- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

PITTSFORD, Vt. (AP) - Tips about dog fighting in Vermont prompted a special training session for police and animal control officers on Friday to recognize dog fighting paraphernalia and other signs of the crime.

About two dozen participated in the training at the Vermont Police Academy in Pittsford, more than a week after five injured pit bulls taken from a man’s home in Bennington were euthanized. Authorities suspect the dogs - which they say showed serious, untreated wounds such as bitten necks and missing body parts - were involved in dog fighting.

The dogs’ owner, 37-year-old Dereck Jensen, has pleaded not guilty to animal cruelty.

Organized animal fighting is becoming more prevalent around the country and is often associated with illegal drugs, weapons and parole violations, said officials with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who conducted the training.

Experts suspect dog fighting is occurring in Vermont and they want to take steps to stop the crime if it arises.

“There’s been a couple of incidences where they found scarred dogs, dead dogs and such so you know that’s a clue to dog fighting,” Terry Mills, of the ASPCA, said of Vermont police.

On Friday, he showed police, animal control and humane officers tools used in dog fighting such as bite or break sticks - wooden or plastic rods used to pry open a fighting dog’s jaw; steroids, medications, panels used for dog rings, a spring pole often with animal blood attached to it used to strengthen a dog’s jaw; and an example of a killing device - an extension cord with clips attached to it used to electrocute the losing dog.

Fair Haven Police Officer Milicia Lynds said the department deals with animal cruelty and hoarding but she has not come across any dog fighting.

“I definitely think it’s out there,” she said. “I think it’s just we haven’t come across the right people yet.”

Mendon Town Constable Phil Douglas also believes it’s out there.

He saw dog fighting and cock-fighting in California where he had worked in law enforcement for 17 years. Friday’s training helps law enforcement to be able to spot the clues of such crimes.

“Whenever you have drugs coming into your state … it’s all interrelated,” he said.

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