As I challenge myself, as an illustrator, to tackle heavier subject matters with my art, such as Trapped Utah Miners (8/7/07 post), another news story was starring me in the face. Illegal dog fighting, which made a huge presence in this past months news due to the illicit activities of football quarterback Michael Vick, who actually admitted to “executing under performing dogs.” His methods include hanging, drowning, electrocution and slamming them to the ground.
As I researched this subject I felt uneasy and saddened by what I read and saw. The sheer cruelty of these activities left me depressed and angry. I won’t go into the details as it has been in the news, but what I will discuss is the actual breed, the American Staffordshire Terrier. Historically this breed was derived from a breed of dogs called “bull dogs,” quite a different dog breed from what we know today as the English Bull dog. The historic Bulldog was used in an activity call Bull-baiting; the dogs were engineered to fight and control bulls and even bears. This fierceness has been bred into the dogs. The current dog fighters use even more cruel tactics to create more aggression, such as hunger and more violence as they are allowed to kill other animals, “bait animals” such as cats and kittens.
They are “in training” since birth, their ears cut off and teeth sharpened. These dogs suffer greatly and have horrible lives. Keep in mind this is all for the purpose of gambling often large sums of money, as was the case with Michael Vick. The sad part of this entire story is these dogs can never become pets as their training created “ aggressive warriors” of them.
One optimistic part of this story, if there is anything positive, is the publics outrage and intolerance of such activities. I can only hope that this awareness will help bring an end to this activity.
One note, I am no advocate of the breed, as they do scare me, with those box-like muscle heads and rock solid physiques, but I have friends who own them and they tell me they make a wonderful family pets. I don’t doubt that, as dogs (even pit bulls) are man’s best friend.
Ink and charcoal
© Heidi Younger