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This is an update to Safe Humane Chicago - this version should be substituted for the last one.

Chicago Says `No' to Blood Sport

By CONTACT _Con-400A1A51E c s l Peter Lopatin for WebVet

The arrest and conviction of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick on dog fighting charges aroused nearly universal public outrage and condemnation last year, reaching as high as the floor of the United States Senate. Although law-enforcement authorities have long known that the practice of this brutal "sport'' is widespread, the Vick case drew aside the veil of secrecy behind which it has long been shrouded and focused national attention on the problem. Calls for action to curb the practice were not long in coming and, in Chicago's case, public outrage produced x6174x676Ex6269x656Cx7220x7365x6C75x7374x0D2E

Safe, Humane Chicagotm

In what its organizers described in a press release as "one of the most extensive community-wide partnerships to address violence in the context of dog fighting,'' an extensive coalition of community groups and law enforcement officials came together to establish the Safe, Humane Chicagotm initiative, an aggressive, multi-pronged program to combat the practice of dog fighting and the violence that is so often associated with it. The initiative involves such Chicago organizations as the Dog Advisory Work Group (D.A.W.G.), the Alliance for Community Peace, the Chicago Police Department, as well as other city agencies, leaders of the faith-based community, and animal activists.

For the sake of the children

The need to effectively address the problem of dog fighting is motivated not only by deep humanitarian concerns; it arises also from recognition of the effects of animal cruelty on those who are exposed to it, especially children. As the D.A.W.G. website [www.dawgsite.org] points out, "Exposing children to the brutal violence of dog fighting and other forms of animal abuse desensitizes them to violence and endorses inhumane treatment of animals and other dependent, powerless beings.'' The psychological consequences to children who are the indirect victims of this gruesome practice can be devastating. It has become a matter of common knowledge that children who witness repeated instances of cruelty to animals are far more likely to commit violent crimes against people.

For this reason, one of the principal segments of the Safe, Humane Chicagotm campaign is a program designed to provide children with instruction in the humane treatment of companion animals. Children are taught proper animal-handling practices and how to avoid dog-bites, and are also encouraged to report cases of animal cruelty to a responsible adult.

Later this year, Safe, Humane Chicagotm will launch a pilot program directed at young people in the criminal justice system who have themselves been involved in dog fighting. The program, called Lifetime Bondstm, will teach these at-risk young people humane and productive ways of relating to dogs.

Violence breeds violence

The organizers and supporters of the initiative have made a point of emphasizing the close relationship between dog fighting and other violent crime, including illegal drug use, gang activity, domestic violence, and illegal weapons possession. As D.A.W.G. Executive Director, Cynthia Bathurst, pointed out, "Seventy percent of the convicted dog fighting and animal abusers have also been arrested for violent felonies against humans. Eighty-six percent of them had multiple felonies in their backgrounds.'' [Chicago Crime Watch #324, podcastchicago.tv] The Chicago initiative is therefore an important component of the broader battle against serious crime.

Taking it to the community

As crucial as the child-directed aspect of the program is, the involvement of adults is also essential. The program's "It's All Connected''tm initiative encourages older teenagers and adults to report cases of dog fighting and animal abuse and educates them on the connection between violence toward animals and violence against humans. "It's All Connected''tm also encourages adults to report cases of dog fighting and animal abuse. By opening communication channels between community groups and the Chicago Police Department's Animal Crimes Unit, dog fighting and related crime can be reported and dealt with promptly.

Progress update

 

x1900inted out that the initiative is still in its formative stages and that it will take time before it can achieve its long-term goal of creating "safer, more humane communities with less animal suffering.'' Even so, Carter was able to point to several areas in which the program has already produced results:

Following the September news conference, there has been a significant increase in reports of animal cruelty cases to the Animal Crimes Unit of the Chicago Police Department

A partnership with Payton High School, a Chicago charter high school, has been established in which students are now being trained as Safe, Humane Chicagotm presenters, so that they will be able to educate other students in the importance of ending animal cruelty. The first group of approximately 20 students completed the program in May and each has been certified as Youth Leaders for Safe, Humane Chicago.tm Bringing dogs with them, these committed young people have already made a presentation to fourth graders at McAulisse Elementary School in Chicago, where they instructed the younger children in proper dog care, thereby beginning the important process of instilling in them a sense of empathy toward dogs

The Chicago Department of Parks has given Safe, Humane Chicagotm permission to use Chicago park facilities for its training programs

The faith-based community has responded to the call for its assistance. In all, approximately 500 churches in the city have agreed to become partners in the program.

A little bit of kindness

By addressing the problem of dog fighting through a comprehensive, grassroots initiative, the City of Chicago has taken a major step toward ending this abhorrent practice and the crime that so often accompanies it. But just as importantly, the Safe, Humane Chicagotm initiative may become a model program for reducing the level of violence in other communities around the country. WGN Radio host Steve Dale perhaps put it best when he said: "Violence begets violence. So maybe, just maybe, a little bit of kindness will also beget more kindness. And it's not only about humane treatment of animals; it's about humane treatment of one another.'' And on that, we can all agree.

 

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