Raising Dogs, Fighting Dogs

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Commentator Lauretta Hannon tells the story of her neighbors in Savannah, Ga., who kept dogs for fighting.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

For a year and a half, commentator Lauretta Hannon lived on the east side of Savannah, Georgia. She loved her neighborhood, but finally sold her house because she couldn't bear to live next door to people who kept fighting dogs.

LAURETTA HANNON reporting:

The sound of the pit bull killing the puppy almost made me throw up. The crowd was thrilled. Kids, parents and old men pressed against the fence for a better view. A father hoisted his toddler in the air so that she could see, too.

My neighbors were dog fighters. They were trying to get their pit bull hungry for the kill. The puppy staggered a few feet and crumpled. In my head, I heard my mother say, there a lot of things worse than death.

For over a year, the dog fighters had terrorized the neighborhood with their drug trade and violence. We knew they were fighting dogs, but this is the first time I'd actually seen it. I loved my neighborhood dearly, so much so that up until this point I made it my mission to show them that I wasn't afraid and that they would not destroy our community. Now I was beginning to doubt that.

Over the next few days, I tried to learn more about what I'd seen in the backyard. I found someone willing to talk about dog fighting - the gambling, the kind of dogs that make the best matches, the way exhausted dogs are shot up with drugs to keep them going, the exhilaration of watching it. There's nothing more exciting than a good dog fight, he said, a fight to the death.

After his testimonial, I told him about the pit bull and the puppy. He gave me a funny look and asked where I lived. I realized that he knew the dog fighters well. He said, you better be careful around them. They're very violent people, but they have a sorry pit bull. He's a sorry fighting dog.

My beloved neighborhood mattered to me, but now I was wondering if I should cut my losses and leave before I got hurt. Was it even worth fighting for a place where people were entertained by a puppy losing its life?

It wasn't like that when I moved in, but things had changed. Mama was right, there are lots of things worst than death. One of them is watching your home slowly being taken over by the bad guys and realizing that the crowd at the fence is cheering them on.

BLOCK: Lauretta Hannon now lives in Powder Springs, Georgia.

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