SYRACUSE — Dog pulling is a growing sport with a dedicated group of enthusiasts in the Syracuse area.
When we did a story on continued efforts to crack down on dog fighting, they contacted us to say that what they do is not illegal.
And we looked at what they do, and what law enforcers think of what they do.
What we found out, is that the equipment they use for training is specified as ‘animal fighting paraphernalia’ in NY State law.
However, Syracuse Police Animal Cruelty Investigator Becky Thompson (who they also contacted) told us it’s clear that they are not abusing their animals, and that as long as working dogs (not only pullers, but also others like agility dogs are happy with what they’re doing and are healthy, it is not a cruelty case.
Dog pulling is a competition, with the dogs trained to pull carts weighted with cinderblocks for a specified distance on a track. The training, according to handler Tim Goodell, who’s converted his garage and yard into a training area, is like body building for dogs. Exercises include running on a treadmill (the homemade one is not electrified, and stops when the dog stops moving), and playing on a springpole, a piece of firehose attached to a rope and spring, just above the dog’s head.
The dogs wear specially made harnesses to distribute weight.
Laura Yaghy, who runs Responsible Pit Bull Rescue in Floyd (Rome) says that many dogs are turned in to her because owners don’t have enough time for them, and they turn destructive. She says they’re happy when they work, and she’s happy to place her high energy dogs with pullers.
We also talked with other handlers, including Joan Albro from LaFayette, who points out that you cannot take pit bulls to most dog parks, for behavior concerns (at pulling matches and in training the dogs are crated and kept separate).
Todd Allen, from Clinton, cannot walk well but loves bull terriers. He says pulling lets him exercise his dog without doing a lot of walking himself.
Goodell says the sport is like body building for dogs, and it’s a way to keep them healthy so they don’t get fat.