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My Pet World: Dogfighting 'game' raises serious ethical questions

August 23, 2011|By Steve Dale
  • Goosie is a two year old black and brown Chihuahua mix.
Goosie is a two year old black and brown Chihuahua mix. (HB Independent )

I'm a journalist and, of course, I believe in free speech. However, certain lines are drawn all the time. For example, I don't know of a video game or telephone app that teaches players how to abuse children.

However, there's now what I believe to be a comparable app through which participants can learn to "train" dogs to fight one another. The goal is for the winner to rip the other dog to shreds. The tagline on the "game," called "KG Dogfighting," is "Raise your dog to be the best."

Kage Games first released a similar dogfighting app in April. I was among the first who blogged about it and word spread quickly through social media. Soon, national animal welfare organizations spoke out and local police superintendents and public officials expressed their horror.

Radio talk show hosts discussed the topic, asking experts, such as child psychiatrists, to comment. Even NFL star Michael Vick — the most celebrated convicted dogfighter — weighed in.

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Under pressure, the Android market (operated by Google) removed the app.

Now Kage Games is back with a version of its dogfighting app, which they say is "new and improved." It's true. This time around, that it's labeled as a "high maturity" app only for players over 13. Still, there's nothing stopping anyone under 13 from downloading the app.

And "high maturity"? Well, that's a joke. I'm not sure anyone playing this game is mature.

I'm most concerned about children, or young adults, who download this app. I happen to be on the board of directors and also serve as a national ambassador for the American Humane Assn., the very organization that helped discover the well-accepted link between violence toward animals and subsequent acts of violence toward people. Those who are desensitized (particularly at a young age) to harming animals are more likely to commit violent crimes as adults.

Defending its position, the webpage for the new app states: "Perhaps one day we will make gerbil wars or betta fish wars for people who can't understand fantasy role play games." But can people (children, in particular) understand that this game is fantasy?

Also, how close is a phone app linked to the real thing? No one knows, but it's sure a heck of a lot easier to play "a game" that describes how to hurt a dog, and then to try it for real, compared to attempting violence toward people. Helpless animals can't fight back as easily as people, and there's less hesitation to attempt such "practice" violence, according to research.

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