Thursday, September 30, 2010

'Trooper' on the road to recovery

By John Crane, Go Dan River

The Pittsylvania County man who found Trooper, a mauled pit bull believed to be a “bait” or “match” dog used in dog fighting, said he has been inundated with e-mails, Facebook messages and phone calls since discovering the wounded animal in his trashcan Sunday afternoon.
Trooper is still recovering at Vinton Veterinary Hospital, where he underwent surgery Monday and had an operation for a mouth infection Thursday, said Steve Chatham, the Cascade-area man who found the dog.
“He’s not out of the woods yet, but he’s miles away from where he was (Sunday),” said Chatham, who has been in touch with the hospital and has acquaintances affiliated with animal-rescue organizations.
Trooper has also been staying with Angels of Assisi, a Roanoke animal-rescue organization that admitted the dog Monday.
Chatham said Trooper would have had to traverse a long distance through a harsh environment to have made it to his Cascade-area home in southwestern Pittsylvania County on Sunday.
“He definitely had a will to live,” Chatham said Thursday.
Chatham attempted to feed the dog that had found shelter in a trashcan in Chatham’s shed. The animal was fearful, appeared about 20 pounds underweight and would not come near Chatham or let him approach him.
Trooper had injuries and puncture wounds on and inside his mouth, on his muzzle and legs, Chatham said.
John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues with the Humane Society of the United States, said Trooper’s injuries indicate he could have been a “bait” dog, a dummy for dog-fighting practice, or used as a match dog.
“These are the exact same sorts of injuries you’ll see on dogs that have been used in fighting,” Goodwin said Thursday.
“When these dogs fight, they’re going to bite the face, bite the legs and the chest,” Goodwin said.
Southern Virginia, including Danville and Pittsylvania County, and parts of North Carolina have a high concentration of important, well-known figures in the world of dog fighting, Goodwin said.      
At one point, there were about 40,000 people involved in serious, organized dog fighting. But that number took a downward turn after the Michael Vick case, Goodwin said. About 250,000 dogs are used in the underground industry each year, Goodwin said.
The HSUS has a tip line, 1-877-TIP-HSUS, and offers a $5,000 reward for those providing information that leads to the arrest and prosecution of those involved in dog fighting or cockfighting.

Update November 19, 2010 12:30pm - The following article is by John Crane, WSLS:
Bullet fragments found in Trooper the pit bull

Trooper, the pit bull found mauled in southwestern Pittsylvania County in September and believed to have been used in dog-fighting, had a bullet fragment removed from his chin at a veterinary hospital in Roanoke last week.
The dog had five bullet fragments, including one in his mandible that caused a fluid-filled seroma to form, said Melody Pope, who has fostered and adopted the dog. The remaining bullet fragments are lodged in his head but will not be removed unless they cause problems, Pope said.
John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues with the Humane Society of the United States, said canines like Trooper that are used for dog-fighting are put through “game tests” so dog-fighters can evaluate their “gameness” or prowess, endurance and their willingness to fight to the death. If the dog is not up to par, it is executed and dumped, Goodwin said.
“That doesn’t surprise me at all,” Goodwin said when he learned of the bullet fragments.
Shooting less vicious dogs in rural areas — commonly with a .22 caliber — is mostly done in rural areas where gunshots are less likely to arouse suspicion, Goodwin said.
Executions of the dogs can include ghastly methods in urban areas where firing a gun may be unusual or illegal. Electrocution, drowning and bludgeoning with a hammer are preferred means in cities, Goodwin said.
“This is just one more nasty aspect of dog-fighting,” Goodwin said.
Before the bullet was discovered, Goodwin had originally said Trooper’s injuries indicated he could have been a “bait” dog — a dummy for dog-fighting practice — or used as a match dog.
Major players in dog-fighting are in North Carolina, and some of the industry spills over into Southside Virginia and South Carolina, Goodwin said. About 250,000 dogs are used in dog-fighting at a given time. Goodwin said he did not know how many are executed.
Paulette Dean, executive director of the Danville Area Humane Society, estimated the shelter receives about 10 calls per year regarding dogs that have been shot.
“I would suspect most of the dogs that are shot, we would never find out about,” Dean said.
Shortly after county resident Steve Chatham found him on his property in September, Trooper was first treated at Angels of Assisi in Roanoke and sent to Vinton Veterinary Hospital. He underwent surgery there and later had an operation for a mouth infection. Trooper has been recovering at Pope’s home since. 
Trooper was fearful, appeared about 20 pounds underweight and would not come near Chatham or let him approach him when he was found. Trooper had injuries and puncture wounds on and inside his mouth, on his muzzle and legs.
Today, Trooper has a shiny new coat of hair, has gained 10 pounds and loves people and other animals, Pope said.
“He’s awesome,” said Pope, who is studying to be a veterinary technician. “He’s the best dog I ever had.”
Pope, who is a veterinary assistant at Big Lick Veterinary Services in Roanoke where the bullet was removed, said she believes the fragments are from a single bullet that shattered. The removed fragment was the size of the nail of her index finger, Pope said.
Pope said she plans to inform the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office about the bullet fragment. Lt. Todd Barrett said whether a case like Trooper’s is investigated depends on the type of bullet fragment, its quality and the presence of marks identifying the firearm.
Barrett said anyone with such evidence needs to turn it over to the sheriff’s office so it can be examined.

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