In our last blog post brought to you through an interview with veterinarian and Vice President of the National Outreach Department of the ASPCA, Lila Miller, we discussed the meaning of animal abuse. Today we continue this discussion to get an in depth understanding of what dogfighting and animal hoarding is, how they happen, and how they can be controlled.
WILD: What is animal hoarding?
MILLER: A good definition of animal hoarding can be found in the Illinois statutes which call for meeting three criteria, 1) having more than the usual number of animals 2) Has shown an inability to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter, and veterinary care, with this neglect often resulting in starvation, illness, and death 3) Displays a denial of the inability to provide this minimum care and the impact of that failure on the animals, the household, and human occupants of the dwelling
WILD: What is the penalty for animal abuse in the US for the common citizen?
MILLER: The penalties for animal abuse in the United States range from small monetary fines, probation, counseling, forbidding to own animals for certain specified periods of time to incarceration up to a few years. It is unlikely in most cases that the common citizen will serve jail time for animal cruelty unless it is particularly egregious.
WILD: Many do not understand what is entailed by dog fighting. Do you mind explaining the most common breeds, the practices done to those breeds to train them and make them more menacing, and what most commonly happens to those dogs during and after fights?
MILLER: Professional dogfighting has existed in the United States for over 150 years. The most common breed used for dogfighting in the US is the American Staffordshire Terrier, also known as the American pit bull terrier, although other breeds may be involved. These dogs were originally bred in England to fight with other dogs and that training has been passed down through generations. These dogs are bred not only to fight with other dogs, but to ignore signs of submission and to not show the traditional signs of aggression, such as ears signaling or growling. The most desirable characteristic of these dogs is gameness, where these dogs will continue to fight despite grievous injuries. There are a variety of exercises that trainers use to condition these dogs to increase their endurance, agility, strength and aggression, including treadmills, spring poles, jenny mills, roadwork, nutritional supplements and even drugs, like steroids. Many of these dogs sustain severe life-threatening injuries with massive tissue damage and blood loss, broken teeth, broken bones and even death. Dogs who do not perform well are often tortured and brutally killed. Their entire lives are spent in misery and pain.
WILD: Despite dog fighting being illegal in every state within the US, what is its prevalence? Where does it most often happen?
MILLER: Dogfighting is an underground activity. It is difficult to estimate its prevalence as it occurs as a professional, street-level and hobbyist activity. It occurs in rural, suburban and urban communities across the United States. In Chicago it is estimated that as many as 1 out of every 15 children may have witnessed a dogfight, and 1 out of 7 know about it.
WILD: Apart from dog fighting, what other illegal or unacceptable actions take place at these events?
MILLER: Dogfighting may be associated with gang activity, making it what is commonly referred to as a “gate way crime”. There is often illegal gambling, drugs , weapons, assaults and even homicides at dogfights
WILD: Which states mandate a veterinarian to report dog fighting? The public?
MILLER: Veterinarians are specifically mandated to report dogfighting in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Wisconsin. Reporting of dogfighting is allowed in Georgia, Maryland. Animal cruelty in general must be reported by veterinarians in Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Virgin Islands, Wisconsin. This list is subject to change as additional states address this issue of reporting animal cruelty by veterinarians.
WILD: Legal obligations of veterinarians vary in each state as to what they should do when they witness different types of animal abuse. Which states are the most stringent about reporting abuse? Which are the most lax? What are the different entities mandates?
MLLER: See the above. The language varies widely from state to state regarding reporting and are subject to change. Because each state defines animal cruelty and the veterinarian’s obligations to file a report differently it is difficult to make a comparison about which states are most stringent about reporting. Some states only provide immunity for filing a report or participating in an animal cruelty investigation. Some states require reports of suspicions or reasonable cause to know or suspect while others must have direct knowledge of the abuse. The reporting laws can be found at www.animal law.info, www.aldf, www.avma.org,www.aspca.org, www.hsus.org.