The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) established and recognizes National Dogfighting Awareness Day on April 8th in order to raise awareness and educate the public about the reality of dogfighting. The recognized day encourages animal lovers to stand up against this barbaric form of animal cruelty.
Dogfighting is an underground enterprise most commonly driven by greed, pride, or sadistic gratification. Based on underground dogfighting publications and shelter reports, it is estimated that tens of thousands of people are involved in the United States. Dogfighting may have decreased slightly during the 1990s, although the Internet has made accessing information and organizing dogfights much simpler.
Dog fights may be coordinated in advance or they may be spontaneous. The fights are most often held in contained pitted areas. In more “professional” fights, the dogs may be weighed or inspected by the opponent in order to ensure the dog’s fur is not coated with any type of substance that could impair or put their own dog at a disadvantage. A fight may last minutes or hours. After the fight begins, the handlers are unable to interfere unless given permission by the referee.
Dogfighters may use legal or illegal drugs to enhance their dog’s performance. Dogs may be subject to narcotics which can build aggression, enhance reactivity, and conceal pain/fear while fighting.
Dogs may be mutilated to increase their chances during a fight. Their ears may be cropped, and their tails severed close to their bodies, usually by the fighters themselves. By doing this, the vulnerable areas on the dog’s body are decreased and the other dog has a harder time understanding the dog’s natural body language.
Dogs suffer severely in a fight. They are subject to serious injuries including puncture wounds, lacerations, blood loss, crushing injuries, and broken bones. Dogfights are not typically fight-to-the-death, but victims may die later due to injuries obtained during the fight. If a dog loses a fight and does not have a strong fighting record or bloodline, it is likely he or she will be killed, abandoned, or left to suffer with fatal injuries. Owners who feel especially humiliated about a loss may brutally kill their dog as part of the show.
VICTIMS OF DOGFIGHTING
A variety of dogs are exploited for dogfighting, although several breeds are specifically sought after. These include: Fila Brasileiro, Dogo Argentino, Tosa Inu, and the Presa Canario. Dogfighters in America frequently seek out the American Pit Bull Terrier. It has been reported that other breeds and breed mixes have been used for street fights or sadly as “bait” dogs used as a training technique.
The ASPCA reiterates,
“This does not mean that the pit bull is unsuitable as a family pet. It is important to remember that any dog can behave aggressively, depending on the context, his genetic background and his upbringing and environment. When a dog is treated well, properly trained and thoroughly socialized during puppyhood and matched with the right kind of owner and household, he’s likely to develop into a well-behaved companion and cherished member of the family.”
A dog exploited for dogfighting is frequently bound by heavy chains. He or she may remain in close proximity of other dogs but is kept isolated and prevented from receiving proper socialization. A professional dogfighter may invest in their dog and ensure he or she receives adequate veterinary care, nutrition, and controlled exercise in the hopes of receiving a profitable return.
Dogfighters are attracted to dogfighting for numerous, unjustified reasons. Money exchanged at serious dogfights can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars. A person may also earn money from selling a dog who comes from a strong bloodline. A person may use their dog to increase their reputation or sacrifice a dog to the blood sport rather than fighting their own battles. If the dog does poorly, they may end up deserting it, or violently injuring or killing it. Others may just derive pleasure from seeing the animals in pain.
DOGFIGHTING AND THE LAW
Dogfighting became illegal in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2008.
Owning a dog with the intention of using him or her for fighting is a felony in the majority of states. Being an observer at a dogfight is illegal in all states. The consequences range greatly from state to state. In 2014, the essential components of the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition were incorporated into the Farm Bill, which makes being present at an animal fight in the U.S. federally illegal and enforces additional consequences for bringing a person under the age of 16 to an animal fight.
Dogfighting is a challenge for law enforcement due to its discreet and violent nature. Numerous and expensive resources are required to investigate a dogfight and additionally, there are finite resources to care for the rescued dogs during the judicial process.
KNOW THE SIGNS
- Dogs with multiple scars, possibly lips or ears ripped off
- Pit bull-mix-type dogs weighing approximately 40-50 pounds
- Dogs on heavy chains, tethered to a tire axle or dog house/barrel
- Dirt ring around the dog
- Dogs chained inches apart from another
- Dogs chained or penned in a secluded area intentionally kept out of public’s view
The ASPCA suggests keeping in mind that in urban communities like New York City, dogs used for fighting are often found in indoor areas such as basements, where they are hidden from public view. Their ears may also be cropped.
If you suspect dogfighting, sniff out this resource and how to report it.
Have you or do you know someone who has rescued a dog who was a victim of dogfighting?