Despite an outcry from thousands of people--including everyone from PETA pal and pit bull adopter Alicia Silverstone to the president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League to convicted dogfighter Michael Vick--Google has refused to pull an app called KG Dogfighting (formerly called Dog Wars) from its Android Marketplace.
The developers say the app--in which players train and fight dogs against other players--is "just a video game," but for living, breathing animals, the consequences of glamorizing cruelty are deadly serious. At best, this game trivializes the horrendous suffering that dogs endure at the hands of dogfighters and sends the dangerous message that abusing animals is entertaining. At worst, it is a training manual for wannabe dogfighters and may pique some players' interest enough to inspire them to move from virtual dogfighting to the real thing--which is a felony offense in all 50 states.
There are no winners in dogfighting, only victims. Dogs who are forced to fight are typically kept in tiny cages or outdoors on heavy chains 24 hours a day, and they are starved, beaten and taunted into aggression. Dogfighters frequently steal unattended cats and dogs from people's yards to use as bait to train dogs to attack.
In the pit, dogs tear each other to shreds in fights that can last for hours, until both dogs are exhausted and at least one is seriously injured or dead. The "winners" are forced to fight other dogs again and again. The losers pay with their lives: They are often used as bait, or they are electrocuted, drowned, shot or hanged. PETA's fieldworkers witness the devastating results of dogfighting firsthand. One pit bull they rescued, named Music, looked like a bag of bones. He was shivering, severely dehydrated and covered with scars and scabs. His ears were shredded from fights, and he had lost his mind from living on a chain his entire life.
KG Dogfighting makes a game out of this horrific cruelty, yet the app's creators claim that they are helping animals because they plan to donate some of their profits to animal rescue organizations. Ironically, animal shelters may find themselves in need of donations to care for dogfighting victims because of this cruel game.
What's more, anything that encourages people to abuse and kill living beings for "fun" also jeopardizes public safety. Dogfighters and others who abuse animals are cowards, and studies show that animal abusers' victims often include humans. Law enforcement officials know that raids on dogfighting operations can be especially dangerous because illegal drugs, gambling and weapons are often involved. According to news sources, KG Dogfighting's website points out that players have a gun to use during police raids.
America is a nation of dog lovers, and the public has made it known loud and clear that Google needs to do the right thing and pull this ill-conceived app. There is simply no excuse for promoting, making light of or otherwise trying to pass off cruelty to animals as "entertainment." It isn't a game, and the public isn't buying it.
Martin Mersereau is the director of PETA's Emergency Response Team, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org .