Dog fighting is usually separated into three categories, which are street fighting, hobbyist fighting, and professional activity (Dogfighting FAQ). Street dog fighting, which is considered the most common, (Gibson) usually takes place in a “…pit that is between 14 and 20 feet square, with sides that may be plywood, hay bales, chain link or anything else that can contain the animals. The flooring may be dirt, wood, carpet or sawdust.” The pit has “scratch lines” marked in opposite corners, where the dogs will face each other from 12 to 14 feet apart (Dogfighting FAQ). The fight begins by the dogs being released from their corners and attack each other in the center. Handlers only intervene when a dog “turns,” which means the dog turns away from the other without attacking back. The next round, if the same dog fails to attack, the other dog wins. The only way a draw happens is if both dogs do not “scratch” multiple times, which means to repeatedly not cross the scratch lines and get back into the fight; however, this is very uncommon (Dogfighting FAQ). Fights last as long as they need to. Both dogs usually suffer injuries, “including puncture wounds, lacerations, blood loss, crushing injuries, and broken bones” (Dogfighting FAQ). When three men were found guilty of dog fighting after the local police found two pit bulls with heavy scarring and other injuries, they described the scene of the fight: “…a blood-stained fighting pit…” “…blood stains were found on the floor and walls, as well as on a blanket. Blood and bite marks were found on wooden sticks and a shovel handle that are believed to have been used as “break” or “parting” sticks” (Zemba). The policeman wrote that these sticks are “inserted into a fighting dog’s mouth to force it to release its bite” (Zemba). Street fighting is usually more gruesome, and often the street fighters care less about the dog’s well being than that of the professional dog fighting community. They are ruthless, and often the dog’s winning of a fight could mean a large source of income for drugs or other illegal activities. Street fighting like this has become rampant. “Street fighting has reportedly continued to grow as a significant component of urban crime. The Internet has also made it easier for dog fighters to rapidly exchange information about animals and fights” (Dogfighting FAQ).
Hobbyist dog fighting is a bit more organized than street dog fighting. “They typically remain within a specific geographic network, are acquainted with one another, and tend to return to predetermined fight venues repeatedly” (Gibson). This means that these dog fighters are less dangerous, perhaps more wealthy, and usually have a group to rally behind. They usually will have a lengthy criminal history, but is probably also a highly respected community figure (Gibson). An example of hobbyist dog fighting happened last year. A huge dog fighting ring that spanned over multiple states was busted, and 66 dogs were rescued. Six residents from South Jersey were charged. They will face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine (Platoff). Another example happened in 2007. Football player Michael Vick received about two years in prison for running a dog fighting ring called “Bad Newz Kennels.” The judge said Vick lied about killing dogs and using marijuana (Norris). Yet another, a ring busted in 2009. Officers from the Pennsylvania SPCA followed an anonymous tip from the animal cruelty hotline and discovered a dog-fighting ring in a house in East Germantown and rescued several badly injured pit bulls found there. They discovered seven dead dogs (Graham).
Worse than the hobbyist dog fighting, however, is the professional dog fighting. Most of these professionals are also kingpins in the narcotics trade -which is why when a professional dog fighting ring is busted, police officers find weapons, narcotics, and large sums of cash. The kingpins have money, and they are willing to use it to buy a renowned dog and watch him tear apart the dogs of their enemies. Professionals are very proud of the lineage of their dogs, and will buy and breed these “champions” to get puppies with the desired traits, and sell them. Underground websites and publications advertise this “stock” of puppies (Dogfighting FAQ).
Most of these dogs are abused as well- but in different ways. The dogs are given drugs, to make them stronger. “Narcotic drugs may also be used to increase the dogs’ aggression, increase reactivity, and mask pain or fear during a fight” (Dogfighting FAQ).The dogs are also abused, as with the other forms of dog fighting, but are abused in such a way that makes them vicious against other dogs and generally friendly to humans. Most of the time, this behavior is bred. These dogs are ultimately difficult to house because of this (Dogfighting FAQ).
The most widespread form of abuse that officials see in professional rings are the kingpins’ version of “training.” Dog fighting training is ultimately the worst part about the entire dog fighting experience. When dogs are being kept, they are kept away from other dogs. They spend most of time outside of the ring in chains. This isolates them from any other dogs and to most people (Dogfighting FAQ). The dogs’ training consists of any variation of heavy amounts of drugs- anabolic steroids (Winstrol V, Dinabol, Equipose), iron/liver extract, vitamin B-12, Provim, Magnum supplement, hormones (testosterone, Propionate, Repotest, Probolic Oil), weight-gain supplements, creatine monohydrate, speed, and cocaine, to name a few (Gibson). Dogs are trained physically in several different ways. Dogs can be forced to run on a treadmill. Dog fighters also have a strange machine called a Catmill or a Jenny. “It looks like a carnival horse walker with several beams jetting out from a central rotating pole. The dogs are chained to one beam and another small animal like a cat, small dog, or rabbit, is harnessed to or hung from another beam. The dogs run in circles, chasing the bait. Once the exercise sessions are over, the dogs are usually rewarded with the bait they had been pursuing” (Gibson). There is a Springpole or a Jumppole, which is an animal hide attached to a tall pole that the dog jumps up and down to bite at. Similar to this is a Flirtpole, which is a moveable pole that live bait is attached to for the dog to chase. Most of the time the dog is given the bait at the end of the exercise as reward. Bait is also sometimes placed in a room with the dog and the dog has to hunt it. Chains and weights are placed on the dogs’ neck and back to strengthen their muscles during these activities. The dogs are also trained against one another, as well as against experienced dogs. When the dogs are young or new, they are told to lunge at one another without actually touching or biting, which is called a “roll” or a “bump.” Once the masters think they are ready, the dogs are fought against each other, and the losing dogs are often killed (Gibson).
This is the crime that most dog fighters get put away for- killing their dogs when they lose. When a dog loses, the owner of the dog loses not only money, but also status. “Losing dogs are often discarded, killed or left untreated, unless they have had a good history of past performance or come from valuable bloodlines. If the losing dog is perceived to be a particular embarrassment to the reputation or status of its owner, it may be executed in a particularly brutal fashion as part of the ‘entertainment’” (Dogfighting FAQ).
A serious effect of dog fighting that is only just now becoming realized by police officers and officials on these cases is that children are seriously affected. Children grow up watching their family members abuse and hurt dogs and other animals, and seriously, absolutely believe that this violence is normal and expected. They become insensitive, and ultimately they become part of the criminal justice system just by being around it (Gibson). Sgt. Steve Brownstein of Chicago’s Animal Abuse Control Team said: “In many neighborhoods where gangs are strong, you now have 8-, 9-, 10-year-olds conducting their own dogfights. Or being spectators at the fights people are holding” (Gibson). Reporters in the media talk about guns and violence in video games and movies creating a toxic environment for their child, or even hard-hitting sports. “You want to find the perfect way to desensitize a kid so he’ll kill that anonymous gangbanger from three blocks over? Give him a puppy and let him raise it. Then let him kill it. I guarantee that will desensitize that kid” (Gibson).
As of 2008, dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Animal Welfare Act of 1966 prohibits animal fighting and related activities when they have involved more than one state or interstate mail services. In 2007, Congress passed the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act, which amended the Animal Welfare Act and provides felony penalties for interstate commerce, import and export relating to commerce in fighting dogs. Each of these violations can result in up to three years in jail and a $250,000 fine (Dogfighting FAQ). Many of the practices associated with the raising and training of fighting dogs can be prosecuted separately as animal abuse and neglect. Also, dog fighting at its root involves gambling. Dog fighters also often face additional charges related to drug, alcohol, weapons, and probation violations. Arguments over dog fights have also resulted in charges of assault and homicide. Other charges that are commonly involved with dog fighting are conspiracy, corruption of minors, and money laundering (Dogfighting FAQ).
Ultimately, dog fighting is an unspeakably wicked crime that needs awareness and more official police and government support. Dog fighting is cruel to not only the dogs involved, but also the children and families surrounding the community. Since professional dog fighting is directly related to the underground narcotics trade, this is a deviance that needs to be stopped. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that there are at least 40,000 dogfighters in America (Gibson). In 2003, the city of Chicago alone recorded and responded to 1093 animal fighting complaints (Gibson). This is not an unimportant issue that can be debated for two years in a courtroom. This is affecting living beings -humans and animals both- in major ways. From a moral standpoint, the “issue” of dog fighting is not an issue. It is a deliberate violation of the ethical code of humanity, and should not be allowed to exist in our country, or even in the entire world.
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