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“Animal fighting”  is a staged fight between two or more animals, or between a human and an animal, for the purpose of human entertainment, wagering, or sport. In some instances, one of the animals may be a “bait animal” used for the ostensible purpose of sport or training.

In the United States, the three most common types of animal fighting are:

Dogfighting

In organized dogfighting cases, two dogs are put into a ring or pit to fight until one cannot continue or dies. In street dogfighting cases, the level of organization is substantially lacking and fights occur, sometimes spontaneously, in secluded spots within city parks, school lots, alleys or other similar locations.

Cockfighting

Handlers attach a razor or gaff to each rooster’s leg (typically the left leg) and put them into a ring to fight to the death. Attendees often consider the events to be family entertainment.

Hog-dog fighting

(Also known as “hog-dog trials” or “hog-dog rodeos”)

In a “hog-catching” event, dogs are put in a pen and timed for how quickly they can attack and pin a feral hog whose tusks have been cut off. Handlers may use a breaking stick to pry apart the jaws of the biting dogs. The attack on the hog may be fatal. In a “hog-baying” event, dogs are timed for how quickly they can corner a hog. Injuries can result from dogs biting hogs or defensive hogs throwing dogs in the air. Attendees consider the events to be family entertainment.

Issues common to animal fighting cases:

  • Organized animal fighting is usually a secretive industry and very difficult for law enforcement to infiltrate. Accordingly, it is rare for investigators to find a fight in progress.
  • Animal fighting activities attract other serious crimes, such as gambling, drug dealing, weapons offenses and money laundering. Children are commonly present at animal fighting events. Pet theft to acquire bait animals is also a common byproduct crime.
  • In organized animal fighting cases in which law enforcement officers are able to seize the animals in a raid, there are usually a large number of animals who must be catalogued as evidence, provided with medical treatment, and sheltered during the pendency of the court case. Furthermore, security precautions may be necessary at the shelter venue because animals considered to be from “champion bloodlines” are in danger of being stolen.
  • Most animals who have been trained for organized fights are so aggressive that they ultimately must be euthanized. However, prosecutors can petition the court to appoint a guardian/special master to act in the animals’ best interests regarding their final disposition. The special master appointed in the Michael Vick dogfighting case secured the placement of 48 dogs who were not euthanized. Each state has its own court rules regarding the appointment of special masters.

Issues specific to dogfighting cases:

  • Canine victims usually suffer ongoing neglect and cruelty during the “training” process. They are often: forced to wear heavy chains and run on treadmills; left outside without shelter; fed steroids to increase muscle mass; fed stimulants to make them aggressive in a fight; fed narcotics so they don’t feel pain in a fight; starved to make them aggressive or so they can “make weight” in a contract fight; and subjected to cruel amateur ear cropping and treatment for fighting injuries. Females may be confined in “rape boxes” for breeding.
  • Trainers may viciously kill dogs who refuse to fight or who lose fights. Killing methods include shooting, hanging, drowning and electrocution. In the “dog man’s” world, the credo is “Breed the best and bury the rest.”
  • Trainers ruthlessly acquire animals to use as live bait. Acquisition methods include fraudulently acquiring dogs or cats from shelters or via “free to a good home” ads, setting up a sham rescue organization, or outright pet theft. The bait animals are often attacked and torn apart during training.
  • Some handlers may lace their dog’s coat with poison or paralytics to harm the opponent.
  • Innocent people may become terrorized, fearing for themselves, their children or their pets because of criminal activity among neighbors and their vicious dogs who might get loose.

Last revised January 2018

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