Update:Â Since the decision of a Wilkes County, North Carolina judge that 127Â dogs including puppies must be euthanized, there has beenÂ increasing outrage in the animal welfare community.Â
Most of that anger has been directed at the Humane Society of the United States because its employees offeredÂ opinions at a court hearing held to determine the fate of the dogs, that these were champion fighters, dangerous,Â and even the puppies showedÂ aggression. HSUS told the court the dogs had been bred for aggression.
HSUS has since explained its belief these dogs were game bred, top of the line fighting dogs, so to speak,Â and so would be more aggressive than other pit bulls. Â
HSUS also participated in theÂ investigation and arrest of the dogs’ owner, Ed Faron, who was notorious in the underworld of people who fight dogs.Â Â Â
We should applaud HSUS’ efforts to stamp out dog fighting.
Aggressive enforcement of dog fighting laws means that more and more dogs victimized by fighting and cruelty will be seized and impounded.Â It is important for all of us to come together to find a positive solution for the dogs, the victims of these crimes.Â
We must agree that we cannot use breed as a predictor ofÂ levels of aggression in a dog. That is simply a myth that has resulted in BSL and unwritten breed bans andÂ death forÂ thousands of family pets.
HSUS did recognize that any dog seized from a situation of such abuse requires time and careful evaluation beforeÂ its temperament or behavior can be assessed.Â Wilkes County officials declined a more careful and thorough evaluation, believing theÂ potential liability was simply too much.Â Dogs trained or used for fighting are deemed dangerous under North Carolina law. N.C. Gen. Stat. Â§ 67-4.1Â Many of these dogs would likely be declared dangerous regardless under most dangerous dog laws because of their history.
No one in the animal welfare community appeared at the hearing or any other time prior to that to offer to take ownership of all of the dogs or pay for their care, shelter and training. There were offers of spay/neuter, evaluation and placement assistance and some groups to their credit, did offer to take some dogs, but as helpful as that was, these offers would not address the signficant cost to the county for the care, shelter, training or rehabilitation of most of the dogs pending evaluation and placement.Â
And where would most be placed? Thousands of pit bull type dogs die everyÂ month in shelters because no one will adopt or even foster them. Sanctuaries are full of these dogs. People have been frightened by the myths and won’t adopt them as easily as other dogs. Also, most people would not want to take on the burden of owning a dog declaredÂ "dangerous" with the liability and additional restrictions.
The county was simply not going to absorb the cost of a long term rescue, rehabilitation and placementÂ of dogs seized from a fighter.Â Â And neither was any one or two large organizations.
It is not enough to say "don’t kill the dogs".Â
And it is not a solution to write them off as "game bred".Â That is an outdated myth, and when it is repeated as in a case like this, it contributes to tragedy not only for these dogs, but also sends a message to animal control, law enforcement, prosecutors, courts and the public that pit bulls are dangerous because of breeding and should be killed.Â Â
The atmosphere in the animal welfare community is charged with angry invective,Â protest petitions and polls, andÂ efforts to gain publicityÂ by piling on criticism of the decisions made in this tragedy.Â These are not solutions either.
There are solutions but only in working together can we convinceÂ local officials to evaluate each dog fully and individually and give them a chance at a life free of abuse and fighting.Â
For more on this and the position of HSUS as articulated by John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below. Â
Original report: Wilkes County, North Carolina Superior Court Judge Ed Wilson todayÂ ordered the deaths ofÂ 127 pit bull type dogs seized in a raid. The dogs were owned byÂ Ed Faron, a breeder who used and sold the dogs for fighting.Â
At a hearing today to determine the dogs’ fate, prosecutors and other Wilkes County officials as well as the Humane Society of the U.S.Â argued that the dogs are dangerous.Â Â HSUS and county officials had handled the dogs and said that even the puppiesÂ were aggressive.
A number of people and animal welfare organizations including Bad Rap,Â had offered help.Â The dogs that belonged to Michael Vick were evaluated and placed with several organizations and some are now in homes.Â
John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues for HSUS, said, "I saw these dogs, and in fact handled many of them while they were being evaluated.Â These dogs would most certainly kill any other dog they could get to.Â
"It is very sad that people are also missing the bigger story, that our work has shut down one of the top breeders of fighting dogs in the United States.Â Dogfighters are seeing their heros go to prison. Â This is having an effect, and many dogfighters are leaving that world behind as they recognize the cost of doing business is too great.Â HSUS is the only organization in the United States that has an entire campaign that works full time on animal fighting issues.Â
"I support pit bull rescue, but there has to be a group that goes farther and hits at the root of the problem.Â That is what we are doing by putting leaders in the dogfighting criminal underworld out of business.
"Lastly, Wilkes County euthanizes 3,000 healthy, adoptable animals a year simply because there are not enough good homes opening their doors to these needy animals.Â I find it disturbing that the groups clamoring for media attention over these 127 dogs raise no fuss, and offer no assistance, for the other 3,000 dogs put down in that county each year."Â
Goodwin also cited the cost of rehabilitating the Vick dogs – more than $1 million – and noted most are still in individual runs in shelters and not in homes.Â
Dog fighting is a Class H felony in North Carolina, and that includes owning, possessing or training a dog for use as bait or for fighting and spectators and anyone who "instigates, promotes, conducts, is employed at, provides a dog for, allows property under the person’s ownership or control to be used for, gambles on, or profits" from using a dog for bait during a fight or fighting dogs.Â Â N.C. Gen. Stat. Â§ 14-362.2
Faron has pleaded guilty to 14 counts of felony dog fighting and was sentenced to 8 to 10 months in prison. His son, Donni Juan Casanova, 18, pleaded guilty to one count of felony dog fighting and was given a suspended sentence of 6 to 8 months.
Amanda Grace Lunsford, 25, the third and final defendant in the case, pleaded guilty today to a misdemeanor count of cruelty to animals. Lunsford was sentenced to 45 days, which was suspended for 24 months of supervised probation.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Please take a few minutesÂ and make calls to the following. Let them know each dog is different and should have a chance, not written off and killed simply because of breed or some belief he may be dangerous. These dogs were not evaluated for a sufficient period of time, and these victims of dog fighting were not given a chance at rehabilitation.Â Unless we fight this, governments will continue to make decisions based on the myth that breed and breeding is a predictor of behavior.
Wilkes County Board of Commissioners
110 North Street
Wilksboro, NC 28697
Fax: 336) 651-7568
Wilkes County Attorney Tony Triplett
Vannoy, Colvard, Triplett & Vannoy
922 C Street
P.O. Box 1388
North Wilkesboro, NC 28659
District Attorney Tom Horner
500 Courthouse Drive Suite 2022
Wilkesboro, NC 28697
Phone: 336-667-6361 or 667-2994
Fax: 336 667-7999