TACOMA, Wash. -- A controversial smartphone app has been pulled after days of complaints by thousands of people, including the Humane Society, NFL player Michael Vick and those who rescued a 3-year-old pit bull named Hope.
You wouldn't expect a name like that from a dog with missing teeth, an amputated leg, and scars dotting her face. But Hope is one of 31 dogs seized during a dogfighting bust in Graham, Wash., in 2009. Of them, only three were well enough to find adopted homes.
"So many of them had such severe medical conditions or they had behavioral issues," said Lorrie Kalmbach-Ehlers, with Bulls-Eye Rescue.
So you can imagine Kalmbach-Ehlers and Hope's adopted family are strongly against even a virtual version of dog-fighting.
"It's not just a game, it's a training ground for wannabe dogfighters," said Kalmbach-Ehlers. "Maybe there should be a game out there about child molestation then it would just be a game. It's taking the voiceless and making them victims."
Until early Wednesday, Dog Wars was out there as a free app on Google's Android Market. It's been downloaded more than 100,000 times, according to the Twitter page of developer Kage Games. The game was not available on Apple's iPhone.
Dog Wars lets you pick a puppy, train it, feed it, even buy virtual steroid injections for it. Once ready, you can pit the dog one-on-one against those other smartphone users have raised.
The developers argue the game is a satire, showing the "ridiculousness of dogfighting." While they have not spoken out publicly, Kage posted this on the game description page before it was removed.
"We appreciate everyone’s thoughts about our app as we are firm believers in the right to free speech and the free exchange of ideas... We DO NOT CONDONE violence towards animals or humans, and we are confident in humankind’s ability to distinguish between a rudimentary game and the consequences of real life. We are confident this game will be a net benefit to dogs as it has been in our operating agreement from the start of this project that a portion of the proceeds go to animal rescue organizations."
In a previous posting, they pointed out there are all kinds of games for various platforms that show virtual versions of illegal activity, such as drug dealing, prostitution and murder. They said by rating Dog Wars as "high maturity," they weren't violating any of Google's terms for the Android market.
Google's official line for pulling Dog Wars: "The application was removed based on a trademark infringement complaint."
The Google spokesperson did not elaborate, nor say if the game is gone for good or under temporary review.
However, at 8:57 a.m. Thursday Kage's Twitter account posted "We'll be back up shortly thanks for your patience everyone!
Some gamers who play fighting and shooting games say removing the game may have gone too far -- but also have reservations when dogfighting is involved.
"I don't know if it should be banned," said Chris Johnson. "It's kind of like a freedom of speech thing, isn't it? But I don't think any of the people I know or me would want to have anything to do with it."