Letters from the Issue of February 6, 2003

The nation's animal lovers bite back

Camilo and Me

Though it happened a while ago, it was something you don't forget: Tristram Korten should be commended for his in-depth, thoroughly researched, and well-written article concerning Camilo Padreda ("A Friend Indeed," January 30). Credit should also be given to New Times editor Jim Mullin for continually allowing his reporters the time and free reign for such important projects.

I read the article with great interest, particularly the comment about Padreda's friendship with former Florida Insurance Commissioner Bill Gunter. This caused me to dig through old papers and locate a letter dated June 6, 1985, written by an ambulance-chasing attorney I was investigating for insurance fraud at the time, addressed to then Commissioner Gunter. The letter begins: "As a followup to my prior conversation with Mr. Camilo Padreda, I am writing this letter as a formal complaint concerning Mr. John P. Askins, one of your investigators in Miami, Florida." Basically the writer alleged that I was investigating him only because he was a "well-known Cuban American," or so he said. I subsequently was told that Padreda apparently had called Gunter on behalf of the subject and alleged that I was prejudiced against Cubans, even though I don't know Padreda.

This letter was of no small concern to me, since Padreda was known for his political fundraising and was often seen with Gunter during his trips to Miami. One of Gunter's top aides quickly contacted my boss, Bob McKenna, director of the division of insurance fraud, and let it be known I was most likely guilty of what was said and should be taken off the case. Thankfully McKenna, a fearless man of impeccable integrity, backed me up 100 percent. I regret to say there aren't too many Bob McKennas in government these days. In fact McKenna is no longer in government at all, as Gunter eventually fired him for committing too many acts of integrity.

The point is that an influence peddler like Padreda often does get his way with government officials despite an unsavory past. It appears this may have occurred at the Miami Police Department, much to the detriment of the fine police officers working there. Furthermore it is inexcusable that current and former high-ranking federal law-enforcement officials choose to consort with a fellow who, by his own admission, has bribed elected officials. Let me assure you their subordinates think less of them for the poor example they set.

I thank New Times for terrific journalism and urge you to keep up the great work.

John P. Askins

Tallahassee

Editor's note: Askins formerly supervised the Miami office of the Florida Department of Insurance's fraud division.

Dogfight Club: The Venom Flows Like Blood

Free weekly long on hypocrisy, short on integrity: I am appalled at New Times's decision to run the Brandon Dane article "Dogfight Club" (January 23). Unfortunately it's no surprise that there are individuals like Dane who get their kicks by watching the mauling of innocent animals, or that there are people like the story's dog owners who have been entrusted with the care of their dogs but are instead completely heartless as to their suffering. What is surprising to me is that New Times editor Jim Mullin would actually finance his reporter's participation in an act of animal cruelty, which, by the way, is also a crime. It is totally hypocritical to attempt to distance the paper from the potential consequences of its reporters' actions (i.e., possible arrest) while simultaneously handing him an expense check for his services! New Times truly has exhibited a complete lack of journalistic integrity with this story.

Dogfighting is a heartless, cowardly, immoral, and barbarous act of animal cruelty and an abuse of humans' responsibilities to care for creatures that can not choose whether or not to fight in such situations. The horrific description of animal suffering contained in this article is the best justification I've heard for why this is a felony in most of the nation. It is my hope that this ill-conceived report will serve to focus the attention of our elected officials and the Miami-Dade Police Department on taking swift action to end such abuse and put individuals like Brandon Dane where they belong -- in jail.

I have been an avid reader of New Times since moving to Miami fifteen years ago. Please be sure to let your advertisers know that this article has ensured I have read my last edition.

Robert S. Brunn

Miami Beach

A disgusting glamorization of evil: While I fully support freedom of speech and freedom of the press, "Dogfight Club" turned my stomach. I am appalled that New Times not only published such a disgusting article glamorizing dogfighting, but financed it as well.

Dogfighting is a felony offense that inflicts terrible pain and suffering on innocent animals. Would New Times have considered promoting the torture of humans? I seriously doubt the editors would have printed a piece that described in such grotesquely graphic fashion the intentional infliction of human injuries.

Brandon Dane's inability to recognize dogfighting as nothing short of evil speaks volumes about his humanity (or lack thereof). New Times's blatant sensationalism and tacit support of such barbarism speaks volumes about its lack of judgment.

I will urge everyone I know to contact New Times advertisers and encourage them to withdraw from the publication. The paper has done a terrible injustice to innocent animals and a tremendous disservice to the community.

Cindy Hewitt

Miami

About punks, by a punk:With his "Dogfight Club" article, Brandon Dane documents his willful participation in the brutal abuse of animals. It seems his desire to write about himself prevented him from understanding the atrocities he witnessed first-hand. The end result is a worthless piece of journalism -- an article about punks who think abusing dogs is cool, written by a self-absorbed punk who thinks gambling is cool.

The idea that ignorant cowards torture dogs for fun and/or financial gain is not worth reporting. The only noteworthy piece of information in the article is that New Times financially supports a loser who is amused by animal abuse and further encourages animal abusers by celebrating their antics.

Fred Bredemeyer

Davie

Heartless writer, heartless editor, shameful publication: I am very disgusted with Brandon Dane's "Dogfight Club." It always shocks me when people speak so loosely about how an animal can be slaughtered. When it's about any other form of life, we use more sense and humanity. But a life is a life is a life.

This article proves once again that a dog might be man's best friend but man is a dog's worst enemy. Not only is the writer heartless but so is the editor. Shame on them and shame on New Times!

Barbara Sanabria

Miami

The purpose should have been prosecution, not provocation: I was totally repulsed by "Dogfight Club." What was the purpose if not to prosecute the people who are responsible? The author treats this disturbing topic as though it were as innocuous as a dog show, when in fact these animals are treated with amazing brutality. If this amoralistic "news" was an attempt to be provocative, New Times has indeed provoked this reader -- to stop reading the publication.

This story was absolutely disgusting, and Brandon Dane was an accomplice to the criminals who are abusing those defenseless animals.

Noel Steinfeld

Surfside

If you think animal abuse is fun, just wait till you see toddler fights: While dogfighting, as described by Brandon Dane, does indeed sound like super fun -- what with the sound of teeth on bones, blood spurting from bite wounds, dogs being killed by their owners for losing a fight, or dogs simply dying from their wounds -- I still prefer cockfighting. After all, in cockfighting you get to see the animals hopped up on steroids and with razor blades attached to their feet. Oh, and the bloodshed! Simply hilarious, especially when you can bet on them and have the added bonus of winning some quick cash. So congratulations on promoting the abuse of animals. We certainly don't abuse them enough already.

Hey, Brandon, when you've tired of attending dogfights, do consider going on a prairie-dog shoot, or perhaps spending a lazy afternoon herding wild mustangs off the side of a cliff. As you said, "People are just poor and frustrated now, and so they get angry and need to find a way to let that out."

As for me, I'm a little frustrated with the economy too, which is why I'm organizing "toddler fights," where kids ages two to four are injected with all sorts of crazy drugs, then equipped with little Freddy Krueger finger razors and thrown into a pit to fight it out. Sure, some get wounded and some die, but I get to blow off a little steam. See you there!

Laura Sebastian

Miami

Judge a society by its treatment of animals, not by its newspapers: Having told myself hundreds of times over the last few years that I am going to stop reading newspapers, I believe I will now make good on my personal vow. I've grown tired of reading about what people are capable of doing, but the world seems to keep reaching new lows, as witnessed by the article "Dogfight Club." The very fact that Brandon Dane was paid to write this is disturbing, and that is incentive enough for me to stop reading New Times.

That dogfighting is illegal, immoral, and cruel means nothing as long as you can gamble on it, right? But the rationalization that all sports are becoming more violent conveniently overlooks the fact that people make their own choices, whereas dogs cannot. Also the suggestion that dogfighters are in any way comparable to owners and trainers of racehorses is preposterous. The vast majority of horse people are devastated if their horses are injured. People own and race horses because they love them, not to get rich. People who actually make money in the horse business are few and far between, but most care deeply about their horses, and support them long after they have lost the ability to race and make money.

All in all I was offended by the callous disregard for animals as portrayed in "Dogfight Club." One of the ways a society can be judged is by its treatment of animals. Respect for human life starts with respect for all creatures.

Anne Buxton

North Miami Beach

Bold, fresh, and original -- and not the sort of thing you're likely to read in San Francisco: Last week I was on business in Miami from San Francisco and was very surprised by the fact that a "liberal" weekly like New Times would print such a frank viewpoint about fighting pit bulls. If this had been published in the weekly East Bay Express [a New Times paper], the entire Berkeley township would have gathered as an angry mob and burned Brandon Dane at the stake, lit afire with copies of the paper. The Express would then most likely have had firebombs thrown through its office windows from irate animal-rights activists for the next few weeks -- until some local celebrity went out to dinner in alligator-skin shoes or some other such nonsense. That would refocus their wrath.

This is precisely what I hate about living in San Francisco. I never get to read fresh, original material by people who are not so caught up in a moral shitstorm that they're afraid to just write. I commend New Times for running this article and I support Brandon Dane for writing a story that did not crumble into some PETA manifesto. It was very bold.

Nadia Pinhiero

San Francisco

Of course you're taking heat, but it was great writing and you know it:Pauline Kael, in her famous essay about "hot" movies versus "cool" movies, defined the former as being the traditional Hollywood crap that results from audience testing and elaborate packaging in order to maximize the number of butts in seats at ten dollars a pop; and the latter as those movies in which the filmmaker could give a @#$! about audience reaction, has a point of view on the world, and is daring or crazy enough to try to communicate it. The "cool" movies are where the art of filmmaking can be found, where artists push the limits of the medium, the squealing majority be damned.

I might be wrong but I imagine that New Times is catching hell for publishing Brandon Dane's "Dogfight Club," catching it from the PETA crowd, the morally upright, the outraged. Let me be a minority voice and applaud New Times. Why? What's to defend in a story glorifying this blood sport? What's to defend in an author who commits a felony not just by attending but by having the cojones to bet on this gory spectacle?

The why can be found in the courage it took to tell this tale; the nerve it took to dig out the story and report it. In an era of journalistic conformity where The Bachelorette, Joe Millionaire, and American Idol dominate the Nielsen ratings by spewing mediocrity on a nightly basis to tens of millions (if Joe Millionaire is why we're fighting Iraq, then brother, I'm going over to the enemy!), anything that dares to take a risk, anything not politically correct -- anything, in short, that dares to screw around with these dull, bland-as-homogenized-milk masses is dead meat. So I applaud Brandon Dane, and here's why specifically:

Detailed historical accounting: I had no idea dogfighting went back to 1835 and the days of "bullbaiting."

Accurate and precise reporting: I had no idea dogfighting was a felony in 46 states and that there are upward of 40,000 "players." The details about them sticking cocaine in dogs' noses or jalapeño peppers up their asses was a stunner, so brutally honest you know it must be true.

Penetrating the inner circle: Using a KKK or John Birch Society analogy, could readers question why he bet on this match? What was he expected to do -- send them a Valentine card?

Personal style: I like Mr. Dane's voice. It's unique in its utter disregard for whatever is PC, similar in style to some of Chicago's great newspapermen -- names like Ben Hecht, Mike Royko, or more recently author Eugene Izzi, who died while penetrating just such a secret society in Indiana.

From "Dogfight Club": "Best way to kill a dog in these circumstances is to put a high-caliber bullet in its brain, or else stab it from the back at the base of the skull. Dogfighting isn't croquet." Oh hell yeah, I'll bet you're catching it for this article. But guess what? That is great writing. And you know it.

Paul Peditto

Chicago, Illinois

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