By Beth Dalbey
Detroit, Michigan – Melting snow revealed dozens of dead dogs in a park – many of the animals were victims of dog fighting, authorities said.
River Rouge Park apparently has become a dumping ground for dogs killed in illegal fighting, the Detroit Animal Welfare Group (DAWG), told WWJ, the CBS affiliate in Detroit. The bodies of at least 28 large dogs, mostly pit bulls and Mastiff mixes, were found in the park, DAWG board member NIcole Litzelman said.
“Because of the heavy snowfall in the month of January, a lot of these deceased bodies were discarded there because it was easier to cover them up. Also, it was an unusually cold month where a lot of dogs froze outside or were left to starve to death,” Litzelman told WWJ’s Kathryn Larson. “This is just a small tip of the iceberg. Right now, since the snow is melting, I’m sure we’re going to find quite a few more bodies in the park.”
Litzelman said the bite wounds on the dogs are consistent with fighting, which is illegal in Michigan and elsewhere in the United States.
The problem is so pervasive in Michigan that in 2012, Gov. Rick Snyder signed the toughest anti-dog-fighting legislation in the country, making the offense punishable by up to 20 years in jail and fines of $100,000. Dogfighting was a felony prior to the legislation, but carrying a four-year-jail sentence and a maximum fine of $50,000.
Those involved in dogfighting can’t put the bodies of the dogs, which fight to the death, in the trash because they fear being reported.
“A majority of them are due to illegal activities, such as fighting. It’s consistent with the bite wounds that are on the dogs. Most of them have either bled to death or have large gaping wounds that were never treated,” Litzelman said. “The park is well-know for dog fighting and has a high activity for drugs and other illegal activities.”
Other dogs may have been abandoned by families – non-human casualties of the Detroit’s bankruptcy and rapid population decline, from 1.8 million people to only 700,000. In a report last summer, Bloomberg said as many as 50,000 dogs are roaming the streets of Detroit.
Some of the dogs found at the sprawling 1,200-acre River Rouge Park are clinging to life and are being gathered to be used as bait dogs in fighting.
“We were just tipped off that there are some people down there trying to feed these dogs to use them as bait dogs,”
DAWG organized an event Saturday to cleanup carcasses and capture as many of the live dogs as possible, but as poverty continues to roil Detroit, finding homes for the abandoned dogs is a problem left to animal welfare-groups to solve.
“The city is cash-strapped and is having issues as far as police coverage, so somebody has got to try to take ahold of the problem and do something,” Litzelman said.If you’d like to help DAWG, visit dawghous.com or Facebook.
For more information on dog fighting and how you can help, visit the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Humane Society.