Dogfighting is an illegal, secretive industry that operates underground, which makes it impossible to know for certain how many dogs are victims of dogfighting. But based on investigations and prosecutions, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of dogs each year are abused and killed in dogfighting operations.

That’s why it’s critical to stay vigilant and report suspected animal cruelty to local law enforcement whenever you see it. Here are the facts about dogfighting and the warning signs you should know:

  1. Dogfights can happen anywhere, anytime of year. They may happen in a city park or a remote wooded area, a field, the basement of a house or apartment complex, a barn, garage, or warehouse. Some fights may even take place on the street in a secluded alley.
  2. Dogs who are forced to fight often have their ears cropped and tails docked by dogfighters. Other physical signs that a dog is being abused for dogfighting include scars — especially on their face, chest and legs — lacerations, puncture wounds, and other untreated injuries. Dogs abused in dogfighting operations are often tied down outdoors with heavy chains and collars, with no water and little-to-no shelter. Many dogs may also be confined in crates packed closely together in basements or warehouses.

3. A property where dogfights or training take place will typically have a confined ring, pit, or other enclosed space where the dogs are forced to fight one another. The enclosure may be stained with blood and have scratch marks. Dogfighting paraphernalia may also be found on the property, including tread mills to which dogs are tethered and forced to run, stimulants and steroids for the purpose of increasing stamina and aggression in dogs, and bloodied break sticks— a tool inserted into a dog’s mouth and used to pry apart her jaws during a fight. Other types of dogfighting paraphernalia include spring poles — a spring mechanism attached to a toy that provides resistance when a dog pulls on it — hanging from a beam or tree branch that are used to strengthen dogs’ jaws, as well as “cat mills” which trap cats or other “bait” animals just out of reach of a dog harnessed to a treadmill — thought to “condition” them for endurance and to attack other animals. The remains of deceased animals, including dogs killed in fights as well as “bait animals” killed in training, may also be found on the property.

It’s important to remember that just because someone you know has a pit bull-type dog, that does not mean the dog is engaged in dogfighting. While pit bulls are among the dogs commonly associated with dogfighting, many kinds of dogs are forced to fight and are used as live “bait” for training as well. Know the signs above and always report suspected animal fighting or cruelty of any kind to local law enforcement.

To help the Animal Legal Defense Fund fight to strengthen animal cruelty laws and secure effective sentences for dogfighters and other animal abusers, please make a lifesaving donation today.

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