BSL Laws and Pitbull Bans: Questions Politicians Need to Ask Before They Repeal Them

The ASPCA defines breed-specific legislation (BSL laws) as “the blanket term for laws that either regulate or ban certain dog breeds in an effort to decrease dog attacks on humans and other animals.” Abilene, Kansas, banned pit bulls in 2017, according to the Abilene Reflector Chronicle. November 18, 2021, the National Pit Bull Victim Awareness organization, which regularly updates a database of people and pets who’ve been mauled and killed, tweeted that Abilene was considering lifting its ban because a dog trainer and apparent pit bull advocate emailed the city commission, saying Abilene is “missing out on extra money” it could be making by charging pit bull owners a fee. Millions of Americans got laid off during COVID quarantines and fell behind on bills. Many of those people are now being evicted and face future wage garnishments that, after taxes, will leave them with half their usual paycheck. The number of pets being euthanized each year, being “rehomed” via Craigslist, Facebook (Meta) and other apps, being abandoned and being returned to shelters post-pandemic has shown that people are not going to pay a fee to keep their pet. Neither are the increasing number of dogfighters or the tens of thousands of people breeding pit bulls for them and advertising those dogs on YouTube, where they discuss matches and bloodlines. Blinded by potential dollar signs, Abilene, Kansas’ city planning commission repealed its breed ban December 13, 2021 — the same day an Amazon delivery driver in Las Vegas risked her life to save a 19-year-old woman and her small dog from a pit bull attack. With that in mind, here’s the first question politicians should ask when pit bull advocates ask them to repeal BSL laws/breed bans:

Who’s Asking Me to Repeal BSL Laws/Pitbull Bans and Why?

The person who approached Abilene, Kansas’ city planning commission to repeal the city’s BSL law/pit bull ban was a dog trainer, according to a recap of meeting minutes. Whether she trained pit bulls for dogfighters like Vernon Vegas, who owned Cane Valley Kennels and “bred, trained, sold and transported dogs for the purpose of the dog fighting” between October 1996 and February 2020, according to the Department of Justice, or trained dogs at Petco, she had something to gain.

Vernon Vegas, 49, of Suwanee, Georgia, was convicted of training pit bulls for dogfighters in September 2021.

When I clicked on a Wyoming news station’s website to read about three pit bulls that burst through a window screen to attack a Corgi being walked by a woman and her 4- and 14-year-old children, the following ad for Sit Means Sit dog training appeared above the article.

An aptly placed ad.

Currently, Ottumwa, Iowa’s city council is considering repealing its breed ban against pit bulls because it received a petition with over 1,000 signatures. Petitions asking lawmakers to repeal BSL laws/pit bull bans could be signed by any number of people — dog trainers, dogfighters (using fictitious names and disposable email addresses), people breeding dogs for dogfighters, backyard breeders, people who own pit bulls (who may or may not be responsible pit bull owners) or lobbyists. Like Ohio farmers who lobbied Congress to avoid being held accountable for animal cruelty, preventing Ohio from making animal cruelty a felony for years as Goddard’s Law was redrafted several times, pit bulls have their own lobby who’s trying to prevent pit bulls like the three that attacked the Corgi mentioned above from being euthanized:

“The PR campaign is powered by lawyers, lobbyists — even corporate sponsors.”

If, after listening to Best Friends Animal Society attorney Ledy VanKavage, you still don’t believe that pit bulls have a lobby, consider this: despite gun violence and all of the problems we have in this country due to COVID, repealing pit bull bans that were enacted decades ago has been the focus of one city council agenda after another in rapid succession:

What Happened When Other Cities or States Repealed BSL Laws / Pitbull Bans? A Case Study in Ohio

Once upon a time, “Ohio was said to be one of the worst states for a pit bull or a bully-looking dog to be caught in,” DogStarDaily reported. In February 2012, “after 25 years of breed discriminatory legislation in the state of Ohio, Governor John Kasich signed HB14 into law ending breed discriminatory laws aimed at banning pit bulls and other ‘types’ of dogs deemed ‘dangerous.'” Two years later, feds raided a dogfight in Akron and arrested 47 people from five states, including California, and cities/suburbs all over Ohio.

These are dogfighting arrests/raids that occurred in Ohio and surrounding areas between 2019 and 2021:

This map doesn’t include people who had dogs seized and should have been arrested but weren’t.

The yellow check marks are recent additions: Battle Creek, Michigan, the Monday of Labor Day weekend 2021 and Erie, Pennsylvania, days before Halloween. In the former, a bait puppy was killed after being dropped between two pit bulls. In the latter, three pit bulls were walked into a reservoir, shot in the face and left to die. In November 2021, dogfighters in Luzerne Township, Pennsylvania, and Anderson, Indiana, were added to the map. Both border Ohio.

“A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Eric Demond Holcomb, 41, of 1115 First St., Luzerne Township. His brother, James Edward Holcomb, 44, of 1203 Second St., Brownsville, was arrested in July on the same [dogfighting] charges.”
“Authorities seized eight dogs, six chickens, and fighting paraphernalia from the property. The dogs were all pit bulls and had untreated injuries as well as no food and either no water or dirty water. One dog … “had a deformed leg, that an examiner said was indicative of a break that was not treated.”

Cleveland dogfighter Angelo McCoy was one of the 47 people arrested at the 2014 dogfight in Akron mentioned above. He was given a year of probation. While on probation, he was arrested for dogfighting again and sentenced to 10 months in prison. Despite both judges forbidding him from owning dogs, he had 11 injured dogs and one dead dog when police busted him during a drug investigation that turned up 112 grams of heroin, 21 grams of cocaine, over 400 prescription pills and $8,591 cash in January 2020. As of January 2022, he still has not gone on trial.

Dogfighters travel like sports teams. It takes an unbelievable level of audacity to ask a judge to “modify terms of GPS supervision,” but this dogfighter in Georgia not only got a slap on the wrist, he was awarded a $20,000 COVID relief loan from the federal government, so, hey, why not try?

Six years after former governor John Kasick repealed Ohio’s pit bull bans, a cleveland.com article titled “Dogfighting a Growing, Secret Problem in NE Ohio,” revealed dogfights “go on all over the city every weekend … They are like boxing matches, the money gets bigger every time a dog wins. People come into the city from all over for them.”

What Happens When Suburbs Repeal BSL Laws / Pitbull Bans?

Cleveland, Ohio, suburb Rocky River repealed its BSL law in 2018. Two years later, a pit bull attacked a Rocky River resident’s dog, causing “neck and throat injuries.” In May 2021, a Rocky River woman’s pit bull attacked her in her apartment. Less than a week later, two loose pit bulls attacked a man and his dog in nearby Rocky River Reservation.

In November 2020, Denver residents voted to repeal the city’s 31-year-old BSL law/breed ban that was enacted in 1989 because, as NBC News reported, “20 people were attacked by pit bulls in Colorado between 1984 and May 1989.” A month after Denver repealed its BSL law, two unleashed pit bulls killed a terrier mix that was left tethered in a family’s front yard for a few minutes. The mother of that family, Veronda Smith, wondered “how a registered unleashed pit bull would’ve caused less harm,” CBS said.

“I’m a little uncertain about how the guidelines and the new ordinances are going to keep us safe,” Smith said. “They’re relying on the owners to be honest and I feel like every week I see another pit bull in the neighborhood.”

Six months after her statement, like a Fort Collins, Colorado, pit bull that barged into a family’s home to kill a cat in 2009, two unleashed pit bulls made a beeline for — and killed — an 11-year-old cat sleeping on her family’s porch.

Notice: The cat’s on a leash.

Aurora, Colorado, an eastern suburb of Denver, repealed its own pit bull ban in January 2021. Two months later, a pit bull adopted from Aurora Animal Shelter grabbed the family’s 5-year-old son by the face. “The boyfriend had to grab the jaws of the dog and remove him from the boy,” CBS Denver reported. Aurora City Council Member at Large Dave Gruber lamented the repeal but isn’t able to bring it up at a city council meeting “because he was in the minority vote.”

Imagine how scary it would be for a child — or anyone — to be grabbed by the face by a pit bull. Both Google Images and the National Pit Bull Victim Awareness’s pit bull attack database are full of children who’ve been disfigured and killed.

Numerous studies have shown the dangers that dog bites, particularly by pit bulls, present to children:

An increasing number of children, like the 14-month-old boy whose face was half-eaten by his babysitter’s pit bulls during the first 12 minutes of the following news program, don’t survive.

“The idea of banning pit bull-type dogs remains controversial in Canada and the U.S., but consider this: 32 countries around the world have decided the issue. They either outright ban pit bull-type dogs, ban their importation or severely restrict their ownership.”

Why Are Pitbulls Dangerous? They Were Created to Fight and Kill

Contrary to what many people believe, dogfighting is not “a cultural thing.” In other words, not all dogfighters are Black. Dogfighting dates back to 43 A.D., when the Romans invaded Britain and “both sides brought fighting dogs to the battlefield,” as NPR reported during the Michael Vick case in 2007. “Thus emerged a canine market of sorts. The Romans began to import British fighting dogs for use not only in times of war, but also for public amusement. In Rome’s Colosseum, large audiences would gather to watch gladiator dogs pitted against other animals, such as wild elephants. The vicious dogs, thought to have been crossbred with the Romans’ own fighting breed, were also exported to France, Spain and other parts of Europe, eventually finding their way back to Britain.

“By the 12th century, the practice of baiting — releasing fighting dogs into the ring with chained bulls and bears — had grown in popularity in England. … The practice, during which the dogs scratched and bit the bulls, was also used to tenderize meat for consumption. But by the early 19th century, the increasing scarcity and rising cost of bulls and bears, as well as growing concern about the issue of animal cruelty, damped the appeal of the sport. In 1835, the British Parliament outlawed all baiting activities. Following the law’s passage, dog-on-dog combat emerged as the cheaper, legal alternative to baiting. Fighting dogs were crossbred with other breeds to create a fast, agile and vicious animal capable of brawling for hours at a time.”

If you scroll through the comment section of the match mentioned in the first paragraph of this post or dogfighting-related press releases from the Department of Justice, you’ll see kennels. YouTube and the internet in general are FULL of kennels breeding particular bloodlines. As NBC reported after 10 dogfighters were arrested with 89 dogs on Long Island in August 2021: “[T]he pitbulls rescued were bred for one purpose only: to fight and kill. … Those involved would also sell puppies descended from dogs who were successful in past fights and were considered to have strong ‘bloodlines.'” During the Missouri 500 raid that spanned several states in 2009, investigators seized 407 dogs, 21 of which were pregnant and “gave birth to nearly 150 puppies.” 

Y’know what hasn’t appeared in Missouri news for years, thanks to BSL laws/pit bull bans in Missouri? Dogfighting.

Dogfighters even ship pit bulls around the world to be bred. “[Lansing, Michigan, dogfighter] Charles Miller paid $1,650 to transport a dog named Pantera to Michigan from Ecuador in January 2017, after Pantera was bred with a dog there,” the Lansing State Journal reported. Lansing is one of the red pinpoints on the map above.

Pit bull advocates say, without fail, “It’s not the breed, it’s the owner.” This is a cliche. A slogan. As former City of Los Angeles employee and CityWatch Los Angeles columnist Phyllis Daugherty wrote in a June 2021 article titled “Dog Fighting is Thriving in U.S. – Hundreds of Pit Bulls Seized in 2021,” “The importance of genetics cannot be denied unless we plan to shut down the AKC — which is the nation’s largest and most reliable insurer of bloodlines and the refinement of genetic traits by breeding because they know offspring will carry the traits of the parents.” 

How Are Pitbulls Trained to Fight and Kill? Dogfighters Sic Them on Dogs, Cats, Kittens, Rabbits and Other Small Animals That People Are “Rehoming” On Craigslist and Other Websites/Apps

Search Google for bait dog. Thanks to search engine optimization, one of the first results you’ll encounter is titled “Bait Dog Hysteria.” For years, pit bull advocates like Shaw Pit Bull Rescue in Mississippi have lied to people searching Google, telling them bait dogs are a myth. The ulterior motive lies in the owners’ URL: https://www.shawpitbullrescue.com/fighting-bsl-and-ignorance/bait-dog-hysteria/. Pit bull advocates will say whatever they have to say to get cities and states to repeal bans that were enacted for a reason. Don’t believe that? Consider this: A study published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science found that “41 [percent of surveyed shelter workers] affected by BSL indicated they would knowingly mislabel a dog of a restricted breed, presumably to increase the dog’s adoption chances.” The fact is: “Animals are tied up while the dogs tear them apart or sometimes they are confined in an area to be chased and mauled by the dogs,” per Michigan State University College of Law’s Detailed Discussion of Dogfighting.

In 1996, three Pompano Beach, Florida, teenagers tied a stray dog’s front legs together, duct taped its mouth shut and encouraged a pit bull to attack the dog, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. The stray had to be euthanized. “Police also seized the attack dog and numerous pit bull puppies from one of the suspect’s homes.” In 2007, New York dogfighters were busted with over 60 kittens.

Here in Cleveland, Ohio, in November 2020, I caught people collecting bait animals for dogfighter Angelo McCoy posting Craigslist ads seeking them and posting kittens for him to avoid sending texts and emails that would ping cell phone towers and be used as evidence.

I’ve also caught pit bull breeders selling Bolio dogs and other bloodlines.

Meet Colby.
Meet Eli.

I also caught Cleveland and Altoona, Pennsylvania, dogfighters communicating via Craigslist ads while people were posting COVID victims’ pets, trying to find them a loving home. God only knows how many cats across the country lost their owner, were driven away from their home and then handed to pit bulls.

A cat that was killed in Cleveland, Ohio, a few months after I took a letter to dogfighter Angelo McCoy’s judge. The photo was taken as her legs were tied together.
A cat that was killed in Akron, Ohio. Cats get scars like this from contraptions called catmills like this one:
Catmill/Jenny : The dogs are chained to one beam and another small animal like a cat, small dog, or rabbit, is harnessed to or hung from another beam. The dogs run in circles, chasing the bait. Once the exercise sessions are over, the dogs are usually rewarded with the bait they had been pursuing.” – Michigan State University College of Law
A tortoiseshell cat that was posted for dogfighters in Buffalo, New York.
“Bait dogs are basically like to turn your dog on. To give your dog a taste of blood.” — Dog Fight Chicago documentary

What’s Happening to Pitbulls to Prevent Them from Being Euthanized? Dogs That Were Bred to Fight and Kill and Injected with Anabolic Steroids Are Being Bounced from Shelter to Shelter, State to State and Country to Country

“The Fifth Estate” broadcast above shows pit bulls being shipped to Canada from California, where dogfighters Carlos Villasenor and Avery McLemore were busted in 2021 and 2019, respectively. In 2020, a North Carolina shelter director told reporters that dogfighters’ dogs “were hard to get into the cages, they were trying to eat each other, to eat any dog that came by … [A] very, very aggressive female … actually ate her way out of a cage, devouring the metal clips that hold the mesh wire to the frame of the kennel doors. … A male dog a few cages down was able to ‘bum-rush his way out by continuing to bang against the fence’ until the latch holding it bent and gave way.”

August 16, 2020, the three Wyoming pit bulls (above) that burst through a window screen to attack an 11-year-old Corgi were deemed to be “a threat to public safety,” “sent to a remediation program in Montana” and banned from returning to Wyoming “regardless of remediation success.”

City of Casper, Wyoming, press release about pitbulls attacking a Corgi.

Some “rescues” specialize in pit bull relocation:

Other rescues are lying about the breed they’re advertising, endangering people and pets:

Search Google Images for German shepherd mix. Do the results look like this face?

In September 2021, a pit bull aptly named Havoc attacked an Alabama woman. Although the court determined that Havoc is “a dangerous dog,” his owner was able to prevent him from being euthanized by filing a motion, which gave Havoc the opportunity to break out of his Guntersville Animal Hospital kennel to attack a dog.

Will I Be Helping Pitbulls by Repealing BSL Laws/Breed Bans?

The answer to this question is an emphatic no. Every city that repeals BSL laws/pit bull bans is a new city that enables people to breed pit bulls. As “The Fifth Estate” host Mark Kelley states at 22:10, “[I]n places where there are no restrictions, the pit bull population is exploding.”

Ohio has had a puppy mill problem for years. In both 2020 and 2021, it ranked No. 2 on The Humane Society of the United States’ “Horrible Hundred” list. The number of people breeding dogs skyrocketed during COVID layoffs. Within a 110-mile radius (an hour-and-45-minute drive) from Cleveland between late November 2020 and January 14, 2021, I counted the following on Craigslist:

  • 40 pit bull breeders; 
  • 65 breeders of other dogs; and
  • 63 ads for unwanted pit bulls.

Between October 1, 2021, and November 23, 2021, a shelter in Cincinnati, Ohio, took in 1,200 animals, stating “This is the most over capacity we’ve ever been, and I don’t think it’s going to slow down during the holidays.” Scrolling through the story on Facebook, many people commented on the number of pit bulls and pit mixes. Not everyone wants a pit bull or pit mix, so those people go to breeders, turning a deaf ear to #adoptdontshop.

“Pit bulls are more popular in urban communities, including Cleveland. Their appearance and the stigma surrounding it makes them good guard dogs. People breed dogs for some extra money, and pit bulls are the dogs they have.” In other words: the stigma that pit bull advocates complain about is the stigma that attracts people to buy the dogs.

Not only does repealing BSL laws/breed bans against pit bulls enable more people to breed pit bulls and set out a welcome mat for dogfighters, but dogs bred for dogfighters “literally suffer their entire lives,” as Hanna Gibson wrote for Michigan State University College of Law’s Animal Legal & Historical Center. They “spend their entire lives alone on chains or in cages and only know the attention of a human when they are being trained to fight and they only know the company of other animals in the context of being trained to kill them.”

Dogfighters like North Carolina dogfighters Desmond White and Maurice Baum, who kept 45 dogs at one location and 35 dogs at another, have dozens of pit bulls. They do not bring those dogs into their home during winter storms and other bad weather. Nine pit bulls were taken from two guys in Canada who’d left the dogs chained to doghouses when it was -30 degrees Celsius/-22 degrees Fahrenheit.

January 17, 2022, winter storm.

In addition to being tethered year-round, sometimes to chains that weigh more than they do, dogfighters’ pit bulls are deprived of food and water. When police do encounter water bowls, the water isn’t clean. In Mesa, Arizona, for example, police seized three dogs whose water “was covered with algae.” Water left outside in 32-degree weather would turn to ice.

Dogfighters’ pit bulls are also abused. “A few dogs had dental fractures with exposed pulp, which causes severe pain,” one Department of Justice press release reads. “One dog was missing a full portion of its cheek, which is a common wound obtained during fights when one dog’s tooth punctures the other’s cheek.  Another dog had a puncture wound that was ‘oozing red purulent material’ and healing scabs through his nose and right hock. The dogs also showed aggression during behavioral tests, often attacking the stuffed toy dog.” In another press release, a pit bull “was missing its right hind leg.”

This is how dogfighters treat their pit bulls.

Dogfighters’ pit bulls are killed. “Dogs not selected to continue fighting in ‘229 Boys Kennels, Inc.’ were exterminated by bludgeoning them in the head with a hammer, slamming them on the ground until dead, and by other inhumane methods,” a Department of Justice press release reported. Michael Vick’s dogs were “killed by electrocution, drowning, hanging or gunshots.”

Ultimately, dogfighters’ pit bulls and bait dogs are thrown out like garbage. In 2017, someone in Toledo, Ohio, saw a dog being thrown out of a pickup truck with garbage. The 2018 cleveland.com article mentioned above says police found “a mass grave of dogs in Akron” several years ago. “[T]he dogs, all bearing massive scarring from fights, were dumped down an embankment.” Here in Cleveland, “dead dogs are sometimes found on Train Avenue on Cleveland’s West Side, an area he called ‘a dumping ground for everything.'”

Alabama pit bull.

If I Repeal BSL Laws / Pitbull Bans, Can My City/State’s Police Handle Dogfighters?

For decades, the Humane Society of the United States has estimated there are over 40,000 dogfighters and people breeding dogs for them across the country. That amounts to 800 per state. Dogfighters are notoriously secretive, so police only bust one here, two there. Many, like Warren, Ohio, dogfighter Stanley Redd, Jr., are discovered by accident during months- or even years-long drug investigations. In November 2021, Texas police thought “light spotted about a half mile behind a mobile home” was a pasture party or hunters. It turned out to be dogfighters “with several rings that had been set up.” While they arrested Jesus Stephens, 100 people fled. “It’s mobile, they have trailers that they can trailer stuff in. They set up, they do their fighting of the dogs and then they just pack up, and [go],” Harrison County Chief Deputy Hall Reavis told reporters. As Multnomah County, Oregon’s animal shelter manager told reporters in 2019, prosecuting dogfighters is “extremely difficult. … You’ve got to catch them in the act or have enough paraphernalia to establish they truly were doing that.”

When I told Cleveland police that dogfighter Angelo McCoy and his friend on West 44th had posted Craigslist ads seeking animals their pit bulls could kill for practice, I was told not to worry about it because the City didn’t have the time or money to pursue it. Scroll through Cleveland’s police scanner Twitter account and you see shooting after shooting. In 2021, there were 433 carjackings in Cleveland, according to Fox 8 News. On New Year’s Eve, an off-duty police officer was killed during a carjacking. Across the country in Los Angeles County, homicides increased 94.24 percent from 2019 to 2021. Police have no shortage of crime to investigate and no incentive to spend months or years chasing dogfighters who, up North, are given slaps on the wrist like the 60 days in prison New York dogfighter Nasir Azmat recently received two years after his arrest and five months after his judge mysteriously recused himself. Compare that sentence to the nine years a Mississippi dogfighter was sentenced to in 2019 or the 20 years a Georgia dogfighter was sentenced to in 2020, and you’ll see the need for a mandatory minimum sentence to be passed across the country before more BSL laws and breed bans are repealed.

Why Did My City/ State Enact BSL Laws / Pitbull Bans?

If, like Ottumwa, Iowa, your city or state enacted BSL laws/breed bans against pit bulls because a pit bull killed someone, please note that Mayor Ed Koch repealed NYC’s pit bull ban in 1991. A January 8, 2022, New York Post article stated, “American Pit Bull Terriers and mixes accounted for 2,610 bites between 2015 and 2017” in New York City — “30 percent of all dog-bite victims.” In Denver, where pit bull bans were enacted because one pit bull killed a 3-year-old boy and another left a 59-year-old man “with more than 70 bites and two broken legs,” pit bulls “were responsible for more reported bites on people than any other breed in 2021″ — just one year after Denver repealed its ban. These dogs have not only been inbred for hundreds of years, but they’ve been pumped full of anabolic steroids. Read this research on anabolic steroids — or do your own — and you’ll see why pit bulls are attacking children and pets and why they suddenly turn on their owner after years of being a good doggo. You should also set up Google Alerts for pit bull, pitbulls, dogfighting and dogfight arrest and review:

Children walking to their bus stop shouldn’t have to fear they’ll be attacked by pit bulls as these children were:

Nor should disabled people with guide dogs:

Or people who are just trying to do their job.

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