Antidote To Dog Fighting, Chicago’s Fledgling Program Goes National

by Mary Haight on May 11, 2009

Tio Hardiman, Shawn Moore, and brothers Anthony and Antonio Pickett walk the streets of Chicago three nights a week looking for trouble, trouble many of us only read about in headlines or hear about on the news. They look for people with skinny, scarred Pit Bulls, some with chains or electrical cords around their necks, substituting for leashes and collars.  They look for those who seem to be on a mission to get somewhere fast-down an alley, in a gangway-to see whose dog will win the fight that night.  Tio, Shawn, Anthony, and Antonio are the “boots on the ground” stepping in and stepping up to help, offering fighters a different way to relate to their dogs. The End Dog Fighting in Chicago program offers a way out of street fighting, showcasing dogs as champions in the agility ring, not the fighting ring.

Tio Hardiman, leader of the pilot program in Chicago, presented his street intervention idea to The Humane Society of the United States. Hardiman earned his stripes through years of work with gangs and violence prevention through the Ceasefire program, the program model used for End Dog Fighting. Since 2006, HSUS has been the only major funding source, providing use of space at a community center, the expertise of dog trainers, and for the intervention work that can only be done by people from the neighborhood, people who have the respect of their community for the work they do in it. The program is operating on the west side of Chicago in Austin and on the south side in Englewood.

Laurie Maxwell, HSUS Deputy Campaign Manager for End Dog Fighting, said that the first two years of the program have come through the stages of scant attendance and community skepticism-underscoring that programs come and go so often many have little faith in their promises-to acceptance and enthusiasm. In fact, Tio says there is often standing room only, around 70 people and their dogs for the basic and agility training by Jeff Jenkins provided at no cost every Saturday.  Training makes all the difference in the lives of the dogs and the relationship between the dog and his or her owner. Maxwell says HSUS is committed to this program. They are helping communities cut the chain of cruelty from one generation to the next, and they are in it for the long run. It’s what works.

The program is at a point where expansion space is needed.  Funding is tight everywhere. The Chicago team has met and shared the End Dog Fighting program model and their expertise with communities in Atlanta and Charlotte.  They are doing the same groundwork in LA, beginning with a fundraiser that took place May 9.  If you have real estate or donor dollars you would like to contribute to this program, please contact Laurie Maxwell, HSUS Deputy Campaign Manager at 301 258 3066.

Today’s Part I of a three part series ends with Tio Hardiman, talking about the genesis of the End Dog Fighting program idea, the highlights of the program for participants, where it stands today and where, with continued funding, it’s going tomorrow.  Part II End Dogfighting, coming tomorrow meet a 13-year veteran dog fighter. [Part III The Pit Bull’s Redemption will follow]

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