The Year Our Children Became Bait Dogs:
Thoughts and Prayers are Not Enough!

By Pamela S. Gockley,
Reputation Management Professional and Executive Director of The Camel Project

Wikipedia defines bait dogs as “animals used to test a dog’s fighting instinct; they are often mauled or killed in the process. Many of the training methods involve torturing and killing of other animals. Often bait animals are passive or less dominant, like puppies, kittens, rabbits, small dogs.  The snouts of bait animals are often wrapped with duct tape to prevent them from fighting back, and they are used in training sessions to improve a dog’s endurance, strength or fighting ability.”

According to the ASPCA, as of 2008, dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In most, the possession of dogs for fighting is also a felony offense. Being a spectator at a dogfight is illegal in all states except Montana and Hawaii.

As a leading expert and researcher of reputation management, I believe we have reached a level of toxicity unseen before and many people have no idea what to do. We are seeing the effects of bullying on our kids in an uncharted area. I am sad to think there will be more school shootings, depression and suicide unless society as a whole addresses bullying. Some of the psychological damage will take years to cure, if at all.

Where is this toxic attitude coming from? I believe that, like with dog fighting and its bait dogs, there is a full assault on the weak and vulnerable in our society that comes from the top, our leadership. They have mastered pitting one side against the other. It’s the “them” not “us,” Democrat vs. Republican mindset, the classic M.O. of bullies. They create a divide in our country, and to some extent, we have allowed it– look at social media. When bullies start to lose, they become more aggressive and target the weak or less protected. I’m not sure if there is one single minority that is not feeling bullied right now.  It seems senseless to have an “I can only win if you lose” mentality.

I too was a victim of bullying in school which led to my committing acts of violence and finally being expelled in ninth grade, but I was fortunate and had the endurance to turn that negative into the “Stop Bullying – I Care” program at The Camel Project. I believe the program would have helped me during my darkest hours and empowered those around me to remedy the situation. My motivation to become part of the solution grew after seeing recent studies showing 77% of kids in school* and 75% of adults** in the workplace either are targets or witnessed bullying. By any measure, bullying is an epidemic, but unlike many epidemics bullying has a cure. The answer is to show all levels of the community — kids, parents, schools and leaders — there are things you can do to stop bullies. The Camel Project wants to put a stop to bullying before a mass shooting happens at your school or workplace. The Camel Project’s core solution is to show communities that there are proactive actions to prevent bullying. Rather than just so much rhetoric, the Project provides actual action steps individuals can apply to their circumstances.

The bottom line is that we must do better. Since we know bullying is a gateway behavior and an underlying cause of social problems, including violence, suicide, depression, criminality, and abuse. There can be no more hiding or ignoring this epidemic; no one is going to do it for us. It’s time for us all to step up.


Pamela S. Gockley is Executive Director of The Camel Project, a non-profit, 501©(3) organization focused on the elimination of bullying for youth and adults, and is certified in Bullying Prevention by the CDC of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

* Sources: The Bureau of Justice Statistics – School Crime and Safety, Yale University studies

** Sources: Dr. Judy Blando of the University of Phoenix

Children at Risk of Being Bullied

Generally, children who are bullied have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • Are perceived as different from their peers, such as being overweight or underweight, wearing glasses or different clothing, being new to a school, or being unable to afford what kids consider “cool”
  • Are perceived as weak or unable to defend themselves
  • Are depressed, anxious, or have low confidence
  • Are less popular than others and have few friends
  • Do not get along well with others, seen as annoying or provoking, or antagonize others for attention
    However, even if a child has these risk factors, it doesn’t mean that they will be bullied.
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