HSLF and HSUS have been focused on upgrading the penalties for staged animal combat, and in the last couple years we have helped pass 29 new laws to crack down on illegal animal fighting. But deterring bad behavior through law enforcement actions is just one piece of the puzzle. We also need to reach out to young men who are at risk for getting involved in animal fighting, and help to show them a better way before they head down this dead-end path.
That’s why I’ve been so excited about the HSUS End Dogfighting program, which is now active in Chicago and Atlanta, and coming soon to Philadelphia. Former dogfighters are enlisted as anti-dogfighting advocates, and they do community-based outreach and even interrupt dogfights in progress. In neighborhoods where young men often get pit bulls for the wrong reasons, HSUS hosts weekly pit bull training classes with agility courses and other alternatives to dogfighting. The trainers work at both ends of the leash—improving the lives of people and dogs—and are reshaping the perception of pit bulls from fighters to friends.
U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.)—who has been a strong supporter of our efforts in Congress to crack down on animal fighting and other large-scale cruelties—recently visited the HSUS pit bull training class held in the Austin community on the West Side of Chicago. There he visited with Tio Hardiman, HSUS director of urban outreach, and had a chance to see the team of pit bull trainers and anti-dogfighting advocates in action.
At this particular class, there were twelve young men with their pit bulls, including Terrence Murphy and his dog Elmo, who had been on the verge of a neighborhood dogfight but now have just graduated from the HSUS class and earned a Canine Good Citizen ® certificate. The congressman enjoyed observing the program and pledged to help spread the word to other lawmakers and urban communities around the country through his work with the Congressional Black Caucus.
We’re grateful to Rep. Davis for his support and for taking the time to visit the pit bull training class in his congressional district. Tio sent me the photos below from the congressman’s visit, and I’m pleased to share them with blog readers.