Rumours have been circling for years that illegal dog fights are taking place on a property off Westside Road somewhere between West Kelowna and Vernon, and cats are being used as bait.
According to Michelle Wand of the Kelowna Kitten Rescue, no one wants to talk about the alleged fights because of supposed gang involvement.
“Nobody wants to talk about it, but it’s been circulating for over a decade that there are dog fights taking place. The concerns are biker retaliation,” said Wand.
Despite concerns of a backlash, Wand is speaking out. She took to social media on May 31, to sound the alarm and warn pet owners to keep their cats inside.
She said ink or spray paint is put on the cat’s paws to identify the cat that stays alive the longest in the fight, with spectators making bets.
“They steal loose free-roaming cats and take free cats off the Internet, such as Kijiji and Facebook. They use them for bait. Please keep your cats inside or build them a catio,” she wrote on the Facebook page Lost & Found Pets (Okanagan).
While rumours continue to circulate, with one rescue in the South Okanagan alleging to have a cat in their care who survived a fight, RCMP and the Regional District of the Central Okanagan dog control have no actual complaints regarding illegal dog fights.
The Kelowna RCMP stated they have received no reports in the last 10 years regarding dog fights near Westside Road.
“I’ve seen the information circulating on social media, however, after searching through our reporting system, it appears as though nothing has been reported to us,” said Vernon North Okanagan RCMP media relations officer Const. Chris Terleski.
The BC SPCA Cruelty Investigations Department also confirmed they have not received any reports or complaints about illegal dog fights in the Okanagan.
Sue Beagle president of AlleyCats Alliance takes the lead in identifying feral cat colonies in the Central and South Okanagan. She said she hasn’t heard of any colonies around Westside Road and she has never been called to humanely trap felines in the area.
“I have heard these rumours for years. The cats that are taken for the fights are usually just those who go outdoors and are friendly to humans,” said Beagle. “This is why it’s so important to keep your cats indoors.”
Wand agrees, stating she has heard there has been a significant uptick in missing cats along Westside Road in the last two years.
As for those who are concerned there might be an illegal dogfighting ring in their neighbourhood, Regional District of the Central Okanagan bylaw enforcement director Corie Griffiths encourages them to call dog control or the RCMP right away and report the issue.
“I was shocked to hear this (dog fights) is happening in the Okanagan, as we have never had a call on it or been officially alerted to it,” said Griffiths.