Wednesday, August 1, 2007
7 News Investigations: Dog fighting
Now to a Seven News exclusive investigation. Dog fighting making national headlines recently, as an NFL star fights disturbing allegations. But, as Seven's JP Hervis shows you, you don't have to look that far to find the illegal activity. We must warn you, some of the footage you're about to see may be disturbing.
WSVN -- Dog pitted against dog. It's a vicious blood sport, and it's happening right here in South Florida. In this police video you can see one dog virtually defeated, barely standing, but its handler makes him continue to fight. The dog is mauled by its opponent.
Mike Vadnal: "It's disgusting, and it is sickening."
Broward Sheriff's Detective Mike Vadnal has been investigating dog fighting for nearly 16 years. He says the illegal activity is as popular as ever and getting more attention since the arrest of NFL star quarterback Michael Vick. Police say Vick raised pitbulls to fight, and, when they lost, he allegedly beat them, tortured them and even electrocuted them.
People are stunned that a big name athlete could possibly be involved in something like this, but dog fighting can mean big money.
Mike Vadnal: "It's national, you've got the big time guys that are flying their dogs from Miami to New York to Arizona for big money stakes."
Some dogs are treated like athletes, using medicine to improve performance, like Vitamin E to thicken blood and Pedialite for hydration.
Mike Vadnal: "Creatine. A lot of guys put their dogs on steroids."
There are even videos explaining how to train so-called game dogs, like this one on a treadmill.
Authorities say the big business dog fighting isn't as prevalent in South Florida, as it was maybe five to 10 years ago. Nowadays, there is a lot more lower level fighting or street dog fighting, and the dog fighters nowadays are a lot younger and of course less experienced.
Mike Vadnal: "You've got the kids all getting involved in this now, which is more like a hobby or sport. They take their dog and put him up against another pitbull."
Seven News joined Detective Vadnal and Sergeant Adam Hofstein in a crackdown of local homes suspected of dog fighting activity. Many animals we found lacked food, water or good shelter. But there was no shortage of dogs.
Mike Vadnal: "You can see his face is all scarred up, which is indicative of dog fighting."
At another home, the person who answered the door wasn't too happy that police stopped by.
Mike Vadnal: "How are you doing, Jerry? Can we take a look at the dogs?"
At another home, among a group of dogs, we found this young female, badly scarred all over her body.
Adam Hofstein: "This dog was previously fought. It doesn't look like it is being currently fought."
The owner says he's, just breeding the dogs, but he also told cops he couldn't afford to properly care for the injured dog, so animal services was called in. The pooch was taken away. It's future uncertain.
Adam Hofstein: "We may not have the probable cause right now to say that he is fighting the dogs or is going to fight the dogs, but it is logical."
Through the course of our day BSO made no arrests for dog fighting. Police basically have to catch someone in the act,
which poses the biggest challenge because this blood sport can secretly happen anytime, anywhere.
Mike Vadnal: "They can take that out to a wooden area, have a couple of matches, clean up shop and get out of there."
JP Hervis: "An example of that, in a recent case in Plantation, a man was charged on seven different animal abuse and/or neglect charges. Six dogs were removed from his care. Two of those dogs died. In the same area where these dogs were found, dog fighting paraphernalia, according to a police report, was found as well. This man was not charged with any dog fighting crime because cops say they never saw him do anything."