Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at

I don’t know if you saw this in the news or not, but Frederick Moorefield Jr., deputy information officer for the Pentagon, was recently arrested on charges related to dogfighting.

I saw the news thanks to an NPR report, and let me just say this – do not read the details. Not if you want to sleep soundly at night. Let the folks in charge of prosecution handle the grizzly bits and you just know this is horrid, gruesome, vulgar and sadly far from isolated.

Granted, it’s not every day that someone as prominent as this is arrested. (Former NFL star Michael Vick pleaded guilty to federal dogfighting charges way back in 2009 and served time in prison.) But it is every day that dogs get tortured, abused and killed for the amusement of humans.

In fact, according to the World Animal Foundation, every year almost 40,000 Americans participate in dogfighting and 16,000 dogs die every year as a result of this violent and inhumane pastime.

We tend to think of it as a “Southern thing” – and to be sure, it is extreme there – but it happens here, too. There have been cases of pups found dead in Maine woods, suspected to have been from fighting rings. People who steal dogs from Maine yards are suspected of using them for bait to train fighting dogs. And I say “train” only because there is no other term in our language for what happens to these dogs to make them into the vicious killers desired by the people doing the dirty work.

The English language needs to get on that. We need a better, less dignified word.


Dogfighting is illegal, by the way. In all 50 states. In Maine, it is illegal to be a spectator as well. That’s a start. The punishments, however, don’t seem quite adequate.

If Moorefield is found guilty, he faces “up to five years” in prison for his acts. That hardly seems like enough.

After all, there are still people in other states being sentenced to life in prison for possession of marijuana, which isn’t even a crime in Maine anymore. It feels like the intentional abuse and torture of an animal for pleasure and amusement ought to get more than five years.

Sigh. And this is where I find myself tripped up over my own stated philosophy. I know it.

Fundamentally, I don’t really believe in incarceration. I think prisons are cruel, expensive, and if the goal is to decrease crime, I don’t think they work. Jail time has always seemed to me like a sort of concentrated retreat/seminar for violent offenders to network and share strategy, and for nonviolent offenders to be abused and turned into violent ones.

I believe the real answer to crime is restorative justice. The documentary “Fambul Tok” provides massive inspiration on this. If hardened war criminals in Sierra Leone can find a way back, anyone can.

Incarceration’s purpose, it seems to me, is best used as a really intense “time out” – a way of removing someone who is a danger to the rest of us, while we figure out “the fix” so the offender can rejoin society in a meaningful way.

But man, dog abuse. All my Buddhist and Quaker sentiments fall away on this one. Lock them up, lose the key. Seize all their assets and donate them to the SPCA or the Humane Society, two organizations which work to end this barbaric practice and get really high scores from Charity Navigator if you are considering donating.

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