Monday, December 1, 2008

Thoughts on the Houston Pitbull Killings

Harris County TX prosecutors are hoping to find more Pitbulls to kill. Cos 187 just ain't enough apparently. The plan:
...[A]uthorities will band together in January to launch a Crime Stoppers campaign cracking down on dogfighting.

The monthlong initiative — patterned after a similar effort in Chicago — will encourage callers to anonymously report illegal dogfighting to the Crime Stoppers tip line and will deploy a task force to investigate all leads. Crime Stoppers also will spotlight the crime on billboards across the county.

Great! What could possibly go wrong? Well for starters, authorities might kill every dog they "rescue" from any fighting operations. I am absolutely all for busting scumbag dogfighters and the freaks who like to watch. But as for killing every single dog "saved" without an individual evaluation by a qualified canine professional - not so much. Every dog deserves a fair evaluation.

And what about false tips they receive in the course of the investigation? Responsible Pitbull owners not involved in dogfighting may be targeted by neighbors who only know what Harris County and the Houston SPCA have taught the public about Pitbulls - that they are all evil and must be killed. What if those dogs get seized during the course of the investigation? Will they too be immediately killed without evaluation before any determination of guilt or innocence can be made in the case against their owners?

Which brings me back to the 187 Pitbulls killed by Harris County. The wheels of justice turn slowly. Have ANY of these suspects been convicted of a dogfighting crime yet? Cos I can't find any reports indicating they have nor can I imagine all 50 suspects having already had their day in court. Again, let me reiterate, if these people are found guilty of dogfighting, animal cruelty or anything in those realms, I absolutely agree their dogs should be confiscated by the authorities. In the meantime, the dogs should be cared for, individually evaluated and held until either the owners have been to trial, the owner signs the dogs over to authorities, and/or a judge issues an order releasing the dogs. At that point, the dogs belonging to anyone found 'not guilty' would be returned to their owners and the others would be released to rescue groups so the dogs can be rehomed.

I appreciate that when you get any large group of dogs in for evaluations, there may be some determined to be too aggressive to be handled. In the Michael Vick case, evaluations determined 1 dog out of the 50 seized had to be euthanized due to aggression. I am not advocating for every single shelter dog in the country to be adopted out. But every dog deserves a fair evaluation.

I further understand that even a normal, friendly Pitbull might have to be euthanized in a dogfighting case as this Vet points out:
"These animals really get chewed up and suffer greatly," Harkness said. "This is a point where death can be a gift."

I agree. If a Veterinarian determines the dog's case is medically hopeless and that dog is suffering, that's what euthanasia is for - to hasten the inevitable so as to avoid prolonged pain and misery for the animal. But that's not what anyone has said regarding the 187 dogs seized in the Houston case. They were killed due to "aggression" with no information provided on the individual evaluations each dog should have received. What are the odds of a group of 187 dogs each scoring an identical result on their evaluations - that is, too aggressive to be handled/recommended for euthanasia? I'd say it would be about impossible for all 187 dogs to receive the same exact determination. In fact, I am suspicious that evaluations were never performed at all, despite the reporting earlier in the case. If that is the case, then 187 dogs were senselessly killed without reason by those who "rescued" them. How is that significantly better than the situation the dogs were saved from?

I'm not asking for a blanket pass for any breed or any case. All I'm asking for on behalf of rescued dogs in shelters is a chance. Let's not pre-judge them because of who abused them or what they look like. Let's take each case, one by one, and judge the dog on his own merits. Is that too much to ask? Every dog deserves a fair evaluation.

Action: Contact the Houston SPCA and let them know, politely and respectfully, that the next group of dogs seized in a dogfighting bust deserves more than automatic death. If they need assistance, tell them to ask for it. The dog community rallies for causes every day. But we can never support senseless killing - not now, not ever. We are a no-kill nation. I hope the Houston SPCA and Harris County authorities will join us.


Anonymous said...

Well i agree 100% there should be no killing! that would be worst than animal cruelty! can there be a safe shelter to give this God creatures a chance....

Alex V. said...

Ugh, that just makes me sick. They didn't even care to evaluate the dogs.