Speak out, earn cash

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 22, 2010

NATCHEZ — NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s recent prison stint might have influenced a local crackdown on dog fighting rings.

The Humane Society of the United States distributed fliers to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office last week offering $5,000 in exchange for tips leading to the prosecution of dogfights.

Mississippi director of the national Humane Society Lydia Sattler said the public attention paid to Vick’s association with Bad Newz Kennels, a dog-fighting ring, has helped build an awareness of an existing problem.

Sattler said animal cruelty, such as dog fighting, is often a precursor to larger abuse issues.

Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said his office has made the investigation of dog fighting a priority due to the cruelty of the activity and because it often involves other illegal activity, such as drugs, theft and other types of abuse.

Natchez-Adams County Humane Society President Barbara Platt said she gets calls about local dogfights off and on, but they usually come as reports of dead animals after the fights occur.

“It’s cruel and its dangerous to other animals and it can be dangerous to humans,” Platt said.

Platt said e-mail and the Internet have made dog fighting investigations more difficult because the rings can communicate better and more secretly.

Platt said dog fights usually involve pit bulls who have been aggressively trained, sometimes by forcing them to run on treadmills. She said pit bulls are especially dangerous because they can lock their jaws, then grind their teeth.

Mayfield said the ACSO currently has some locations and names of suspects involved in dog fighting, but the push to investigate is still in its infancy.

He said the ACSO is willing to work with humane society as much as possible to make arrests on the issue. They are working out a way to allow tippers who call the ACSO to receive the reward from the humane society.

“We’re just asking for people’s help,” Mayfield said. He added that ACSO will accept anonymous tips.

All 50 states have outlawed dog fighting, but it is still widespread, according to the Humane Society.

Mayfield said the maximum punishment for the felony of hosting or contributing to a dog fight is a $5,000 fine and three years in prison.

Simply witnessing a dog fight garners a felony charge with a maximum sentence of a $1,000 fine and one year in prison.