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7 Arrested in Hog and Dog Competitions

Times Staff Writer

Law enforcement authorities arrested seven people over the weekend on animal cruelty charges stemming from “hog dogging” events, in which pit bulls or bulldogs are placed in a pen with pigs or wild boars and are timed as they pin the squealing animals with their powerful jaws.

Several raids took place in Alabama, Arizona and South Carolina; the events’ organizers also were charged with animal fighting. Robert Stewart, chief of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, said more arrests were expected.

“It’s bad enough to put animals of the same species against one another. Now we’re staging events with different species in combat,” said Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States. “I shake my head and am disgusted, but I am never entirely surprised.”

In hog dog rodeo -- also known as “hog catch trials,” “hog dog trials” or “hog baiting” -- a feral pig or hog is thrust into a pen. A dog then chases the hog until it forces the animal to the ground. The practice, said Casey Couturier, editor of American Bulldog Review, began 25 years ago in states with large populations of wild boars -- like Texas, Louisiana and Florida -- and developed into an organized competition for hunting dogs.

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In recent years, however, organizers became wary of public perception and stopped advertising openly, Couturier said. But the events still took place. “The people there would be the sheriff and the state police. They’d be running their own dogs,” Couturier said.

Tanya Holland, who raises pit bulls in Florida, said that animal-rights activists had misrepresented the events.

The hogs, she said, are removed from the pen quickly and given time to recuperate before the next event; the powerful animals “do put up a fight” and squeal loudly, Holland said, but generally are not seriously injured.

“If you could see the energy in the dog and see how much they enjoy working,” said Holland, 32, a veterinary technician. “I know how much my dogs like catching that pig for me.”

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But Ann Chynoweth, counsel for the Humane Society, said pigs or hogs often were left with serious injuries -- such as torn jaws, ears, or injured groins -- and were sent back into the ring repeatedly.

Organizers distribute videotapes of the events, sometimes with music playing in the background, and fill the seats with families and children.

“It’s a bizarre form of animal fighting, because it’s for entertainment purposes,” Chynoweth said. “We’ve seen people cheering in the stands.”

Although authorities in individual states long have monitored dog- and chicken-fighting events, this is the first major interstate crackdown on hog dogging. Last summer, Louisiana legislators passed a law banning hog dog events in which “it is foreseeable that the canines or hogs would be injured, maimed, mutilated or killed.”

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“Hog dog baying,” a variant in which the dog corners the other animal but does not attack it, is still legal. Uncle Earl’s Hog Dog Trials, a baying event held in Winnfield, is a major tourist attraction in Louisiana.

Law enforcement authorities were reluctant to investigate and prosecute hog dogging, Chynoweth said, until animal rights advocates began circulating videotapes of events -- especially one report by an NBC affiliate in Mobile, Ala. Authorities in South Carolina arrested Arthur Parker, 47, the president of the International Catchdog Assn.; his wife, Mary Evans Luther, 50; and their son, Arthur Parker Jr., 20, and confiscated 95 dogs and 15 hogs. A woman who answered the phone at Parker’s residence Monday would not comment on the case.

In Warrior, Ala. police arrested Richard and Shina Landers, and confiscated seven dogs. The couple has been charged with animal cruelty, a misdemeanor, said Sgt. Randy Christian of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

A third couple, James Curry and his wife, Jodi Curry-Liesberg, was arrested in Yavapai County, Ariz. Authorities there confiscated 17 dogs and 32 boars. The couple’s children were taken into custody by Child Protective Services.

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Couturier, the bulldog enthusiast, said the arrests could mark a shift in a traditional hunters’ practice.

“It’s just going to run it underground completely,” he said.


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