Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick is only the most prominent American involved in dogfighting. The Baltimore Sun reports that when police officers recently burst into a row house to find drugs, they also found two pit bull terriers and the weights, chains, homemade harness, and other equipment that are telltale signs of dogfighting. That volatile mix – drugs, guns and dogfighting – has fueled a deadly subculture that is tearing at some city neighborhoods. Pit bulls, or “pits,” are rized by drug dealers and other criminals for their loyalty, muscular beauty, and aggressive nature, a characteristic that can be manipulated to sadistic extremes. Some pit bulls are trained to guard drug houses and outdoor heroin caches; others to participate in organized fights.
“Dogfighting has been woven into the fabric of Baltimore’s drug culture,” said Frederick H. Bealefeld III, the city’s acting police commissioner. “It’s a part of that scene.” Dogfighting in Baltimore has been hard to stamp out. The animals are often kept in the backyards of abandoned rowhouses, making it difficult for police or animal enforcement officers to track ownership. Unlike the dogfights that Vick and his Bad Newz Kennels partners allegedly attended – events that drew spectators and purses worth thousands of dollars – many Baltimore fights take place on the street, when two dog owners cross paths. The fights are more about bolstering street credibility than making big-money wagers. Those who stage organized dogfights carefully guard information about events, using code words and moving dogs around the city often to avoid detection. Larger fights are staged in the basements of abandoned rowhouses, in neighborhoods where barking, cheering, and late-night traffic won’t be noticed.