Although dog fighting was made illegal in the UK in 1835, it still continues in primarily secret underground scenes. The law has not proven to be a sufficient deterrent, as these horrendous acts of animal cruelty still take place all over the country. Some dogs are bred and reared specifically to fight, and are sold on for high prices to people intending to use them in this way. They face a life of pain, suffering and the prospect of being killed, as many are encouraged to fight to the death whilst others are killed by their owners. The dogs are trained to cause as much damage to the opposition as possible, and there has also been a rise in the number of ‘casual’ dog fights, sometimes filmed on mobile phones. Other pets are stolen as bait to train the dogs, and can often suffer horrendous injuries or be killed. In many other countries, the despicable sport is still viewed as an acceptable form of family entertainment.
Their loyal nature combined with a muscular build and strong jaw means breeds like the Pit Bull and Staffordshire Bull Terrier, amongst others, are popular choices for dog fighting. They are known to endure high levels of pain and will go to great lengths to please their owners, making them ideal for rigorous and exploitative training. Other breeds are also known to have been used. They can often be stolen family pets, or given away free from unwanted litters.
Such animals are not seen as pets, but pieces of equipment. The owners aren’t interested in the welfare of the animals they use. The dogs are often kept in appalling conditions, with those used for fighting being starved to encourage their primal instincts, whilst those kept as bait are given just enough food to remain alive. They may be chained or kept in small areas without adequate shelter.
Signs that a dog has been involved in fighting include wounds or scars, particularly on the front of their body, as they tend to attack each other face on. Make note of any puncture wounds that are the result of biting, and injuries from ‘break sticks’ around the mouth, which are used to pry it open. Sometimes appearing friendly with humans but aggressive when confronted by other dogs, they will not be receptive to normal dog body language. They have always been taught to attack, so will fail to respond to submissive behaviour. Other signs include stapled or glued wounds, as the owners will often tend to these themselves without anaesthetic. Environmental signs include training equipment such as treadmills and break sticks. Wounds and scars all over an animal’s body indicate they have been used as bait.
Alert the police or RSPCA if you suspect dog fighting in your area, or you think a dog has been used for that purpose. Only through vigilance can this criminal act of cruelty be eradicated. Educating others about it via word of mouth and social media will help to raise awareness about the issue, as it is important to note that it can happen anywhere. There are also various petitions available that you can sign up to against dog fighting.
Not hearing about it doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t happening. You can write to your local MP to ask them to put pressure on the government regarding the issue. Fundraising for the cause is a fantastic way of raising awareness and getting a lot of people involved, as is contacting your local media, newspapers and radio stations.
Ensuring your pets are always protected will reduce the likelihood of them being stolen for use in dog fights. Don’t let them out of your sight when out walking, and seal gardens with fencing and locked gates.