Group continues anti-dog-fighting efforts

Mary Lee Pappas

Indy Pit Crew is a small hands-on animal welfare group dedicated to addressing dog fighting and pit bull overpopulation in Indianapolis. Working directly with Indianapolis Animal Care and Control and Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana, IPC has reinstituted, for this year, the successful 2004 Canine Crime Stoppers billboard campaign to combat dog fighting.

Dog fighting, still ever-present in Indianapolis, is a felony act. In July 2002, the Indiana General Assembly made promoting an animal fighting contest a Class D Felony (IC 35-46-3-9.5). Arrests for dog fighting usually result in additional felony arrests because it goes hand-in-hand with other criminal activities.

The Canine Crime Stoppers billboard campaign allows citizens to anonymously report suspected dog fighting activity while offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information that leads to felony arrest. Calls are confidential, no questions asked.

In 2004, the billboards were proven to work. Calls to Canine Crime Stoppers increased significantly. "Calls seemed to be very closely correlated," Darcie Kurtz, an Indy Pit Crew member and Indianapolis Animal Care and Control board member, said. And, when the billboards came down, "Calls dropped off. It was convincing to us that they did work."

Billboards have been strategically placed in neighborhoods where dog fighting is known to be happening or suspected. "Investigators circled key areas," Kurtz said of IACC officers who helped determine billboard placement for the first quarter of the year.

"Two thousand one hundred dollars is enough to get the billboards up for three months," she said of donations raised thus far to get the campaign off the ground. The cost to keep four to six billboards up in key areas throughout 2006 is estimated to be $20,000.

"We needed to get them up right away," she added. Nearly 3,000 pit bulls or pit bull mixes, popular as fight dogs, are received yearly at IACC.

Indy Pit Crew has also helped institute other incentives to educate people about this misunderstood breed and to get pit bull owners to spay and neuter their dogs, which are over bred in Indianapolis.

Sterilization is offered free of charge to the mothers of pit bull surrenders and return-to-owner pit bulls at the IACC thanks to Spay-Neuter Services of Indiana. IPC has additionally offered the owners a cash incentive of $25 to sterilize their pets.

"It's a hard audience to reach. There is no spay-neuter ordinance. While the dogs are here, it's a good opportunity to get these dogs fixed," she said.

Additionally, these dogs are eligible for free vaccinations and 40 pounds of dog food (provided by another animal welfare non-profit, MovetoAct) if they get sterilized.

IPC is also responsible for educating non-city field service workers (utility company repairmen, Realtors, apartment complex managers, etc.) about how to recognize signs of dog fighting in neighborhoods that they visit in the course of doing their jobs.

"We're designing pamphlets geared toward workers going into neighborhoods where there is likely activity going on, but they don't know what to look for. Maybe they're plain good Samaritans; maybe they want the reward money. They're in the position to make observations about scarred and wounded animals, antibiotics, treadmills and other paraphernalia used in dog fighting," Kurtz stressed.

Tax-deductible donations to the billboard campaign should be sent to Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana, 901 N. Post Road, Room 242, Indianapolis, IN 46219. "Canine Crime Stoppers Billboards" should be noted in the memo area of the check. To sponsor the billboards, learn more about Indy Pit Crew or receive IPC educational materials, contact Darcie Kurtz at Call 317-262-TIPS to make an anonymous tip or visit to learn more about the program.

Read "Blood Sport" from June 2004 to learn more about the state of dog fighting in Indianapolis: