for the dogs: Cydney Cross, cofounder of Out of the Pits.
the Fight Out of ’Em
pit bulls from a dogfighting ring are put to death in Schenectady,
raising debate on whether there is a better solution
breeding aficionados, Rapid Roy had everything you’d look
for in a stud: tenacity, endurance, an iron jaw. But given
the singular vision of his training, some animal experts believe
his every trait epitomizes danger to the public at large.
Roy was a champion,” said Gordon Willard, executive director
of the Animal Protective Foundation of Schenectady. “He would
do what he was trained to do as easily as a retriever runs
after a ball and brings it back. And he would do it with the
same proficiency and the same zeal that any other animal would
do its job. He was a star.”
But the traits with which the pit bull earned his legendary
status were what led to his death. Rapid Roy, highly sought
after in the world of dogfighting for his services as a stud,
was one of 13 pit bulls put to death by the foundation on
The dogs were confiscated as physical evidence in the cases
against their former owners, Christine and Thomas Provencher,
both facing a total of 29 animal-cruelty and drug-related
charges in Schenectady County Court. The pit bulls were put
down two months after the couple failed to post the court-ordered
$24,872 bond for the dogs’ care.
of scumbag people, the dogs had to pay,” said Cydney Cross,
president and cofounder of the animal rescue foundation Out
of the Pits. “The dogs are the victims in all of this.”
The death of the 13 dogs raises the issue of whether an animal
bred to fight is a menace to society and should be put to
death, or should have other options available for it. Animal-care
advocates like Cross believe that with institutions like hers,
dogs like Rapid Roy have a chance at life outside of the ring.
But considering the way the 13 pit bulls were bred and raised,
Willard said there was no alternative for the dogs but euthanasia.
dogs themselves had no other option—they were bred to fight,”
said Willard. “If released, they would’ve been found and would
have gone back to where they were designed to go [the world
Cross said she could have, and did, offer another option for
offered to take the puppies and attend to them so they would
not be allowed to go back with the people, but nothing came
of that,” said Cross. “The older dogs maybe weren’t suitable
for placement, but there would’ve been options for the puppies.
The fallacy with game-bred dogs is that they can’t be rehabilitated.”
Cross said that some of the most amazing dogs she ever adopted
were former fighting dogs. In fact, one of the pit bulls that
she rescued from the fighting world, Alexis, has gone on to
become a therapy dog working with recovering alcoholics and
people in nursing homes and prisons.
But Cross may be outnumbered on this matter. Sandy Christiansen,
director of field services for the Humane Society of Rochester
and Monroe County, agrees with Willard. He said that with
dogs trained and bred to fight like Rapid Roy, the dangers
outweigh the success stories.
dogs that are so purposefully bred for fighting, animal shelters
are being put in compromising positions,” said Christiansen.
“You need to be selective when considering what kind of homes
the dogs will be put in. If a dog is predisposed to aggression
and the worst does happen, are you going to be OK with having
taken that risk?”
Considering the motives and meticulousness with which breeders
and trainers in the world of dogfighting turn pit bulls into
killing machines, Christiansen said the 13 dogs could have
met worse fates.
is not the worst thing that can happen to a dog,” said Christiansen.
“When they’ve been set up to go against other dogs and to
rip each other to shreds, there aren’t many other options.”
Christiansen described the training of fighting dogs, paraphrasing
a how-to book by Ed and Chris Faron, The Complete Game
Dog, which contains a biography of Rapid Roy.
are different methods for keeping dogs trained to fight,”
said Christiansen. “Spring poles provides resistance and a
hide or something is attached so a dog can pull backwards
and work their jaws and neck. There are exercises like the
treadmills for sprint work and endurance. Different exercises
have different roles in terms of how they are used in athletic
or performance-based activity.”
Dogfighting is currently classified as a felony under New
York state’s cruelty to animals law, with punishment for the
crime carrying a sentence of one-and-a-third to four years.
While state law currently considers dogfighting an act of
animal cruelty, Willard views it as more than that. And he
wants local law enforcement to pay more attention to dogfighting.
think that dogfighting is more than a little repulsive,” said
Willard. “But how do you stop human beings from doing these
horrible things? I don’t know. I don’t have that answer.”
It Worth to You?
Albany schools, the city, and neighbors of a proposed new
middle school square off over the value of Westland Hills
it elsewhere: Patricia Maxon and Paul DOronzio..
by John Whipple
for Albany’s proposed middle school in Westland Hills Park
may have been thrown off schedule by a lawsuit filed Friday
in state Supreme Court.
The lawsuit, filed by Westland Hills residents Paul D’Orinzio
and Patricia Maxon, alleges that the mishandling of the school
proposal by the city of Albany, the Albany Common Council
and Albany City School District threatens to purge Westland
Hills Park of its recreational usefulness.
bought my house because it is on a dead-end street with a
park on the end,” said Maxon. “I’m not a tennis player, or
Little League person. I really use the park as a nonstructured,
green, quiet place, and the acreage where this happens may
disappear, especially with a parking lot in the middle of
The school district is proposing the construction of what
would be Albany’s third middle school to house 650 children
in grades six, seven and eight. The building itself is expected
to be three stories covering 140,000-square feet, with a $29-million
price tag. The lawsuit represents a serious roadblock in ACSD’s
time frame for submitting for building permits by Dec. 1.
As they currently stand, the district’s building plans call
for use of 2.8 acres in Westland Hills Park for the school,
but the lawsuits’ petitioners claim that building the school
will use far more land than has been quoted on paper.
only way that the school meets the acreage requirement in
the park is if it takes up 16 acres in the park,” said D’Orinzo.
“If they take up the 16 acres, the park is gone.”
Jeffrey Honeywell, attorney for ACSD, said he has looked over
the lawsuit and said it is “wholly without merit.”
are asking the city to alienate 2.8 acres,” said Honeywell.
“The belief that the city school district will use more than
that is an incorrect conclusion. We’re going to build a middle
school, and parkland will be used for gym class, but it won’t
be barring parkland for private use.”
In taking land from the park to build a new school, the school
district must meet the requirements of the New York state
conversion law, which states that an equal parcel of land
must be converted to city parkland by ACSD. Six other sites
throughout the city are being explored as possible sites to
convert into parkland, but none were of equal value to the
plot in Westland Hills Park. But last week, the school district
took a new tack: It announced that the land in Westland Hills
Park was worthless due to contamination.
The Westland Hills plot, initially appraised by both the city
and ACSD at $140,000, was deemed without value by the district
when it announced that $480,000 in cleanup costs would be
needed. The park rests on top of an old junkyard and is contaminated
with old construction debris and motor oil. While some view
the school district’s announcement as a way to push through
the land swap, district officials claimed they’ve known all
along that the park was contaminated, a contention that raises
the ire of the neighborhood residents and the distrust of
one local politician.
they realized there were all these problems,” said Ward 12
Albany Alderman Michael O’Brien, “they had the general services
commissioner from the city walk the park and assure the council
that he saw no obvious contamination issues. There are all
these little subtle things, like ‘Oh, it’s not contaminated.
Don’t worry about it.’ ‘Oops, it is! Let’s deduct that from
the price of the land.’ Very duplicitous.”
Both O’Brien and residents neighboring the park worry that
if the pollution exists in the school plot, it may exist throughout
the park. This is something ACSD denies.
the testing that we have done indicates that any pollution
or environmental hazard is limited to that area,” said Lonnie
Palmer, Albany schools superintendent. “[Department of general
services commissioner] Willard Bruce indicated that they have
done testing at several other locations throughout the park
and had found no hazards.”
But O’Brien called this “bullshit.”
find it ridiculous that you take a few steps in this direction
and you’re on polluted land, take a few steps in the other
direction and you’re on safe land,” said O’Brien. “At one
point they were lying.”
Palmer said the contamination was well-known when this spot
was chosen, and maintained that all the proper steps have
been followed according to the State Environmental Quality
Review Act (legislation requiring review of a project’s environmental
and Maxon said their neighborhood is not against a new middle
school in Albany, but they wonder why the school district
is continuing to press ahead with building on this site when
there are so many problems associated with it.
Maxon argued that the neighborhood is already hemmed in by
development and that building a school in Westland Hills Park
will be one more nail in the coffin.
the park is the distinguishing feature of our neighborhood,”
said Maxon. “In actuality, our neighborhood has pressure on
us from all directions, and if we lose this park, we’re just
a bunch of houses between highways and under airplanes.”