Feds Smash Pokemon Fighting Ring

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Monday, agents from the FBI and BATF raided nationwide fighting rings that a spokesperson described as “a brutal, horrific sport that makes [Michael] Vick’s dog ring look like a puppy daycare.”

So-called “pokemon” rings pit rare, exotic animals against each other. At the behest of their owner/trainers, these animals then fight until one is beaten unconscious.

“You can’t fathom the brutality,” said FBI spokesperson Meredith Baker. “Imagine someone putting a small, fluffy kitten up against, say, a fire-breathing metallic dragon.”

Pokemon rings have been operating in the U.S. since the mid-90s. No one knows exactly how lucrative the sport has become, but some estimate the total income from the sport at $15 billion.

“Probably the most disturbing element of these rings is how they are marketed to children,” said Baker. “We’ve heard of kids as young as six getting involved.”

Participants can buy their animals, or “pokemon,” from other owners or capture them in the wild. Biologist William Hightower at the Brookings Institute specializes in exotic animals. “The government has long turned a blind eye to these activities,” Hightower claims. “Trainers often capture these animals when they are young. They keep them caged in tiny ‘pokeballs,’ isolated, without light, and usually with no water or sanitary facilities. They may keep them captive for years, training them in all manner of fighting.”

Videos of the battles have filtered throughout the world, furthering the demand for these creatures. No one is certain where the animals originate or, more worrisome, where they end up.

“Even as we speak, new species are being bred in special labs, probably in Japan,” said Ms. Baker. “Then they are released into the wild for capture.” The number of species is uncertain but now numbers “in the hundreds” according to Dr. Hightower.

And once their “trainers” are finished with them? “Sometimes, they get traded to others, often as a means to introduce children into this horrific sport. Other times, well, we think they’re just abandoned. Many have been spotted lurking in landfills around the country.”

Parents are especially concerned. “Ever since my daughter, Kaitlyn, got involved, it’s all she thinks about,” laments Sherry Greenburg of Seattle. “I don’t know what happens to her allowance; we’re afraid it all goes into pokemon,” she added, breaking into tears.

Kaitlyn is nine.

Does this latest sting mean the end of the pokemon fighting rings? “Sadly, not at all,” says Baker. “It’s like the war on drugs; as long as a demand exists, people will find a way to acquire pokemon.”

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