After Michael Vick, The Battle To Stop Dogfighting
A 2007 scandal involving NFL star Michael Vick exposed the world of illegal dogfighting. Now out of prison, Vick has pledged to help end the practice; Dave Davies talks about the campaign with John Goodwin, Humane Society manager of animal fighting issues, and former dogfighter Sean Moore.
Other segments from the episode on September 24, 2009
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After Michael Vick, The Battle To Stop Dogfighting
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. Iâm Terry Gross. When the Philadelphia Eagles signed
football star Michael Vick to an NFL contract just three months after his
release from prison on a dogfighting conviction, the move was controversial.
Vick had pled guilty to running a dogfighting ring on his rural Virginia
property for six years, and many animal rights activists objected to restoring
Vickâs celebrity-athlete status so quickly.
Michael Vickâs arrest two years ago brought public attention to the little-
known culture of illegal dogfighting, which is more organized and widespread
than most people imagine. Raids by federal and state authorities in six states
last July led to the rescue of 400 dogs and the arrest of 26 people on
dogfighting charges, including a Little League coach, a registered nurse and a
Michael Vick pledged to work with the Humane Society to fight against animal
abuse. Our guests believe heâs already had a significant impact on dogfighting,
both positive and negative.
Our guests are John Goodwin, the manager of animal-fighting issues for the
Humane Society of the United States, and Sean Moore, a former dogfighter in
Chicago who now works with the Humane Society's campaign to end dogfighting in
that city. They spoke with FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies.
We want to alert listeners that the first several minutes of this conversation
will include disturbing descriptions of cruelty to animals.
DAVE DAVIES, host:
Well John Goodwin and Sean Moore, welcome to FRESH AIR. John Goodwin, letâs
start by talking a little bit about how widespread dogfighting is in the United
States. Do we know how many dogfighters there are in America?
Mr.Â JOHN GOODWIN (Manager, Humane Society of America): Itâs hard to estimate
exactly how many people are involved in this. Prior to the Vick case going
public, we had done some research and estimated that in the organized world of
dogfighting, there are probably about 40,000 people involved, and at the street
level, we estimated it, you know, at least 100,000.
Now, in the wake of the Vick case, weâve seen the strengthening of laws. Weâve
seen a lot of attention from law enforcement, and so I believe at the organized
level, the numbers have come down a bit. Itâs very hard to gauge exactly how
many people are involved in this, but I can say that it is certainly more
widespread and pervasive than I think most people realize.
DAVIES: Now, itâs interesting. I wish we could show the audience some of the
trade publications that have flourished in the dogfighting world, but theyâre
really remarkable, and they have pictures of pit bulls and ads for kennels
with, you know, names like Hellâs Kennels, and you see a lot of references to
champions and grand champions. What does that mean?
Mr.Â GOODWIN: A champion is a dog that has won three contract matches, and a
grand champion is a dog that has won at least five contract matches with zero
losses. And when I say contract matches, Iâm separating that from backyard
rolls, you know, little practice fights and referring to dogfights where the
dogs are put through a physical exercise regimen to get them in top physical
condition and then fought for money on some pre-arranged date that was set in
DAVIES: Right, and these are often planned months in advance, right, and take
place according to fairly strict rules. Explain a little bit of the kind of
rules and rituals that accompany a contract match.
Mr.Â GOODWIN: Well, in a dogfight, when the people arrive, the first thing
theyâre going to do is weigh the dogs because the dogs are fought according to
weight. So, you know, if the dogfighters agree to fight at 43 pounds and one of
the dogs comes in over 43 pounds, then the guy with that dog is going to have
to pay a forfeit because a dog that is going against a heavier dog is going to
be at a disadvantage.
Next, theyâre going to wash the dogs. Dave, if you and I were fighting dogs
against each other, you would wash my dog, and I would wash yours. Thatâs
because these guys would put poison on their furs and just different things to
cheat. And so by washing each otherâs dogs, you could remove any sort of sort
of substance that would cause an unfair advantage.
DAVIES: Right, and if I put poison on my dogâs fur, that means that when your
dog bites it, heâs going to ingest it, and thatâs an advantage.
Mr.Â GOODWIN: Thatâs exactly right. That dog may end up dying or having severe
stomach pain or something that would cause him to lose the fight.
Then after all those preliminaries are taken care of, the guys would get into
the dogfighting pit, which is usually 14-by-14 feet square with carpet or
canvas on the ground to give the dogs some traction. Each of the dogs and their
handlers would have a corner that would be their corner, and it would be â they
would have duct tape or paint across the ground to kind of â what they call a
scratch line right in front of that corner that the guy would stand behind with
his dog prior to the beginning of the match. The referee would get into the
pit, and they have the dogs face each other, and they let them go, and they
Now, eventually one of the dogs is going to be getting the worst of it, and he
or she is going to turn his head and shoulders away from his opponent because
heâs getting just mauled. Thatâs called a turn. When that happens, they will
pick the dogs up, take them in their corner, kind of have a 25-second break.
And then the dog that did the turn, that was getting the worst of it and
started to show some signals that he wanted to quit, would have to scratch, and
what that means is he would have to then cross the pit and make contact with
the other dog to show that heâs still engaged in the fight.
After that, they would scratch in turn. The second dog would scratch next, then
the first, then the second, then the first, and the fight goes until either one
dog is dead or so injured that he just canât scratch anymore and doesnât make
it across the pit within the pre-arranged amount of time, whether itâs 10
seconds or 20 seconds.
DAVIES: Yeah, well, letâs talk a little bit about the fate of the animals here.
How often is it that one of these matches ends up with a dog mortally wounded?
Mr.Â GOODWIN: Well, you know, we looked at fight reports in a magazine called
the Sporting Dog Journal, which was kind of the flagship publication for many
years, this little underground dogfighting circuit. And we estimated that 13
percent of the dogs actually died from wounds sustained before they even left
the pit, and a lot more of them would die later from the injuries, you know, a
day later, two days later, and then the other losers, with the small exception
of a special handful that didnât die from their injuries, would be executed.
Because again, the dog that seemingly lacks that gameness is of no value to the
dogfighter, and theyâre not going to want to continue to sustain the cost of
feeding them and taking care of them and keeping them alive.
DAVIES: Right. Now, I gather that a lot of dogs are executed who either fail to
perform in a fight or who are puppies who, for whatever reason, are not judged
to be, you know, effective future fighters. How are these animals dispatched?
Mr.Â GOODWIN: Well, you know, in the country, a lot of them are killed by
gunshot. But when you get into an urban area, where that would attract a lot of
attention, then you see methods like electrocution being very popular. When you
look at the indictment of Michael Vick and his co-defendants that were all part
of Bad News Kennels, they would also drown some of the dogs, and they hung a
couple of the dogs.
I was particularly surprised about the hanging because the pit bull has such a
big, strong, muscular neck, and that just didnât seem like an efficient way to
kill those dogs. And I think that was one of the things that really upset a lot
of people about that case because it seemed like some things were done that
were just â I mean, you take an already cruel activity and then throw something
like that in there, and it just boggles the mind.
DAVIES: Now, human athletes have sports doctors and trainers. These dogs need
veterinary care, but I can imagine that since itâs such a secret activity,
people donât like to take their dogs to vets. What do they do?
Mr.Â GOODWIN: Youâre absolutely right. A lot of these guys try to kind of do
their own rudimentary form of veterinary work. And so if you raid a large
dogfighting kennel, youâll oftentimes find all sorts of substances - different
antibiotics, lactated ringers, which are fluids that they put into a dog after
a fight because heâs lost a lot of blood, and they need to get the volume of
liquid in their body back up to prevent shock. You know, amoxicillin and
ampicillin are two different antibiotics that the dogfighters like to give them
to try to kill off any infections that get into the open wounds that the dog
sustained. And so a lot of these guys just kind of try to perform their own
veterinary medicine, and most of them havenât been through vet school so it
isnât usually super-effective. But these dogfighting magazines oftentimes have
articles on things like post-fight veterinary care.
DAVIES: In the dogfighting magazines that I looked at, it seemed that half of
the pages were devoted to ads from kennels for breeding, which suggests that it
isnât just a matter of training animals but getting the right genetic mix of
aggression into your beast. How does that work? I mean, do you buy a puppy from
a kennel? Do you pay a stud fee and take your female to mate with a
particularly, you know, accomplished male?
Mr.Â GOODWIN: Well, I can tell youâve read those magazines pretty thoroughly.
Youâre absolutely right. Both, the answer is both. Some people will buy
puppies. Some people will buy what they call a prospect, which would be a dog
thatâs probably about 18 months to two years old thatâs fully mature, and if
heâs going to be fought, heâs ready to fight. And others do send their females
to a kennel and pay a stud fee.
And you know, with the dogfighting, letâs say you bet $5,000 and win on a
dogfight one weekend, but then you bet $5,000 and lose on one the following
weekend. Youâve broken even. But when you take a dog thatâs a winner and put
him out to stud, well thatâs just pure profit, and within the realm of the
dogfighting world, thatâs where the high-end kennels make their money.
DAVIES: Weâre speaking with John Goodwin. He is the director of animal-fighting
issues for the Humane Society of the United States. Also with us is Sean Moore.
He is a former dogfighter from Chicago who now works in the Humane Societyâs
campaign to end dogfighting there. Weâll talk more after a break. This is FRESH
(Soundbite of music)
DAVIES: If youâre just joining us, weâre talking about dogfighting in America.
With us are John Goodwin, manager of animal-fighting issues for the Humane
Society of the United States, and Sean Moore. He is a former dogfighter from
Chicago who is now working to end this practice with the Humane Societyâs
campaign to end dogfighting.
You know, a moment ago, John Goodwin, you said that there are really two worlds
of dogfighting. Thereâs the very organized world, where these contract matches
occur and people breed their winning animals, and then you said thereâs sort of
a much less organized street-level dogfighting. Tell us about the difference.
Whatâs that second world like?
Mr.Â GOODWIN: Well, the street-level dogfightingâs not as formal. Guys will get
pit bulls or, you know, whatever kind of dog from random sources and fight in
the neighborhood, and you know, for many different reasons, status, maybe a
small wager. And thatâs a world that I think that Sean is probably far better
educated about than I am and I think will probably give â be able to give a lot
of insight into because thatâs the world that he came from. But it is a
different level of dogfighting, but there are times when people graduate from
one to the other.
Like for example, Michael Vick started off as a streetfighter in Newport News,
Virginia. And then in time, he got to know people, particularly a man named
Oscar Allen, who went by the name Virginia O, who introduced him to more of the
organized world, and he kind of graduated upwards, or downwards depending on
oneâs perspective, into a different level of dogfighting.
DAVIES: Well, letâs talk to Sean Moore. Sean, you grew up on the west side of
Chicago, and youâre 28 years old now, right?
Mr.Â SEAN MOORE (Former Dogfighter): Yes, 38.
DAVIES: Thirty-eight, okay. Okay, and how old were you when you first got into
Mr.Â MOORE: I was 12 years old when I encountered that a pit bull could do
DAVIES: And what got you interested in actually owning one that could fight?
Mr.Â MOORE: Well, actually I was born into the breed of pit bulls. You know, I
come from a generation of families that fought on the different levels that you
guys talking about today. In my case, what got me involved with dogfighting was
it was these bully guys. They had German shepherds back in my day and Great
Danes. So those were the dogs of choices. And me, myself, I was a pit bull
owner. And a lot of guys with these German shepherds and Great Danes and all
these different other types of dogs, used to chase us through the neighborhoods
and bully us a lot.
And this one particular day I had my dog, which was a pit bull. He was a cur -
would be a dog that didnât want to fight. He was always getting beat up by his
litter mates and everything. So this one particular day, I was in the alley,
and here come these bully guys with these two German shepherds, and this one
German shepherd ran up on me and my dog, and my dog grabbed it and instantly
locked up on his neck and killed it.
I had to go get my uncles to release my dog from this other dog, and which
built the reputation for me in the neighborhood to be a tough guy, a
gangbanger, and all the unhumane things that I had became being a dogfighter,
you know? It was like us guys in these urban communities, we born into
negativity. We got to work our way out of it to where other people work their
way into what we do.
DAVIES: So having that animal that could kill was - it was status, it was
Mr.Â MOORE: Oh yeah. You know, coming from where I come from, status means a
lot, especially on the negative side. Because you donât want to walk down the
street and be bullied, get your money took and beaten on as a punk in the
neighborhood amongst a lot of criminal activity. You want to be a part of that
somehow, someway, and me having dogs made â led me to a point to where it gave
me a sense of ability that I could walk through the neighborhood, and people
talking about me in the negative way, but itâs positive for me.
DAVIES: Youâre a guy not to mess with, in order words.
Mr.Â MOORE: Right, especially with a pit bull.
DAVIES: When you got into this, how many dogs did you have?
Mr.Â MOORE: Well, as far as I can go back and remember, I always had me two pit
bulls because my uncles always provided me with the dogs that I guess they
didnât want to fight. I got those dogs, the cur dogs. That (unintelligible)
kill them. They actually give them to the family members, the ones that wasnât
capable of fighting.
So Iâve always had a pit bull, maybe one to two at the most at the time, as a
youth. But as I got older, it went to the hundreds.
DAVIES: Where would you keep them?
Mr.Â MOORE: We had places, you know, houses. You know, back in the day, family
members was into gangbanging and drug-dealing real good so on the street level,
you got to be a drug dealer or a gangbanger to even be mentioned in the like a
Mike Vick, or you got to have money. We come from where there ainât a lot of
money, and you got to be doing illegal activities to be involved in these type
So guys like myself, we wasnât making that type of money. So what we would do,
guys of my age, as youth age, once they learned about the pit bulls, was letâs
fight. You know, letâs see who got the toughest dog. It wasnât no type of rules
or regulations that we went by into what make it dogfighting today.
(Unintelligible) where we donât have no structure amongst dogfighting. We could
fight a boy against a girl. We could fight a 100-pound dog against a 30-pound
dog. It donât matter to us - to where, like, John was stating earlier, it was
structure amongst the next level of dogfighting after the street level.
DAVIES: Right, and when your dogs fought, was it more often for money or more a
matter of a grudge or pride?
Mr.Â MOORE: Well, it was for money. It wasnât a lot of money, but it was for the
money. But nine times out of 10, if you fighting a guy with a dog, you donât
like him no way. You know, itâs pretty much like a dogfighting arena gang
thing, type of thing. So it was more like I donât really like this other who
got the dog that we fighting. So it was more, like, macho of who going to leave
away with the reputation that day.
DAVIES: And where would these fights occur?
Mr.Â MOORE: Oh, man, backyards, garages, streets, abandoned buildings, anywhere
you wanted to throw down there at the time.
DAVIES: Now, I know that this is a life that you have moved on from, but back
then, were you involved in other illegal stuff, you know, drugs?
Mr.Â MOORE: Yeah, you know, that go without saying. You canât do these type of
things without being involved in gangbanging or drug-dealing because you â
thereâs no one who goes to work and come home and say I bet you $5,000 my dog
can beat your dog. No, that donât go on. So thereâs guys thatâs gangbanging,
drug-selling and yes, I was a part of that. You know, I ainât proud to admit,
but yes, I was a part of that, and thatâs why Iâm doing what Iâm doing today to
give back to my community what I destroyed.
DAVIES: Right. Iâm interested. Did the police know about the dogfighting? Did
Mr.Â MOORE: Well, let me say this. Michael Vick shined a light on dogfighting on
every level, to the point where itâs been times back in the day when I was
dogfighting, the police, it wasnât a case. It was nothing they could really
fully charge you for. You know, I didnât (unintelligible) for dogfighting. My
dog bleeding, holes in him, and the police has grabbed me, and they was looking
for drugs and guns because I was a gangbanger and a drug-dealer to the point
where I had a dog down here that was bleeding and suffering, and the police,
you know what they used to say to me? Like, did he win? Or he look like a
It wasnât like now, today, if they see me go up and down the street with a dog,
Iâm going to jail. So now the police wasnât educated just like we wasnât
educated, and Michael Vick shined the light on dogfighting.
DAVIES: John Goodwin, I wanted to ask you one question going back to the
organized world of dogfighting. These contract matches, thereâs a lot of
betting. How much money is involved in the matches, in the breeding? Are we
talking about things that guys get rich in or can make a living off of?
Mr.Â GOODWIN: It depends on the dog. You know, if youâve got a couple of dogs
that have never been in a contract match before, then, you know, itâs going to
be probably in the thousands. Then you get up to the champion level, and you
might start talking about a five-figure sum of money. You get up to the grand
champions, you know, dogs that have won at least five contract matches and are
undefeated, you can conceivably get into the six-figure range.
There was an instance down in - a little outside of Houston, Texas, in Beaumont
County back in 2006, where a man named Tom Wagner(ph) was murdered, and when
law enforcement came down there and investigated the murder, they found that he
had 300 pit bulls bred for fighting on chains in the acreage behind his house.
And they discovered that he had won a dogfight for $100,000. And somebody,
probably somebody that was at that dogfight, went to his house and killed him
and ransacked the place until they found the $80,000 that was leftover because
heâd spent $20,000 of it by then.
So there we have evidence of a dogfight for $100,000. And what happens when,
you know, people that are involved in these criminal activities know that
youâve got that kind of cash laying around your house?
DAVIES: And the interesting thing is, I mean, even though these matches can
involve significant money, theyâre never seen by very many people, are they?
Mr.Â GOODWIN: No. I mean, itâs a felony crime in all 50 states. Well, now, on
the street level, you know, Iâm sure that Sean probably could talk about some
stories where, you know, things have been a little bit more out in the open,
but at these organized matches, because they are concerned about being raided,
they do them in, you know, out in the middle of nowhere. Theyâll have a
situation where everyone meets at a Wal-Mart parking lot and caravans, and only
the guy in the car in the front knows where theyâre going, so, you know, taking
counter-security measures to try throwing law enforcement off their tail that
may be trailing them.
So it happens in the shadows, and thatâs kind of what I was referring to
earlier when I said that this is more widespread and pervasive than people know
about. Itâs more widespread and pervasive because it happens in the shadows, so
people donât always see it.
GROSS: Weâll continue Dave Daviesâ interview about dogfighting in the second
half of the show with John Goodwin, the manager of animal-fighting issues for
the Humane Society of the United States, and Sean Moore, a former dogfighter in
Chicago who now works with the Humane Society's campaign to end dogfighting in
that city. Iâm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. Iâm Terry Gross. We're talking about the culture of illegal
dog-fighting and the impact star quarterback Michael Vick has had on it. He was
convicted for running a dog-fighting ring. Three months after getting out of
prison, Vick signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles and pledged to work
with the Humane Society to fight against animal abuse.
Let's return to the interview FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies recorded with
John Goodwin, the manager of animal-fighting issues for the Humane Society of
the United States, and Sean Moore, a former dog-fighter in Chicago who now
works with the Humane Society's campaign to end dog-fighting in that city.
Before we continue, I want to let you know this discussion goes into details of
extreme animal cruelty.
DAVE DAVIES, host:
Well, let's talk about this, as you say, the organized world of dogfighters.
Some call themselves professionals, dogmen, as they call themselves. What are
their historical and regional roots?
Mr. JOHN GOODWIN (Humane Society of the United States): Well, dog-fighting came
over to the United States from England and Ireland. Back in the 16, 1700s
people would have these events where they would set dogs against bulls or dogs
against bears, and really brutal vicious events, bull-baiting and bear-baiting.
In 1835, England outlawed animal-fighting. But the people who wanted to
continue doing this, despite the fact that it was now banned, moved to dog
versus dog-fighting because it was much easier to hide combat between two
bulldogs as opposed to trying to, you know, have a bear and bring him through
the middle of London to a pub.
Now, in the mid-1800s these dogs started to come over to America with European
immigrants and the breed was refined and became what we know as the American
pit bull terrier. Dog-fighting was popular up in the port cities along the
northern part of the Atlantic Coast, moved over into the Midwest, and then kind
of really took a foothold in the American south in the first half of the 20th
century. And, you know; now it's prevalent to some degree probably just
everywhere in the United States.
DAVIES: I want you to help me understand something and that is this, you know,
when Michael Vick established his dog-fighting operation, âBad Newz Kennels" he
was 21. He had just become a rich man. He had a huge NFL contract and he
could've done anything with his life. He could've bought a condo in Hawaii. He
could've traveled to Europe. He chose to spend six years and put a lot of time
and effort and money, at a time when itâs very clear from the case that knew
the risks to his career. And I wondered what is the appeal? What was so
exciting or emotionally nourishing to him that he would risk that for dog-
fighting? Help me understand, what's the appeal of it?
Mr. SEAN MOORE (Humane Society of the United States): Well, like I just said
earlier, just a few minutes ago to you, that we born in negativity. It donât
matter how, what level we reach, if you born to something, you got to find a
way to get out of it and Michael Vick didnât find that way to get out. Even
though he was on the level of hundreds of millions of dollars, he still thought
as a poor person in an urban community because we always thought that this was
something, a sport or something that we could do.
Because, like I said, it's been police has pulled me over with my dog bleeding,
suffering and never took me to jail for it. So, if the police donât do anything
about it, we thinking it's okay. You know, when the police officer tell you,
you got a look like a, you got a dog that's a killer and, you know, you
thinking okay, if law enforcement telling me oh, I look like a killer then,
it's nothing wrong with doing what I'm doing.
DAVIES: Mm-hmm. You know...
Mr. MOORE: So I think Michael Vick took that same approach, far as, even on the
level that he was on, he still got that same attitude which what he grew in,
which was negativity, and took that to that another level thinking it was okay.
DAVIES: Mm-hmm. You know, pit bulls are really loyal animals and dogs
generally. I mean, you know, pet owners know how loyal and affectionate dogs
can be, and they return that, and that there's a real emotional reward for a
pet owner. And I'm wondering do you feel any of that for the dogs that you
fought? I mean, you know, youâre obviously putting them in harms way and you
know, subjecting them to even mortal wounds. But did you love the dogs that you
Mr. MOORE: Well, I get this question asked every interview I've done - do
dogfighters really love their dogs? And I can honestly say, yes. You know, I
could say, yes. And like on my level, street level, it's not about the two dogs
fighting. It's really the two individuals that argued for these dogs to fight
that should be fighting, but we got the two dogs that do fight so we're going
to let them fight. So it's never about the love of the dog and in anything
violent, you can't never mention the word love. You know, in war, in fighting,
that's another separate word that should not be used in no type of violent
atmosphere or category.
Mr. MOORE: Yes, people do love their dogs, though they fight them. And the
strange love is that you love your dog to the point where you hoping it donât
lose. You know, you put your dog out there to win. That's the whole idea of it.
But yes, you do love your dog.
DAVIES: Did you ever cry over a dog who was injured or killed?
Mr. MOORE: Oh yeah. My last dog fight was 1996. I was pretty much persuade and
peer pressured into something that I pretty much created, because I was pretty
much through fighting dogs. But this one particular guy came up to me like oh,
you old. You a punk and you ain't got it no more. And it was these new guys
coming up behind me now, you know, that was putting more time in it and took
more time and energy and had more money than I did and was pretty much peer
pressuring me into do something that I didnât want to do. And that - even
though my dog had won the fight, I won $1500; I still had to put my dog down
because it suffered a severe injury to the neck.
And like John was saying, a lot those guys not going to take these dog-fighting
dogs to veterinarians because the veterinarians is going to call the police on
them, so we do the next best thing is home remedies. Go to the store, buy
penicillin, ampecillin, you know, anything to stop the bleeding.
DAVIES: How did you put that dog down?
Mr. MOORE: I had to shoot him.
Mr. MOORE: Yeah, I had to shoot him and it was sad to do and I regret every day
for what I've done to any dog ever in my life, negative, and that's why I'm
with the Humane Society of the United States as of â88, and a graduate of this
program, also, to give back to my community and teach these youths that, you
know, dog-fighting is senseless - especially you know, nowadays, you know, you
going to jail.
DAVIES: John Goodwin, I'd just like to turn to you on this question that I
asked Sean about what the appeal is of dog-fighting for people who do it. Do
you have a perspective on this?
Mr. GOODWIN: Well, I think some people enjoy just the bloodlust, you know,
watching dogs tear each other to pieces. I think other people enjoy the betting
and the gambling and the rush that comes with that. And I think others, you
know, as both myself and Sean have commented on, do it for status. Have the
toughest dog in the neighborhood. You know, kind of use that dog to create an
image for oneself that youâre, as you said Dave, was a guy not to be messed
with. I think it's a, you know, the kind of those three things and probably a
little different mix of all three for each different person.
We're speaking with John Goodwin; he is the director of animal-fighting issues
for the Humane Society of the United States. Also with us is Sean Moore; he is
a former dogfighter from Chicago who now works in the Humane Society's campaign
to end dogfighting there.
We'll talk more after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
DAVIES: If youâre just joining us, our guests are John Goodwin; he is manager
of animal-fighting issues for the Humane Society of the United States. Also
with us is Sean Moore; he was once a dogfighter in Chicago. He is now working
with the Humane Society's campaign to end dogfighting there. He is also a
graduate of that program.
John Goodwin, what's happened at the big level to the kind of combat organized
Mr. GOODWIN: Well, there's been a ton of activity in the wake of the Michael
Vick case since that, you know, that he pled guilty and was sentenced in
December of 2007. So in 2008 and 2009, state legislatures and the U.S. Congress
combined have passed 27 new laws around the country to strengthen penalties
against animal-fighting. Weâve seen raids on dogfighting operations double from
the year before Vick, 2006 to the year after Vick, 2008.
Weâve seen expansion of programs like End Dogfighting in Chicago that Sean's
involved in, to - now we have End Dogfighting Atlanta and a lot of perspective
programs being developed in other cities. And so, there's been a real
engagement of people on a community level, political level, you know, various
levels to combat dogfighting all across the country.
DAVIES: Now, letâs talk a little bit about Michael Vick because the Humane
Society's decision to, in effect, join with him and his declared efforts to
fight animal abuse were very controversial. What role do you expect Michael
Vick to play here?
Mr. GOODWIN: Oh, I think that Michael Vick can be a leader in efforts to
eradicate dogfighting with young men that are at risk for getting in
dogfighting or are already involved in dogfighting. He's a credible messenger
and he's got a powerful story he can tell. I mean this is a guy that was at the
top of the mountain, that had over a hundred million dollars, that had fame and
was loved by millions of adoring fans and he fell all the way to the bottom and
spent over 500 nights in a prison cell, all because he was involved in
something as senseless and pointless as dogfighting. And this is a guy that I
think can come and speak to young men and really get a receptive audience and I
think he can be a game-changer.
DAVIES: You know, as I understand it, Michael Vick came to the Humane Society
and said he wanted to play a constructive role in fighting dogfighting. And it
occurred to me that the Humane Society might have said well, that's terrific
but you donât need to be a star athlete to do that. I mean he didnât need - and
in fact, one could argue that his story might have been even more powerful if
he came and said I've lost everything and I didnât get it back. I now have to
work like everybody else. Was Michael Vick's willingness to play this role
contingent upon the Humane Society supporting his return to the National
Mr. GOODWIN: No. We were clear from the beginning that we were agnostic on
that. We weren't going to get involved one way or the other. I mean our agenda
is to end dogfighting. And what sort of profession Michael Vick engaged in once
he got out of prison, so long as it didnât involve harming animals, was not our
concern. Our concern was how if Michael Vick truly wanted to be a messenger
against dogfighting, how we can help him be the most effective messenger
DAVIES: Sean Moore, you spent a lot of years dog-fighting in Chicago. What got
you out of it?
Mr. MOORE: Well, that last episode. I told you about my last dogfight. Now I
was pretty much swearing away from it anyway because that was just another
problem going to be on top of the other problems I was causing to myself, you
know, the gangbanging and the drug dealing. And dogfighting was just another
problem that towards the end of my career doing illegal things, I couldnât
afford to finance these dogs anymore. So that pretty much stopped me.
And what particularly stopped me from dogfighting was this one kid in Chicago
name Julian. I'm sorry, I can't give him his last name. But this one kid was
walking down the street one day with his dog. Two dogfighter dudes drove up on
him, say come fight your dog with my dog. So this kid go, say no. I don't want
to fight. He walk away. He walk home. These gangbanger guys drove around the
corner, came back, by time this kid get home to his mother and tell his mother
that these guys want to get him to fight his dog, they blew his brains out.
So that pretty much was 100 percent game-changer for me to where these guys
taking this and killing people, it's not worth it. And I donât want to be a
part of that. I donât want to be stated as a ex-dogfighter or a dogfighter at
this time. And everything that come up under that - we unhumane(ph), we
gangbangers, we drug dealers, and I can honestly say I was all of that. I donât
want to be a part of that no more so that's what changed my life around.
DAVIES: And youâre working to change it in the Humane Society's campaign to end
dogfighting. Now, tell me what you do, because youâre dealing with people whose
mindset is you know, where yours had been many, many years before. What
approach works? How do you find people and what do you tell them?
Mr. MOORE: Well, I find these guys that done fought dogs, that are fighting
dogs, and that want to fight dogs. And I tell them one thing and one that they
could understand. You know, I speak they language. They could understand me and
they see me doing positive things for the Humane Society of the United States.
So that pretty much, you got to lead by example in my neighborhood. You just
can't give a book to a guy because he might not read it to see or he might not
have the Internet to type my name up. You got to show him positive things.
And guys like Tio Hardiman and Jeff Jenkins, the Pit Bull Training Team, they
come around my neighborhood to help me out and try to educate these young guys
to come on, let's do the right thing - because 90 percent of the guys that are
out here dogfighting is doing illegal activities. And dogfighting right now
today in Chicago is equivalent to getting caught with a gun, to getting caught
selling drugs or gangbanging. And that just won't...
DAVIES: You mean equivalent in the eyes of the law?
Mr. MOORE: Yes.
Mr. MOORE: That's it. Get caught...
DAVIES: So the risks are higher now. Right.
Mr. MOORE: Yes. Get caught with drugs would be the same charge you getting
caught dogfighting, youâre going to prison.
DAVIES: So part of what you tell them is youâre really risking a lot by doing
Mr. MOORE: Yes. I mean Michael Vick, look what he lost. It's nobody in my
neighborhood, 10 guys could dream about what Michael Vick had lost. Hundred
millions of dollars, we dream of things like that, this man had that and lost
that. You got nothing. And especially, a lot of these young guys is young. Iâm
talking about - I started fighting dogs at 12 years old. In my neighborhood,
itâs the seven year old, fought more dogs than me and Mike Vick than ever
fought in my life. And thatâs what Iâm trying to change. They â we are
miseducated where I come from when it comes to these pit bulls and thatâs what
Iâm glad the Humane Society of United States is giving me the opportunity and
the tools to teach my people about these dogs.
DAVIES: You know, we were talking earlier about how you got started in
dogfighting. You were saying that having a dog that was aggressive, a dog that
could kill, gave you status, you know, it made you somebody who is looked up to
or feared. Now that you have a different kind of approach, are you in the same
community? Do people look at you differently?
Mr. MOORE: Well, yes, they do. You know, especially when you have been doing
wrong so long in your life. You know, theyâre wondering is Iâm for real or is
this just a gimmick or Iâm collecting a check. And the answer is to no to all
of those things, what Iâm out here trying to do it is Iâm really trying to
educate you to the point where pit bulls are not really bred to fight. Pit bull
is the most loving breed of dog that you can own. In the wrong hands, it could
be the worst dogs.
DAVIES: John Goodwin, you want to talk a little bit about this community
approach? And where do you see it going?
Mr. GOODWIN: Well, I think itâs an incredibly positive thing and I think itâs
having an impact. And I think that, you know, we talked about the organized
level of dog fighting, where you have a lot of guys that, you know, have a lot
of money in this and are really ideologically committed to it. Thatâs a world
that can be dismantled with the law enforcement approach. But I think when
youâre talking about the street fighting, I donât think that just a pure law
enforcement approach by itself works.
You have to have guys like Sean to get out there and - have been in that world
and are good messengers that can say, hey, you know, this isnât the way to go.
And I want see this expand beyond Chicago and Atlanta and now weâre looking at
Philadelphia. I want to expand into all the cities because I think that this
peer to peer contact is the most effective form of messaging that there is. And
weâve got good messengers and theyâve got a good message. We just need to get
it out there.
DAVIES: Sean, as youâre doing this work in the community, do you ever get
Mr. MOORE: Oh, all the time, all the time. What I do, you know, I want
everybody to hear and understand, I told you the story about this young guy
Julian. I got to deal with them type of guys going around killing people like
Julian everyday on a regular. Itâs a hard job, but one thing out of the
negative that I could keep (unintelligible) so I wonât have to get threatened
is my gang banging status. You know, that pretty much helped me do this job far
as guys not trying to come at me or use gun play with me, trying to help them
out. You know, thatâs the one positive that Iâve took from me doing negatives
and which helped me a million times over with this program.
DAVIES: Do you mean by that because you were known for a long time as a bad guy
that people are less likely to mess with you?
Mr. MOORE: Exactly.
DAVIES: Right, right.
Mr. MOORE: You know, they see me out here trying to do something positive. They
didnât see me doing so much negative. And yeah, I get those naysayers and those
hardheaded guys that, yeah, you did it or you canât stop me or if you try to
stop me, Iâll blow your head off and all that, you know, the whole nine that go
with what Iâm doing out here in this community to try to end violence. Yeah,
you get threatened every day.
DAVIES: Do you own dogs now?
Mr. MOORE: Yes, I own three dogs.
DAVIES: Are they pit bulls?
Mr. MOORE: Pit bulls.
DAVIES: Rescue animals, Iâm guessing?
Mr. MOORE: One was not rescued, which is Jigger(ph), which heâs one the front
page of the Humane Society, if you want to look at it and see. And my other two
is Beyonce and chinchilla which was rescued.
(Soundbite of laughter)
DAVIES: Where did that name come from?
Mr. MOORE: My wife came up with that name.
DAVIES: Well, when you walk your dogs in the neighborhood now, I mean do you
have people that come up to you and want to challenge you, like â like in the
Mr. MOORE: I used to get that in the beginning part of this campaign, a lot of
guys (unintelligible) you ainât got it no more, trying to put pressure,
persuade me to do negative. But Iâm older and wiser and much more stronger than
that and I got the most strongest gang that Iâve ever been in on my side. And
thatâs the Humane Society of the United States and they are willing to back me
100 percent on any calls with these dogs. So come on with it if you think you
can come with me in trying to influence me to dogfight, do anything negative
with these dogs. I got powerful people behind me.
DAVIES: Do you guys have a Humane Society tattoo?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. MOORE: You just gave me the idea.
(Soundbite of laughter)
DAVIES: Well, we wish you the best of luck. Sean Moore, thanks so much for
speaking with us.
Mr. MOORE: Thank you for having me.
DAVIES: And John Goodwin, thank you as well.
Mr. GOODWIN: Oh yeah, thank you. Itâs been a pleasure.
GROSS: Sean Moore is a former dogfighter in Chicago who now works with the
Humane Societyâs campaign to end dogfighting in that city. John Goodwin is the
manager of animal fighting issues for the Humane Society of the U.S. They spoke
with FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies, whoâs a senior writer for the
Philadelphia Daily News.
*** TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY BOUNDARY ***
New Box Set Shows 'Where The Action' Really Was
TERRY GROSS, host:
Los Angeles became the center of the record business after World War II and by
the mid-â60s housed not only successful independent labels but also labels
affiliated with movie studios like Warner Brothers and Universal. So itâs no
surprise to learn that there was a thriving rock scene there and that it was
captured on thousands of records. With the release of âWhere the Action Is! Los
Angeles Nuggets,â Rhino Records has tried to document it all, from the garages
to the sound stages, on four CDs. Rock historian Ed Ward has a review.
(Soundbite of song, âYou Movinââ)
THE BYRDS (Band): Well, Iâve been watching you dance for a while little girl.
And Iâd like to have a chance, to learn your style little girl. âCause you have
a way of moving that I hope to be able to do. I am girl so fascinated watching
you moving. Oh, you moving. Oh, you moving. Oh, yeah. Now the wayâ¦
ED WARD: In a way, itâs a shame that for some time the perception of â60s rock
history in America was tied to a San Francisco-based magazine, Rolling Stone,
which brought a long-standing regional rivalry into the discussion. San
Francisco was groovy and organic, Los Angeles was commercial and plastic, and
that was that. But there is nothing plastic about the scene developing in the
clubs on the several-block-long stretch of Sunset Boulevard called the Sunset
Strip, where folkies like The Byrds went to experiment with electric
instruments and bands like The Leaves sang double-entendre songs about drugs
just like San Francisco bands did.
(Soundbite of song, âDr. Stoneâ)
THE LEAVES (Band): (Singing) You are feeling alone today, (unintelligible) here
what I say, I know that you feel alone, come and see my best friend, Dr.
Stone. I can tell you whatâs in store, I can take you to his door, youâre sad
and youâre alone, (unintelligible) Dr. Stone, all except for (unintelligible)
WARD: Los Angeles had a lot of other things going for it. For one, it was a
much larger city. It had suburbs and neighborhoods in which it seemed every
garage had a band.
(Soundbite of song, âJump, Jive & Harmonizeâ)
THEE MIDNITERS (Band): (Singing) You gotta go baby, I got the (unintelligible),
you gotta (unintelligible). So jump, jive and harmonize, so jump, jive and
harmonize. Come on, come on please, come on baby, baby please, all right.
WARD: One of the toughest garage bands was Thee Midniters, who broke another
stereotype by being Mexican-Americans from East Los Angeles. âJump, Jive, &
Harmonize,â recorded live in 1967, was just one of their masterpieces. Then
there were also typically snotty teenage bands like The Mustangs in suburbs
(Soundbite of song, âThatâs For Sureâ)
THE MUSTANGS (Group): (Singing) I was watching you last night, when you and
that guy walked down the street. And it was plain to see right then, you ainât
the kind of girl for me. Donât want to see your face again, well I donât want
WARD: Where all this gets interesting is that unlike San Francisco or the many
other cities where music scenes were emerging at this time, Los Angeles had
top-flight studios where a developed band could record, the cream of Americaâs
studio musicians to step in for a band member who couldnât play a part,
experienced managers who could guide a bandâs career, and people with money
looking to invest it in an act which could provide them with a nice return.
This was a volatile mixture. It could mean that Dean Martinâs son, Lucille
Ballâs son, and a friend of theirs could become a band and get a deal with no
problem. Although itâs still a surprise here how could Dino, Desi & Billy
really were. Or that odd combinations could take to the studio, as Peter Fonda
and exiled South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela did. And a proven artist could
get the budget to indulge in artistic vision.
(Soundbite of song, âFan Tanâ)
JAN & DEAN (Band): (Singing) (Unintelligible)
WARD: âFan Tanâ was ostensibly by Jan & Dean, although it was produced and sung
by Jan Berry, recorded while he was still partially paralyzed from the 1966
auto accident which almost killed him. This studio music, the very thing that
occasioned the catcalls of plastic from the San Franciscans, was the most
distinctive part of the L.A. scene, the thing that made it different, although
live-based bands like The Doors, Love, The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield were
also very active. âWhere the Action Is!â - the four-disc set which includes all
these songs - has been masterfully curated by Alec Palao, who also helped put
together the companion box of San Francisco music âLove is the Song We Sing.â
From legendary clubs like Bido Litoâs, Ciroâs and the Trip, to recording
studios like Gold Star and Western, L.A.âs music scene was every bit as
important as San Franciscoâs and even better documented. And if some of it was
plastic, well, what do you think they made records out of anyway?
Ed Ward lives in the south of France. He reviewed âWhere the Action Is! Los
Angeles Nuggetsâ on Rhino Records.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.