2012-09-06 / Front Page

Dog fighting is back in Wilkes County; animal control, cops can’t fight it alone

By KIP BURKE
news editor


This badly injured pit bull was abandoned here recently, indicating a possible resurgence of dog fighting in Wilkes County. This badly injured pit bull was abandoned here recently, indicating a possible resurgence of dog fighting in Wilkes County. After a March 2009 police raid on a dog fighting operation in the Baltimore neighborhood of Washington largely put an end to dog fighting in Washington-Wilkes, it looks like the highly illegal practice might be on the comeback, and authorities need the public’s help to stop it.

“I can’t stop dogfighting here all by myself,” said Washington-Wilkes Animal Shelter Director Gloria Wheatley. “It’s going to take all of us to educate our neighbors, to report suspected dog fighting, and to tell dog fighters to go to another county. It’ll take more than just me fighting it.”

Just recently, a badly injured male pit bull was found near the county landfill. “He had all the signs of being used in fighting,” Wheatley said, “a horribly broken jaw, cuts and old wounds all over. It was terrible, and we couldn’t save him, we had to put him down. But that just shows that some people here are still fighting dogs, and we’re going to work to put a stop to it.”

The key to putting a stop to illegal dog fighting is in the hands of the decent people who hear, see, or know that it is happening, she said. “It’s very disheartening to get calls from people who won’t do anything about the dogs in their neighborhoods,” she said. “People don’t want to get involved, but they’ll have to in order for this to stop. We saw before that people don’t want to testify to what they’ve seen, or don’t want to go against the neighbors, but that’s the only way we’re going to get this stopped. If you hear dogs fighting, call the police. If you know of dog fighting going on, or see dogs with scars and wounds, call the police, and they’ll call me.”

Wheatley says that the American Humane Society is offering a $5,000 reward for any anonymous information that leads to a dog fighting conviction. “That reward comes from the national organization, the American Humane Society, not from us, but the first step in getting that reward is to report dog fighters to the sheriff or police department,” she said.

Although at one time Georgia had very poor laws against dog fighting, now the state has some of the best. In Georgia, it is a crime to even be a spectator at a dog fight, and it is a felony to own, train, sell, or breed a dog for dog fighting, to wager on a dog fight, to host a fight, or even transport a dog used for dog fighting. The felony charges face punishment of up to 10 years in jail and $15,000 in fines.

Wheatley said that simply keeping up with the large number of abandoned dogs and cats in Wilkes County is exhausting, but seeing the apparent reappearance of dog fighting is even more disturbing. she said. “Our mission is to shine a light on this practice so we can stop dog fighting in Wilkes County, but we’ll need the good people of the county to help us. We can’t do it alone.”

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