, including child abuse and domestic violence. People continue to mistreat children, other adults, and animals in a way that harms all of society. Unfortunately, we cannot save all animals that become abused, nor is it even appropriate in some circumstances. We would like to point out, however, that focusing on the human beings responsible for the torture, ongoing fighting and abuse of these animals is very appropriate. Continuing to allow the torture and mistreatment of these animals within our communities sends a very wrong message to those individuals responsible for this activity. It allows the seeds of violence and disrespect for life to grow into even more violent activities.

The Mohawk Hudson Humane Society strongly opposes and condemns all activities, training and mistreatment associated with dog fighting, as well as the activity of dog fighting itself to the fullest extent. We support the following principles:

The Mohawk Hudson Humane Society supports enforcement of existing laws and penalties to help hold people accountable for this senseless abuse.

The Mohawk Hudson Humane Society supports legislation that is directed at responsibility of individuals and increase the seriousness of penalties associated with this activity for those individuals.

Misinformation and/or generalization regarding specific breeds of dogs by various media outlets is strongly discouraged.

The Mohawk Hudson Humane Society does not support breed specific legislation as a means of solving this problem. People performing these actions need to be held accountable. The dogs are among the victims of this activity.

The Mohawk Hudson Humane Society supports education of the community, law enforcement, and animal control officers related to this issue, as well as the safe handling of potentially dangerous animals.

The Mohawk Hudson Humane Society is ready to assist local and regional law enforcement in the continued safety, well being, and rescue of all domestic animals.

No Kill and Open Admission Shelters

There has been much press in recent years about facilities called "No Kill" shelters. This concept has much appeal for those concerned about the fate of animals. Taken just on the surface, it would be easy to ask why the Mohawk & Hudson Humane Society is not identified as a no-kill facility.

As a no-kill shelter, we would have few options. We would take in only the number of animals for the space available and then be forced to close our doors. The fate of the animals that no-kill shelters turn away would then be uncertain. We also have partnerships with local animal control departments to take in stray animals and animals that are victims of abuse and neglect as required by law. It would be easy to say that another shelter or facility could assume that responsibility, but that would mean we are just shifting the problem instead of addressing it.

Because the Humane Society accepts all animals, some have behavioral problems that are dangerous to people or other animals. This is a particularly difficult issue since it's often not a case of whether an animal can be trained or not. Many of these behavior issues create serious safety issues for the community and can not be changed. The Society does not believe that we should simply hold these animals indefinitely so that they live out their lives in a cage.

When a no-kill shelter has reached its capacity and closed its doors, the problem doesn't end. What happens now? Dogs and cats are abandoned on the steps of the shelter. There is an increase of animals abandoned on city streets and rural roadways, resulting in both a community problem and a humane crisis.

It should be kept in mind that there is no agreed-upon definition of a "no-kill shelter." Many shelters using the term no-kill to describe themselves actually euthanize a large number of animals. Some call themselves no-kill because they euthanize under a certain percentage of animals. Others have created a formula that compares the number of animals euthanized to the population of their service area.

Generally there are two forms of no-kill shelters. One is a shelter where no animal is euthanized for any reason. The dynamics that position creates were discussed above and may actually result in animals suffering. The other form is a shelter that does not euthanize animals they deem to be "adoptable." This is a more nuanced position where the shelter, through spaying/neutering of animals and educating the public to increase awareness, reduces the number of animals needing the shelter's services. While these shelters may euthanize sick or aggressive animals, they are still performing euthanasia so the term "no-kill" does not accurately describe their program. The goal of the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society is to find homes for every animal that is healthy, friendly or has a treatable medical or behavioral condition.

At the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, our staff is called upon to make decisions regarding the welfare of animals on a daily basis. This responsibility is taken very seriously and at times our staff is forced to consider euthanasia as the most humane option. Animals are routinely brought to the shelter with illness or injury that necessitates euthanasia as the obvious choice for humane handling of the animal.

The Mohawk Hudson Humane Society is actively involved in efforts to provide education to the public as to the proper care of all types of animals. Designated staff and volunteers visit schools and other public venues in an effort to spread the important message about spaying and neutering pets and humane animal care. Public education plays an important part in reducing the numbers of unwanted animals. Our animal shelter is determined to be part of the solution.

As Harry Truman said, "The buck stops here." The Mohawk Hudson Humane Society will never turn away an animal in need. Every animal is properly cared for while seeking a new home. Every animal is spayed or neutered before being adopted to ensure that the outgoing animal will not add to the already staggering animal population numbers.

Sadly, the numbers of abused, neglected, stray and unwanted animals are legion. During the summer it is not unusual for this shelter to receive in excess of 20 cats per day at a sustained rate extending for weeks at a time. The staggering numbers of unwanted creatures far exceeds the appropriate homes ready to receive them. This is not only a situation prevalent in this area but is evident countrywide.

At the present time, there is no perfect solution to the mass animal overpopulation situation. The Mohawk Hudson Humane Society is engaged in every facet of humane work to ensure that the best possible outcome is available to end animal suffering and overpopulation. We do not have all the answers, but we continue to search for solutions to some of the most difficult issues of humane work. The job is not an easy one. True humane work is a formidable responsibility. We provide thousands of unwanted animals a new family. We provide a warm shelter and veterinary care for those awaiting adoption.