Dogfighting – No Winners!

By: | January 15, 2015

What is dogfighting?

Typically, an Organized Dogfight is a contest in which two dogs, bred and trained to fight by “dog men”, is placed in a pit (an area enclosed by plywood or straw bales) for the purpose of attacking and mauling each other to earn money for their owners and “entertain” spectators. An organized dogfight averages an hour in length and often lasts more than two hours. These dogfights end when one of the dogs is no longer able or willing to continue. Individuals, who consider themselves to be professional dog fighters, may run sophisticated matches where thousands of dollars exchange hands during multiple fights with different dogs. They may read or help run Web sites and magazines related to fighting. Gambling regarding the outcome of the fights is an integral part of this activity.

Streetfighting, the fastest growing type of dogfighting, is spur of the moment (impromptu) fighting that usually ends in minutes. Fights happen anywhere the “contestants” happen to be—in an alley, a garage, a park, etc. These dogs are not usually trained to fight, and could even be dogs that are stolen or found. These dogfighters usually just want to gain status, not money, especially if the fight is against a rival gang member’s dog. The street fighters torment, assault, and terrorize the dogs to create the fear and aggressive behavior required for the fight.

How does dog fighting affect our community?

The presence of fighting dogs in our community increases the risk of dog attacks on animals and people. Children are especially at risk; their size may cause a fighting dog to perceive them to be a small and active animal. Irresponsible breeders and owners have created animals conditioned and genetically predisposed to aggression.

It is reported in dog fighting magazines and websites that true “dog men” believe fighting dogs should never be aggressive toward people because owners must be able to handle a dog in the ring. These professionals say that until fairly recently, this highly undesirable trait was kept out of the breed by shooting any dog on the spot that displayed aggression toward humans. These owners also specify “pit bulls” to be among the friendliest of breeds. “Dog men” remark that popularization in the 1980s, created an opportunity for backyard breeders who through abuse, teasing, or “practice” on non-fighting dogs, cats and other small animals or even other humans have caused a problem. However, genetic control through gunshot is not grounded in any science nor does it qualify for humane husbandry of a breed. “Dog men” are as culpable as backyard breeders.

Dog fighters and many spectators have a history of violent and criminal behavior toward people. Sideline activities of gun sales, narcotic sales, and gambling are undesirable. Dog fights in any neighborhood increase the likelihood of other violence and crimes occurring in that neighborhood and indicate a problem.

Children and teens involved in dog fighting are more likely to become “hard” and uncaring. Are these the character traits we want to encourage in future generations?

Many studies have now documented “the link” between violence to animals and violence to people. Animal cruelty is often an early-warning sign of violent tendencies that may be acted out eventually against people. The adult who performs violent and cruel acts against an animal is unlikely to recognize boundaries about rage and aggressive behavior. The parent who abuses the family pet may also be abusing humans in the household. The youth who abuses dogs or forces them to fight may move on to harm or kill humans. The child who hurts an animal may already be a victim of, or a witness to, family violence.

Why do people participate in dog fighting?

Some young men value what they believe to be the masculine image presented by people walking around with aggressive dogs. They think it’s a show of status and strength to have the toughest dog.

Dog fighting is another entertainment activity for gangs.

People make money by betting on the dogs.

Some “dog men” claim to do it for the love of the breed and the joy of watching a “pit bull” do what he loves to do. They like to be involved in training and breeding to produce aggressive winning dogs and they feel they benefit from the reputation of being able to train a “winner”.

Sideline activities such as gun and drug sales can be lucrative.

Are you interested in talking with others about dogfighting?

Be ready to ask and answer many questions, including:

  • Is it a good decision to participate in dog fighting?
  • How do any of us decide if we are doing the right thing?
    Doing the right thing is an act of self-respect and responsible decision making.

The following questions may be helpful the next time you consider if an action is the right thing to do:

  • “Could it hurt anyone, including me?”
  • “Is it fair?”
  • “How would I feel if someone did this to me?”

Here are some reasons why dogfighting isn’t the right thing to do:

1) It’s a violent activity.

Spectators enjoy watching dogs injure and maim one another, usually to the death. Dogs who survive a fight often die of blood loss, shock, dehydration, exhaustion or infection hours or even days after a fight. Many losers are shot in the arena.

Some streetfighters abuse their dogs to make them mean and provoke them to fight. These animals may be hit, stabbed, poked with a fork, or even burned. Some animals suffer horrible lives, living in small, isolated cages without proper food and water or human contact. Some injured dogs are thrown in alleys or dumpsters to die alone when they can no longer fight.

Young children are often allowed or forced to watch, which promotes insensitivity to animal cruelty, an enthusiasm for violence, and a lack of respect for the law.

2) It’s illegal and other illegal activities accompany dogfighting.

Baiting and fighting animals is a class D felony in the state of Missouri. Attending the baiting and fighting of animals is a class A misdemeanor.

Illegal gambling is the norm at dogfights. Owners and spectators spend thousands of dollars wagering on their favorite dogs.

Firearms and other weapons are quite common at dogfights because of the large amounts of cash present.

Illegal drugs are often sold and used at dogfights.

Stealing an animal (to use to participate in dogfighting) is illegal because animals are considered property.

3) It hurts other living things.

Yes, animals can feel pain. How do we know? The external signs of pain that human beings show are very similar in species most closely related to us—mammals and birds. Dogs and cats are mammals. Outward signs of pain include writhing, facial contortions, moaning, yelping or other forms of calling, attempts to avoid the source of pain, appearance of fear at the prospect of its repetition, etc. These animals also have nervous systems very like ours, which respond physiologically like ours do when the animal is in circumstances where we would feel pain—rise in blood pressure, dilated pupils, perspiration (in dogs expressed through panting), and an increased pulse rate.

How to respond to someone who argues that pit bulls would quit if they wanted to, if they were in pain, but keep fighting because of their love of the “sport”:

Some people say that dogs who fight refuse to stop even when they’re injured because of the love of the “game”-an indication of the dog’s “gameness” (the determination to master any situation and never back down out of fear.) However, fighting dogs may not respond to pain in the same way as many other dogs, even if they feel the pain. They don’t pay attention to the cries of the nervous system that tell them to stop struggling and flee the situation that is causing so much pain. Why? Because they have been bred to honor the wishes of an owner. They are bred to remove many natural instincts that could cause a dog to lose in a fight, such as threat displays, backing down or showing signs of submission even when they’re suffering.

Wolves in the wild (and even our own pet dogs) use “threat displays.” They use this type of behavior or body language so that they don’t have to fight. A wolf shows his opponent his teeth, raises the hair on his back to appear larger than he is, and might even growl to sound mean. The idea is intimidation first. The adversary will hopefully be intimidated into submission and display this by rolling on his back and exposing his belly. But, if the opponent still doesn’t back down, then and only then will the wolves fight. Most dogs in the wild don’t fight. They have a strong survival instinct and being physically injured could potentially risk life itself. The fights that do happen are very short and rarely result in debilitating injuries.

Intimidation and threat displays make no sense for fighting dogs—they’re “supposed” to fight. During matches, there is no precursor to fighting. In fact, there is almost no noise at all during a match. There is no growling, no raised hair, no snapping. There is no threatening posturing. With only the sound of breathing, the dogs will take turns biting and holding onto each other.

However, one common form of dog body language still remains in many fighting dogs that could indicate pain and fear. At some point in the match, one of the dogs might tuck his tail to display that he is having second thoughts about wanting to be there. Another reliable sign that he is about to quit fighting is when he physically turns his head and shoulders away from his opponent.

During the match, these animals can sustain severe injuries such as broken bones, severe bruising, and deep puncture wounds. However, because they have been “programmed” not to back down, they often continue to fight even with severe injuries, sometimes until death. If they do not die in the ring they may die later from untreated injuries, if they lost the match, since owners no longer value the dog’s abilities. Even those who survive the match may succumb to illness or death from blood loss or shock.

Now Ask Yourself: Does dogfighting hurt anyone? Is it fair? How would you feel if somebody did it to you? Is it the right thing to do?

It’s your responsibility, because you are the only person over whom you have control. A lot of any problems’ outcome is determined by our reaction to that problem. We can choose to become angry or remain calm; anger and violence can cause a problem to escalate while remaining calm can help to de-escalate and solve a problem. It’s also your responsibility to help prevent violence because you may be the only person that is aware of a bad situation (dogfighting, an abused child, a neglected animal). If you don’t do something about it, who will? Your decision to help by just making a phone call to an authority could literally save a human or animal life.

You have the choice to do the right thing. Be true to yourself. Take responsibility for yourself and your actions.