If people in Western New York doubted the need for the Erie County District Attorney’s Office to reconvene its anti-dogfighting task force, they had the lesson force-fed to them last week, when Buffalo police seized 20 dogs, shot one and broke up what authorities labeled as “the biggest dogfighting ring in Buffalo.”
There are worse people in the world than those who breed dogs to fight and those who pit those mistreated animals against one another in a perverse and revolting blood sport. Murderers, rapists and Nazis come to mind. But not many others.
The task force had gone dormant until the DA’s Office revived it last month. The need was urgent. “We’ve had more dogfighting reports and more acts of cruelty,” said Justin Wallen, Erie County assistant district attorney.
Reports of dead dogs are increasing around the region, with carcasses showing up in Cheektowaga cemeteries near the Buffalo city line and in garbage totes on the city’s East Side. One was even found hanging in a city basement. That dog was alive when it was strung up, tests concluded.
Then, a week ago, police busted the dogfighting ring with raids at six locations on the East Side, in the University District and on Grand Island. About a half-dozen people were arrested. Some of the dogs seized were scarred from dogfights.
“This covert industry is violent, it’s large and it’s local,” said Barbara Carr, executive director of the SPCA Serving Erie County.
The dogfighting culture is an abomination. It is a poison on humanity, a risk to communities where dogs are trained and kept, and a crime against animals who depend upon their owners for appropriate care. It is well that the task force was reinvigorated.
Here’s how bad it is: An employee of the Buffalo Police Department was recently suspended over accusations of breeding or training dogs to fight. Another dog, a pit bull named Ginja, was seized in a December raid only to be stolen from the animal shelter. She was recovered last month, according to the Guardians of Rescue of Smithtown, an animal rescue agency based on Long Island. The investigation that led to last week’s arrests was triggered by Ginja’s disappearance.
Dogfighting is a red flag to police for another reason, as well. People who pursue this vicious activity often commit other crimes. That makes them a danger in their communities and their neighborhoods. It’s not just animals that are at risk.
For all of these reasons, the Buffalo Police Department plans to integrate a two-hour class on dogfighting investigation into the curriculum for police recruits. The city’s Board of Block Clubs will also be asked to encourage more residents to report dogfighting.
Those actions will help as members of this task force continue their work in tracking down those who exploit animals in this way and to deliver them to the courtrooms where they belong. And then to jail.