WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Maybe the dogs had lost a bout before a frenzied crowd in a basement. Maybe they had been used to whet the bloodlust of other dogs. But dead or alive, the two shredded pit bulls were no longer of any use to their owners.
The crippled, bloodied terriers were thrown into a trash bin at a gas station late Saturday or early Sunday and left to die, police said. One survived.
The discovery Sunday by workers at the Yonkers gas station was the latest of several recent signs of dogfighting in Westchester County, just north of New York City.
In October, six scarred dogs trained for fighting were found alive in a Yonkers garage. Two months earlier, five Rottweilers and a pit bull were rescued in Mount Vernon, not long after an injured pit bull was found in a pool of blood on the street.
Experts say the gruesome discoveries reflect the pervasiveness of dogfighting, which has gained attention with the sentencing of suspended NFL quarterback Michael Vick, who was convicted on federal charges of operating a dogfighting ring at his property in rural Virginia. Dogs that did not perform well in test fights were killed by electrocution, drowning, hanging and other means.
"It's everywhere," said Martin Mersereau, spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in Norfolk, Va. "It's urban, it's rural, it's suburban. As long as there are cowards and there are pit bulls available to them there is going to be a dogfight."
Ken Ross, police chief for the Westchester County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said there likely has not been an increase in dogfighting in the county, but people have become more aware of it because of the Vick case.
Dogfighting is a felony in every state except Wyoming and Idaho, punishable in New York by four years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Ross said he sees a link between dogfighting and gang activity in Westchester County.
"Sometimes it's just the status thing with gangs, and gangs will battle each other's dogs or two guys meet in somebody's basement to see whose dog is tougher," he said.
The dog that survived the weekend mauling was doing much better Tuesday, responding to intravenous fluids and antibiotics, Ross said.
But he noted that if the animal was trained as a vicious attack dog, it may have to be euthanized as a public safety risk once it recovers.
"You may save the dog," Ross said, "but then you may have to put down the dog."