Youngsters are being paid with drugs to arrange dog fights, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) inspector Charles Whited said yesterday.

Youngsters are being paid with drugs to arrange dog fights, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) inspector Charles Whited said yesterday.

And another source revealed children as young as eight are collecting thousands of dollars in cash because drug barons in charge of the fights do not want to risk getting caught.

Mr. Whited said: “It’s sickening. It’s common knowledge. Many, many juveniles are involved in this. I can’t put a figure on it. They are not only being used to collect money, but also to set up fights and publicise them and train the dogs.

“The fights start after the clubs close. Drug dealers usually own the dogs and the kids handle the dogs.” Asked if children were being lured into the world of drugs, Mr. Whited said: “Most are already involved. The drug and dog fighting worlds run parallel.

“Most of them get paid with drugs. They might be paid a few dollars and get a bag of weed, or whatever.

“It’s a big issue and I am very, very concerned.” He said children across the Island were involved in dog fighting.

“It’s existed for a long time but been ignored. There’s more now because the kids are off school and they have more time on their hands.

“We stumbled across a dog fight in St. Monica’s Road at the start of the summer. There were around 80 people there but there was an incredible amount of kids there. There were actually more kids than adults. I am worried the kids don’t have the strength to control the dogs if the pitbull wanted to go after someone or another dog.

“Some 14-year-old kids can’t even lift a bag of groceries, let along handle a dog.

“If a pitbull went for a child it could kill them because the child looking after it couldn’t control them. The youngsters, who are between 12 and 16, feed the dogs and exercise them.

Hundreds sign dogs petition; Page 3 Children organising dog fights “They tie them to a pedal bike and take them long distances in the blistering hot sun. They will throw them in the water and make them swim half a mile.

They are being taught at a young age not to respect animals.

“The Police, the dog wardens and ourselves are now trying to bring it to the public’s attention and to rectify it. The first thing we need to do is to ban the breeding and importation of pitbulls for at least five years.

“No one under 18 should own a dog, so if we find they have them we visit their house.

“The Police have assisted with a fulltime protection officer. She is very good and when we have called the Police they back us up.” He said youngsters were wrong to think they were immune from prosecution because of their young age.

One source told The Royal Gazette that he had been approached by children asking if he wanted to bet on a dog fight.

He said: “It’s an horrendous story. Little kids as young as nine or ten are collecting bets but because they are young they think they can’t be prosecuted. There’s an awful lot of money. They’ve got bundles of money in their hand. They will place your bet for you.

“I am used to seeing a lot of cash and it looks like they’ve got $3,000 to $4,000 in their hands. I have seen it all over Pembroke as well as in Hamilton Parish. It’s incredible.

“Dog fighting is a Bermudian pastime, it’s an everyday occurrence.

“Children are like mini-adults now. I speak to children aged seven, eight and nine and they talk to you like they are adults. They know about drugs, women and betting.

“These dog fights are going on at four and five in the morning. Those areas are increasingly terrible. In five years time I think no one will want to go into those neighbourhoods. We are breeding a generation of mini-gangsters.” SPCA chairman Dr. Andrew Madeiros said there was a teen fad for pitbulls but most had little concern for the welfare of their dogs.

He said: “There’s a big interest in pitbulls from younger kids and early teens but it’s an image thing.” He said many cruelty cases were caused by teens owning dogs, but he pointed out that dog owners had to be 18 and that families could be hit with five-figure fines if their children were found guilty of illegal breeding and cruelty.

By Matthew Taylor The Royal Gazette