Since NFL player Michael Vick’s involvement in dog fighting, the harsh reality of the ‘sport’ of dog fighting has become more transparent. While many knew vaguely of the practice, not nearly enough people understand the true cruelty and barbarianism that goes into dog fighting. With an estimated forty thousand participants throughout the United States, the five hundred million dollar per year industry is only growing in popularity (Silverman 2007). This sample essay, one of the numerous writing services provided by Ultius, demonstrates that despite the despicable acts that go into dog fighting, the act has been popular for thousands of years and continues to be so to this day.
What is dog fighting?
There are two types of dog fighting:
- Street fighting is common among gang members and brings status to the owners of the victors. They take place in alleyways, garages, abandoned buildings, and backyards.
- Professional dog fighting is much more organized and discreet. Professional fighters publish records and statistics on their fighters and some travel large distances to fight their dogs.
In professional dog fighting, owners and breeders abide by a code called the Cajun Rules that govern every last aspect of the fights, from the handlers’ involvement in the bout to the rules for a rematch in the event that the contest it broken up by the police (Silverman 2007).
- Two dogs are placed in a small, enclosed arena and set to fight each other
- The dogs are washed to prove they are free of anything that could make them slick or slippery or any poisons or irritants
- They then await the signal from the referee before fighting
- The dogs fight until one dog can no longer fight back
- Fights can last anywhere from fifteen minutes to a few hours
When they do not result in death, they often mean horrifying injuries for one or both of the dogs involved.
Dog fighting has been a popular spectator sport for thousands of years. In the year 43 A.D., the war over territory between Roman Empire and Britain featured fighting dogs on both sides. While the Romans won the war, the British dogs were much fiercer and more battle-ready (Villavicencio 2007). This inspired the emergence of a dog-trade, as the Romans began importing fighting dogs from Britain to be used for entertainment. Crowds would gather by the thousands to see these vicious dogs fight other animals, such as elephants or bears. The dogs were crossbred with the fighting dogs of Rome and were exported around Europe (Villavincencio 2007). By the 1300s, English nobility grew very fond of dog-fighting. At this time, instead of traditional dog fighting, the English were fond of ‘baiting’, wherein a large animal, often a bull, would be chained to the ground and be set upon by one of the vicious fighting dogs. The dogs would bite and scratch, tearing at the animals, a practice also used to tenderize the bull for meat (Villavincencio 2007). This was considered respectable entertainment.
Modern dog fighting
By the nineteenth century, concerns for animal cruelty grew, leading to the outlawing of baiting by British Parliament. This caused the popularity of dog-on-dog fighting to grow as a legal alternative. Dogs were cross-bred to be faster, more agile, and especially more vicious. Dogs were even encouraged to continue mauling their opponents even after they were killed (“The History of Animal Fighting & Baiting”). Despite laws prohibiting dog fighting and even making it illegal to own specific breeds typically used for fighting, the world of dog fighting continued to thrive. This kind of dog fighting retained popularity and continues to be seen as entertainment today and often involves large aggressive breeds such as Rottweilers and Pit Bull Terriers, which have garnered a bad reputation as a result of these illegal fights.
Dog fighting around the world
Dog fighting is illegal in many countries throughout the world and in every U.S. state (“Dogfighting”). This, however, does not prevent it from happening worldwide.
Japan – During the Kamakura period in Japan, it is said that the emperor was obsessed with dog fighting; so much so that samurais were permitted to pay their taxes in dogs (“The History of Animal Fighting & Baiting”). Dog fighting during this age was seen as a way for samurais to exert some of their aggression during times of peace. It was especially popular in Akita Prefecture, which is the birthplace of the Akita breed. Still popular in Japan today, the typical fight-to-the-death rules are a little different; owners are allowed to call the match and forfeit for any reason and the match is halted if the judges deem the fight too dangerous for the dogs (“The History of Animal Fighting & Baiting”). With the exception of Tokyo, dog fighting is not banned in Japan.
Latin America – Dog fighting is also popular in Latin America. It is widely practiced in Peru, Argentina, and Brazil, despite its illegality there (“The History of Animal Fighting & Baiting”). The most popular dog fighting breed in Latin America is the Dogo Argentino, though American Pit Bull Terriers are also popular. Over a century ago, most dogs used in fights in Latin America were of the Dogo Cubano breed (“The History of Animal Fighting & Baiting”), though they were fought into extinction.
Russia – Though Russia has animal cruelty laws in place, dig fighting is still a widely practiced occurrence. It is completely banned in some places, but other fights are considered legal and supervised by the All-Russian Association of Russian Volkodavs (“The History of Animal Fighting & Baiting”). The main dogs used in Russian dog fighting, both legal and illegal alike, are the English bull terrier and the American pit bull terrier.
India – India is another country in which dog fighting is commonplace and prevalent. Widely practiced throughout the rural countryside, owners take great pride in their fighting dogs. Honor is achieved either through one’s dog defeating their opponent’s animal or by one’s dog winning vicious battles with bears (“The History of Animal Fighting & Baiting”). Despite its ramped popularity, it is clearly defined as illegal under the law and people can be charged and prosecuted for even possess dog fighting materials like training tools and videos, in addition to being present at a dog fighting event.
The United States – While dog fighting is illegal in all North American countries, it is certainly not eradicated. Dog fighting in the United States used to be completely legal and was promoted as a source of entertainment in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and remained popular until the late nineteenth century (“The History of Animals Fighting & Baiting”). When the brutal reality of dog fighting was no longer deemed acceptable in the eyes of the American public, the ‘sport’ was steadily outlawed. Dog fighting is considered a felony in all fifty states. Some states consider it a felony to even attend dog fights. But the law does put a stop to the blood sport, it only makes participants learn to be sneakier.
Dog fighting falls into its own category of animal abuse. It is not contentious as the subject of factory farming, it is considered far worse, as merely an act of barbarism. Even if a dog does not technically lose a match, the chances of them dying are high anyway. These animals have incredibly powerful jaws, capable of inflicting severe injury, leaving bones broken and flesh deeply pierced. As a result from the fighting, dogs can die from:
- Blood loss
This can occur days after the injuries are sustained (Dogfighting Fact Sheet 2014). Dogs that lose fights often or do not have a fighter mentality are used as bait dogs, chained down so that other dogs can practice tearing them apart. One convicted dogfighter wrote about one dog’s vicious attack on another, saying that the dog,
“…Broke her other front leg high up in the shoulder, as well as one of her back legs, in the knee joint. The only leg she didn’t break she chewed all to hell. She had literally scalped [the other dog], tearing a big chuck of skin off the top of her head alongside one ear.” (Silverman 2007).
If dogs are severely injured during a fight, or if they lose, they are often put down. However, the means by which they are put down are just as cruel and depraved as dog fighting itself; Handlers will:
- Beat their dogs to death
Dogs that are kept despite injuries are not treated much better and almost never receive proper medical care. Wounds are often stapled or burned shut by owners who lack any sort of training or medical knowledge at all. Other times, those involved in dog fighting will drive through neighborhoods and steal other dogs from people’s yards to use as bait animals. When dog fighting runs are busted, the dogs are often too violent to be put into good homes and are often put down. Four million dogs are euthanized each year in the United States because they were unadoptable (Stop Dog Fighting). Winners, losers, and even animals that are not involved in the fight fall victim to the cruelty of dog fighting.
Causing social problems
Dog fighting can bring an onslaught of other sociological problems to the communities in which they take place, including violent acts and criminal behavior. Gang members often train and breed dogs for fighting as a means to making money, which then funds other illicit gang activity. Money is made from dog fights in numerous ways:
- Admission – charging spectators to watch the dog fights and entry fees for those who wants to sign up their dogs to participate
- Prize purse – Entering the winning dog for the competition, as prize money is often given to the winner
- Gambling – tens of thousands of dollars that are often gambled on a single fight (Silverman 2007)
- Recording the Event – By videotaping and broadcasting the fights on the internet or selling videos of the fights on DVD
The people who attend these fights are made from a similar cloth as those who train their dogs to fight. Thus, dog fights attract other kinds of crime, like drugs, illegal firearms, money laundering, etc. One detective involved in busting a dog fighting ring said,
“You can get more drugs and guns off the street by breaking up dog rings than you would breaking up drug rings” (“Dogfighting”).
Dog fighting also has negative effects on the community’s children. According to the Humane Society of the United States, dog fighting and pet abuse are linked to domestic abuse, both spousal and child (Silverman 2007). It is not uncommon for spectators to bring children to dog fights, which teaches them from a young age that this kind of activity is acceptable and celebrated. Research done by Michigan State University of Law shows that some elementary school students already have been exposed to dog fighting or have experience running their own informal fights among friends (Silverman 2007). These children then grow up to have heavier participation in dog fighting, teach other own children the same values, and the cycle continues.
What is being done?
As awareness and knowledge of the brutality of dog fighting spread throughout the United States, communities are aggressively combatting the blood sport. Police departments have developed special task forces dedicated solely to the eradication of dig fighting rings (Gibson 2005). Law enforcement also educates the public on signs of dog fighting rings, such as:
- Several aggressive dogs chained in one yard
- The presence of fighting pits
- Other tools such as spring poles, pry bars, and treadmills used to increase the dogs’ endurance
It can be difficult, though, to arrest someone for involvement in dog fighting because police will have to catch the person in the physical act of participating in dog fights. Attendance for competitions is carefully controlled and the location is not divulged until shortly before the event (“Dogfighting”). Punishment for involvement in dog fighting is growing more severe in the United States.
The Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act was signed into law in May of 2007, which made it a felony in the United States to participate in dog fighting and established maximum penalties of twenty-five hundred thousand dollar fines and a three year prison sentence (Gibson).
The United States continues to try to combat dog fighting and promote animal rights, though the illegal industry thrives.
While the notion that dog fighting is a barbaric, terrible offense is spreading, which does much to help eliminate the problem, the issue is far from over. Millions of dogs are still subjected to the torture of dog fighting and the injustice of euthanasia when they are deemed unadoptable because of the qualities ingrained in them from birth. The efforts being made are valiant, but they are only the beginning. While it may take years, or even decades, to eliminate dog fighting totally, the effort put into the fight is worth it to protect the innocent, both human and canine.
“Dog Fighting FAQ”. ASPCA: Fight Cruelty. 2014. Web. 12 December 2014. .
“Dog Fighting Fact Sheet”. The Humane Society of the United States. 15 January 20014. Web. 11 December 2014..
“Dogfighting”. Peta. 2014. Web. 12 December 2014. .
“The History of Animal Baiting & Fighting”. Library of the U.S. Courts of the Seventh Circuit.2011. Web. 11 December 2014. .
Gibson, Hanna. “Dog Fighting”. Animal Legal & History Center. 2005. Web. 12 December 2014. .
Silverman, Jacob. “How Dogfighting Works” HowStuffWorks.com. 27 July 2007. Web. 11 December 2014.
Stop Dog Fighting. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 December 2014. .