Patti Lawson for
Pittsburgh Boomers

Last week the nation recoiled in shock as every major cable show, sports networks, and newspapers revealed the horrendous details of the indictment of Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Michael Vick and his cronies on numerous charges of animal cruelty stemming from dog fighting at his Virginia home. Of course under our jurisprudence system, Vick is deemed innocent until proven guilty, but the evidence found by federal investigators clearly showed that truly innocent dogs suffered horrendously.

That people earn money often through the mistreatment of animals or even other people is nothing new. Tales of despicable treatment of dogs in puppy mills and people murdered by the hands of those they once loved is rampant today. But dog fighting, the filthy secret torture and slaughter of innocent animals has been cloaked in secrecy. Now that national attention and outrage is suddenly focused on this cruel and sadistic practice, all decent people must take a stand against it and urge that swift justice and punishment come to those found guilty of perpetuating it.

Evidence was abundant at Vick’s estate and seasoned investigators reported they were sickened by the sight of massive amounts of blood and devices used to inflict inordinate suffering on these dogs in the name of training.

After watching one of the cable shows that spared no details in reporting this heinous activity, I found myself unable to sleep. Listening to the rhythmic breathing of my own dear dog Sadie, my heart ached for these animals I never knew. Dogs bred for destruction whose fate was decided before they were born.

Vick’s estate was complete with the small wooden pit used for the dog fights. There is no escape from the pit…or from death for these animals. The fight lasts for hours… until one of the dogs is dead. The survivor is then often hanged, drowned, or electrocuted for failing to become the victor.

I thought of the one time I saw Sadie react to the surly advances of another dog and how frightened she was. Was there a time when these dogs had a chance for such a reaction? Did they ever know any happiness, joy, or even the gentle touch of a human hand?

I reflected on the rituals I’ve established with my dog that insures her care and her trust of me. How each night I tap her toothbrush and say “teeth brushed” and she comes into the bathroom. The report said these dogs teeth were filed to sharp points to make their bite more deadly…and this barbaric act is done without pain prevention. It said these dogs’ jaws are so powerful they can break the jaw of their opponent leaving gaping wounds.

I thought of the “wardrobe” of pretty collars Sadie has hanging at the head of our basement steps…pink with sea shells, royal blue with “diamonds”, and her strand of “pearls” that match mine. The dogs in Vick’s world were forced to wear weighted thick chains to increase the strength of their neck muscles…all the better for attacking you see.

Sadie’s beautiful hair was shining in the television light and I touched its luxurious softness. The words of the reporter ran through my brain…the pit bull owners put ground glass in the dog’s fur prior to a fight…it cuts the gums and mouth of the attacking dog and the painful result was evidenced by the rivers of blood found at the crime scene. I thought of my sweet little dog and how she enjoys eating her food…did these animals ever enjoy a decent meal without pain?

And the repulsive details went on and on, but I could not. What makes people so hungry for and addicted to cruelty and violence? Isn’t there enough sacking and thumping in the football stadium on any given Sunday to satisfy the quarterback? My one experience with the death of a dog due to cruelty was heartbreaking. A dog much like the mother of my dog had been adopted from the local shelter only to be returned so badly beaten that she had to be put out of her suffering.

I took her body to Virginia Tech for a necropsy (dog autopsy) in order to facilitate the prosecution of the hateful man who had killed her. It was a solemn three-hour ride with a dog’s lifeless body in the trunk of my car…a dog that didn’t deserve such an end to its’ life. I brought her to a wonderful facility dedicated to the care and well-being of all animals…even the dead ones. It was a sad return as well, because this was one dog that none of the skilled veterinarians there could help.

I resolved I would not be silent over this atrocity and I relentlessly sought the prosecution of this man. Unfortunately he was arrested on federal drug charges first and taken away before he could be indicted.

People who care for animals are crying out and we all must. Blatant cruelty with no conscience spills over into society in thousands of ways. Don’t look the other way when you see an animal being mistreated. Don’t ignore the obvious…if you know of someone with multiple pit bulls that are vicious and wearing thick chain collars…call the humane office in your community and the police too. Report things that aren’t right such as:

* Dogs tied out in the hot sun for hours with little room to move or water to drink.
* Dogs left in hot cars while their owners shop in air-conditioned comfort.
* Dogs that appears seriously malnourished.
* Dogs that are visibly scared of the person holding their leash.
* Dogs left alone for days with no one caring for them.
* And if you hear of a backyard breeder…someone whose only concern is the profit from endless puppies a dog must bear over and over…turn them in.

I don’t know what the answer to any of these hideous actions is. I do know that we have a fighting chance if we join with organizations like the Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I know the dogs and other animals don’t have a chance if we look the other way and remain silent.

My sleepless night ended, and as the morning sun came up Sadie gave me that questioning and happy look she does every morning as if to say…”What wonderful thing is going to happen today?” I am saddened beyond measure for all the dogs who never get to ask that question.

DOGS…DIETS…DATING makes no apology for veering of our normal uplifting material this week to expose this evil massacre reportedly participated in across our nation by over 40,000 “professional” dog fighters. SPEAK OUT AGAINST THIS. Next month….we will be back with a story about our happy adventures.

Patti and Sadie Lawson are available for fundraisers to benefit the welfare of animals. Visit their website: Watch for their new book in the spring of 2008.