Increase In Dog Attacks Across The Valley
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COACHELLA-- The larger dog always fought to kill, while Capone, with his docile disposition and his muzzle taped shut, would simply fight to stay alive. Time and again, the sweet-natured pit but was mauled by fight dogs. When his owner finally deemed the two-year-old bait dog useless, someone tried to destroy Capone with a final coup de grâce. Doctors suspect the gash to his head was caused by a machete or axe. Whatever the weapon, the blow was clearly intended to kill him; amazingly, it didn't.
Michelle Bergeron, Animal Samaritans' Adoption Alliance Animal Rescue Coordinator, had never seen a dog so terribly abused.
Bite marks-infected and oozing-marred the young dog's chest, face and neck. His ribs protruded like a picket fence. An infestation of fleas and ticks had colonized beneath his fur. And in his digestive track, doctors found evidence of further neglect: a goat-like diet of buttons, plastic bags, and small balloons.
On February 26, Animal Control officers responded to a call about an injured dog wandering the desert near the city of Coachella. A dog in Capone's condition-visibly suffering, expensive to fix, and uncertain to recover-is typically euthanized; there are just too many healthy animals with better odds of being adopted, and only so many kennels.
Bergeron was skeptical when she went to the pound to meet Capone, expecting he would be too aggressive or timid to rehabilitate. As she locked eyes with the abused dog, he lifted his head and immediately wagged his tail. She entered his kennel, knelt beside him, and the abused dog began to shower her with kisses.
"There was something extra special about this one," recalls Bergeron. "It's like God sent an angel to teach us all to be better humans."
Despite being starved, tethered, beaten, and served as sport to fight dogs, Capone retains a genuine sweetness and love for people-personality flaws in the eyes of a dog fighter.
Just as dog fighters cull the most aggressive "alpha" puppies from a litter to be the fighters, they target submissive, gentle puppies to be their fight dog's bait. Of course, bait dogs never stand a fair chance of defending themselves.
While dog fighters typically neglect and underfeed bait dogs, they commonly inject their fight dogs with steroids to boost size, strength and aggression. Equally inhumane, they often clip a bait dog's nails and extract or file down its teeth to keep it from properly fighting back. Fighters also crop their fight dog's ears and dock their tails to decrease the areas canine competitors can grab onto, and to reduce the physical cues of aggression, or body language, that dogs instinctively read.
Over the past three months, Bergeron has seen an increase in dogs with signs of abuse, the kind suffered by Capone, which are indicative of animals enslaved in the vicious sub-culture of dog fighting.
Dog fighting is a felony offense in all 50 states, with punishments ranging per state. California carries one of the stiffest penalties: a maximum 5 years in prison and $50,000 in fines for organizing or participating in the illegal blood sport. It is also considered a felony to own a fight dog in California, and spectators at an organized fight can be cited with a misdemeanor offense.
If you suspect a dog is being abused as either a bait dog or a fight dog, contact the Coachella Valley branch of Riverside County Animal Services (RCAS) at 760-343-3644. While Animal Samaritans works closely with RCAS, the non-profit organization does not employ animal control officers who handle criminal matters.
So where is Capone now? In late February, Animal Samaritans transported Capone to It's the Pits animal rescue in San Diego, where he continues to receive medical care and hands on socializing. While he still has a tough climb to recovery, staff members at Animal Samaritans eagerly await Capone's official medical clearance, and plan to make a road trip to San Diego for his adoption day debut.
Animal Samaritans' Adoption Alliance animal rescue program relies on donations to function. Without continued contributions, their life-saving work would not be possible. For more information on The Adoption Alliance Program and how to make a difference in the lives of animals, call 760-601-3756.
Animal Samaritans is a 501 c 3 non-profit organization established in 1978 to improve the lives of animals and people. As the Desert's leader in quality & affordable veterinary care, they run a professional, state-of-the-art veterinary clinic at the Animal Campus in Thousand Palms. Animal Samaritans also provides free Pet Therapy to local seniors, hospital patients, and disabled children. Their bi-lingual humane education staff teaches school children throughout the Coachella Valley responsible pet ownership, animal cruelty awareness, and respect for all living creatures. At their no-kill animal shelter, Animal Samaritans commits to its shelter dogs and cats for life. What's more, each month Animal Samaritans rescues over 100 at-risk dogs and cats from our local public shelters through its Adoption Alliance animal rescue program. For more information visit www.animalsamaritans.org