Seen as "normal" in U.S., "bully breed" attacks on wildlife raise concern in U.K.

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  March 2012:

Seen as “normal” in U.S.,  “bully breed” attacks on wildlife raise concern in U.K.

DENVER,  HONOLULU,  LONDON–KUSA/Denver television news anchor Kyle Dyer on February 8,  2012 suffered facial injuries requiring 70 stitches from an 85-pound Argentine mastiff named Gladiator Maximus,  called Max for short,  whom she was petting during a live interview with Lakewood,  Colorado firefighter Tyler Sugaski.  Sugaski two days earlier rescued Max after he fell through thin ice while chasing a coyote.

Denver Environmental Health Department spokesperson Meghan Hughes told reporters that Michael Robinson,  39,   of Lakewood,  was cited with failure to have his dog on a leash,  allowing a dog to bite,  and failure to have a vaccinated dog.

Robinson in an online statement said Max was “current in his vaccinations,”  and asserted that although Max chased the coyote while being walked off-leash,  he “has no history of aggression.” Robinson acknowledged that “letting him off-leash in an open area away from anyone was still a mistake.  We will never walk him off-leash in public areas after this,”  Robinson pledged.

Created by crossing mastiffs with fighting dogs,  Argentine mastiffs resemble an oversized pit bull,  and are usually considered a “bully breed,”  but Denver animal control director Doug Kelley told ANIMAL PEOPLE that Robinson was not cited with violating the Denver ordinance against possession of a pit bull because,  “Max is not a pit bull,  any more than an American bulldog is a pit bull by definition in Denver’s ordinance.”

Neither was Robinson charged with a wildlife offense.

In the U.S. the pursuit of wildlife by “bully breeds” is mostly still regarded in the same light as the pursuit of squirrels and rabbits by dogs of any breed–as something any dog will do,  if allowed the chance,  and as a behavior protected by law in many states,  along with traditional fox hunting,  beagling,  coonhunting, and hounding bears and pumas.

In Britain,  however,  the Royal SPCA and League Against Cruel Sports warned in January 2012 that “baiting” is making a comeback,  though banned since 1835,  and despite the much disobeyed 2005 Hunting Act,  which nominally banned all hunting with dogs.


“Baiting” consists of setting a dog against an animal,  either tethered or cornered in a den,  who has no chance of escape,  and unlike the prey in beagling and hounding,  will be killed by the dogs instead of being shot.

Driving the British baiting revival are “bully breed” fanciers.  The dogs used,  explained Patrick Barkham of The Guardian, are “bull lurchers,  a relatively new cross breed blending the speed of a lurcher [sighthound] with the strength and aggression of a pit bull or bull mastiff.  Despite being the kind of anachronistic barbarity most people assume went out of fashion with the Victorians, badger baiting persists,”  Barkham wrote,  “amid an apparent resurgence of cruelty in the countryside,”  including “cat coursing, in which domestic cats are pitted against fighting dogs.”

Continued Barkham,  “The growth of lamping [night poaching] and badger baiting are priorities for the National Wildlife Crime Unit.  According to Operation Meles,  a police and charity partnership to combat badger persecution,  there were 243 reports of badger fighting in 2009 and 2010.  The RSPCA recorded 355 cases of badger persecution,  including illegal snaring as well as digging and baiting,  across Wales and England in 2010,  compared with 255 reports in 2009.”

Added RSPCA national wildlife coordinator Geoff Edmond, “We’re getting a lot more lamping of deer,  badgers and foxes.  The old way was just using terriers [to hunt].  Now they are going out in gangs and throwing animals to the bull cross lurchers.”

The resurgence of baiting differs from the prey-specific activity of past generations of dog men,  League Against Cruel Sports intelligence coordinator Mark Randell told Barkham.  Now,  Randell said,   “The criminality revolves around the dog and what the dog can do.  The dogs are vehicles for the individuals and their criminal minds.”

Added Operation Meles lead investigator Ian Hutchison, “Where once illegal cruelty was the preserve of discreet chat in country pubs,  participants now boast about their dogs and their fights,  euphemistically referring to badgers as ‘pigs’ in ‘pig fights’ and posting graphic pictures of their trophies.”

Resurgent baiting is evident in the U.S. too,  but in the U.S. the “pig fights” tend to feature pit bulls fighting actual pigs.

So-called “hog/dog rodeo,”  in which dogs are pitted against pigs,  is illegal in most states,  but several dog-and-pig fights were prosecuted in Florida and Louisiana in 2011,  among them a mother and daughter who posted to Facebook images of their dogs attacking a pig whose mouth was duct-taped shut. Yet another case surfaced in Hawaii via Facebook in January 2012,  bringing charges against a 20-year-old and three 17-year-olds.

“We don’t condone what these kids do.  Even I feel sorry for the pig,”  Pig Hunters Association of Oahu president Oliver Lunasco told Keoki Kerr of KGMB-TV.  Hawaiian pig hunters traditionally shoot or spear pigs who have been cornered by dogs,  Lunasco said.

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