News Stories

Dogs Stolen for Use in Dog Fights

Chewed, discarded bodies of dogs have been found for years in the Arizona desert. Now local sheriffs have learned these are pets that were stolen and used as "bait" in dog fights.

Maryann Mott writes in the National Geographic News about Mike Duffey, of the Pima County Sheriff's Department, who followed the clues after he was assigned to investigate the problem full-time four years ago. He knew the dead dogs weren't strays, because the pads of their feet and their nails were not worn down by life on the streets. He started checking the lost-and-stolen-animal reports at the humane society and says, "We found that a lot of the dogs found in these desert dumping areas were in fact, at one time, [reported] stolen. So we began looking for a connection."

There are an unusually large number of stolen and lost dogs in Pima County. Within the last six months, 3,396 animals have been reported missing. "Animal control has enough people out on patrol, so if [an animal] was truly a stray, they'd encounter it," Duffey says. "But they never turn up as strays; they just turn up as missing. Then somewhere down the line, we find one in the desert that matches the description of four or five that were reported stolen."

"I think every state has a problem with [dog fights], whether they know it or not," says Patricia Wagner, of the Humane Society. She says large numbers of stolen pets are reported in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas, despite the fact that dog fighting is illegal in all 50 states and a felony in 47 of them.

"There's so much of it going on," says Florida detective Mike Vadnal. "It's out of control."

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