Thought this might be of interest since it was talked about a lot recently. Dog-boar bouts land Phoenix pair in hot water Emily Bittner The Arizona Republic Feb. 4, 2005 12:00 AM A north Phoenix couple accused of encouraging bloody battles between dogs and wild boars say they are merely using common and legal techniques to train their American bulldogs to hunt boars. "They're doing a perfectly legal training of hunting dogs that animal activists don't like," said the couple's lawyer, Nicholas Hentoff. Animal-rights activists argue that the practices used by James Curry and Jodi Leiseberg are inhumane and become barbaric spectator sports pitting animal against animal. In December, after activists investigated several sites across the country, local law enforcement arrested breeders in four states. The Yavapai County Attorney's Office hasn't yet charged the couple and declined to comment until formal charges are filed. But some American bulldog breeders and experts said the Phoenix couple's training procedures are normal, legal and ensure the safety of both dog and hunter. The groups' essential disagreement is over field trials. The bulldog experts describe the events as an opportunity to evaluate whether a dog will perform successfully on a hunt. The Humane Society of the United States calls them barbaric fights that pit dog against hog and often result in severe injuries to both animals. The chasm is emblematic of a wider ideological divide about boar hunting, which some decry as a violent anachronism and others embrace as an exhilarating sport. Perry Durham, 43, one of three assistant state veterinarians, was an observer to the raid at Curry and Leiseberg's home. Most of the dogs seemed all right, although a few looked too thin and their living conditions were poor, he said. Durham's feelings are mixed about wild boar hunting. "If you see a boar with a full set of tusks, that's a pretty brutal animal you're going to try to put on your dinner table," he said. But at the same time, "society is narrowing what can be inflicted on an animal in the guise of training. "The whole idea of having a couple things fighting just as entertainment is not my cup of tea. I'm not going to tell them they can't hunt. . . . If all we're really doing is creating pain and destruction and the animals have no choice, we've probably gone beyond the point that most people would call reasonable," he said. Ideal for task Curry and Leiseberg started breeding American bulldogs as farm animals and then learned that the dogs were also used for hunting boar. "The only way to control a boar is with a dog," Curry said. "It's almost impossible for a human." During the wild boar hunt, tracking dogs are sent to find the hog but aren't strong enough to take it down. A bulldog is ideal for the task, though. Thick-boned, with heavy muscles and a strong jaw, a bulldog can grip a wild boar by its ear without tearing flesh, said Kathleen Snope, the secretary of the Working American Bulldog Association. Curry works and hunts with the dogs at EZ Ranch in Cordes Junction. The animals live with him and Leiseberg at the couple's Phoenix home. The couple say their dogs live in good conditions and may have looked thin because they are so fit. The couple say they sell dozens of their dogs to hunters, law enforcement officers and states for boar-eradication efforts. They host a field trial at least once a year at their ranch site to test the dogs' instincts. Hunters want to see whether dogs will latch onto the pig's ear and drive its head into the ground, experts said. "They don't want the meat shredded and fouled," said Snope, who trains police and protection dogs. She doesn't hunt but has attended field trials at other bulldog events and believes the practice is ethical. Spectators at the trials are usually other dog owners or breeders who want to see whether dogs have "it," the ability to succeed in the wild. Often, they bring their children and cheer on the canines. Dogs wear Kevlar vests to protect their bodies and collars to protect their jugular. Curry leaves the hogs' tusks intact, but some trainers remove them. The match is conducted in a pen similar to a horse corral. A dog is held in one corner by its owner and the hog is let out of a pen. Within 30 seconds, the dog has usually latched on to the hog's ear. Rules require that the dog maintain the hold for another 30 seconds, and then handlers force a stick between the dog's jaws to make it release the hog. Curry admits some hogs get injured in the process, but none have been killed by dogs while in his care, he said. He describes most injuries as torn ears or puncture wounds. Owners want boars to stay healthy for a lifetime of matches. The Humane Society of the United States rejects the assertion that animals rarely suffer serious injuries during the matches. Humane Society agents helped the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office investigate the case, and they call the practice barbaric. Ann Chynoweth, director of the animal-cruelty and fighting campaign, said that investigators believe Curry was an organizer for the International Catchdog Association and was coordinating illegal hog-dog fighting across the West. Videos the Humane Society bought of an event Curry hosted show trapped feral hogs being mauled and their ears being ripped off. Investigators bought a tape of an earlier fight at Curry's ranch. Field-trial case At the couple's November field trial, about 40 people attended, with 20 registering their dogs as participants. About a dozen Yavapai County sheriff's deputies showed up to observe, they said. The deputies' case is based on what they saw at the field trial. On Dec. 17, they searched the couple's home and found about three pounds of marijuana and an SKS rifle. Their three children were placed in the custody of Child Protective Services for several weeks. The couple accuse authorities of trashing their house and releasing 12 of their boars into the wild. State officials say only one boar was accidentally released. Hentoff, the couple's attorney, called the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office efforts "malicious and unwarranted persecution." They have not yet filed a lawsuit but have asked a judge to return the animals that were seized in December. Meanwhile, Rep. Ted Downing, D-Tucson, has introduced a bill that would outlaw all animal combat. The bill, HB 2489, is in committee.