Dog fighting in the UK
Wounds inflicted on fighting dogs can be horrific – and fatal
Dog fighting as a ‘sport’ was banned in 1835. Even then it was considered barbaric. But it still goes on.
In 2015, a ground-breaking academic report, commissioned by the League Against Cruel Sports, revealed that a dog fight takes place in the UK every day.
The report identified three levels of dog fighting:
Level One: Street Rolls
- One on one fights in urban parks and housing estates
- Likely to occur somewhere in the UK every day
Level Two: Hobbyist
- Often gang affiliated with gambling involved
- Likely to occur somewhere in the UK every couple of weeks
Level Three: Professional
- Sophisticated dog rings with highly trained dogs of reputable bloodlines
- Likely to occur somewhere in UK every few months
As well as these shocking revelations, the report also highlighted the fact that in reality, we know very little about what dog fighting activity is taking place in the UK. The way dog fighting is recorded and policed, the lack of collaboration between those involved in working with dog fighting or the dogs themselves, and the clandestine nature of dog fighting, meant that in reality, when it comes to dog fighting we are working in the dark.
To try and remedy this situation, we instigated Project Bloodline. This was a six month pilot operation which aim at discovering the why, where and when of dog fighting. We based ourselves in an area which was ‘average’ in terms of suspected dog fighting activity – urban areas within Bedfordshire – and set about uncovering the truth
What we found within those six months was quite shocking.
Within just a short space of time we received 40 pieces of intelligence which we believe tell the true story of what was happening in those areas. These included:
- A feral cat colony was being kept to supply ‘bait’ for dog fighting.
- Dogs trained for fighting by being ‘body slammed’ and ‘head slammed’, techniques involving punching or hitting the dog’s head against a wall to toughen them up.
- The bodies of dead dogs, which have been used for fighting, are being dumped near farmland.
- A Staffordshire Bull Terrier which had been used for ‘bait’ had its teeth ground down so that it could not fight back.
- Lower-level dog fighting – so-called ‘street rolling’ - continues in a number of locations within the towns, despite the councils having worked hard on the issue within recent years.
- Young people in the pilot towns continue to use powerful breeds of dogs to accord themselves status within their communities.
- Prohibited breeds continue to be bred in the area in order to supply the dog fighting and status dogs market. Prohibited breeds are also crossbred with other breeds to make them more suitable for dog fighting.
- There is a significant clandestine market in the trade of potential fighting dogs – our investigators were offered dogs by a masked man during the operation. Pitbull ‘type’ puppies were being sold for £1,000.
Is dog fighting on the rise?
As we have pointed out, it is hard to be exact when it comes to dog fighting, however the evidence is adding up.
Other relevant evidence includes a slight but steady increase in dog fighting related calls to the RSPCA, a 76% rise in UK hospital admissions due to dog bites or strikes in the last 10 years, the growth in muscly bred dogs on the streets, the clandestine sale of potential fighting dogs in dark alleys, the seeming need for dogs as protection, the apparent growth in the number of stolen dogs, possibly used for bait. Markings on trees where dogs have been trained, and hundreds of other pieces of information and intelligence gathered by our investigators.
From all this, it is our opinion that we are seeing a resurgence of dog fighting in urban areas. Dog fighting might not be easy to see, but that’s the point, and we ignore this evidence at our peril.
The PUP Plan
From our work on Project Bloodline, we have formulated what we believe would be an effective and workable National Dog Fighting Action Plan. The plan comprises many elements, and is based around the three areas of Prevention, Understanding and Prosecution (PUP).
- The formation of a National Task Force, led by a senior figure in Government, to ensure sufficient collaboration and action takes place to tackle dog fighting across the country.
- Dog fighting should be recorded as a specific offence separate to animal fighting in order to enable the scale of the problem to be more accurately assessed.
- Legislation and penalties for offenders must be clarified and strengthened to ensure those found guilty are punished appropriately. The League would like to see a minimum tariff of three years for convicted dog fighters. Sentencing should reflect the spectrum of offending in relation to dog fighting (from street level dog fighting to organised crime). Rehabilitation programmes should be offered as part of the sentencing mix.
- Details of individuals banned from keeping dogs should be held on a national register by statutory agencies. This would help to prevent those already convicted of animal cruelty offences from being able to commit further offences as well as increasing opportunities for enforcement action.
- Tackling dog fighting should be seen in the context of dog fighting being a gateway crime. Dealing with dog fighting can lead to other crimes such as drugs and gun crime being solved.
- Breed specific legislation is fundamentally flawed. The Dangerous Dogs Act should be reviewed as a matter of urgency.
- More research should be undertaken into the links between dog fighting and other crimes, including child abuse and domestic violence.
The League Against Cruel Sports will continue to tackle dog fighting in the UK, as we believe it is a cancer in our communities which must be cut out.
Click here too read a short report on our Project Bloodline project, Dog Fighting and Serious Crime: The Facts and the Way Forward
Click here to read the full, referenced report on Project Bloodline,Bloodline: Tackling Dog Fighting in the Community