A few years back, before I moved to my apartment, I lived around 2 streets over from a dog fighting operation. It was very difficult seeing the number of dogs going in and out of the highly guarded house. Everyone knew what was going on and all we could do was wait for the authorities to pull together their case. I was very worried about my cats. In my opinion, dog fighting should fill cat owners with the same sort of rage that it fills dog owners with. To help explain why, I asked Tim Rickey, the ASPCA’s Vice President of Field Investigations and Response.
First a Little Background on Dog Fighting
Dog fighting is not a new sport, it has actually been around since the 1750’s. It became widespread in the US after the Civil War (1861 – 1865). Despite the fact that both owning fighting dogs and being a spectator to dog fights are felonies in all 50 states, it still remains widespread today.
Unfortunately, dog fighting involves people from all walks of life. The ASPCA even defines 3 different levels of dog fighters: Street Level, Hobbyists, and Professionals. Street level dog fighters are the least organized of the 3 levels and often have impromptu dog fights on street corners and in alleys. Hobbyists participate in organized fights, but only have a few dogs. Professional dog fighters are highly organized, have as many as 50 dogs or more, and earn money not only from fighting but breeding and selling fighting dogs.
How a dog is trained depends a lot on what level of dog fighting they are involved in. Often dogs are kept chained up with heavy chains (supposedly to make them stronger) and kept away from other dogs. Steroids and narcotics are used on the dogs to increase their muscle mass and encourage aggressiveness. Exercise is very controlled and may involve treadmills. To teach the dog to fight, “bait” animals are brought in, their defenses are neutralized, and the dog is let loose on them. Dogs that are not good fighters or that embarrass their owners in fights are killed or abandoned to die from their injuries.
Why Cat Owners Should Care
One reason that cat owners should care about dog fighting is that cats are sometimes used as the bait animal. “While not extremely common, we have found cats on several operations,” said Tim Rickey, speaking of the raids the ASPCA has done on dog fighting rings. “The conditions are usually poor but we don’t generally find cats that have already been used in the training as they don’t typically survive. We commonly find live traps or homemade cages that would be used to house cats or other small animals.”
Where do dog fighters get the cats and other animals they use as bait? It isn’t just feral cats falling into evil hands. According to Rickey, they find them roaming around the neighborhood, pick them up from “Free to a Good Home” ads, and sometimes even adopt them from shelters. Consider this, would it be easier to get someone’s outdoor pet cat to come to you if you were out trying to steal cats or a feral cat?
This video is only 45 seconds long (NOT graphic), but very eye opening.
Believe it or not, dog fighting could be going on in your area. According to the ASPCA, the number of people involved in dog fighting in the US could be in the tens of thousands. Here in Michigan where I am, the Michigan Humane Society’s animal cruelty unit has jurisdiction over 3 cities: Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park. Within these 3 cities alone, the Michigan Humane Society responds to more than 150 dog fighting related cases per year (more than 12 per month)! Reports of several raids done by the ASPCA in different states can be found here.
How You Can Help the ASPCA #GetTough on Dog Fighting
First of all, if you know of or suspect dog fighting in your area, contact the authorities. It can be a long, frustrating process to get the dog fighters prosecuted, but it will be worth it. Investigations into dog fighting rings often resemble those of narcotics investigations. Another thing that may slow the process is the lack of available housing and care for the seized animals during the judicial process. To see what the current penalties for dog fighting in your state are, click here.
The ASPCA is working to bring awareness to the problem of dog fighting and to have it prosecuted more often. You can help raise awareness by participating in National Dog Fighting Awareness Day (Wednesday, April 8) on social media. To learn more about dog fighting and what the ASPCA is doing to bring an end to it, please visit the dog fighting page on the ASPCA website.