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Gaelic football star in Ireland exposed as leader of dog-fighting club

Gaelic football star in Ireland exposed as leader of dog-fighting club

A star of Ireland's Gaelic football league was exposed Thursday as a director of an illegal dog-fighting club, an underground gambling activity that has already wrecked the reputation and career of top U.S. football player Michael Vick.
The 17-month undercover investigation by BBC Northern Ireland's "Spotlight" program, being broadcast Thursday night, found evidence of 15 illegal dog-fighting operations in the British territory of 1.7 million.
The program secretly filmed Gerard Cavlan, a 31-year-old member of the County Tyrone football team, discussing his ownership of more than a dozen dogs _ and bragging about how one "hard-mouthed dog" gripped another in its jaws.
"Sure he had him in the chest, and he shook him and he shook him for 25 minutes," the BBC quoted Cavlan as saying.
The program interviewed Cavlan after the Ulster Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals raided a County Armagh kennel and seized more than a dozen dogs, largely pit bull terriers, that were bred for combat. It identified Cavlan as co-owner of the raided facility, which was called Bulldog Sanctuary Kennels.
"Spotlight," the flagship investigations program for the BBC in Belfast, also secretly filmed a dog-fighting competition involving another illegal club called the Farmer Boys.
It also trailed the source of some Northern Ireland pit bulls to a breeder in Finland identified as Robert Gonzales, who was secretly filmed describing how he falsely labeled pit bulls as mixed breeds to fool British customs officials.
The Gaelic Athletic Association, which organizes Gaelic football in both parts of Ireland, permitted Cavlan to continue playing for Tyrone after he pleaded guilty in April to possession of a dangerous dog.
At the time, Cavlan's lawyer said his client had collected the animal, named "Cannonball," for a Dublin friend and didn't realize the dog _ which had several scars _ was being abused in illegal fights. He was fined 650 pounds (US$1,300, euro950) and ordered not to keep terrier breeds.
"Cannonball" was identified as having been imported to Dublin from Finland via Frankfurt, Germany. Three other dogs, Staffordshire terriers, found on Cavlan's property at the time had disappeared when animal welfare officials tried to collect them the next day.
The Gaelic Athletic Association and County Tyrone team declined comment Thursday. Officials said they needed to see the program first. Attempts to contact Cavlan for comment were unsuccessful.
Cavlan's team won the Ireland championship in 2003. This year it lost in the quarter-finals of the annual competition among teams from each of the island's 32 counties.
In the United States, Michael Vick this week apologized after entering a guilty plea to a charge of dogfighting. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 10. and he could go to prison for one to five years. He has already been suspended indefinitely by the NFL.


Updated : 2021-04-10 22:30 GMT+08:00