Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Animal Planet to Produce Pit Bull-Related Show

The Pit Bull Resource Center's blog site reports that Animal Planet will soon begin filming a reality show based upon the lives of Pit Bull shelter dogs:

The show centers around a nationally recognized rescue facility devoted to rescuing and rehabilitating abandoned and mistreated Pit Bulls and the day-to-day activities that take place in animal rescue.

The full story is available at

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Friend Passes

We are saddened to announce to passing of Smokey, the Pit Bull family member of our colleague and fellow blogger Jeni McNamara, a champion of Pit Bulls and shelter dogs everywhere. On her current blog, In the Shelter of your Heart, she tells us:

"Today, we took him to our veterinary clinic. We knew what we had to do. Casey spent the morning reading to him, her reading buddy to the last day. She told him good bye, and to be happy, after today there would be no more pain. Clint and I went with him to the clinic. We were with him to the last minute. To see him relax, stretch out, and rest with us with out pain, it made our decision no easier, but somehow less tragic for me. The tragedy would have been to watch him suffer on, make him suffer on."

We first learned on Smokey on her November 18 blog post:

"November is Adopt a Senior Pet month! I love my senior dog Smokey. He's well trained, and settled in. When we feel like going for a walk or out to play, he's ready to go. When it's time to tuck in and watch our favorite movies, he's the first under the covers to cuddle.

He's just turned 9 years old this month. Displaced when his original (and previously only) family had to relocate, Smokey didn't like shelter life.

It was loud, not like his quiet home.

There were strangers every where, he didn't know where his family went.

His favorite spot at the end of the bed was gone, he was sleeping on the floor.

No toys of his own, and there were the volunteers at the shelter wanted to but couldn't play with just him every day, there were so many dogs to help.

He just need to go home."

Our hearts go out to Jeni and her family and for memory of Smokey. To learn more about Smokey and the other dogs she has fought for please visit her site at

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dogfighting Making a Comeback in Afghanistan

From the New York Times:

Published: December 27, 2008

KABUL, Afghanistan — In a dingy butcher’s shop reeking of slaughter, a half-dozen sheep’s carcasses dangled from hooks, and two men spoke of dogs.

Dogfighting tournaments in Kabul draw thousands of men and boys as spectators.

“My dog is younger than his dog, I have the advantage,” said one of the men, known as Abdul Sabour, 49. “And my dog is more energetic than his dog.”

“He’s lying,” grumbled the other man, Kefayatullah, 50. “His dog is old. He’s just here wasting his time. How many dogs has my dog beaten? Sixty! My dog has been a champion for three years!”

The men were arranging a dogfight, largely in the international language of trash-talking. They represented two groups of bettors. The purse, they said, was $50,000, a fortune in this impoverished country and one of the biggest prizes here in recent memory.

Afghans like to fight. They will boast about this. They will say that fighting is in their blood. And for all the horrors of three decades of war, they still find room to fight for fun, most often through proxies: cocks, rams, goats, camels, kites.

And dogs. Dogfighting was banned under the Taliban, who considered it un-Islamic. But since the Taliban’s ouster in 2001, the sport has regained its earlier popularity, with dogfighters entering their charges in informal weekly tournaments on dusty lots in the country’s major cities.

The sport has even experienced a resurgence in the south, where the influence of the Taliban is strongest, though the crowds have thinned somewhat since February, when a suicide bomber detonated himself at a dogfighting match. About 80 people were killed and more were wounded.

Here in the capital, there are two tournaments every week, both on Friday, the day of prayer. The bigger one unfolds in the morning in a natural dirt amphitheater at the bottom of a craggy slope on the city’s outskirts. It draws thousands of men and boys as spectators — like most sports and sporting events in Afghanistan, it is almost exclusively a male pursuit.

“It’s something from our ancestors,” said Ghulam Yahya Amirzadah, 21, whose family owns 17 dogs in Kabul and in their hometown in the northwest province of Badghis.

Mr. Amirzadah, who is known in dogfighting circles as Lala Herati, said he inherited the pastime from his father, who ran fighting dogs in his youth.

“It’s not about money,” Mr. Amirzadah said. “If my dog beats another dog, it makes me feel like I’ve won $100,000. I can survive just from the happiness.”

On a recent Friday, Mr. Amirzadah was at the dogfighting amphitheater, though without his dogs. He was watching the fights and arranging future matches for his stable.

More than 2,000 people were there — poor men who had arrived on foot as well as former warlords in sport utility vehicles accompanied by Kalashnikov-toting guards. And there were dozens of dogs — hulking, big-headed mastiff breeds that, in the right light and the wrong setting, might be mistaken for small bears. Some were so big that they had to be restrained by two men. A few owners, their arms tired, had lashed their dogs to the wheels of cars.

An informal committee of arbiters, including Mr. Kefayatullah and Abdul Sabour, was selecting the fights and matching up the dogs. Some fights had been organized days in advance, with hundreds of dollars, sometimes thousands, riding on each.

A ringmaster, a toothless old man with a turban and a limp, presided over the event. He carried a wooden staff that he used to beat spectators who crowded the dirt arena and members of the dogfighters’ entourages who blocked the view.

Though dogfighting is again popular here, it is far from universally embraced. The country’s elite disparage it as the domain of the uncultured and the criminal.

“In my personal view, it’s not a good thing,” said Ghulam Nabi Farahi, deputy minister of information and culture. “In today’s world, these animals should be treated well. But unfortunately, there’s a lot of fighting.”

But dogfighters generally shrug at these sorts of remarks. In modern Afghan society, there are not many sources of entertainment, they argue. In addition, they say, the dogs are well fed and well treated.
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Times Topics: Afghanistan

“The interest of the people is increasing day by day,” said Sher Mohammad Sheywaki, 50, who was standing on the edge of the fighting pitch. “Even if people are starving, they’ll still keep dogfighting.”

A fight was about to begin. Two dogs were brought close by their owners, then released. They lunged at each other, thrusting upward on hind legs and clamping their jaws onto each other’s face. They tugged and twisted each other, looking for leverage, each trying to knock the other off balance.

Their handlers pressed in, shouting encouragement and slapping the dogs on their haunches, as a jockey would a racehorse. A cameraman crouched nearby, recording the fight for collectors’ DVDs. A large cloud of dust enveloped the scrum.

This fight, like most others, was over in a few minutes when one dog had pinned the other to the ground and held him there. They were pulled apart and hauled out of the ring.

In some countries, dogfighters will fight their dogs to the death. But Afghan dogfighting is more akin to Greco-Roman wrestling. A dog is declared the victor when he clearly establishes his dominance over the other, or when the weaker dog displays one of the telltale signs of submission, including backing off from the fight or putting its tail between its legs. They are usually pulled apart before they can inflict serious damage on each other.

The stakes for dogfighters are too high to risk their charges any further. Dogs may be a costly investment for the average Afghan, but they can also make their owners money.

On the eve of the fight between Mr. Kefayatullah’s dog, Palang (meaning tiger), and Abdul Sabour’s dog, Zambur (bee), the planned $50,000 purse dropped to $10,000, according to Mr. Kefayatullah.

The fight took place on a sunny and chilly Friday morning this month. It was heavily anticipated, and the crowd was large. For more than 10 minutes, Palang and Zambur tore against each other, drawing blood. Mr. Kefayatullah, Abdul Sabour and others with money riding on the fight stayed close and yelled encouragement, according to Mr. Amirzadah, who attended.

Eventually, Zambur, Abdul Sabour’s dog, ran out of steam and Palang overwhelmed him, prompting the men to call a halt to the fight. In celebration, friends of Mr. Kefayatullah swarmed Palang, whose fur was wet with blood, and showered him with Afghani bills.

Except for deep wounds on a leg and an ear, Palang was O.K. But his owner was not. Minutes after the fight, Mr. Kefayatullah collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. He had a heart attack.

“It was a stroke of joy and happiness!” he joked a week later, as he lay in a ward in the Wazir Akhbar Khan Hospital in Kabul. His wife and daughter sat at his bedside. “I’ll be up in no time,” he said, “and everything will be back to normal, like before.”

His wife’s face visibly tensed. “No you won’t!” she said, glaring. She was serious. He was smiling. The daughter looked embarrassed.

“It’s over,” Mr. Kefayatullah’s wife continued. “I will kill the dogs! I will give them some pills.”

Mr. Kefayatullah shrugged and smiled again, trying to defuse the situation. “She says a lot, but I don’t listen,” he said, and he vowed to be back at the Friday dogfights — with his champion dogs — soon enough.

Member of British Royal Family Accused of Beating Dog

This sad and disappointing story comes from the London Times Online.

Did he or didn’t he? Earl of Wessex accused of dog beating
December 29, 2008
by Valentine Low

As festive traditions go, it is as integral a part of the Christmas holiday as turkey leftovers and high street sales - the hapless member of the Royal Family pilloried by the animal rights brigade for some transgression of fur or feather.

This year it was the turn of the Earl of Wessex, who was accused yesterday of setting a “sickening example” for apparently hitting a dog with a stick while shooting at Sandringham.

The rumpus had all the usual elements of the annual Royal-Family-as-heartless-barbarians fixture. There was the photographic evidence (in this case, Prince Edward standing over two dogs as they fought over a dead pheasant, stick raised as if to beat one of them); there was the element of doubt, without which these affairs would not have the staying power (here, the question of whether the Prince actually hit the dog); and, of course, the outraged remarks by the usual suspects.

Step forward Andrew Tyler, director of Animal Aid, who said: “It is an offence to cause an animal unnecessary suffering. Hitting a dog is a pathetic, cowardly and vicious act - it would appear he has had a royal tantrum.” Barry Hugill, spokesman for the League Against Cruel Sports, added: “He has set a truly sickening example.”

Only one thing was missing, however: the queue of field sports enthusiasts rushing forward to defend the Prince. While none was ever going to condemn him, several suggested that hitting a dog with a stick was an action of last resort.

Assuming, that is, that the Prince did hit the dog. One onlooker who witnessed the incident said: “What I saw looked to me as if he hit the dog at least three times. But because it was such a long way away I cannot say he definitely did. He swung at the dog, then swung at it again, chasing it round the field. He was really angry.”

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “He broke up the fight with the dogs and pictures show him waving his stick around. We cannot confirm, however, whether he struck the dog.”

According to one field sports aficionado, it is a crucial difference. Jona-than Young, editor of The Field magazine, said: “There are occasions when you need to physically chastise a dog. But you would try to avoid using a stick if you could. Mostly with a well-trained gun dog if you growl at them and there is a threat of physical action, that is usually enough to do the trick.”

The countryside writer Duff Hart-Davis said that striking a dog with a stick was counter-productive, but not cruel. “You can alienate a dog quite easily. You can make it lose confidence in you if you are too rough with it.”

However, the Hampshire farmer Hugh Oliver-Bellasis, another well-known figure in the field sports world, said that using a stick was better than running the risk of being bitten. “I had an incident at the Royal Show where I had to separate two dogs and it was really quite difficult. If I had had a stick to hand I would have solved the problem a good deal more easily. Now and again with dogs one has to tap them with a stick to make sure they do what you want.”

The as yet unresolved question, though, is what the Prince’s mother would have made of it all. The Queen is a robust countrywoman, after all, but not known for raising a stick to her corgis, even under provocation.

As a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said in the Prince’s defence: “The Royal Family are great dog lovers . . . they don’t want to hurt dogs.”