March 3, 2009
Religious Leaders Take a Vow Against Dogfighting
Chicago, Atlanta pastors denounce animal fighting
Both people and pit bulls benefit from communities standing up against dogfighting. Chad Sisneros/The HSUS
Animal welfare advocates aren't the only ones concerned about dogfighting. Religious leaders are stepping up and speaking out against dogfighting because of the havoc it wreaks on communities.
In Atlanta and Chicago, where The HSUS' End Dogfighting campaign is running strong, religious leaders recently came together in their respective cities for a religious leadership roundtable, publicly denouncing the scourge of dogfighting. The gathering was part of The HSUS' outreach to religious communities, based on mutual principles of mercy and compassion.
Atlanta: Rooting out the Blood Sport
In Atlanta, religious leaders learned how dogfighting impacts community safety and community morals. With drug dealing, gambling, firearms and interpersonal violence inextricably bound up with the vicious cruelty of dogfighting, pastors agreed that dogfighting has no place in a civilized society.
"Dogfighting is a cruel crime that hurts the communities in which it exists in addition to the dogs and people directly involved," said Rev. Ralph Hawthorne, community organizer for The HSUS's End Dogfighting in Atlanta campaign. "The goal of the End Dogfighting in Atlanta campaign is to root out this blood sport from our communities."
With anti-dogfighting advocate Darian Prather on hand to share his daily outreach activities, Atlanta's religious leaders were more than willing to sign on to a pledge defining the responsibility of religious leaders to address animal cruelty and dogfighting. Taking an extra step, Pastor Marlin Harris of New Life generously volunteered to open the New Life community center for the program's weekly pit bull training classes.
Chicago: Have a Heart for Pets
In Chicago, where The HSUS's End Dogfighting campaign originated, religious leaders met at a roundtable on February 14 to publicly denounce dogfighting and ask people to "have a heart for pets."
The contingent of ministers pledged to proactively discourage dogfighting in their communities by speaking out against the cruel activity, educating youth about the dangers of dogfighting and highlighting the responsibilities of people of faith to act as stewards of God's creatures.
Led by Tio Hardiman, special consultant to The HSUS's End Dogfighting in Chicago campaign, Chicago religious leaders discussed expanding their efforts to include a variety of possible strategies, ranging from one-on-one counseling for at-risk youths to public rallies denouncing dogfighting.
A Perfect Partnership
The partnership between humane advocates and religious leaders promises to be a productive one. With a shared vision of a peaceful, humane community, it's a natural alliance that should help improve the lives of both animals and people.
What You Can Do
Learn the signs of dogfighting in your community, and what you can do to stop it. If you attend a place of worship, suggest that your religious leader investigate The HSUS' Animals in Religion program and get involved with community work against dogfighting.