Dog Training and Dog Care advice from UK Professionals

Fighting Dogs

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Dog Fighting Continues

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be
judged by the way it treats its animals”.
Mahatma Gandhi

Dog Fighting is a sadistic sport involving placing two dogs in a ring or pit and forcing them to fight until one of them is severely injured or killed. Fighting with dogs is still at large today despite it being banned in the United Kingdom. Dogs are trained to fight from an early age mainly by beating, taunting and starving them. By using other small animals as bait such as cats, rabbits or other small dogs, the fighting dog is taunted and trained to kill, something which dogs do not do naturally unless there is a need for food.


The History of Dog Fighting

The use of dogs in organised fights has been around for thousands of years. The Romans, Greeks, Spanish and the French all used dogs to fight in arenas for sport. Dogs were bred specifically to be used for fighting.

The British Bulldog for example, was used in dog fighting. The dog became popular as a hunting dog as it could catch and hold the fierce wild boar and other large game. The dog began to be used to control unruly bulls on their way to market which is how the dog got its name.

This beast of a dog was unlike the Bulldog of today. Today's Bulldog has a short deformed nose, bowed legs and weak wide shoulders. They have short tails and wrinkles on their foreheads. These deformities would have been detriments to the real baiting dogs of the 1800's. Any dog that was set against an enraged bull had to be pretty nimble to avoid being gored to death.

Bull Baiting was a popular sport in Britain from the medieval period of the 12 th century. Nearly every town in Elizabethan England boasted a bull baiting ring. To make the bull angry, pepper was blown up its nose and it was poked and beaten with sticks. The creature was then tied to a bull ring and set upon by dogs. Spectators would bet on which dog would succeed in getting the bull down by its nose which was its “Achilles” heel and rendered the creature helpless. This sport was historically considered enjoyable entertainment for royalty.

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Another common sport was Badger Baiting. Badgers would be caught and put into a ring or pit. Dogs would be thrown in and bets would be placed. Unfortunately for the Badger, it has a tough coat, tough skin, and strong bone structure that ensured long and bloody fights. Of course this delighted the onlookers.

Both Badger Baiting and Bull Baiting were outlawed in 1835. On the throne at that time was William IV who had led such a bloodthirsty life that, hoping to gain forgiveness in heaven, he banned blood sports and tried to lead a puritan lifestyle. This did not deter the blood thirsty people who were determined to enjoy their sport.

Fighting moved into the dank and seedy cellars of taverns to become an underground culture. Though dog fighting took place in many countries, it is most associated with the English and for over 600 years the pastime flourished.

The attitude amongst people involved in dog fighting is that, as with fox hunting, they are only following a traditional sport. They claim to love and care for their animals and believe that if it was acceptable hundreds of years ago then they are merely continuting an age old tradition.

One should remember that when dog fighting was legal in England it was also legal to:

Beat and maim wives and children
Kill any animal for sport
Import the decapitated heads of Pacific Islander People to be used in decorating the home
It was also during this era that the British imported African people to be used as slaves

The mentality of British people up to the 1800's was far different to that of today, at least in the majority of cases.

The dogmen involved in the cruel and sadistic form of entertainment state that they care for their animals so much that they seek veterinary treatment when their dogs are injured in a fight. Sounds similar to the kind of man who repeatedly and brutally beats his wife, but then drives her to the nearest casualty department crying about how much he loves his wife. Stating that they love their dogs does not make it any less of a crime or any less horrific to put them into dog fighting pits for fun and profit.

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The Fighting Dogs

Stemming from the Bull Baiting dogs of long ago, Pit Bull types, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and American Bull Terriers, all hail from these old breed lines. The obvious choice of breed to fight is the Pit Bull Terrier or Pit Bull crosses. Other breeds such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Akita 's and Dobermans are also used. Not just any dog can be trained to fight, for example, it's hard to imagine most placid Golden Retrievers participating in such ferocious events.

These Pit Bull type dogs may have an inherited potential to fight but this does not mean that they will fight. Study the behaviour patterns of the wolf or the dog in fight mode. Firstly by nature dogs avoid confrontation and unnecessary battles by posturing, raising hackles, growling and staring until usually one of them will back down. If a fight does break out at some stage the losing animal will roll over and submit. The winning animal immediately accepts the others submission and the encounter is ended. If the two animals were to meet again one would see them perform a ritual dance of posturing and verbal exchanges that serve to reconfirm their relationship within the group. Only if the winning (leader) dog becomes old or injured would the losing dog attempt to overthrow its rival.

In fighting dogs this aspect of normal behaviour has to be eliminated. Fighting dogs must keep on attacking despite receiving submissive signals from its opponent. Likewise both dogs will continue to fight even when they are severely injured, suffering blood loss, torn limbs and exhaustion. This human induced behaviour is called “Gameness”. In all Terrier dog breeds there lies a characteristic of unwillingness to back down. Responsible breeders of such dogs have taken extreme care to breed out these aggressive traits to produce terrier breeds that make wonderful companion dogs. There is a big difference between “Gameness” and aggression and in the case of the fighting dog irresponsible breeding has heightened both traits.

To train the fighting dog and eliminate submissive behaviour the dog is “blooded” by encouraging it to attack and fight other animals. Dogs are stolen specifically for this purpose. The “bait” dog has its muzzle taped shut to avoid the fighting dog being injured. Cats, rabbits, kittens and small dogs make the perfect bait. The fighting dog is beaten and starved to channel its aggression towards the bait. Tools used in this cruel pastime include:

•  Treadmills – to increase the dog's stamina, cardiovascular fitness and endurance.

•  A Jenny or Catmill – This is a piece of apparatus that consists of beams reaching out from a central rotating pole. The fighting dog is chained to one beam and the cat or bait is tied to another. The dog races round in circles trying to catch the bait. When the exercise is finished the dog is given the bait to kill and eat.

•  Jump pole – This is a large pole with a spring hanging down. At the end of the spring is some rope or animal hide. The dog jumps up and hangs onto the rope sometimes for hours. This strengthens the jaws and the leg muscles.

•  Heavy weights and chains – These are attached to the dog's neck and dangle on the ground. This builds up neck and upper body muscles. When the dog is not fighting it is usually left with these heavy chains attached.

•  Food supplements and drugs – Fighting dogs are fed supplements such as liver/iron extract, Vitamin B12, Hormones/Testosterone, Repotest and Probolic Oil. They are also fed drugs such as Heroin, Amphetamines and Cocaine.

Generally all fighting dogs are kept in pitiful conditions. They are beaten on a regular basis to keep them aggressive. They are starved and and often live in cages full of their own excrement. They know of no other life and despite having ears torn off and their bodies ripped apart they still will lick their owner's hand. This pitiful plea for affection leads the owner to really believe that the dog “loves” to fight. In the words of a ‘dogman':

“We're not hurting anybody and the dogs love to fight, so what's the harm?”

On fight night, the dogs are taunted and beaten to “fire” them up. They are then placed into a ring whilst spectators watch the dogs tear each other apart with bouts lasting anything up to two hours. Not only do these poor animals suffer horrendous injuries but the losing dog faces a brutal death at the hands of its angry owner. In the ring the dogs receive deep puncture wounds, broken bones and torn off ears. Dogs often die from blood loss, shock and exhaustion. Various brutal methods are used to kill unwanted losing dogs. Some are electrocuted, drowned, beaten to death or killed by hanging. In a way, these are the lucky ones as others are thrown into cages and left to die. Investigators have found animals literally frozen or starved to death after being abandoned by their owners.

It is generally believed that the Pit Bull Terrier has “locking” jaws but this is not strictly true. It stems from a myth that grew due to the dog's tendency to bite and hold, the jaw does not actually lock. They do have extremely powerful jaw pressure and can hold onto another animal with great strength. The Pit Bull is known to be inherently aggressive due to so many being bred specifically for dog fighting, and it is a banned breed in the United Kingdom.

The Human Element

Dog fighting is on the increase in the United Kingdom . In Northern Ireland dog owners' pets are being stolen to be used as bait for training dogs to fight. Stephen Philpott of the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA) says that stolen dogs end up in “dog training camps” and believes that dozens of dogs are stolen each year to supply the camps. Mr Philpott said:

“If a dog goes missing, it has to turn up somewhere. How can all these dogs be disappearing off the face of the earth? There has to be some reason for it…these are people's pets, lying there chained up, waiting to be fed to trained killers”.

In Belfast these dogs can be seen openly walking alongside their owners in public. Children's swings in the area carry the evidence that these dogs are trained to hold and bite. Many of the swings carry bite marks and have huge chunks bitten out of the seats.

Dog fighting is part of a highly organised underworld. The fighting dogs are in the main, Pit Bull type dogs and fall under the Dangerous Dog Act of 1991 which was introduced as a response to people being attacked by aggressive or uncontrolled dogs and to stem the rise in dog fighting. Four dogs are on the list: Pit Bull Terrier, Tosa, Dogo Argentino and the Fila Brasilerio.

Under the act, these dogs are banned from being sold, bred or exchanged within the UK.

Despite being banned, investigators know that this environment of cruelty and violence is supported not only by the criminal element but also by the ‘upper' classes. The professional dogmen have incredible marketing skills and can draw large gatherings of people ready to bet vast amounts of money for the pleasure of seeing dogs being torn apart and savaged. The owners of champion dogs often come from homes with limited social or economic opportunity. By having a winning dog, they gain respect and power within the criminal fraternity. The owner often has extensive knowledge of the nutritional requirements of his dog and the best training methods. Offspring from a champion dog that has won 5 or more fights can fetch thousands of pounds. In fact dog fighting can be an incredible source of income as an average dog fight can net more money than an average armed robbery.

In the US , Stephanie LaFarge, PhD, Senior Director of the ASPCA Counselling Services said:

“Dog fighters represent a range of personality types and psychological disorders. Like anyone they are moulded by their environment and begin to develop a system of values early. School life offers them little fulfilment and humiliates them into doing socially unacceptable things in an environment where beating the system is the goal”.

This almost sounds as if dog owners and decent members of society should feel responsible or sorry for these sadistic people. Let us not forget the horrifying torture these innocent dogs undergo and the miserable pain filled lives they lead. In the politically correct society of today it is far easier to find excuses for the criminal behaviour of these people that form the dregs of society rather than see them for what they really are: ruthless, brutal, Neanderthal morons.

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Dog fighting is seen as a symptom of urban decay, but a substantial human element exists within this culture that stem from titled or professional backgrounds. Audiences can be made up of teachers, judges, solicitors, bankers and businessmen. Their eyes are closed to the sickening blood thirsty aspect. For some of them dog fighting is an art. Veterinarians are known in the circuit that will provide pharmaceuticals and treatment for injured dogs but bear in mind that it is only the winning dogs that may receive treatment. More often than not even winning dogs undergo DIY surgery by their owners.

Dog fighting is symptomatic of other illegal activities and is seen to be a sport enjoyed by criminals who themselves have a history of violence. Guns, knives, drug dealing, gang warfare and robbery are associated with dog fighting because of the huge amounts of money involved. Heavy bets are placed with the winner earning up to £20,000 or more. This form of gambling is popular because it carries less risk of interference from the police. Such adults often bring their children to watch who in turn become desensitised to violence and animal abuse. These children grow up to commit similar crimes as their peers and have no respect for the animals concerned. Despite this being a criminal activity, the law is rarely enforced due to the cloak of silence that surrounds the dog fighting fraternity.

The world of illegal dog fighting threatens society in general. Associated with this brutal activity lies the seedy world of drug trafficking, prostitution and the deaths of innocent animals and people who cause any problems for their activities.

On January 1st , 2007, five year old Ellie Lawrenson was savaged to death by a Pit Bull type Terrier dog in Manchester, UK. The news of this little girl's death horrified the public as the dog had allegedly been bred by the girl's uncle specifically for the dog fighting ring. A police clampdown followed and over 200 fighting dogs were seized in the Merseyside area of England . Ellie's uncle pleaded guilty to owning a dog that was banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act and received a prison sentence.

Society is just beginning to confront this violent culture with the police and animal welfare officers seizing more dogs and arresting more owners than ever before. For the victims of this brutal spectacle, the dogs, rescue cannot come soon enough.

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Description of a Dog Fight

The spectators crowded into the dank cellar where a makeshift ring had been erected. The mood was one of high spirits as vast sums of money exchanged hands. In the corner behind a table sat the drug dealers. Armed with Heroin, Cocaine, and Amphetamines they peddled their wares to add to the ever increasing hysteria.

Diagonal lines had been drawn across two corners of the ring behind which were the next contestants. At a signal the dogs exploded into action. Like two missiles on a collision course the dogs flew at each other. One dog, Jet, was as black as coal. The white scars that covered his muzzle and body told of past battles. Pitted against him was Bear, a newcomer to the scene but still a strong and fierce brindle dog. Within minutes the dogs had locked. Blood and spittle covered their bodies as they tumbled around in the stained sawdust. Jet caught the brindle round the neck and the dog's jaws gripped so hard that Bear's eyes bulged from their sockets.

The crowd screamed and whistled. This is what they had all come to see. Though blood gushed from a gaping wound in his neck, Bear did not understand the concept of surrender. This natural instinct had been beaten and trained out of him by his owner. With each twist that Bear made in his frantic efforts to dislodge Jet, the wound in his neck grew deeper. Jets jaws were removing his opponents face, exposing teeth, bone and tissue.

The audience hungered for the kill and the cheers and shouts grew more frenzied. For Bear it was all over. As the life left his exhausted body, the crowd were scrambling to place bets on the next bout.

One day, hopefully soon, we really will be living in a 'civilised' society, or at least maybe our dogs will.

If you have any information on illegal dog fighting, you can contact us in complete confidence, and we will ensure your information is passed on to the authorities immediately. Alternatively, please contact Crimestoppers where your anonymity is assured and you may receive a reward for information leading to a prosecution. You may also wish to contact the RSPCA for any dog cruelty you are aware of.

Finally, this article opened with the words of Mahatma Gandhi, and it will end with the same quotation, though it now seems a little more meaningful:

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way it treats its animals”.

Dog Fighting Lowlife - Michael Vick
Michael Vick, proud owner of a mutilated fighting dog.

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