"Off the Chain" Film Exposes Dog Fighting

 |  Sep 4th 2007  |   13 Contributions


Bobby J. Brown is a real hero! My pack are barking out their respect for a courageous human!

Notice that one of the sick dog fighters says that these poor dogs "want to be in the box." How totally delusional!!!

Thanks to the LA Times for this article.

Dogs are finally having their day

In the wake of the Michael Vick scandal, a 2005 documentary on fighting is getting some attention.
By Kevin Merida, Washington Post
August 31, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Way before Michael Vick got popped and became the scorned symbol of organized dogfighting, Bobby J. Brown spent years penetrating the secret society Vick inhabited. With cameras that resembled pagers and a microphone fastened to his zipper, Brown made a remarkable documentary on this underground subculture.


It took him 14 years. He began in 1991, got derailed, restarted, even got busted at one of the 12 dogfights he witnessed. Brown was intent on sounding an alarm, he says, about a cruel, menacing and illegal activity taking place in basements, barnyards, clearings in the woods and abandoned warehouses all across America.

When Brown finished "Off the Chain," he shopped it around and got no takers. With help from actor Troy Garity ("Barbershop"), Brown's buddy from New York's American Academy of Dramatic Arts, the 60-minute documentary was picked up by Allumination FilmWorks and released to DVD in 2005. It got the "must-see" stamp of approval from the Humane Society but didn't have the impact Brown craved.

"It's unfortunate that a celebrity has to get charged to bring this to light," said Brown, an actor and businessman who grew up in suburban Washington. "I was trying to get the public interested in this years ago, and they weren't interested."

Now that the Vick case has moved organized dogfighting to the forefront, Brown has become an instant analyst on talk shows. Best Buy has picked up his film. Cheryl Freeman, chief executive officer of Allumination FilmWorks, reports a hike in sales since news broke this summer of Vick's involvement in the dogfighting enterprise Bad Newz Kennels.

'Not a Wal-Mart film' Thirty thousand copies of "Off the Chain" have been sold, which might not seem like much, she said, "but with a title like this, that's a lot of units. This is not a Wal-Mart film. The normal consumer is not going to pick up this title."

The "normal consumer" has been processing a range of emotions conjured by the latest case of a star athlete in trouble -- and not just about the merits of pitting dogs against each other for sport and electrocuting those that don't perform well. On Monday outside the courthouse in Richmond, Va., where Vick pleaded guilty to federal dogfighting charges, a kind of street-corner debate was on display. Vick's fans were singing hymns and wearing his No. 7 Atlanta Falcons jersey. The quarterback's opponents brandished photos of brutalized dogs and demanded no leniency.

Beyond race, geography The debate was not confined to the scene. It ricocheted across race, class and geography, touching down in discussions about the fairness of the criminal justice system, the need to be accountable for one's actions, and society's acceptance of the hunting and mistreatment of other animals.

Ron Thomas, sports journalist and director of Morehouse College's Journalism and Sports Program in Atlanta, sees a clarion lesson. "Black athletes need to be more responsible, need to make better decisions on what they do and how they conduct their life, and need to make better choices on who their friends are," he says. "The good that can come out of this, hopefully, is other athletes can see how disastrous this can be when they don't make good decisions."

Brown's documentary wasn't about any of that. He had noticed disturbing signs of dogfighting in his neighborhood and wanted to do something dramatic about it. When "Off the Chain" was released, he got death threats and someone left dead pigeons on his car. "One guy called me and said, 'You broke the code of Jesus Christ.' And my wife called me a fool. She said, 'You're bringing trouble right to your door.' "

Brown, 43, an actor with small parts in "The Wire," "The Corner," "City by the Sea" and "Major League II," has played mostly cops. Perhaps that prepared him for his biggest role to date: tricking dogfighters into believing he was one of them.

While filming his first fight -- "I was a bundle of nerves" -- as a guest of a known dogfighting figure who didn't know Brown's true purpose, someone yelled out: "See that guy right there? He's an informant." Brown's only choice, he thought, was to play tough: "Who you calling an informant?" Then he slugged his accuser, breaking his jaw and touching off a melee that shut down the dogfight and earned him props.

'Dog's teeth coming out' At a recent interview, Brown recalled the harrowing moments of his experience: "I saw a dog biting another dog so hard the dog's teeth were coming out of his mouth, just dropping, one at a time."

The most sickly fascinating figure in the documentary is a dogfighter identified as "Dog Man Tucson," who consented to be interviewed only if he could wear a black ski mask.

"We love these dogs," Dog Man says. "It's not the Ice Capades."

And: "In America, everybody loves competition. And they love brutality."

And: "These dogs are in it by choice, not by force. These dogs want to be in that box."

By box he means the fighting ring, a walled-off structure often splattered with blood. Dog Man Tucson doesn't talk about the dogs whose genitals are ripped apart in fights, whose eyes are gouged out, who chase and kill kittens as part of their training regimen, whose owners dispose of them if they don't win. Those not killed by their "dog men" are often euthanized; an estimated 3 million pit bulls a year meet this fate, according to the film, because they will not be adopted and there is nothing else to do with them.

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