In the 1990's illegal dog fighting decreased but recently there has been a national resurgence. It is not just in big cities, but in suburban and rural areas, and indeed is worldwide and a felony in all states except Idaho and Wyoming
The dog of choice is the American Pit Bull, though they also use Fila Brasileros, Dog Argentino and Presa Canarios. The English Staffordshire Terrier is an old breed, from which the American Pit Bull is descended. Responsible breeders breed for non-aggressive temperaments, but sadly, there are many who breed to increase aggression to supply dogs for dog fighting.
There are four levels - street fighters, hobbyists, the professionals and sports stars and well-known people. Gambling, drugs, alcohol, illegal weapons, probation violations are often present, and trained dogs are transported from state to state for big fights.
Betting can be thousands of dollars, and spectators come from all walks of life. Even professionals, lawyers, doctors, teachers, etc. attend for the thrill of the "blood sport" and sometimes bring their children. Proven dogs can be worth thousands of dollars and are used to breed more fighting dogs.
The dogs are bred to be as aggressive as possible, and the pups that won't fight are either killed or used as "bait" dogs. Sometimes trainers get "free dogs and cats" from the paper or the internet to use in training their fighting dogs. (This is another reason if you must re-home a pet to ask potential adopters who their veterinarian is and check their references and visit the home and meet the family).
They use abandoned houses, basements, rural settings, almost anywhere to hide the dogs and stage fights. Dogs are trained by hanging heavy chains from their necks to build strength, run on treadmills, bite tires suspended from trees. Steroids and illegal drugs are used to build up the dogs, mask pain and increase aggression. Owners often cruelly dock tails and crop ears.
The pits are made of plywood panels, hay bales and the like. Injured dogs may be treated by owners with drugs obtained illegally, but often they are starved or killed inhumanely.
Most of the fighting dogs tolerate their owner, but they are very aggressive towards other dogs and animals and are not safe to be adopted out when seized by Police or Animal Control. Sadly, they are almost always put down. In many of the larger towns and cities, most of the dogs in the shelter are Pit Bulls or Pit mixes, which suggests that illegal fighting is more common than ever.
The American Pit Bull breed is actually a smart, loving and loyal dog, and responsible breeders breed out aggression and look for sweet dogs. Good owners know that their puppies (indeed any puppy) must be well-socialized with people, strangers, new places, and other animals, and unless used for breeding, altered while puppies. More than 70% of reported dog bites are by male dogs that are not neutered.
The fear that many now have of the Pit Bull has resulted in some insurance companies refusing to write homeowners insurance if one is owned (other protector breeds may be banned), and in landlords saying "no" to this breed. It's too bad because a sweet, socialized puppy from a responsible breeder can be a wonderful family dog.
If you see dogs you suspect are being fought, please report it to your local Animal Control Officer, Police, veterinarians, town and health officials, and housing authorities. Education of our young people is critical so that they do not seek out the so-called thrill of this "blood sport".
Encourage your grade schools to invite a dog trainer with their dog to come and speak about how to love and care for the family dog, whatever the breed. If we can convince children that dogs and other animals are to be loved and cared for, perhaps dog fighting will decrease. The internet is a great source to learn more about dog fighting and what YOU can do about it.
Visit the ASPCA and Humane Society websites and www.pet-abuse.com which is a worldwide listing of reported animal cruelty cases and many involve dog fighting and animals used as "bait".
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