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Dog Fighting At Day Care Center in Chicago

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Fans on their way to the Eagles/Buccaneers game on Sunday were not happy to see Michael Vick protestors with "Power to the Puppies" and "Stop. Think. Boycott." signs outside Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

"Vick is the best" and "I hate dogs... I am glad Vick killed them," some yelled as they pushed and shoved the sign holders and spilled Coke on their signs.

Others told the protestors to get a life and that Vick's dogfighting is over and he deserves a "second chance."

But back in Chicago, the saga of dog fighting and especially its influence on children is far from over.

On the same day the nation watched a video of the beating death of 16-year-old Derrion Albert in Chicago, Cook County sheriff deputies were watching a video of an animal being burned to death on the cell phone of a man arrested the same day in connection with a dogfighting operation run at a suburban Chicago day care center.

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Martez Anderson, 38, Lance Webb, 27 and Charles Sutton, 42, were arrested in the day care raid but Anderson was only charged with a misdemeanor until police viewed the immolation video-upgrading the charge to felony dogfighting. Investigators are examining the video for links to the three arrested men.

The dogfighting operation allegedly run at the day care center in suburban Maywood sounds like an open secret.

"They would take the dogs in the garage during the day and you could hear them fighting," Guadalupe Castro, 40, who lives on the same block as the day care center told the Chicago Tribune. "I was scared because sometimes the dogs would get loose and run down the street."

Dogs remained tied to poles where they would bark and try to attack each other, a woman from the neighborhood who was afraid to give her name told the Tribune.

When arresting officers arrived children "were playing on a swing set just 10 feet away from a vicious fighting dog and blood-stained floors," said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. Officers found syringes, medication, bite sticks and harnesses in the garage. Ten children were present at the day care center.

Did parents who left preschoolers there think it was a petting zoo?

Nine dogs were seized including one with a missing eye, one with its chest shredded from fighting and one with its genitals nearly severed. At the nearby home of Martez Anderson, where police think the fighting animals were housed, police found a dog with a maimed leg, one that couldn't stand and a mother with month-old puppies in a wire cage soaked in feces and urine with no food or water.

Everyone from teachers to law enforcement officers to criminologists to Michael Vick himself knows violence against animals predicts human violence and creates both active and passive participants. "My whole life has been numb. I was numb to the violence in my community," says Vick.

But dogfighting is such a part of everyday life in some poor communities, the day care operator, whose husband Charles Sutton is charged with felony dogfighting, maintains that the children were "never allowed" near the dogs-as if that's the point.

And Martez Anderson, the man with the burn video on his cell phone, dismisses the condition of the puppies seized on his property-including one with an eye missing-as, "they probably could have did with a bath."

Hopefully the Supreme Court won't be in similar denial as it takes up the issue of whether dogfighting and other violent videos should be protected as free speech.

Not when such free "speech" is commemorated on cell phones-and played out in lethal, after school beatings.
Martha Rosenberg is a columnist and cartoonist, who writes about public health

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