Reviews: One Last Fight
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2003:
One Last Fight: Exposing the Shame
Directed & filmed by Erik Friedl. Written by John Caruso.
Produced by the Anti-Cruelty Society (157 W. Grand Ave., Chicago,
IL 60610), 2002.
15-minute video. $20.00.
The history of video exposes of dogfighting is less sordid
than dogfighting itself–but nothing is more sordid than dogfighting.
Commonly associated with dogfighting, according to the
ANIMAL PEOPLE case files, are pet theft; stealing dogs, drugs,
and money from humane societies; child abuse and neglect; pimping
and prostitution; drug trafficking; extortion; arson; rape; and
criminal mayhem, legalese for “torture.”
Also documented in connection with dogfighting are cases of
cross-burning, vanishing witnesses, murder, mass murder, and
Among the major organizing forces involved in dogfighting are
white supremacists, black and Hispanic street gangs, and what
remains of the traditional Mafia.
But “sordid,” like Dante’s Inferno, “hath degrees.”
Emmy Award-winning reporter Wendy Bergen was fined $20,000 in August
1991 for staging the two dogfights she depicted during a four-part
expose called “Blood Sport” that aired in April and May 1990 on KCNC
Channel 4 in Denver.
Reporter Tom Lyden of KMSP Channel 9 in Minneapolis was in
September 2000 obliged to withdraw his expose of dogfighting from
Emmy Award consideration, after it became a finalist, because in
August 2000 he pleaded guilty to tampering with a motor vehicle for
taking the dogfighting footage he used from the unlocked car of boxer
William H. Grigsby following an April 2000 police raid. Grigsby was
charged with staging dogfights and assaulting his girlfriend.
The 2001 film Amores Perros, nominated for an Oscar, was
nearly banned in Britain for allegedly violating a 1937 law that
forbids goading animals in connection with film making. Although the
British Board of Film Classification was eventually satisfied that
the dogs shown in a 21-second dogfighting scene were not actually
fighting, Royal SPCA chief inspector Mike Butcher even afterward
said the scene was “just too realistic for my liking, which raises
the question of whether there was cruelty involved.”
One Last Fight is a marked departure from such
sensationalism. A few moments of dogfighting are shown, and some
longer clips of terribly injured and neglected dogs, but One Last
Fight was not made to shock. It is a humane education video meant to
speak to children and community groups in neighborhoods whose
residents often already know too much about dogfighting and related
crime and violence.
One Last Fight explains how the intrusion of dogfighting
culture makes streets and parks unsafe, connecting the symptoms that
many viewers already experience into a pattern they will recognize,
and then helping them respond to it. It may be the first gentle
screen treatment of dogfighting, starring a black third grade
teacher who grew up with dogfighting but left it behind to make
something of himself, and a white humane officer who sees that his
main job is also education.
Suppressed for almost a century after Jack London led an
anti-dogfighting crusade following publication of White Fang in 1905,
dogfighting has rebounded in recent years to unprecedented
On June 6, for example, Orangeburg County Sheriff Larry
Williams led a raid in Orangeburg, South Carolina, that seized 72
pit bull terriers and half a million dollars worth of dog training
equipment “that would rival an Olympic facility,” wrote Richard
Walker of the Orangeburg Times & Democrat.
The raid resulted from information discovered during a
There was increased legislative attention in spring 2003 to
cracking down on dogfighting. West Virginia in April became the 47th
state to make dogfighting a felony. As the June edition of ANIMAL
PEOPLE went to press, Illinois lawmakers had sent to the governor
bills to prohibit training dogs to be vicious and to enable police to
seize the tangible assets of dogfighters and cockfighters. A Florida
bill to allow police to conduct night raids on dogfights and a
Colorado bill against training dogs to be vicious also had chances of
No matter what the law says, however, the battle against
dogfighting must be won by mobilizing public opinion. As One Last
Fight demonstrates, this is a battle not only against the abuse of
dogs but against all of the most violent and exploitative elements in
society, and could even be viewed as a battle to uphold the values