Tri-Cities: That growl you hear may be a cry for help

(East Point, College Park and Hapeville)

The charming neighborhoods and gentrifying areas of College Park, Hapeville and East Point sometimes hide a very ugly activity — dogfighting and those who perpetuate it.

Last fall, Sandra Eckstein of Gwinnett County received a plea from an East Point pet owner. The woman requesting help is anonymous because the single mother has become afraid for her and her child’s safety. She arrived home one day last fall to find her house had been burglarized. As bad as it is to be burglarized, the thieves returned and took her two beloved dogs.

According to Marcia May, the owner of Urban Pet Supply in College Park, the theft of animals is not unusual. Burglars enter a home to steal property and learn about the homeowners’ dogs.

Then they return to steal the dogs. The victim’s dogs were gentle, loving family pets, but because they were pit bull types, she rightfully feared the worse. Pit bulls are stolen to be trained for dogfighting; other dogs are stolen to be used in the training.

Soon after the victim’s dogs were taken, she saw one of them being walked by a teenager not far from her home. She asked for her dog, but he refused until she paid him a $50 ransom. Did she have a choice? Probably not. A witness later told her that the dogs had been taken to be used for dogfighting, but the witness refused to talk to police, fearing retribution from the people involved.

The distraught victim reported the incidents to the police in East Point, who informed her the problem was in College Park’s jurisdiction. College Park police are still investigating it.

As a consequence, she moved out of her home before Christmas because she believes that the thieves could be violent and they know where she lives.

Area residents are keeping an eye out for her dog, thanks to May, who broadcast the request for help on the animal-related blog she runs.

But a stronger and quicker response from law enforcement would be helpful. Unfortunately, animal abuse isn’t a high priority for police. That’s too bad, because those involved in dog fighting are often involved in other crimes. Even more important is that every day a dog is possessed by a fighter, it suffers another day of torture.

People who fight dogs know to hide their acts of cruelty. But those of us who care can shine a light under the rocks where the perpetrators hide.

There is never an excuse for abuse — of people or animals — and tolerance of abuse makes one as guilty as the abuser. Call animal control, police and the tip line to report dog fighting: 1-877-TIP-HSUS (1-877-847-4787).

If enough Tri-Cities residents stand up for people and animals who can’t fend for themselves, the police will take action and the Southside can become known as an area where abuse will not be tolerated.

Teresa Nelson is a former East Point City Council member and a longtime activist.

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