dog-fightingDog fighting is a sadistic “contest’ in which two dogs – specifically bred, conditioned, and trained to fight – are placed together in a ring or pit for the entertainment of the spectators or the gratification of the dog fighters.  In rural areas, dog fights are often staged in barns or outdoor pits; in urban areas, fights may occur in garages, basements, warehouses, abandoned buildings, back alleys, neighborhood playgrounds, or in the streets.  Dog fights usually last until one dog is declared a winner, which occurs when one dog fails to scratch, one dog dies, or one dog jumps out of the pit. The loser, if not killed in the fight, is typically killed by the owner through a gun, beatings, or torture.  Dog fighting generates revenue from stud fees, admission fees and gambling. It is also a felony in all 50 U.S. states as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.  In addition to being a felony in all 50 U.S. states, the federal U.S. Animal Welfare Act makes it unlawful for any person to knowingly sell, buy, possess, train, transport, deliver, or receive any dog for purposes of having the dog participate in an animal fighting venture.  Worldwide, several countries have banned dog fighting, but it is still legal in some countries.

 The Horrors of Training a Dog to Fight

“Bait” animals are 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 stolen pets, puppies, kittens, rabbits, small dogs and even stock (pit bulls acquired by the dogfighting ring which appear to be passive or less dominant).  CraigsList tends to be a good source for these predators.  This is why we recommend NOT posting animals needing a home on this site! Other sources for bait animals include wild or feral animals, animals obtained from a shelter, or animals obtained from “free to good home” ads.  If you post an animal available for adoption make sure to add a rehoming fee to ensure they do not wind up as bait. 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. A bait animal’s teeth may also be broken to prevent them from fighting back. If the bait animals are still alive after the training sessions, they are usually given to the dogs as a reward, and the dogs finish killing them.

Training involves running the dogs on treadmills, forcing them to jump at, and hang from, suspended items, wrapping heavy chains around their necks (often with weights attached) and giving them vitamins, supplements and drugs to condition them for or to incite them to fight (including hormone and weight gaining supplements as well as speed, steroids, and cocaine).

The Suffering

Pitbull-Injured-In-Dog-FightThe injuries inflicted and sustained by dogs participating in dogfights are frequently severe, even fatal. The American pit bull terrier-type dogs are used in the majority of these fights have been specifically bred and trained for fighting by those participating in dog fighting.  The training makes them unrelenting in their attempts to overcome their opponents. Their targeted training helps them develop extremely powerful jaws, which enables them to inflict severe bruising, deep puncture wounds, and broken bones.

Dogs used in these events often die of blood loss, shock, dehydration, exhaustion, or infection hours or even days after the fight. Other animals are often sacrificed as well; dogs who are born “cold,” or won’t fight, may be kept around to sic other dogs on.

How This Effects Specific Dog Breeds

In recent years, pit bulls have gained more than just a foothold in public awareness. Unscrupulous breeding and negative media attention have resulted in many apartment complexes, neighborhoods and even counties imposing bans on pits and pit mixes, citing them as “inherently dangerous” to the public.

Pit bulls can attract the worst kind of dog owners—people who are only interested in these dogs for fighting or protection. While pit bulls were once considered especially non-aggressive to people, their reputation has changed, thanks to unscrupulous breeders and irresponsible owners. And because the pit bull population has increased so rapidly, shelters now struggle to deal with an overflow of image-plagued, hard-to-place dogs.  Though bred for fighting other dogs—or perhaps because of that—the American Pit Bull terrier has long been a popular family pet, noted for his strength, intelligence and devotion.

It’s important to remember 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. Please visit The Truth About Pit Bulls to learn more.

Related Concerns

Numerous law enforcement raids have unearthed many disturbing facets of this illegal “sport.” Young children are sometimes present at the events, which can promote insensitivity to animal suffering, enthusiasm for violence, and disrespect for the law. Illegal gambling is the norm at dogfights. Dog owners and spectators wager thousands of dollars on their favorites. Firearms and other weapons have been found at dogfights because of the large amounts of cash present. Dogfighting has also been connected to other kinds of violence—even homicide, according to newspaper reports. In addition, illegal drugs are often sold and used at dogfights.

How to Spot a Dog Fighter

  • An inordinate number of pit bull-type dogs being kept in one location, especially multiple dogs who are chained and seem unsocialized
  • Dogs with scars on their faces, front legs, and hind end and thighs
  • Dogfighting training equipment such as treadmills used to build dogs’ endurance, “break sticks” used to pry apart the jaws of dogs locked in battle, tires or “springpoles” (usually a large spring with rope attached to either end) hanging from tree limbs, or unusual foot traffic coming and going from a location at odd hours

What Can I Do to Make a Difference?

  1. Speak Up! If you know of or suspect you know the location of a dog fighter – report it to your local law enforcement agency. DO NOT go on their property since this could be dangerous, is against the law and could interfere in the prosecution of a confirmed dog fighter You can request a follow up report from your police department or contact a local animal welfare organization, like HSO, and ask that they follow up. The Humane Society of the United States offers a $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction of illegal dogfighting. *The Humane Society of the United States is NOT an umbrella entity for the Humane Society of the Ozarks.  They share NO information, grants or funding of any sort with HSO so we will have no knowledge of the situation to follow up with.  If you would like HSO to follow up with the local law enforcement you must contact us directly.
  2. Foster or Adopt a Rescued Fighter: Many dogs that come from this background can make great pets.  They must be carefully evaluated for behavioral problems first, but that is usually done by the rescue organization prior to release for adoption.  More than 55% of Michael Vick’s former fighters were rehabilitated and rehomed to great success, often to homes that included small children and even cats.  As always, use caution and do your research – but consider opening your heart to a dog that would love a second chance at a real family and a better life!
  3. Spread the Word! Help spread the word so others know just how horrific this type of animal abuse truly is.  By speaking up you can make a difference!
  4. Vote! Make sure you take the time to vote in favor of any legislation that can limit or shut down dog fighting. Each vote makes a difference!

For more information: Dog Fighting FAQ (ASPCA)