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Deschanel: The sad truth about dogfighting

  • Story Highlights
  • Michael Vick's situation has raised public awareness of dogfighting
  • The "scourge" of dogfighting has infiltrated America's urban areas
  • Chicago Police Department study shows animal abusers likely to harm people
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By Emily Deschanel
Special to CNN
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Editor's note: Emily Deschanel is an actress and animal rights activist. She's a spokesperson for the Humane Society of the United States and currently stars in the TV series "Bones." She's also appeared in movies such as "Glory Road," "Spiderman 2" and "Cold Mountain."


Emily Deschanel says dogfighting is a societal scourge, not a sport.

LOS ANGELES, California -- Like most decent Americans, I have been sickened by the Michael Vick dogfighting debacle. There can be no excuse for torturing and abusing man's best friend -- forcing dogs to fight to the death, under penalty of death. That a high-profile athlete like Vick carried this out in the name of "sport" makes it all the more disgusting.

If any good can be gleaned from the Michael Vick situation, it may be an increased public awareness of dogfighting and the need to stop this sickening spectacle. Since Vick's indictment, animal control agencies across the country have reported a sharp increase in the number of calls about dogfighting.

While the outcome of the Vick case is a great victory against dogfighting, there is still much to be done. Although Vick's dogfighting operation has been dismantled, it was only one of countless thousands of such operations across the country, where dogs suffer untold horrors at the hands of their handlers.

Now that we have strong laws in place, it's time to tackle dogfighting at its roots.

Unfortunately, legions of today's youths are being sold the lie that fighting dogs is a way to prove their bravery and machismo. This twisted mind-set is marketed by certain forces of popular culture, from high-rolling rap artists who boast about their pit bulls' prowess to millionaire sports stars like Vick.

As a result, the scourge of street dogfighting has infiltrated virtually every urban area across the country. Gang members and street thugs seek street cred by showing they have the baddest dogs on the block.

Although less organized than the larger-scale, professional dogfighting operations run by big shots like Vick, the street dogfighting carried out in dark basements and back alleys is no less brutal. Dogs are beaten, abused and goaded into aggression and then set upon each other in duels to the death. Poor fighters are an embarrassment to their owners and are killed by brutal means.

Compounding the tragedy is the fact that even if these dogs are rescued from their abusers, happy endings are few and far between. Most rescued fighting dogs have been selectively bred for such extreme aggression to other dogs that -- even while they are loving toward people -- they cannot be safely adopted into the community. Sadly, humane euthanasia is their only option.

I have heard it said that the while Americans may find the Vick case compelling, it's inconsequential to society at large, and we should be worrying about larger issues. I have heard others complain that Vick's victims were "just dogs," and that Americans' outrage is overblown.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The outcome of the Vick case has far-reaching implications for the dogfighting world and therefore, community safety overall.

Because violence breeds violence, dogfighting endangers communities wherever it occurs. Aside from hurting animals, it nurtures a violent mind-set that makes it easier for people to brutalize other people. The results of a recent Chicago Police Department study bear this out: Of those arrested for animal crimes, including dogfighting, 65 percent had past arrests for battery.

These statistics, coupled with the sheer moral turpitude involved in torturing our canine companions to death, should be enough motivation for Americans to accept that dogfighting is no sport. It's a social scourge that we all must take part in fighting. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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