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National Museum of Animals & Society Blog
The head of the Los Angeles police union, the Humane Society of the United States, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are all calling for an end to a controversial new mobile phone application that allows players to breed, train and fight virtual dogs, as well as earn points and rewards for killing other dogs.
KG Dogfighting, originally released as the free application Dog Wars for Google’s Android smart phone operating system, is a creation of Kage Games LLC and sports a picture of a blood-splattered pit bull above the tagline “Raise your dog to beat the best!” Los Angeles Police Protective League President Paul M. Weber has called the game’s concept “repulsive and sickening,” noting that, in addition to simulating an activity which is classified as a felony in all 50 states, the game also virtually provides players with a “gun for police raids.” In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, Weber expressed concerns that the game would stimulate a real-world rise in dogfighting activity amongst local gang members and encourage violence toward law enforcement officials. He has called for Google to permanently ban the app from its marketplace.
Both the ASPCA and HSUS have released official statements condemning Kage Games for its actions and calling for a public boycott of the game and company. In a blog post dated April 25, HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle voiced his belief that KG Dogfighting could have very dangerous consequences for dogs in the real world, and could in fact be used as a virtual training tool for potential dog-fighters:
This game gives detailed instructions concerning the selection of dogs, food, a feeding schedule, and items to properly condition dogs for fighting. These are virtually identical to the conditioning methods our anti-dogfighting team typically finds when working with law enforcement to raid these criminal operations.
However, Kage Games has defended its right to release KG Dogfighting, stating that “just because something is illegal in real life in certain countries, does not mean it is illegal to make a song, movie, or video game about it.” They go on to claim that the game is meant to be taken as “a satire about the ridiculousness of dogfighting” and note that “it has been in our operating agreement from the start of this project that a portion of the proceeds go to animal rescue organizations.”
The fear of players of violent video games blurring the line between fantasy and reality has weighed heavily on the minds of Americans ever since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. However, a tangible link between engaging in virtual violence and real-world violence has so far remained elusive. Do games like KG Dogfighting promote real-world violence against animals, or do they act as a harmless outlet for aggression?
Kage Games has cited two of the most popular video game franchises, Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, as fellow examples of games which allow players to engage in virtual activity that would be illegal in the real world, but which have not been met with as much criticism and controversy as the KG Dogfighting app. However, following Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick’s 2007 arrest and conviction on felony charges of dogfighting, it has become obvious that there is still a need to raise awareness of the cruelty of fighting dogs, which is still seen as a socially-acceptable form of entertainment in some communities and parts of the world. In light of this fact, is Kage Games’ comparison to Call of Duty and GTA appropriate, or does KG Dogfighting have the potential to set back the cause against dogfighting, one which has recently proven it still has a long way to go?