By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
I got an e-mail from a potential editor early one morning a couple of months ago. It gave me the okay to preach my particular brand of smack via an article on gambling for New Times. The editor didn't come right out and say so, but I gleaned that what he really wanted was an article on dogfighting, which is a felony in the State of Florida (as well as in 45 others). It was left up to me, and I could have gone on a casino boat with blue-haired gamblers in dresses, or hung around some senior pinochle games in Kendall or something.... But the thought of attending, wagering on, and writing about a dogfight suddenly intrigued me greatly. The problem was, it wasn't like going to Calder Race Course or Hollywood Greyhound Track, where you could just jump in a cab and arrive. I had to find a dogfight before I could figure out what I'd say about it.
When I'd done that, I sent word to my potential editor. It hadn't taken me more than a couple of hours to run across someone who could get me in -- or so he said. Then it got complicated. Occasionally I forget that you can't take anyone, anywhere, at face value -- but especially not on South Beach. My contact, "Gene" we'll call him, interjected himself quickly into the situation as soon as he heard what I was up to. "Yeah, yeah, this Puerto Rican kid that owns the fighting house is a friend of mine," he assured me. "I own a Pit, but just for show. I don't fight him. Listen. You're not a cop, are you?"
"No," I said. "I hate cops."
And took him at his word. He talked a good game by giving me an exact address in Wynwood and the name and age of the owner. He told me the price of admission would be about $60. It seemed impossible that someone could know so much\ about the whole thing without actually knowing the people involved ...
We were set to go look at the "fighting house," which is slang for a breeder's kennel of "gamebred" pit bulls, and it's also where the dogfights can be -- but aren't necessarily -- held. The "fighting house" exists illegally in Miami-Dade County due to Section 5-17.1, Miami-Dade Code, which makes it "illegal to acquire a new Pit Bull dog since April 14, 1989." The county has been hell on "Pit Bull type" dogs since the '80s because of several instances of fatal attacks, especially on children and the elderly. The county classifies them as dangerous: "Failure to register, muzzle, confine, or insure a Pit Bullis a violation of [the civil] law subject to severe penalty." According to Sgt. Rudy Espinoza of the Miami-Dade County Animal Services Unit, "Miami-Dade is the only county in Florida with a breed-specific ordinance against pit bulls." That range of breeds includes all purebred American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, bull terriers, or any mixed variation of these dogs. Any yard with more than one pit bull in it is usually a dead giveaway that the people in there are involved in organized dogfighting. Miami-Dade County government, however, is catching flak from petitioners who want repeals or vetoes of existing and proposed breed-specific ordinances like the one I just finished telling you about. They say the definition is too broad. The decision to ban pit bulls from Miami-Dade has been challenged in court (American Dog Owners Association v. Dade County, Florida, 1989), but the decision was upheld.
The truth is that these dogs have been bred to fight since 1835, when "bullbaiting," the precursor to organized dogfighting (and an early form of steak tenderizing -- the masticated dead steers were discovered to be easier to chew), was outlawed in Great Britain. Breeders valued the "tenacity, fierceness, and courage" of the dogs, which had been previously used to tear at and otherwise torment large bulls to death for the edification and amusement of peasants and gentry on dull gray days in the U.K.
After bullbaiting was outlawed, breeders created the bull and terrier dog. "The Bull and Terrier was bred for aggression to other dogs, unrelenting bravery, a high pain threshold, a willingness to fight to the end, and an affection for people(!)... The United Kennel Club recognized the Bull and Terrier Dog as the American Pit Bull Terrier in 1898." This is all established in the American Dog Owner's Guide. The big time was reached by "dogmen" -- as they've come to call themselves -- a hundred years later when the occurrence of seized dogs exploded, and cops estimated the number of "players" involved in the game in the U.S. alone at 40,000. It is equally big in Russia, Italy, and Africa, for reasons that no one can figure out, except general escalated pissed-offedness among the lower orders with no other way to express it.
Organized dogfighting is a felony in every state except Idaho, Iowa, West Virginia, and Wyoming, where it is a misdemeanor. Dogmen generally split into two groups: professional dogfighters and streetfighters. "Professional dogfighters" move in close circles and breed and trade pups with each other. They contract fights by word of mouth or through underground information sources like American Pit Bull Terrier Gazette or Sporting Dog Journal. (An existing SDJ subscriber must sponsor you before you can receive it.) Professional dogfighters are of the type to close a fight down at the sight of someone they don't know. They are most concerned with the "gameness" of their dogs. They view that as an extension of themselves and a validation of their own masculinity, especially in the Southern Region of the United States. Gameness is defined as the unwillingness to give up, even under the most difficult circumstances and despite the threat of death. Professional dogfighters insist that the only way to preserve the trait of gameness is through breeding for purity and in the fighting pit. Their circle is so closely knit that it borders on an obscure fraternity, like the John Birch Society or the Ku Klux Klan. According to Sergeant Espinoza, "We're in the middle of an investigation [now], but these guys are such a tight and underground group that we are lacking for information." Anyway, you can find these people in working-class Hispanic and white neighborhoods around here, like Wynwood, Hialeah, and Cutler Ridge.
"Streetfighters," however, are much more haphazard and disorganized. They are also the types who just like blood sports. They acquire their dogs generally through classified ads, theft, or by any means necessary. Anybody can find a fighting dog, just look through the newspaper for pit bulls labeled "gamebred" -- the euphemism for fighters. Gene's own look -- which I can't honestly describe without getting him into trouble -- and his description of the owner of the fighting house we were going to in Wynwood, sounded to me like we were headed smack into the middle of the Heebee Jeebee Voodoo Circus street side of dogfighting in Miami-Dade County.
InThe 2000 Florida Statutes -- Title XLVI --Crimes, Chapter 828.122 --
"Any person who commits the acts of: (a) 'Baiting,' or using any animal for the purpose of fighting or baiting any other animal; (b) knowingly owning, managing, or operating any facility kept or used for the purpose of fighting or baiting any animal; (c) promoting, staging, advertising, or charging any admission fee to a fight or baiting between two or more animals" is guilty of a felony in the third degree.
Furthermore, " ... any person who willfully commits the acts of (a) betting or wagering any money or other valuable consideration on the fighting or baiting of animals; or (b) attending the fighting or baiting of animals" is guilty of a misdemeanor in the first degree.
It was no surprise to me that just the act of attendingthis little sideshow was a misdemeanor. I had no moral qualms about that, nor did I have any ethical problems with gambling on the whole affair. That was half the reason I was going -- to gamble on something more exotic than the norm. I'm a hard-core gambler and I'd wager on the exact date of The Second Coming if I didn't think I'd already be at my rightful place in the Ninth Circle before I could collect from my bookie. Also, I was curious to see just how these dogmen handicapped their fights. That is, how did they project the lines for the favorites? In professional boxing, there are three outcomes with three money lines based on multiples of $100. For example, in the Smith vs. Jones fight -- if Smith is the heavy favorite, then the line might be Smith --800. Therefore, I would have to be willing to risk $800 in order to win $100 because Smith is deemed highly likely to win. Likewise, the comeback, or the other side, might be Jones +650. Therefore, if I risk $100, then I could win $650 because it is very unlikely that Jones will win the fight. Lastly, the draw might be +1000 because it is deemed virtually impossible that the fight will end in a draw. Of course, a dogfight never ends in a draw. I was ready for Gene to take me to the fighting house so that I could nail down the logistics of this thing and learn a little more about the betting side of it. I have had experiences with extreme gambling. The gods of gaming are willing to let you play with your only $150, but not with your last $150. But I've taken my last $150 to the craps table and turned it into $1500 on more than one occasion for the simple reason that if you want to make a million dollars, you have to be willing to lose a lot. These things are fundamental to a gambler. Play without fear.
With all of this in mind, I went to get my expense check for this piece. I sat in editor Jim Mullin's office at the New Times building and listened to him give me about twenty reasons why I would probably be wearing County Blues and working on the chain gang in less than 48 hours. New Times would, of course, have to hold me at arm's length, in the unhappy circumstance that this played out. In the interest of time and tact, all I could say was:
"I just spent two and a half years living in Central America," working for bookmakers. "If I were scared, then I wouldn't be here."
So I went back to South Beach and hunted around for my boy. I use the word "hunt" intentionally. I'd told him I would call him at 2:00 p.m. -- sharp. In fact I was back in our meeting place well before then, but he was nowhere to be found. I'd felt this was going along way too easily. Gene showed up about half an hour late and said the owner of the fighting house wanted me to come early so he could "talk to me," but that we wouldn't be going to look around, as originally planned. Gene had scored himself some weed and was going to sell it at the fight in order to make a little extra money. I had also agreed to compensate him as best as I could. Getting yourself inside an underworld activity is generally a transactional business. We agreed to meet later that night to go to the fight. The last thing he said to me was:
"I'll meet you on the Boardwalk and 24th Street at 8:40 p.m. -- I promise."
But it didn't happen anything like that. Word around the campfire that night was that Gene had smoked all his weed and disappeared amid rumors of impending arrest for domestic violence and a bench warrant for jumping $10,000 bail on another little beef. He exactly fit the stereotype of the people generally associated with dogfighting -- shifty, dope-dealing, wife-beating, possibly wanted, and usually a felon, or close to it.
Some weeks later--With Gene gone, things were looking bleak. That first potential editor was chewing on my ass about once a week via phone or e-mail. I was feeling disgusted. Luckily I was talking to a friend of mine, "Cas," a white, Cuban guy just a little bit younger than I am. We met through "legitimate channels" rather than "on the Beach" -- which is the way I refer to areas of dicey contact and experience I use mostly in my novel writing.... We hit it off pretty well and became friends. I don't even know why I was talking about this thing in front of him. Frustration, I guess. When I mentioned my problem, Cas didn't hesitate to help.
"Hey, I can get you in!" he said. "My brother and I have been in that circle for a few years now."
Cas's offer seemed a hell of a lot less sketchy than my previous attempt. And as he said he would, he took me to a fight in Homestead a few weekends later. He called me the day before:
"Meet us at the corner of Española Way and Collins tomorrow at 7:00 p.m.," he said.
"Okay. How much money should I bring?" I asked.
"Bring at least $200. If you want to gamble, then you do not want to look like a pussy in front of these people," he said.
"See you tomorrow at 7," I said, and hung up.
I was standing on the corner at 6:50 p.m. the next evening when a truck rolled up. Cas and his brother "Tat" were the only ones inside, except for the main-event figure. Cas opened the door and motioned me in. The caged dog in the back didn't look very happy. We headed for Homestead.
Once we got near, we pulled up next to a fenced area. Inside was an edifice that looked to be a bar. It was pavilion-like, open air. We parked to the right, inside the fence. There were only about eight other cars and trucks. Tat brought the dog out of his cage and put him on a leash. We walked around the bar along a path that led to another building. Before that one, there was more fencing and a gate. Then I saw them. Along the path were eight pit bulls chained and weighted to car axles that were buried in the ground.
"What the hell is this about?" I asked.
"This owner chains the dogs to car axles and weights them so that every time they move they are working. It also keeps them in a certain area so they can't fight with each other, because they will if they can," said Cas.
We came to what looked to be a storage shed. There was an old man. He was worn and weathered and sitting in a chair at the door, sipping a Budweiser. He greeted Tat.
"¿Estamos listos?" he asked. (Are we ready?)
Tat nodded and the old man opened the door for us. I noticed that he was looking closely at me, but Cas waved him off and the old man relaxed. Inside the building was the pit. They had brought bleachers to set up for better viewing. The pit was about fifteen or eighteen feet wide with walls about three feet high. The floor was covered with carpet.
"What's with that?" I asked Cas.
"Easier and quicker cleanup," he said. Wait 'til you see the mess."
"Can't wait," I replied.
The owner of the opposing dog was already there. He was waiting to wash "Vader," Tat's dog (to make sure no blinding or debilitating substances had been smeared on his coat). Once inside, Tat picked up the dog and held him in his arms like a baby. He put him down and held him as the other guy rolled up his sleeves -- to show that he had no trick substances stashed -- and began to wash Vader with warm, soapy water. The dog held still. He had been trained to hold just like show dogs are to let judges inspect them. After the washing, Cas picked up Vader and took him outside the pit area. Then the opposing dog was brought in to be washed by Tat. The dogs have to be brought in separately in order to avoid a spontaneous fight. When both were washed, they were weighed, once again at separate times. The scales they use are made for "Pulling Pits." That is, pit bulls trained for pulling competitions in the same way that weightlifters train. The dogs, according to their body weight, pull a series of weights in order to see which one is strongest. Pulling competitions are perfectly legal. Pulling pit bulls are much larger than fighting pit bulls. Dogmen, however, use these special scales to weigh in for a fight. The scales sort of look like grocery produce scales. The owner slips a harness beneath the dog's legs and it hangs freely. A 50-pound weight is used to balance the scale. Vader tipped in at 37 pounds.
I could see the old man letting people in. They were hell on checking guns at the door. Nobody entered with a piece. There are such large amounts of cash around that it has to be that way. The old man was collecting an admission fee of $50 from each spectator. I had slipped in free because I'd come to the fight as a friend of the "kennel." The term means the physical place for breeding, raising, and training the dogs as well as "the circle" of dogfighters. There was a brief lapse as Tat and the rival owner produced their share of the purse -- $5000 each. They gave the money to the "referee" and his people. The referee must be agreed upon by both owners. He is generally a well-respected dogman. The ref earns $100 for the match and usually receives a tip from the winning kennel. But referees do it for their reputations more than the money.
Tat was fighting Vader for his reputation andfor the money. He is a former U.S. Olympic Team alternate in judo, and a third-degree judo black belt. From his demeanor, about the best way to describe him would be: "If you're going to do something, do it right." His dog had been in the "keep" for fifteen weeks prior to the match. It seemed like a safe bet, and besides, it would have been impolite to take the other side. For gambling purposes, Vader would simply be referred to as "Brown Dog" because of his brindle coloring. His opponent would just be faded as "White Dog."
The training required for a dogfight could be compared to the training boxers go through. There is a regimented program, a performance-enhancing diet, a daily workout, and health items such as vitamin B12. Training a pit bull to fight is more about conditioning than either strength or blood lust. In that regard, most dogmen run their dogs every day on a "treadmill." That is, the dog is running in a sort of cage, but he is chasing after a live animal, a raccoon, say, which doesn't fear him -- also in a cage and on another treadmill just ahead of him. A proper "keep" will involve daily rubdowns for the dog; extreme hygiene of the ears, nose, and feet; constant examination of the stool; the monitoring of protein levels; and the regulation of salt intake (for blood coagulation).
The idea that one only wants to make the dog "mean" is exaggerated in the professional class. (Streetfighters, on the other hand, have been known to stick cocaine in their dogs' noses and jalapeño peppers up their asses.) But these men do view their dogs as commodities and nothing more. As Don Mayfield (formerly one of the premier dogmen in the U.S.) said to me: "Gamedog people breed dogs not to be their best friend, but to be what they are bred for. Just like one would breed a bird dog to hunt birds, but not to be a house pet and best friend." The truth is that dogmen view their dogs and kennels on about the same level as horse people view racehorses. When you are dealing with a good dog that might fetch $30,000 per year in fighting purses and from $5000 to $10,000 to breed, and, rarely, $20,000 to $30,000 to sell, then that's a commodity. These dogs have to be treated like children, with the express idea that each might die in the next match. Dogmen understand that, and so reserve the right to "pick up" their dogs at any match. That means the owner can stop the fight and forfeit, just like a boxer's manager "throwing in the towel." It's for this reason that fatalities are rare in pit bull wars. That is not to say that dogs don't die, or get killed, sometimes by their owners, after losing a fight.
You have to examine to what degree the dogs are inbred in order to understand why an owner might kill a fighter like that. If five pups are born, two might be bigger, stronger, and meaner, but the other three can be mentally or physically deficient. While the physical differences are easy to see, the mental deficiencies may only show following a loss -- cringing, listlessness, whimpering. Then it's either kill your investment, or lose more money ...
The best way to kill a dog in these circumstances is to put a high-caliber cap in its brain, or else stab it from the back at the base of the skull. Dogfighting isn't croquet.
The spectators were now starting to assemble and gamble. This, again, was half of why I'd come. The betting was even money. There were no odds. I watched how the bets were placed and I gave my action:
"I got two hundred on Brown Dog! Who can cover?"
A fellow yelled: "I got your two!"
So we had a bet. I felt at home. Organized violence does not bother me. The majority of the spectators were white Cubans. But over in the corner was a white man from Georgia sitting in a wheelchair, taking notes. He had come to see Vader. A lot of people said he was from Sporting Dog Journal, but neither Cas nor Tat ever confirmed it. Most of the spectators were dressed like normal people in jeans or slacks and collared shirts. The cross section was mostly urban Latino with a smattering of Anglo spectators like the Georgia man.
My love affair with gambling had reared its head many times, but never so intensely. I had plenty of money because I'd just received my first check from Buzz Daly's Player's Choice -- a gambling tabloid out of Las Vegas, for which I write a weekly column.
It seemed odd that even though the majority of us were Latino, we were placing bets in English, but that's the way it is. From a linguistic standpoint, it takes more words and so a lot more time to place a bet in Spanish, whether you're betting on football, horse racing, or dogfighting. In countries like Argentina and Chile, where there's a lot of cattle ranching, dogs are trained to understand commands in English. Dogs hear hard sounds better than soft ones. It's the difference between "sit" and "sientese."
The bets had been placed and it was time to begin the fight. Each owner carried his dog into the fighting pit. The owners were purposely obstructing their dogs' lines of vision so they still couldn't see much of each other. The referee looked at each owner. Both nodded their readiness. There was no Michael Buffer "Let's get ready to rumble" show. Organized dogfighting is so illegal that people want to get in and get out. I certainly felt that way. Each owner allowed his dog to see the other one for the first time. The dogs locked eyes and the referee gave the signal to let them go. Brown Dog went straight for the face and popped a "bleeder" on White Dog. A "bleeder" is when one dog bites the other's face and bursts a blood vessel. There was a lot of blood. All bets rose on Brown Dog.
"I got two more on Brown Dog. Who can cover?" I yelled.
Some sucker stepped right up: "I'll cover your two!"
In response to having his face bitten, White Dog immediately seized Brown Dog's front leg in his mouth and began "riding." He was trying to chew the leg off, but doing it from a position half-straddling Brown Dog's back ("riding" is exactly what it sounds like -- whether in college wrestling or dogfighting, one combatant is trying to wear the other down through a strategy of force and pain). Brown Dog couldn't take much of that and bucked White Dog off (though Whitey kept his death bite on the leg), then clamped down on the hurt nose again.
There is very little flesh on a dog's snout. The sound of teeth grating against bone was an audible, ratchety noise. It was enough to make you queasy, but not me. I had money on this thing and could not afford to get nauseous. It was becoming obvious that White Dog was going to let up on the leg because his nose was getting torn apart. When he did, Brown Dog jumped over him and tried to go underneath and bite his testicles. This is a fatal move that would have killed White Dog within minutes. In order to get an accurate picture of what this looked like -- imagine two dogs running and playing in a meadow. The dogs are jumping up and around each other. That was what it looked like, except there was no sense of frolic.
Brown Dog missed and only managed to bite White Dog's hind leg. Then, with Brown Dog momentarily on his back, White Dog had a chance in his turn to go for the balls -- but again, he only got a hind leg ...
We were moving into a seriously disturbing scene. Tat was in the corner of the pit yelling, "Go, Boy! Get that! Get that!" in a low voice that sounded like a barn door scraping against the floor, or a very controlled drill sergeant. The other owner was urging his dog on, too, sounding equally pleasant. Both dogs were punishing each other, and it was clear one of them was going to give -- either for the match or for the leg. Slowly, White Dog began to release his grip on Brown Dog, reluctantly, hard against his will. As he did, Brown Dog scratched to his feet, turned with a wild look, and bit him squarely in the chest. Then, with his fangs sunk into White Dog's front muscles, he picked White Dog up and slammed him into the side of the pit. The force of the move left White Dog on the ground, and Brown Dog with a little mouthful of skin and meat, but White Dog just lay there. The referee called a "turn" -- the unwillingness to fight, like the end of a round. When a turn is called, the referee has the dogs put in their opposing corners, so that if they are in shape to continue, they can "face off" again.
At the face-off, all bettors and spectators can see what damage has been done. White Dog looked to be in a bad way. It seemed his shoulders were broken. He had a hole about the size of a silver dollar in his chest where Brown Dog had bitten him. At this point, White Dog only had a certain amount of time to start an attack. If White Dog didn't initiate the "scratch," the willingness to attack after a turn has been called, he would be seen as "curring out," or quitting. White Dog stood on one leg, barked, and initiated the attack. It was a brutal sight. Now Brown Dog had the obligation to counter. He hurtled across the scratch line, bit White Dog in the neck, and slammed him on the ground again, gurgling with combat. The referee rushed over with his "breaking stick" and pried the dog's jaws apart. Brown Dog was returned to his corner. White Dog let out a yelp and lay there. After a "ten count," the referee called the match and declared Brown Dog the winner. Tat came to get Brown Dog and White Dog's owner got down on the ground in the pit beside him. The fight had taken an hour and fifteen minutes.
Immediately they began to break the pit and seating area down. That was the job of the owner of the site -- the beer-drinking old man and his crew. I collected my money -- $400. You can't really get out of a dogfight site until after your bets are squared. In just a little more than half an hour, you couldn't tell what had been going on. The four white walls of the pit were stacked like lumber over in the corner, the gory carpet was disposed of, and the removable bleachers had been folded and carried out. Brown Dog was being administered antibiotics and painkillers. The same was happening with White Dog, except that with broken shoulders, his owner looked really concerned.
This fight had been for Brown Dog's "championship." Dogs become "champions" after three wins. They become "Grand Champions" after five wins. Then "Double Grand Champions" after ten wins. There has only been one "Double Grand Champion" so far, because dogfights are so rough (castrations, blindings) that surviving ten of them is a miracle. The Grand Champ's name was "Hurricane," from Texas, but he fought all over the U.S. White Dog's owner was going to retire him to stud service, but he died of his wounds three days after the fight.
Vader lay sedated in the back of the truck. As we were riding along, I turned to Cas and asked: "What were the odds that we would have been busted for this thing?"
"There was one time there where we thought the cops had come for a raid, but it was a false alarm. I mean, I don't do this all the time, but I've never had problems with the cops. The sick thing is that [some] of them are involved in this shit," he claimed.
"Is this where you always go, or what?" I asked.
"Nah, sometimes here and sometimes Hialeah. But it's all around really. I couldn't put a finger on it. Thing is that you never know where it's gonna be until about two hours before the fight. Tat just sent out the word that he wanted a match for Vader and a few days later somebody got ahold of him and they settled the ref and the purse. The ref called each guy and told him where to be. We knew when, just not where. That was the only way that I could tell you where to be. You know?" Cas said.
Tat dropped Cas and me off at the Beach, then drove on to his place. He would be heading to Virginia in a little more than three months for a fight with a purse of $20,000. Vader had to be nursed back to health and put back in the "keep." Cas and I shook hands. He went to meet his girlfriend, and I went to meet my beer.
As I nursed it at Jerry's, I thought about what Cas had said about some cops being "involved." It did seem odd that the Miami-Dade Animal Services Unit hadn't been busting dogfights, but then all over the world, where dogfighting has suddenly burst out as the low-rent entertainment of choice (after cocaine), cops just give it a low priority. When I talked to Sergeant Espinoza, he told me, "We have not, I don't want to use the word 'bust,' we have not 'encountered' any dogfighting operations since we took over [the shelter] on October 1, 2001." And, when I asked how "close" they had ever gotten, and where he thought most of the organized dogfighting was taking place, he answered, "We have encountered 'training facilities' and schedules for workouts such as 'Treadmill one hour. Give vitamins. Inject with B-12', which [led] us to believe these individuals were involved in dogfighting. I don't want to name a place because that would be unfair. We found a person in Cutler Ridge with ten pit bulls. And, you know [there was a] man in Hialeah a few weeks ago."
Violence is more and more the norm, it seems to me. In popular sports, there's hockey and football and auto racing and boxing, shading off now into Xtreme Fighting, and Truck Rodeos, where the object is to smash your vehicle to bits while the hicks in the stands roar like lions. In civilian life there's bombings (fly-bys) and drive-bys, and even bike-bys -- some guy rolled up on his bike one night recently when I was coming home late from work, put his arm around my neck, held a box cutter to my throat, and took my wallet.
I figure a lot of people are just poor and frustrated now, and so they get angry and need to find a way to let that out -- either directly, or as a watcher. The fight I'd just seen could have taken place in 1902, in almost exactly the same manner. Do I think organized dogfighting is making the world worse? Not really. I can't honestly condone it or condemn it. My experience was nothing like what you'd read about in the papers (but what is?). From my experience with "Gene," I can't say I disbelieve that there are people out there actively mistreating dogs by fighting them. Gene was a sleaze, not above the pepper-in-the-ass ploy, and with plenty of room to rent upstairs. That, however, was not my impression with Tat and Cas -- before and after the fight, they seemed to be careful of their dog, and you wouldn't want to find better guys on our side of the law.
It's quite possible that the police look at dogfights in the same way I do -- with indifference. The biggest problem that I see with it is, as Cas says, the dog can't reason and make a decision to fight or not fight, like a human can.
I have to admit the gambling action was good, though, the thrill of winning blood money better than, say, betting the spread in the Florida/FSU game last month.
So would I go again?