D.C. animal lovers have been following the recovery process of Trooper, the swollen and bloodied dog tossed in a Southeast dumpster last month. It’s been assumed the mangled pit bull, given her name by the Washington Humane Society (WHS), was discarded after she lost a bout at an illegal dog-fighting event.

As it turns out, Trooper may not have made it even that far. “I have a gut feeling she was a bait-dog,” says Scott Giacoppo, the chief program officer for WHS and a dog-fighting expert.

Bait dogs are untrained canines (sometimes snatched from the street or people’s yards) that dog fighters force to face off with hardened fight dogs. The pairing allows the stronger dog to hone its skills and heighten its confidence. Bait dogs are maimed in training sessions that get repeated over and over until the weakling is either dead or too weak to function anymore. Then they get dumped.

Giacoppo receives daily updates on Trooper and visits with her frequently. Asked why he believes she’s a bait dog and not a battler, he cites “a series of things, like the severity of her wounds and the lack of previous scarring.” A fight dog, he says, would have plenty of old scars from previous fights.

The reason the severity of her wounds figures into his assessment is because the damage Trooper suffered from another dog implies she didn’t know how to defend herself. That’s a skill a trained fight dog would definitely have.

Other reasons?

“Besides the fact that she’s small,” Giacoppo explains, “the dog’s demeanor isn’t right for a fighter. Generally speaking, if another dog is in the room, a fight dog will have an intense focus, a stare you can’t break. They fight in a pit that’s surrounded by people yelling and they have to focus in on just the other dog. Anything that breaks that focus can cause them to lose.” Giacoppo says Trooper doesn’t have that stare—-but he also admits he’ll have to wait for her to fully heal so he can see what her demeanor is like when she’s healthy.

It’s all speculation, says Giacoppo, but “I’m willing to bet she’s a bait dog.”

More from WCP