Inside The Dog Fighting Underworld

Dogfighting CBS

The indictment of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick has turned the spotlight on the seamy, disturbing, yet fast-growing underworld of dog fighting.

Once hidden in the rural South, this blood sport with pit bulls and gambling now can be found in every state, attracting urban professionals, gang-bangers, even teenagers — 40,000 fans by some estimates, CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports.

"They're everybody," said Dave Havard of the Los Angeles SPCA. "They're not locked into a certain type of culture or a certain type of neighborhood. A lot of people get involved because of the money — a lot are in it for the entertainment."

Though it's illegal in every state and a felony in 48, there's a surge in dog fighting — organized professional or amateur backyard bouts with bets of a few dollars to thousands.

A champion dog can cost as much as $30,000 but earn as much as $100,000 in winnings. The winner lives to fight another day, the loser often dies in the ring.

"They've got incredible stamina; they've got incredible power; they've got incredible speed," said Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society. "The fights can last anywhere from 10 minutes to three hours, and the dogs typically die from blood loss or shock."

Dog trainers insist the pit bulls aren't nasty by nature; they say the owners are — they bully and train the dogs to be hyper-aggressive … eager to fight any place, any time, anyone.

"There's dog fighting activities occurring somewhere every moment in this country," Pacelle said.

A sign if the times: Congress recently made it a federal crime to transport fighting dogs across state lines, which might end up pushing this vicious crime further underground.
  • Christine Lagorio

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