Dog Fighting Facts: We Need To Break The Chain

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Matt Bershadker at dog fighting shelterMany people see dogfighting as a relic of our distant past, or a sick phenomenon that ended the day Michael Vick was arrested more than ten years ago. Even if it exists, surely it occurs only in a handful of dark corners of our country, run by individuals too despicable to live as ordinary members of our communities, right?

Sadly, none of those statements are true. In a poll the ASPCA released in April 2018 for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, it was found that there are widespread misperceptions about the prevalence of dogfighting, where it happens, and the types of people committing these crimes. The study also found misunderstandings about the signs of dogfighting, and even an unwillingness to report suspected dogfighting activity.

For the sake of thousands of animals being tortured and victimized every year, it’s time for a reality check.

The Truth About Dogfighting

In our poll, 57 percent of the respondents believed dogfighting never happens in their community. But dogfighting occurs more often and in more places than most people think, and is more horrific than most can imagine.

I spent years overseeing and deploying with our ASPCA Anti-Cruelty teams, but am still horrified at stories of animals routinely and viciously attacked, beaten, electrocuted and drowned. I’m also repulsed by the use of “rape stands” for breeding, and “bait dogs” for fighting practice.

Fighting dogs are typically raised in isolation, spending most of their lives on short, heavy chains. They are regularly conditioned with drugs, including anabolic steroids, to enhance muscle mass and encourage aggressiveness. During fights, these animals suffer puncture wounds, blood loss, crushing injuries and broken bones. Many eventually succumb to their injuries, and losing dogs are often discarded, killed, or brutally executed.

A National Problem

These fights can happen anywhere, from farms in Alabama to basements in New York City. In the past eight years, the ASPCA has assisted with approximately 200 dogfighting cases in more than 23 states, impacting nearly 5,000 victims of dogfighting. Last year alone, the ASPCA directly rescued more than 400 animals from dogfighting across 12 states.

We estimate that people who fight dogs number in the tens of thousands, forcing hundreds of thousands of dogs to train, fight, and suffer every year. Dogfights are also connected to gambling, illegal drug and firearm sales and other crimes.

And contrary to stereotypes, dogfighters are often the kinds of people we interact with all the time, including lawyers, teachers, high school football coaches, nurses, veterinary technicians, and judges, spanning all racial and socioeconomic lines. There is no “typical” dogfighter; the only qualities they share are callous greed and sadism.

Recognizing And Responding To Dogfighting

Fewer than a third of poll participants reported being very confident they would recognize the signs of dogfighting, so let’s be clear about what to look for. Signs of dogfighting include dogs with multiple scars, possibly with lips or ears ripped off; dogs on heavy chains, tethered to tire axles or dog houses; a dirt ring around the dog, dogs chained inches apart from one another, and dogs chained or penned in a secluded area intentionally kept out of the public’s view.

When you do suspect dogfighting, what is your first instinct? Contact a shelter or local animal control agency? Post a question or thought online? Bury your head? In our poll, only about half of respondents who’ve suspected dogfighting did the right thing: Call the police. Twenty-five percent did nothing at all.
There are anti-cruelty laws on the books and it’s the police’s job to enforce them. These calls can even be made anonymously.

What You Should Do

If you have or know a dog, you understand that dogfighting is the ultimate betrayal – taking that natural love and loyalty, and twisting it to profit from their misery. Some dogs recover and lead happy, comfortable lives. Others are not so fortunate.

These animals need rescue, but deserve protection, which means stopping dogfights before they start. National Dogfighting Awareness Day, April 8, is our annual effort to counter destructive misperceptions with truth, promote lifesaving awareness, and encourage reporting to police. This will not only save lives, but reinforce compassion as a driving force and strongly-held value in our culture.

Of course, especially if you’re reading this, you may not know about a dogfight personally. But somewhere in your community – whether actual or online – someone likely knows someone who does, and may even be involved. So, this year, educate yourself as a first step in educating others.

Legally, dogfighting is a crime in every state, but it will take communities acting proactively and with determination to break those chains for good.

Video: Dog Fighting

Watch this three-minute video as Matt talks with Senior Director of Planning and Field Operations Joel Lopez about the prevalence of dogfighting.

This guest post is written by Matt Bershadker, President and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Read another post by Matt about the ASPCA’s behavioral rehab center.

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April 13, 2019 7:40 am

This is propaganda!
a rape stand is a name made up by the humane society. It’s called a brood stand and it’s for the safety of the b**** and the male.
Bait dogs ? buls***! These are all propaganda ploys. In the South there’s hog Hunters everywhere.
They have pitbulls dogs all chained out. They have to use Break sticks ( Another “Dogfighting” sign if you listen to these Humane Society freaks. Well mister expert how do you expect me to get a catch dog off of my livestock without a dam breaking stick? You know you people only use dogs to put to sleep and that’s a fact. Some people still use their dogs for working purposes and those are the people you’re trying to put in jail you should be ashamed of yourself! and all you watching your neighbors, You need to sweep under your own beds.! These type of people have destroyed so many good people’s lives in the south ,people that have not done anything wrong but they have a break and stick or they have a hog dog on a chain or they have a brood stand to use to keep their b**** and male safe when they’re breeding them. Of course what these people will not tell you is when they come to the yard and put these good people in jail they take all their dogs, puppies whatever they have and they put them to sleep!They KILL THEM! They Don’t save them and adopt them out like you fantasy people want to believe!! They kill them! They absolutely are horrible no good dirty sons of b******!!! And for you people to turn in a neighbor because he has a couple dogs,You don’t have a clue you’re ruining people’s lives for just a thought put in your brain
Buy these lunatic humanics!
These people are straight murders killers Don’t you think that dog would rather be a live and working in the woods for his owner getting attention, good feed ,played with my children getting to runaround free in the woods for Weekends at a time? don’t you think they’d rather have that or do you think they wanted the humanics way a green needle up their butt? These people are nothing short of evil murderers! And I’m not talking about the so-called dog fighters!
Don’t buy this hype we’ll have a pure war against pit bulls in their owners and that’s all there is to it in this great and make it extinct if you don’t believe me do some research ! they only show the worst of the worst of the worst!! they prop it up their media ways and they make it look like something it’s not, to kill the dogs and put people in jail that’s all it’s about money and destroying A breed.

June 17, 2019 6:02 am
Reply to  Jay

Do you really think dogfighting doesn’t exist? There is a HUGE difference between your working dogs and ones used for fighting! Do you have 50-100 dogs closely chained together on your property? Let’s see one of the most recent, 400 from 22 different places were seized. This is no joke! You think this isn’t real? I read the official Summary of the Facts by the United States Attorney where it documents EVERYTHING! After a lie detector test he confessed to killing 6-8 dogs that did not perform well in “testing”. I’ve also read the investigation put together done by the US Department of Agriculture which also goes through every detail of that case. I suppose you think that’s all BS too right?

I highly suggest you watch this.

Dawn Cantrell
December 19, 2018 4:20 pm

I think we have dog fighting in my area, we usually have a lot of strays, and there are zero around my area, a dog page on Facebook in my area thinks so too. What can I do? How can I help? I’m just one person with dogs of my own, with little money. This hurts to think of dogs being hurt.

Kimberly Alt
December 20, 2018 8:53 am
Reply to  Dawn Cantrell

Have you spoken to others in your area including the authorities?