Get Tough on Dog Fighting

By Marissa Wetterau

In honor of National Dog Fighting Awareness Day (NDFAD) on Wednesday, April 8, the ASPCA is asking animal advocates across the country to help them Get Tough on Dog Fighting. This brutal form of animal cruelty occurs in every part of the country and in every type of community, and it must be stopped.

They are working to eradicate dog fighting by assisting in raids and rescues alongside law enforcement agencies. The ASPCA is assisting by advocating for stronger laws and sentencing for those who commit this terrible crime.

Dog fighting is a type of blood sport, generally defined as opposing two game dogs against one another in a ring or a pit for the entertainment of the spectators or the gratification of the dogfighters, who are sometimes referred to as dogmen.

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.

As of 2008, dog fighting is a felony in all states. In most of the United States a spectator at a dog fight can be changed with a felony while some areas only consider it a misdemeanor offense.

In the second largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history in August 2013, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama handed down the longest prison term ever handed down in a federal dog fighting case – eight years.

According to a study by the College of Law of Michigan State University published in 2005, in the United States, dog fighting was once completely legal and was sanctioned and promoted during the colonial period through the Victorian and well into the 20th century. In the second half 19th century dog fighting started to be criminalized in the united states.

There is a $5000 reward for reporting dog fighting to The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). According to the HSUS, there are a number of ways to spot signs of dogfighting in your community: “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 stifle area ; Dogfighting training equipment such as “breaking sticks” “break sticks” used to pry apart the jaws of dogs locked in battle which are foot long, flat on one side, appearing to be sharpened; tires or “spring poles” hanging from tree limbs; or unusual foot traffic coming and going from a location at odd hours.”

CNN estimated that in the United States more than 100,000 people are engaged in dog fighting on a non-professional basis and roughly 40,000 individuals are involved as professionals in the sport of dog fighting as a commercial activity. Top fights are said to have purses of $100,000 or more.

In probably one of the most publicized cases of Dog-fighting/animal cruelty, the ASPCA assisted law enforcement in the search of Bad Newz Kennels in April 2007, which was owned by then Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick within after he and a few others were indicted on various charges involving dog-fighting along with various other forms of animal cruelty. Bad Newz Kennels was located on Vick’s Surry County, Virginia, property.

The ASPCA aided in the recovery along with the analysis of the forensic evidence that existed on Vick’s massive property, including carcasses and skeletal remains of numerous Pit Bulls. The evidence that law enforcement and the ASPCA gathered helped to convict the football star of operating a huge competitive dog fighting ring, which ended up in a prison sentence for Vick and three co-defendants.

The 2007 indictment of Michael Vick led to very historic changes within the animal cruelty and welfare field. The indictment also changed the nation’s perception of dog fighting. Prior to this publicized case, dog-fighting cases that happened to involve the federal government were very rare. The Vick case involved two arms of the federal government, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Justice, which put this awful blood sport on the map as a federal offense.

Of the 49 dogs that were evaluated by the ASPCA, there was only one that was deemed behaviorally unfit for rehabilitation and was recommended for euthanasia. A federal judge determined the remaining 48 dogs could be sent to sanctuaries, rescues, foster homes, and adopters throughout the country. 22 of the dogs taken from Bad Newz Kennels were taken in by Best Friends Animal Society Sanctuary in Kanub, Utah for rehabilitation and long-term care. California Pit Bull rescue Bay Area Dog Lovers Responsible About Pit Bulls (BAD RAP) also took in many of the Vick dogs.

Some of the dogs have been adopted or placed in foster care facilities, the rest are making fantastic progress. One of them, named Georgia, even made an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

In honor of National Dog Fighting Awareness Day (NDFAD) on Wednesday, April 8, the ASPCA is asking animal advocates across the country to help them Get Tough on dog fighting. You can get involved by visiting this link in order to receive a Get Tough toolkit, by using the hashtag #GetTough, by reporting any incidences of animal cruelty (including dog-fighting) to your local authorities, by contacting the ASPCA hotline at 1-877-215-2250, contact the HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) hotline at 1-877-847-4787 or by visiting the HSUS website. All information will be kept confidential.