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Stray a sign of dogfights

Veterinarian technician Tami Zweigler sits next to Barrett, a severely injured pit bull, on Friday. The dog was probably used as a
Veterinarian technician Tami Zweigler sits next to Barrett, a severely injured pit bull, on Friday. The dog was probably used as a "bait dog" to train fighting dogs and had a broken leg and several bite wounds, along with dehydration and frostbite, when it was found. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

The discovery of a severely wounded pit bull near Priest River is fueling rumors of a dogfighting operation, where animals are trained to attack – and even kill – each other.

Priest River Pet Rescue received several calls about the stray, seen wandering along Highway 57. Volunteers Lori Snider and her husband, Larry, tracked down the dog last Saturday and immediately knew something was wrong.

His leg was broken, there was a gaping wound through his lip and mouth, and bite scars covered his body.

“My husband came within 10 inches of him and he went, ‘Errr, errr,’ ” Lori Snider said. “That was all he had left in him.”

They immediately took the dog to an after-hours pet clinic in Post Falls.

Dr. Dean Aldrich said he couldn’t comment without written consent from the dog’s owner due to privacy reasons.

Larry Snider said Aldrich initially thought the dog had been shot, but then said he believed the timid white pit bull had been used as a “bait dog” in the sport of dogfighting.

In addition to the wounds the dog is believed to have suffered as a result of dogfighting, he had been out in the wild long enough to develop frostbite. The dog’s scrotum had to be removed.

The dog, who was given the name Barrett, spent the week recuperating at The Animal Doctor in Newport, Wash. Tami Zweigler, a veterinary technician who works there, is adopting the pit bull.

“I’m seriously in love with the breed,” said Zweigler, who has a three-legged pit bull at home already. “It’s just disgusting to see him as beat up as he is and then be loose.”

Zweigler said she had heard rumors of a dogfighting ring just across the state line near Priest River.

So has Priest River Animal Control Officer Alan Fernandes. He said he’s trying to gather information to pass along to Bonner County authorities because the rumored dogfighting operation is outside his jurisdiction.

Bonner County authorities said they haven’t had any reports of dogfighting.

“I haven’t got any complaints,” Sheriff’s Lt. John Valdez said Friday.

Fernandes said he looked at pictures of the injured dog and determined it was very possible that the dog had been used as a “bait dog.” He said he hasn’t run across any dogfighting operations in Priest River, but he had broken some up as an animal control officer in Colorado.

“My experience has been, when they have what they call ‘bait dogs,’ they usually either get destroyed by the owners or they just get dumped off like this one may have been because they’re so severely injured,” Fernandes said.

Since finding the dog, Snider said she has come to learn a great deal about dogfighting.

She said bait dogs are trained to take abuse and sometimes will be cut to entice starved and hungry “fighter dogs” to attack.

Fernandes said those operating dogfighting rings sometimes tie the dogs to treadmills, forcing them to run until they’re lean and hungry. He’s seen such dogs with heavy chains around their necks, staked just out of reach from one another.

Then there are the actual fights.

“It’s to the death,” Fernandes said. “With very heavy betting going on, cash betting.”

The Idaho Legislature is considering legislation to stop dogfighting, currently a misdemeanor under state law.


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