CHICAGO- Michael Vick has put a spotlight on pit bulls and dog fighting. The violent practice is also getting the attention of police, and the Humane Society of the United States, an organization that sponsors a unique program, trying to save the animals and in-turn, their owners.
The Austin neighborhood in Chicago is a community defined by violence. Last year there were more murders there than anywhere else in the city and some say more dogfights than anywhere in the nation. “Chicago has been ground zero for many of the problems we have seen for pit bulls,” said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Human Society of the United States.
Shawn Moore fought pit bulls on Chicago’s west side for more than 10-years. “I did all the bad things that dog fighters have done in their lifetime,” said Moore. Now he’s trying to do some good.
As part of a program sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States he reaches out to at risk dogs and their owners. He leads them to the pit bull training team. Every weekend a parade of pit bulls lines the walls outside the Carroll Care Community Center.
Inside renowned trainer Jeff Jenkins is the conductor of a symphony of yelps and growls. “All she’s thinking about doing is picking fights right now. And trust me, you don’t want any part of that dog!” said Jenkins.
Providing the dogs and their owners a controlled, and disciplined alternative to fighting. While the focus is clearly on the dogs during class, this program is also changing the actions and attitudes of their owners, and in-turn, ultimately the entire neighborhood. Even if that change is a long and difficult process.
“You know, it’s gonna take time. It takes time. Ain’t trying to build Rome in a day, or end dog fighting in a day,” said former dog fighter Shawn Moore. But then patience might be the most important part of teaching an old dog new tricks.
Atlanta and Charlotte are other cities the Humane Society has targeted with pit bull training teams. As a part of the program, the H.S.U.S. also provides dog food, leashes, shots and registration fees for those who participate.