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May 22, 2009

Reformed Fighter Now Friend to Pit Bulls

Sean Moore mentors other youths and their dogs

The Humane Society of the United States

  • Sean Moore teaches youths that pit bulls are friends, not fighters. The HSUS

by Andy MacAlpine

The streets of Chicago hold many ghosts of Sean Moore's younger days.

The alleys remind him of people gathering to watch dogs tear each other up. The people strolling with their pets stir memories of pit bulls put down because of injuries they had suffered.

Young neighbors summon visions of Moore's former self, before he knew there was anything wrong with training his dogs to fight.

The Past Informing The Present

Now 38, Moore has escaped his past. But he makes a point of not forgetting it.

Instead, he has spent the last two years as an anti-dogfighting advocate (ADA) for The HSUS' End Dogfighting program, relying on his inside knowledge of the streets to help transform attitudes among children and young men who are following in his footsteps.

"It's a sad situation what I've done to these animals that haven't really asked to have anything done to them," says Moore, who now owns three pet pit bulls. "[I thought] that's what pit bulls are supposed to do; that's what we were taught."

"I could bring you into the 'hood right now and we could get a 7- or 8- or 9-year-old boy or girl and ask them what these dogs are bred for—and they'll tell you these dogs are meant to fight."

"That's what I'm trying to change in my community."

Winning The Hearts and Minds of Inner-City Youth

As ADAs, Moore and others like him in Chicago and Atlanta are role models in neighborhoods where many children have few people to look up to.

They educate people about the perils of dogfighting and encourage people with pitbulls to attend weekly training classes that teach everything from basic obedience commands to advanced agility. 

Watching their pit bulls perform physical feats helps the young men see the animals as friends, not fighters. The life-changing training—combined with unconditional love from the dogs—forges an unbreakable bond.

Moore is keenly aware of the importance of this bond. 

Brutal Beginnings

Moore was just 12 years old when he found himself in his first dogfight. His dog "won" that confrontation and earned a reputation in the neighborhood.

That led to more fights in alleys, backyards and garages. Training exercises included putting dogs on treadmills turned to the fastest speed for up to an hour and even using smaller stray dogs as sparring partners.

After seeing hundreds of injured dogs die during a fighting career that spanned nearly 15 years, Moore tired of dogfighting when he was talked into one last fight in 1997 with Butch, whom he had owned for just two years.

"That was my final straw," he says. "Even though my dog won that fight, I still had to put him down because he was severely injured—a puncture hole in his neck, a broken vein that couldn't be healed. That was it for me."

In Memory of Butch

Memories of Butch still haunt Moore during weekly training sessions at the local community center, where he shows pit bull owners how friendly and loyal their dogs can be.

Three of those owners, ranging in age from 12 to 14, have probably seen as much dogfighting as Moore has in their short lives, he says. But for the past year and a half, instead of stealing dogs and fighting them in abandoned houses, the boys and their dogs spend a few hours with Moore every day.

There is no more dogfighting.

"They remind me a lot of myself when I was their age," Moore says. "They were headed down the path I was on with these dogs because no one was showing them all the positives of pit bulls."

"My whole goal is to educate the brothers and sisters that pit bulls are not bred to fight. They need to hear it on a consistent basis every day."

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