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    Posted January 29, 2013 by
    catannreid
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    Dog Fighting Exhibit Opens at Crime Museum

     
    WASHINGTON—A new ASPCA-sponsored exhibit at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment aims to shed light on the extent of dog fighting in the United States – an illegal activity that continues to draw crowds and is associated with a broader network of other crimes such as illegal gambling and drug use.

    “Any place that there’s a buck to be made and dogs can be kept, you might have dog fighting,” said Randall Lockwood, senior vice president of forensic and anti-cruelty projects at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at the Tuesday opening of the exhibit, titled, “Dog Fighting: The Voiceless Victims.”

    The exhibit includes tools used by dog fighters, images of rescued dogs and a map of dog fighting-related arrests in the U.S. Visitors may indeed react to some of the tools displayed, which include a nailed collar used to antagonize fighting dogs and an electrocution device designed to kill losing dogs.

    Janine Vaccarello, chief operating officer of the crime museum, said she hopes the display moves visitors to take action against dog cruelty in the U.S.

    “We know animals have an emotional appeal,” Vaccarello said.

    Lockwood, who helped in the prosecution of NFL quarter Michael Vick for his involvement in dog fighting, said the purpose of the exhibit is to “educate the public about the horrors of dog fighting.”

    In 2008 Wyoming was the last state to make dog fighting a felony, but People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – PETA, estimates tens of thousands participate in professional dog fighting, most as spectators.

    In 2009 the ASPCA’s largest operation, the “Missouri 500” case, involved the arrest of more than 20 people and the seizing of 500 dogs. Lockwood said school coaches and nurses were among those involved.

    “I think dog fighting is really the worst violation of that special relationship between people and dogs,” Lockwood said.

    One serious danger of dog fighting is its connection to broader networks of crime.

    “We always see drugs involved, we see illegal weapons, animal cruelty, illegal gambling,” Lockwood said.

    The exhibit showed police have used dog fighting as a way into bigger crime networks. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were able to close a gun and drug investigation in Virginia in 2010 by purchasing Dragon, a young pit bull, from a suspect who was also involved with dog fighting.

    The exhibit also included the indictment papers from Vick’s 2007 case. He pleaded guilty later that year to funding a dog fighting operation and killing six to eight dogs on his property in rural Virginia. Police found 66 dogs, fighting equipment and pits.

    Vick was released in 2009 after serving 21 months of his 23-month sentence in a federal prison. Now playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, Vick has become an outspoken opponent of dog fighting. In 2011 he joined forces with the Humane Society of the United States to urge members of Congress to pass legislation that would penalize spectators at animal fights and also those who allow children to attend. The Senate passed the bill in December. Lockwood said the legislation is still pending and that he welcomes any attention Vick may bring to the cause.

    “Personally I have difficulty forgiving him, but if he can be helpful in the fight against dog fighting, we welcome whatever help we can get,” Lockwood said.

    The work Lockwood and the ASPCA have been doing was featured in the exhibit among the success stories of dog rescues. One such story featured Coco, a pit bull who came to the ASPCA weighing only 25. After seven weeks of rehabilitation, Coco left at 46 pounds.

    Lockwood says saving dogs like Coco and finding them loving homes is what really motivates his work.

    “It’s one of the things that keeps us going.”


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