Injured pit bull a victim of dog fights?

LAKE STEVENS — A black-and-white American pit bull terrier found injured and abandoned in Lake Stevens may have been used for illegal dog fights.

The male dog had a torn ear and scars on its body and was aggressive toward other animals, said Cindy Brooks, an animal control officer for Lake Stevens police.

“It’s just disturbing. If you have a pet, you need to be responsible for that pet,” Brooks said. “To just abandon it is heartless.”

It’s also illegal, she said.

Brooks can’t say for sure if the dog found tethered to a tree near Frontier Village on Sept. 16 was used in fights, but the clues point in that direction.

Fighting dogs that don’t win their bouts are typically destroyed or abandoned, said John Goodwin, who manages animal fighting issues for the Humane Society of the United States.

“The winning dog will go back home and be patched up. The losing dog will be either killed or dumped,” he said. “Dog fighters have no need for losing dogs.”

A Lake Stevens couple spotted the animal tied to a tree in the back of the shopping center parking lot.

“It just didn’t look right,” Kenda Young said.

When Young walked by again after buying groceries, the dog was still there. She bought him some food and water.

When she saw that the dog was hurt and appeared malnourished, she called police.

Fearing the dog would be euthanized, she and her husband attempted for a day to care for him.

“When he got around our dogs, we knew that wasn’t going to be feasible,” Young said.

The pit bull tried to attack her Labrador retriever and her German shepherd puppy.

Animal control officers picked up the dog and brought him to the Everett Animal Shelter, where he was held for three days and then destroyed, Everett city spokeswoman Kate Reardon said.

He was kept isolated at the shelter because of his erratic behavior. When no one claimed him, he was humanely euthanized, standard procedure according to city codes, Reardon said.

All pit bull breeds are considering potentially dangerous animals under Everett city codes. The city animal shelter, which serves much of the county, receives about 1,200 pit bulls each year. Around one in six are saved, she said.

American pit bull terriers are the most common dogs used in organized dog fights, Goodwin said.

While many pit bulls can make good and safe pets, dogs bred from lines that have been trained to fight can be aggressive, he said.

It’s very difficult and costly to rehabilitate a dog once it’s been taught to be aggressive, Goodwin said. Most frequently, the dogs need to be put down.

Earlier this month, King County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed two pit bulls that were mauling a woman in SeaTac.

Dog fighting is prevalent around the United States, Goodwin said.

It’s most commonly found in New York City, Louisiana and North Carolina. Still, “you certainly have a network of dog fighters in Washington state,” Goodwin said.

In 2005, a judge ordered that an Everett man not be allowed to own dogs for two years after police found a videotape featuring dog fights believed to have been filmed in an Everett home.

People should call police if they see several pit bulls kept on chains in someone’s yard, he said. That could be a sign that a dog-fighting ring is working in the area.

Pit bull is a general term for several breeds of dogs, said Marcy Setter, a spokeswoman for Pit Bull Rescue Central, an advocacy Web site for the dogs.

She said pit bulls get a bad rap and can be gentle, loving animals. Many breeds are used in fights, not just pit bull breeds.

Young, the woman who tried to save the dog found in Lake Stevens, said she has many friends with pit bulls and they’re great pets.

To raise a dog to fight is horrible and inhumane, she said.

She said it broke her heart that the dog she tried to save had to be put down. She blames dog fight spectators as well as the dogs’ owners.

“If people stop doing it, if people stop entertaining the whole situation, then we won’t have this problem,” Young said. “It’s more than just the dog owner; it’s the people who go to the fights, too.”

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or jholtz@heraldnet.com.

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