Dog fighting rings terrify Northland canine lovers

Helen Castles
Source: 1News

Warning: The content in this story may be distressing to some readers

An animal welfare group is calling for police to expose underground dog fighting rings operating in Northland, believed to be behind the disappearance of dozens of family pets each month.

It follows the discovery of two mutilated dog bodies in a Moerewa Park last week.

Chucky and Bruno, both from Moerewa families, were covered in bite marks. Chucky, whose body had been there for five days, was found to have been shot multiple times.

Summer Johnson from Bay of Islands Animal Rescue recovered the bodies after hearing about them on a Morewa Facebook page.

"They were in Moerewa in a walkway with picnic tables where children walked through that cut from street to street where families had their dinner or their lunch, and it was horrific, it was really horrific. Chucky had been there five days."

Chucky's body was taken to a Bay of Islands vet for an autopsy. Veterinarian David Sole said it's likely he bled to death.

"If someone wanted to just shoot a dog dead they would've used a more powerful object which would have killed a dog straight away. I found 13 slugs in it, which meant it wasn't able to run away so possibly could've been chained up."

Owner Jason Huna says the family was tipped off Chucky had been taken for fight training by a local gang.

"He was one of those dogs that were used for bait, like for other fighting dogs that had been brought up like that as a pup. He was just put in there for them to be aggressive for their dog fight before they entered their dog fight. He was harmless, he was defenceless, he had no chance against killer dogs."

The family had had Chucky for a year and he was chipped and about to be registered. He didn't wander far and was well-loved.

Huna says he knew dog fighting existed, but didn't realise it was happening in his own community - and now wants it ousted.

"There is evil lurking around us in our neighbourhood, and this sort of enjoyment that they get could turn from dogs to our tamariki, our young children - that's why it needs to be exposed."

Dogs rescued from a dog fighting ring.

Bay of Islands Animal Rescue believes there are three rings operating in the Far North - Matauri Bay, Kaikohe and Moerewa. Volunteer Ed Lyman says family dogs, small or large, are taken and used as bait for the fighting dogs.

"The people that organise these dog fighting rings will enjoy, you know, watching someone's family pet get eaten."

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It's thought Chucky was shot multiple times so he would bleed out and excite the dogs attacking him.

Johnson says they've noticed a surge in recent months in the number of dogs that have gone missing without a trace.

"It used to be one or two a month - now it's dozens."

Search for Skoota

One dog missing for six months is Skoota. Owner Serge Bonnafoux says the fox terrier is a little shy and never ventured far.

"It's probably human intervention - he was not far out from the property, if not on the property [he may have been] hit by a car, or taken away or just stolen for other reasons."

Missing posters for Skoota, a fox terrier.

The family was determined to find Skoota, printing thousands of flyers and posters and offering a $5000 reward. Northland police say they're unaware of any dog fighting rings, despite Bay of Island Animal Rescue Trust claiming to have passed on names and contact details of people they believe are involved in the rings.

"If someone has come onto your property and taken something, including a pet, it should be reported to police," police said.