On Saturday I visited a house with two awesome dogs. One was a small Maltese. This little ball of energy was trained by her owner to stand on her back legs and dance on command. Very cool. The second was a young tan pit bull named Sadie. Sadie was adorable – it didn’t take me long after seeing her to realize she loved nothing more than the attention of an affectionate human.
Everyone was eating food at the house I was visiting. As you know, it’s an unofficial rule of nature that when humans eat food, dogs beg. As I took a bite of pizza, I looked down and saw Sadie and her big hazel eyes just waiting for a bite. I somehow resisted my urge to toss her a piece of crust, but Sadie was persistent. She sat at my feet for a good five minutes hoping a crumb or two would miss my mouth.
I noticed something about Sadie as she sat in front me. The end of her tongue was hanging out of the side of her mouth. It looked hilarious. After a laugh, I asked her owner if she did that often. He said she always does – but she can't help it. He proceeded to tell me the heartbreaking story of Sadie’s life.
Sadie’s owner adopted her about one year ago from a rescue organization. The rescue organization saved Sadie from a dog fighting ring. Tragic. But what about her tongue? Why does it hang out the side of her mouth? The answer I got made my heart sink.
Sadie was what is called a “bait dog” in the dog fighting world. Too small to be a prized fighter, her owners decided she was best suited to train championship dogs for their fights. But, of course, owners don’t want their prized dogs injured during training. So, how did Sadie’s owners make sure she didn’t hurt other dogs?
They removed her bottom teeth. Sadie could bite her opponent all she wanted, but the piercing clamp nature intended her to have had been reduced to soft flesh and gums. She was the canine equivalent of a declawed cat. This is why her tongue hung out of her mouth – she had no bottom teeth to hold it in. As heartbreaking as this was, it was beautiful to see Sadie now socializing with humans so happily.
I couldn’t get Sadie’s story out of my head over the next couple of days. I looked more into bait dogs, and discovered that Sadie is far from alone. Dogs are rescued every day across the country with pulled teeth, scarred faces, and missing ears. Like Sadie, these bait dogs are essentially used as punching bags for top dogs in fighting rings. When a bait dog is too old or injured to provide valuable training to other dogs, they are killed.
Bait dogs are a staple in fighting rings. Though dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states, the inhumane practice is rampant across the country. Purses for high-profile dog fights can run as high as $100,000.
“It’s far more pervasive than people think and it’s definitely been on the upswing in the past five to 10 years,” said John Goodwin, an expert on animal fighting at the Humane Society. “There are about a dozen underground dogfighting magazines, and about half a dozen...registries that are exclusively used by either dogfighters or people that are fighting dog enthusiasts. You have an organized infrastructure for what is a criminal industry.”
To combat dog fighting, the Humane Society is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of criminals involved in dog fighting rings or puppy mills.
To see another incredible story similar to Sadie’s, check out this video of Cadence, a former bait dog rescued by the Hope for Paws rescue organization: