Baltimore officials say a connection between dogfighting, drug dealing, illegal gambling, and other criminal activities has led them to take a more serious look at the cruel matches, which are often staged in rowhouse basements out of sight of neighbors and police, the Baltimore Sun reports. Losing dogs are sometimes shot or hanged because their owners don’t want to weaken the breed. Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, city health commissioner, and Frederick H. Bealefeld III, acting police commissioner, are expected to announce the creation of a multi-agency dogfighting task force today. A police detective will investigate dogfight rings and will collect evidence against organizers, trainers, breeders and spectators. The effort could stem violence in the city and animal abuse, officials say.
Children interviewed at a rowhouse where police found fighting dogs said they were caring for the animals for adults. Bealefeld worries that caring for the dogs will lure children into a world that includes drug dealing and violence. “There is a subliminal indoctrination into the thug world,” said Bealefeld, adding that youths who feed fighting dogs are not unlike youths who sell drugs on city corners for adult drug dealers. They are both pawns in a large criminal organization. “It is the same thing,” he said. The task force announcement comes a day after Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick pleaded not guilty to dogfight-related charges in Richmond, Va. Vick and three co-defendants were indicted on a single count of conspiracy relating to dogfighting.