Dog Fighting. I heard by email from PETA recently. PETA stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I thought I would share this new development with you.
The email was signed by Kristin DeJournett. I Googled her. I found out that she is a well-known and respected animal rights campaigner. This is what she wrote to me:
“I’m a cruelty caseworker with PETA and we were forwarded a news article in which you discuss dog fighting in Anguilla. PETA is always interested in shutting down dog fighting whenever and wherever possible, and we’d like to see if you would work with us to get this investigated. Your anonymity is 100% guaranteed, unless you desire otherwise. We cannot guarantee results, but we will do whatever we can to stop animal fighting.”
With her permission, I forwarded her email to several contacts. I picked the ones who should know about dog fighting in Anguilla. Some I met and spoke to. Some telephoned me and spoke to me. One wrote back,
“Yes, there is a serious dog fighting problem in axa. I would prefer not to write about it. We will talk on Friday. Be careful.”
Another wrote earlier,
“There is some truth in what you heard at the beach. The exact story is that Morlens was fire bombed. This happened while Dr. Vanterpool was involved in writing the legislation for the Government regarding banning the importation of Pitt Bulls. Many Pitt Bull owners were unhappy with him. The ramifications can be deadly for those that intervene and that is why it is a Police matter. If you have any other questions you may want to ask Dr. Vanterpool.”
At the farewell ceremony for the outgoing Chief Justice, I sat in court next to the Commissioner of Police, Keithley Benjamin. I told him what I had learned. I asked him what was the status of the investigations. He replied,
“There is no investigation of dog fighting in Anguilla. I have never heard of a report of organised dog fighting in Anguilla.”
I have to say, at that point I thought the Commissioner appeared to be a bit out of touch. So, I did not ask him anything further about the reports I had received. I have now spoken to and exchanged emails with several persons who had contact with the police over this issue in past years.
One group associated with AARF was trying to stop organised dog fighting in Anguilla. To his credit, they included the vet, Patrick Vanterpool. I am told the campaign did not get anywhere. Dr Vanterpool had his life threatened. His veterinary surgery was firebombed. One of the principal dog fighting organisers was said to be the son of a Chief Minister. He has strenuously denied any involvement in dog fighting, by the way. Another organiser was said to be the nephew of a different Chief Minister. I do not know his name and have not spoken to him. The police dropped the investigation. They appeared to lose interest. The pressure on the police and the AARF campaigners to cease and desist proved irresistable. The campaigners regressed into looking out for the interests of stray dogs and pets. They took their eyes off the ball. They left it to the police. Now, it seems, even the police are in denial that reports were even made to them.
There are two reasons why dog fighting is illegal in Anguilla. One is because it is an offence of cruelty against section 2 of the Protection of Animals Act. The penalty is a fine of EC$4,800.00 or six months imprisonment.
Dog fighting also involves the offence of gambling contrary to section 337 of the Criminal Code. The whole point of organised dog fighting is the gambling associated with it. The dogs fight in a ring with the gamblers assembled around. They are not there just for the thrill of seeing the dogs kill each other. Each dog owner pays a premium to put his dog in the ring. I am told that it is a minimum of US$5,000.00. Large sums of money change hands as the spectators place their bets on the outcome of each fight. We can expect that large amounts, hundreds of thousands of US dollars, change hands in one night.
You would think that the penalties for this type of gambling would be appropriately significant. I had a look at the laws of Anguilla. The penalty for the organiser of a gambling event is one year's imprisonment and a fine of EC$1,000.00. You may well consider that fine ludicrously low. The penalty for anyone found in the place is imprisonment for 6 months or a fine of EC$500.00. The penalty for the actual gamblers is the less than impressive amount of a sentence of up to 3 months or a fine of EC$250.00.
You have told me the stories. You have shared the rumours with me. I know the names of some of the persons alleged to be the ring-leaders. I know some of the alleged locations of the fighting and gambling. I have heard about all your fears and concerns. Now, I want the evidence. Some of you will have trophy photographs of the dogs in action. Perhaps taken by a long since discarded boyfriend. Some of you might have recordings of conversations between the perpetrators. Some of you may have photographs of the players standing around the pits. Others may have taken lists of the licence numbers of the cars parked at the venues.
I need the names, addresses and dates. I need the photographs and tape recordings. Your anonymity is guaranteed. I would like to send all this to Ms DeJournett. It is likely that only a gutsy organisation like PETA will be able to help us get rid of this vile business in Anguilla.
I accept that there is no point sending any of it to the Royal Anguilla Police Force.