Animal Fighting Is Abuse Print
Written by Janet Goodman, BT Contributor   
September 2017

The sick pastime continues, despite legislation

DPix_PetTalk_9-17og fighting is a chilling blood sport that involves pit bulls and other muscular breeds, such as Fila Brasileiro, Dogo Argentino, and their mixes.

In 2003, the Florida legislature passed the Animal Fighting Act, making it a felony punishable by a $5000 fine and up to five years in prison to raise or sell animals for the purpose of fighting, as well as holding, promoting, attending, or betting on animal fights, or possessing fight paraphernalia.

Because of this statute, authorities no longer have to wait to catch a fight in progress before making arrests. Marco Rubio co-sponsored the bill after he discovered his own blood-splattered rental property had housed fighting dogs.

Some of the most heinous animal-abuse cases have involved this clandestine display of brutality for spectator entertainment, which also includes bear and cock fighting. In August 2013, eight people were arrested in the second-largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history. In all, 367 dogs were rescued after a three-year investigation involving multiple agencies in a coordinated effort in Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. Up to 640 dogs had been injured or killed during the life of the fighting rings.

Fight matches are arranged between two dogs that have been conditioned for competition by being isolated on thick metal chains, exercised on treadmills, and forced to drag heavy objects like tires. Dogs learn to hang from ropes on spring poles to increase jaw power. The ASPCA notes that they are given anabolic steroids to build muscle mass, and narcotics to mask pain or fear during a fight.

To limit fight damage, their ears are closely cropped and tails are docked by the fighter/owners themselves. Before the match, the dogs are rinsed with milk to counteract harsh chemicals that may have been applied on the skin in order to injure opponents.

In the course of training fight dogs, other animals are used as bait. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, other dogs, rabbits, cats, and chickens are placed in cages in front of dogs on treadmills as incentives, and the fighters-in-training are given these animals to tear up as post-workout rewards.

A January 2017 Miami Herald report revealed there are three categories of animal fighting: professional, hobbyist, and street fighting. Professionals travel state to state, following purses of $10,000 to $100,000. These organized matches take place in outdoor rings or pits. Street fighting is spontaneous and less organized, and involves any type of aggressive dog. In urban areas, fights are set up in parks, playgrounds, alleys, abandoned buildings, basements, and garages.

Before a pro fight, bets are placed, and a night of several fights will see hundreds of thousands of dollars change hands, making it a lucrative enough activity to continue underground. A champion fight dog can sell for between $10,000 and $20,000. Most fights attract other illegal activities involving firearms and drugs.

A fight continues, sometimes for an hour or more, until a winner is declared, and often breaking sticks are needed to pry open dogs’ jaws to break up the fight. Both dogs usually suffer bloody wounds, such as punctures, broken bones, and muscle tears. The losing dog is often thrown away to die, or is tortured and killed by the owner, or will be used as a bait animal in the future. Winners are given antibiotics to help prevent infections.

In 2013, ten abused and neglected dogs were rescued in Goulds by Miami-Dade Animal Services investigators. Three were pit bulls with the telltale facial scars, believed to be victims of a fighting technique known as trunking, where two dogs are locked in a car’s trunk while being driven around, music blaring to mask the sounds inside, allowing the dogs to fight to the death.

From 1989 to 2007 in St. Lucie County alone, there were 12 court cases involving fighting or baiting animals, and 48 cases involving people attending animal fights. Putnam County, the Orlando area, and southwest Florida have seen dozens of dog seizures and arrests for pro fights. reports that in March 2017, a Sumter County Sheriff’s Office investigation led to the discovery of a dog-fight breeding and training operation that dates back to 1975.

Dog fighting became national news when 55 pit bulls were seized from Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels in Virginia. The stunning level of violence against his fighting dogs led to his 2007 conviction and 23-month prison sentence.

Two federal laws make animal fighting a felony, with penalties up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 40,000 people take part in organized dog fights, with thousands more involved in impromptu street fighting. The organization offers up to a $5000 reward for tips that lead to convictions of dog fighters. The tip line is 1-877-TIP-HSUS.


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