GV Humane Society works to end dog fighting

Courtesy Photo / facebook.com
Humane Society fundraiser was held in Kirkhof

Courtesy Photo / facebook.com Humane Society fundraiser was held in Kirkhof

Chelsea Lane

The Humane Society of the United States estimates 40,000 people witness or participate in staged dog fights each year. But Saturday afternoon, the Humane Society of Grand Valley State University fought back with is with its largest event ever, the End Dog Fighting fundraiser, in hopes of helping put an end to the illegal and often deadly sport.

HSGVSU hosted the fundraiser, which included bowling, vegan food from Brick Road Pizza, a raffle and a silent auction, at Clique Bowling Alley in downtown Grand Rapids. All proceeds benefitted the End Dog Fighting campaign, which targets major dog fighting cities such as Detroit, Chicago and Atlanta and helps find homes for rescued fighting dogs.

HSGVSU President Lena Spadacene said the organization was pleased with the event’s turnout and that the GVSU community seemed very supportive of the cause.

“Even people who couldn’t come to the event, they would give money when they stopped by our table in Kirkhof that we had out this week,” she said. “We raised over $100 just that way, which has never happened before.”

Lead coordinator for the fundraiser Nikki Radzinski hoped the event would clear up some lingering misconceptions about breeds commonly used for dog fighting, particularly pit bulls.

“Studies have shown those dogs are not any more naturally aggressive than other breeds, but there are still a lot of negative perceptions surrounding them,” she said. “But if you’re ever around them, they are the sweetest, nicest dogs you could ever imagine … All breeds can potentially be used for dog fighting, not just bully breeds.”

Radzinski and Spadacene explained that dog fighters will obtain their dogs from a variety of sources, including capturing strays off the street, taking dogs given away for free and even stealing pets. It is also not uncommon for children to be present during dog fights, where they observe and learn violent behavior firsthand.

HSUS Michigan State director Jill Fritz, who spoke at the fundraiser, said part of the End Dog Fighting Campaign involves community outreach, where local children are invited to volunteer at shelters and learn the importance of caring for animals in a responsible and loving way.

“This helps the children build a relationship with the animals,” Fritz said. “We want that bond to grow to the point where they never want to fight their dogs.”

Dog fighting is also often interlinked with other violent crimes. According to a recent Chicago police study, 65 percent of those arrested for dog fighting in the city had also been arrested for assault or battery, and 59 percent had been arrested for gang-related crimes. Dog fighting itself is currently a felony in all 50 states and cock fighting is a felony in 39 states, including Michigan, and a misdemeanor in the remaining 11.

“Dog fighting involves putting two dogs in a ring and allowing them to rip each other to shreds until, essentially, one of them submits,” Fritz said. “It’s an incredibly violent crime that brings a lot of other violent crime to the community, too … We are very fortunate here in this state to have good animal fighting laws.”

Fritz added that statistically, Detroit is ranked as the fifth-highest city in the nation for dog fighting activities and arrests. HSUS offers a $5,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of dog fighters. Tips on suspected dog fighting activity can be submitted to HSUS by calling 1-877-TIPHSUS.

For more information about dog fighting as well as local volunteer and fundraising opportunities, visit http://www.humanesociety.org or search “Humane Society of Grand Valley State University” on Facebook.

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