Wayne Pacelle stumps for passage of the FIGHT Act to stop both dogfighting & cockfighting, but banning interstate pit bull transport would do far more for the dogs
LONDON, U.K.; WASHINGTON, D.C.––Outside of war zones, the deadliest beast at large on Halloween 2023 was once again a pit bull, whether in or out of costume.
Pit bull behavior proved the point.
In London, United Kingdom, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs introduced regulations to enforce a national ban on “American Bully XL” pit bulls.
In Washington D.C., lobbyists paced the halls of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, seeking votes both for and against attaching the anti-dogfighting and cockfighting “FIGHT Act” to the 2024 Farm Bill.
Halloween pit bull fatalities
Illustrating the stakes, three of a neighbor’s pit bulls leaped off a trailer court porch shortly before trick-or-treating started to kill neighbor David Eller, 65, in Monck’s Corner, South Carolina.
Also just before trick-or-treating started, a family pit bull killed five-year-old Colton Michael Kline at his home in Spokane, Washington.
Helping to remove post-Halloween debris, sanitation worker Jonirus Davis, 31, of Steens, Mississippi, on November 1, 2023 stood on the back of a Golden Triangle Waste Services garbage truck.
The truck was backing down Hanson Drive in Lowndes County, when two pit bulls attacked Davis.
Davis either fell or was pulled off the truck by the pit bulls.
The driver did not see Davis fall, and backed over Davis, who died at the scene, reported WCBI of Columbus, Mississippi.
The deaths of Eller, Kline, and Davis were the fourth pit bull-inflicted fatalities in the U.S. in eight days, following the October 24, 2023 death of 19-month-old George Henry Smith in Hahira, Georgia.
Smith, family members indicated, was killed by his grandmother’s pit bull.
U.K. bans “XL Bullies” under Dangerous Dogs Act 1991
“Following a concerning rise in attacks and fatalities caused by XL Bully dogs,” the U.K. Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs announced on October 31, 2023, “the government has added this breed to the list of dogs banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.”
The “XL Bully” pit bull variant, responsible for at least eight deaths in the United Kingdom in 2022 and 2023, plus at least 60 disfiguring injuries to humans, joins four other pit bull variants on the banned list.
The others are the American Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, and Fila Brasiliero. All are considered “foreign breeds” in the United Kingdom.
“Staffordshires” still not listed
Still exempted by dint of not being specifically named are pit bulls with “Staffordshire” in their breed designation.
“Staffordshires” have been exempted from United Kingdom attempts to ban pit bulls under the misconception that they are a traditional English breed.
In truth, “Staffordshire” originated as a brand name with American Pit Bull Terrier fighting dog breeder John P. Colby, and was never used as a breed name before Colby began selling some of his pit bulls to English dogfighters.
Altogether, of the 85 dogs who have killed someone in the United Kingdom since the passage of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, 70 were pit bulls or pit bull variants, including 20 so-called Staffordshires.
“To help current owners adapt to the new laws,” the U.K. Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs explained, the XL Bully ban “will come into force in two stages.
“From 31 December 2023 it will be against the law to sell an XL Bully dog, abandon an XL Bully dog, give away an XL Bully dog, breed from an XL Bully dog, (or) have an XL Bully in public without a lead and muzzle
“From 1 February 2024 it will be a criminal offence to own an XL Bully in England and Wales unless you have a Certificate of Exemption for your dog.”
A Certificate of Exemption will require XL Bully owners to “adhere to strict rules such as microchipping your dog and keeping it on a lead and muzzled when in public. You will also need to neuter your dog,” with a list of deadlines varying by the age of the XL Bully.
“Alternatively,” the U.K. Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said, “if you are an owner of an XL Bully, you may decide not to keep it, in which case you should take your dog to a registered vet to euthanize it. There will be a compensation scheme toward the cost of euthanasia if you choose this option.”
Owners of XL Bully dogs must be “over 16 years old,” and must have “insurance against your dog injuring other people.
“There is a 9-week period until the ban on selling comes into force,” the U.K. Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs noted, “ to allow puppies that were bred before this legislation was introduced to be legally sold. It will remain the case that puppies must not be sold before they are eight weeks old.
“Rescue and rehoming centers should not rehome XL Bully dogs”
“From 31 December 2023,” the U.K. Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs cautioned, “it will be illegal to rehome, sell or transfer ownership of XL Bully dogs. From this date rescue and rehoming centers should not rehome XL Bully dogs.
“It will be for rehoming centers to decide whether to apply to the Index for a Certificate of Exemption to keep these dogs, or to euthanize them.
“If you are not sure whether a dog in your care may be considered an XL Bully, use the official definition of an XL Bully,” provided in a six-page document entitled Guidance: Applying the XL Bully breed type conformation standard.
Ban “strictly based on breed type”
Stipulates Guidance, “It is important to clarify that the assessment of whether an individual dog is prohibited is strictly based on ‘breed type,’ rather than breed or crossbreed. This means that whether your dog is a banned type depends on whether it meets the physical characteristics of a banned breed type, rather than its breed name or any DNA test results.
“A suspected XL Bully breed type does not need to fit the physical description perfectly. If it meets a substantial number of the characteristics set out in the conformation standard below, it could be considered an XL Bully breed type.
“If you think your dog has a substantial amount of the physical characteristics set out in the conformation standard, your dog may be in scope of the ban whether or not it was sold as an ‘XL Bully.’”
Veterinarians “will not be expected to report XL Bully dogs and their owners to the police,” the U.K. Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said, but should “read the official definition of an XL Bully dog,” and “tell owners about the ban on XL Bully dogs that starts on 31 December 2023 and what they need to do to either keep or give up a dog”
Puerto Rico governor campaigns for cockfighters & dogfighters
The U.S. Congressional fight over adding the FIGHT Act, introduced in the House of Representatives at HR 2742 and in the Senate as S 1529, heated up in mid-October 2023 after several high-profile late summer dogfighting busts, several of them almost within barking distance of Washington D.C.
(See D.C. political dogfight upstages bust of Pentagon flack for dogfighting, The biggest dogfighting bust that South Carolina media did not report, and Alleged dogfighting busts are back in Michael Vick country.)
“Puerto Rico governor Pedro Pierluisi stomped the halls of Congress on a mission to try to block the advance of the FIGHT Act, according to personal accounts from staff I work with on Capitol Hill,” emailed Animal Wellness Action president Wayne Pacelle on October 13, 2023.
Antonio Casillas Montero
“Governor Pierluisi’s lobbying blitz,” Pacelle continued, “coincided with an announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice that a man named Antonio Casillas Montero was sentenced to seven years in federal prison for his illegal dogfighting activities, described by federal prosecutor as involving ‘extraordinary cruelty.’
“Casillas operated Stone City Kennels in Puerto Rico,” Pacelle narrated, “and ran a long-standing dogfighting business. According to federal authorities, Casillas’s dogs participated in at least 150 fights throughout the Americas.”
Detailed a Department of Justice media release on October 6, 2023, “Casillas bred pit-bull type dogs for fights in Puerto Rico, México, Ecuador, Perú, the Dominican Republic, and various cities in the continental United States. During a search of his property in Humacao, several pit-bull type dogs were seized who suffered from pustules, fungus, lameness, and jaw clamping.
“Extreme end of the spectrum of cruelty”
“In its sentencing memorandum, the Government argued that ‘Casillas’s conduct is on the extreme end of the spectrum of cruelty in an already cruel form of abuse.’
“According to the evidence presented by the Government, Casillas would use veterinarians in Puerto Rico to obtain health certificates to send fighting dogs to the Dominican Republic on a ferry, where the dogs would be trained in the weeks before matches. During the fights, which could last for over 1.5 hours, Casillas would let losing dogs perish from their injuries, rather than removing them from a fight. During the sentencing hearing, the Government presented a video of one of Casillas’ dogs dying after a match in the Dominican Republic while being insulted for its defeat.
“In addition to fighting numerous dogs,” the Department of Justice continued, “Casillas organized large, international matches. He and his partners would breed fighting dogs for sale for thousands of dollars and ship them on airplanes from Puerto Rico around the world.
“Caribbean legend” of dogfighting
“The Government presented evidence of inquiries from potential customers in South America and Europe regarding Stone City Kennels’ dogs. Casillas would also mentor dog fighters on training techniques with steroids. Evidence presented by the Government indicated that Casillas was considered a ‘Caribbean legend’ of dogfighting.”
Resumed Pacelle, “At the sentencing hearing for Casillas, U.S. prosecutors stated that “the government has not found a comparable case of someone with as many dogfights for as many years as Casillas.” Perhaps even more importantly, they noted ‘dogfighting is an open secret in Puerto Rico that is not targeted by local law enforcement.’
“Indeed, dogfighting and cockfighting are rampant in Puerto Rico,” Pacelle charged, “and the Commonwealth’s top political leaders have been campaigning, under the guise of defending ‘Puerto Rican culture,’ to gut existing federal laws against animal fighting; they have also been resisting any acts of federal enforcement on the island and abetting the crimes of illegal animal fighters.”
Governor claims crime is Puerto Rican culture
For example, Pacelle continued, “Governor Pierluisi has been active in working to overturn or otherwise repeal the 2018 amendments to the Farm bill that extended the full array of federal prohibitions against animal fighting to the U.S. territories.
“In January 2021, Gov. Pierluisi publicly announced that he is ‘committed to supporting an industry that generates jobs and income for our economy, that represents our culture and our history,’” although cockfighting was prohibited in Puerto Rico for 35 years before territorial governor Robert Hayes Gore reintroduced it in 1933, just before before being removed from office for corruption.
Colon connects to the rectum
Pierluisi pledged, Pacelle added, “that he, along with Delegate Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez Colon, R-Puerto Rico, ‘will continue to fight for them [cockfighters].’
“He then falsely claimed that cockfighting may continue so long as animals are not imported for this purpose, even though that advice is entirely at odds with any plain reading of the National Animal Fighting Law,” Pacelle said.
“When Puerto Rico’s leading politicians announce publicly to cockfighters that they can operate there and that they will ‘fight for them,’ should it surprise anyone that the dogfighters take away the same message that the federal rules also shouldn’t apply to them?
“We applaud the United States for taking down the island’s leading dogfighter. Now it’s time for the United States to knock on the door of the cockfighting arenas there and tell them to shut down operations or else,” Pacelle finished.
Pacelle and Showing Animals Respect & Kindness both urged passage of the FIGHT Act.
Why not just stop the pit bull traffic?
“If lawmakers enact the FIGHT Act, as they are expected to do,” Pacelle said, “it will signal for the sixth time in this century, in the form of lawmaking actions, that [Congress wants animal fighting] to end on every inch of U.S. soil, and that includes the territories.”
But Pacelle stopped well short of recommending another measure that, if in effect and enforced, could have kept Antonio Casillas Montero from ever expanding his activities beyond Puerto Rico: simply amend the existing federal animal fighting legislation to include pit bulls themselves among the list of dogfighting paraphernalia that may not be transported over state or territorial boundaries.
This might inconvenience many pit bull breeders, “rescuers” who play “musical dogs” with pit bulls to lose their histories, and of course dogfighters masquerading as “rescuers” to collect “free to good home” pit bulls for fighting.
But interdicting the seemingly endless supply of cheap and easily disposable pit bulls would do more to stop dogfighting than any anti-animal fighting bills ever brought before Congress.