Dog owners and animal protectionists are fighting over whether upcoming "bully shows” promote savage, illegal dog fights or are family events with just bragging rights at stake. "It’s just something to introduce the dogs around this area. There’s nothing of an aggressive nature involved,” said Joey Brown, organizer of the May 9 bully event at the Ardmore Convention Center. Stephen Eberle, lobbyist for Oklahoma Animal Protection Association, said the events are a venue for promoting dog fighting. "It’s outrageous. What the community is saying is these people creating a felony should be stopped,” Eberle said. "It’s the equivalent of allowing a Klan rally and saying it’s a social dialog summit.” Yolanda Alexander, organizer of the May 16 show at the Shawnee Convention Center, said last year owners set up an American Bully Kennel Club registry for "bully” pit bull terriers — selectively bred for a more muscular, shorter, mellower dog than the typical pit bulls. Shawnee held the first bully show in Oklahoma last year. "They’re always trying to ban pits in Oklahoma and other places. We’re trying to open people’s eyes about them,” Alexander said. "Just to start a fight, these dogs wouldn’t do it. No, they would just start playing.” Eberle contends his group’s eyes are open wide enough that roughly 2,000 people have received their e-mail alerts about the shows. The alerts urge readers to complain to Ardmore and Shawnee representatives.
Drawing scrutiny"We do respect and have a tremendous concern that nothing illegal or immoral goes on at the convention center and we’re doing our due diligence to make sure of that,” said Mita Bates, vice president of operations for the Ardmore Tourism Authority. She said Ardmore representatives have been contacting other venues to make sure illegal activities do not happen and aren’t promoted. Dog fighting has been illegal in Oklahoma since 1961. Bates said the exhibit hall rented by the bully group holds about 500 people. Organizers said they hope each show will attract more than 500 people with roughly 400 dogs. Dogs are judged on conformation. Brown said when callers ask about the Ardmore show, he tells them no aggressive dogs are allowed. He has insurance, but doesn’t want the liability of dangerous dogs attending. He said he will police it primarily through eight security guards. "Dog fighting is prohibited,” Brown said. "Paraphernalia is prohibited. No videos, no films. The only thing allowed will be collars, leashes, and ... dog food. Nothing of an aggressive nature, period.” Eberle pointed out Web sites and blogs are buzzing about the bully shows and include a list showing that Oklahoma’s two events make it the second largest venue after southern California, with six shows. He said he will ask the Legislature to denounce bully shows in the state.