Dogfighting: How to Recognize and Report It

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Dogfighting is a felony offense in all 50 states of the United States. In fact, all animal fighting has been illegal in the U.S. since 1867. But despite dogfighting being a felony, it still happens in many parts of the country. It is reported in urban, suburban and rural settings in all regions of the United States, but is particularly prevalent in states with weaker penalties for dogfighting and animal cruelty, especially the states of Kentucky, Iowa, New Mexico, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.

The public may not be aware that dogfighting is happening in their own neighborhoods. It’s important to recognize the signs of dogfighting and know how to report it in order to protect dogs, prevent further animal abuse, and protect your neighborhood from crime and corruption. 

The cruelty of dogfighting

Dogfighting is one the most heinous forms of animal cruelty and abuse imaginable. It involves the intentional and ultimate betrayal of loving domestic animals who often don’t want to fight. It involves careless breeding; chaining and confining dogs in isolation and cruel environments; withholding affection, attention and socialization; brutal training techniques; and maiming dogs’ body parts by cropping their ears and docking their tails to limit areas that can be injured. Dog fighters are horrifically cruel, aggressive and violent toward these dogs. They force dogs to fight and ignore serious and often fatal injuries. Many dogs suffer and die from their injuries after fighting, and losing dogs are often brutally executed.

This pitbull used in dogfighting in Chicago has had his ears cut off. Image credit BBC World Service, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Training for fights often involves forcing dogs to wear extremely heavy chains and run on treadmills, keeping them outside even in extreme weather, starving them to make them more aggressive, feeding them narcotics so they won’t feel pain during fighting and dosing them with steroids. “Baiting” is done to train dogs to become more vicious, using small dogs and cats from shelters or “free to a good home” ads as targets of attacks. 

It’s also important to mention that dogfighting is often associated with other forms of criminal activity, including possession of illegal drugs and illegal firearms, illegal gambling, probation violations, money laundering, conspiracy, assault and even homicide. Innocent people can be harmed because of criminal activity among their neighbors or if dogs who have been trained to attack get loose. 

Recognize the signs of dogfighting:

  1. Dogs on heavy chains, tethered to a tire axle, dog house or barrel.
  2. Dogs with multiple scars, severe bruising, deep puncture wounds, broken bones, with lips or ears ripped off, or tails and ears cropped off.
  3. Dogs chained inches or several feet apart from each other.
  4. Dogs chained or penned in a secluded or isolated area, intentionally kept out of the public’s view. In urban areas or cities, dogs will often be kept in basements or indoor rooms.
  5. Dogs who appear severely dehydrated, are physically exhausted, and/or have open and untreated wounds.
  6. Dogs who are extremely timid, fearful or aggressive may also be victims of cruelty.
Video: The Face of Dogfighting: One Dog’s Incredible Journey (Humane Society of the United States)

How to Report Animal Cruelty 

If you think or know someone is abusing animals, speak up immediately. Contact your local animal control agency, local humane organization or animal shelter, and file a report with them. Most importantly, file a report with the police department, and don’t wait—it can cost the animal their life. 

When reporting the crime, give authorities as many details as you can about the suspected animal fighting operation. You do not need to give your name to law enforcement to report your information. If you can, provide photos, videos, audio, names of dog fighters and addresses, or the exact location of the fighting itself.

Contact the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) animal fighting tip line at 877-TIP-HSUS. The HSUS is offering a $5,000 reward to anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest and conviction of dog fighters. Share this reward information with friends and family to get more people involved in convicting dog fighters.

How to report dogfighting or other animal cruelty seen on the internet:

  1. Identify the URL or name of the website, plus find out who owns the website by visiting www.whois.net and doing a search of the site in question.
  2. Then contact the website’s ISP (Internet Service Provider), and let them know about the material that involves animal cruelty.
  3. Contact the police or local law enforcement officials (see the website registrant’s address on WHOIS), and contact their local FBI branch as well.
  4. Contact People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) day or night at 757-622-7382, hit option 2. You can complete PETA’s Animal Cruelty Report Form here, they will follow up.
  5. You can report animal cruelty to the HSUS here, they will follow up.

Featured image: this rescued dog was used as a bait dog. Note the closely cropped ears. Image credit Jazz Guy, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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Humane Decisions is devoted to ending the suffering, domination, exploitation, abuse, enslavement and use of animals worldwide for reasons of food, pleasure, convenience, entertainment and all other unnecessary reasons, by providing resources and information to shift both individual and collective consciousness to one that recognizes animal sentience and inclusion in our moral community. Click to see author's profile.

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