Harrowing exhibit shines spotlight on dog fighting

Editor's Note: A picture of the exhibit which contains content that may be troubling for some can be found at the bottom of this article.

Infamous football player Michael Vick wasn’t the first to force his pets into brutal, to-the-death fights. Dog fighting has been occurring for centuries now, now put on harrowing display at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment.

The Crime Museum paired with the ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) to create its latest exhibit, “Dog Fighting: The Voiceless Victims,” which opened Jan. 29.

The exhibit displays artifacts that were seized by the ASPCA in recent dog raids. One can view the “rape stand” that many owners strap overly-aggressive female dogs into so that breeding can occur. Next to it is a treadmill that dogs were once forced to run on to train for competitions. The exhibit hits even closer to home with the skulls of the dead pit bulls that were buried in Michael Vick’s backyard on full display, as well as photos of rescued fight dogs.

ASPCA Senior Vice President of Anti-Cruelty Projects Randall Lockwood was present at the unveiling to discuss the goal of this temporary exhibit.

“We want the public to see that dogs used in dog fighting are the victims of the crime as well as individuals, not as the instruments of the crime,” Lockwood said.

Lockwood also said that the practice of breeding and trading of fight dogs has reached an international scale, that many dogs are imported and exported out of the country for the purpose of acquiring the best killing machine. However, law enforcement authorities across the country were much less eager to stop the issue several years ago than authorities today, according to Lockwood.

The ASPCA has worked hard to raise awareness of the issue and advocacy for stricter laws on dog fighting, according to Lockwood. ASPCA also works to rehabilitate dogs that have been rescued from abusive owners, with a high success rate of transforming past fight dogs into docile, friendly creatures who are often adopted into a home.

The Crime Museum’s Chief Operating Officer, Janine Vaccarello, was also present at the exhibit unveiling. Vaccarello stated that the purpose of the exhibit was to “bring more attention to dog fighting and how horrible it is,” so that when people see the signs of dog fights in the future, they will report the crime.

The issue is “way bigger than we think,” Vaccarello said. “While Michael Vick’s case brought a lot of attention to dog fighting, it’s still going on in many, many states.”

“Dog Fighting: The Voiceless Victims” will remain in the museum until Sept. 2.


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