An international network selling and transporting dogs to be used in dog fighting across the world – including to the UK – has been exposed in a major BBC report tonight on the Radio 4 PM Programme and BBC One News at Six. Based on initial information compiled over two years by the animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sport, the BBC investigation revealed the deeply disturbing world of organised dog fighting.

The report, by Tom Symonds, revealed a Bulgarian national is selling and transporting dogs to dog fighters in at least 29 countries, including the UK. The dogs are then forced to fight, often to the death, while crowds eagerly watch the dogs being ripped apart and bet large sums of money on the results.

The BBC report was triggered after an earlier investigation by the League Against Cruel Sports uncovered the Bulgarian and his global network. The League was initially alerted following a tip-off to the League’s Animal Crimewatch reporting service regarding potential dog fighting in the Midlands.

In 2018, the League received 100 reports from the public about dog fighting in the UK.

Martin Sims, Director of Investigations at the League Against Cruel Sports, said:

“Dog fighting is a global plague that lurks beneath the surface of apparently civilised societies. This kind of brutality should be a thing of the past but it is very much part of the present. The League’s investigation has been a sickening journey into a depraved way of life which has horrendous animal cruelty at its core.

“We’d like to thank the BBC for exposing dog fighting in such a powerful way. Their story shows clearly how this network is linked to dog fighters across the world. It’s impossible to know how many dogs are trapped worldwide by dog fighting, but our intelligence suggests it’s in the tens of thousands. We need governments globally to crack down on what is an unacceptable abuse of an animal which puts its trust in humans – but is being betrayed.”

Dog fighting in the UK

The BBC report exposed how the Bulgarian national, Ivo Nikolov, is connecting with dog fighters in the UK.

Martin Sims said:

“Our investigations suggest there are hundreds of dog fighters in the UK. Many of the dogs being abused by these people will die in the ring or shortly after from their injuries. We hope our work will lead to more people involved in dog fighting being caught, locked up and banned from ever owning another animal.”

Dog fighting – organised animal abuse

The League’s investigation revealed a graphic insight into the secret world of dog fighting. Shocking details include:

  • Dog fights typically last from 30 minutes to two hours, ending when a dog succumbs to its injuries or is removed by its owner. Fights can end in death, for example if a lot of money has been bet and the owner is willing to put their dog’s life on the line.
  • Dog fighters rely on ‘pedigree’. Dogs are measured by the number of winning fights, and successful dogs will then be bred to produce a ‘bloodline’ of ‘fighting’ dogs.
  • Dogs used for fighting are graded depending on the number of wins. A dog becomes a Champion after three registered wins, and a Grand Champion after five.
  • Dogs with a proven fight record can be sold for several thousand pounds; puppies with a good ‘fighting pedigree’ for a few hundred.
  • Dogs of a range of breeds can be used for fighting – their fighting pedigree is more important than their breed. The dogs sold by Ivo Nikolov appear to be mixed bull breeds. These dogs are not all large dogs, some are surprisingly small. We also have evidence of them selling other types of dog for fighting such as Bully Kuttas which is a mastiff type dog that’s popular in India and Pakistan.
  • Injured dogs are often treated by their owners using basic equipment such as staplers and superglue to close bite wounds. Many dogs will die of their injuries after a fight.
  • Dog fighters are often involved in other forms of criminality, including more serious and organised crime, drug supply, weapons and other forms of violence.

What needs to be done to tackle dog fighting?

The League is calling for a number of changes to ensure that dog fighting is taken seriously as a crime in the UK. These include:

  1. A stronger legislative environment to tackle dog fighting, which treats it as a distinct crime, attracts more robust penalties, prevents its promotion and ensures animal abusers cannot keep animals in future.
  2. Police and law enforcement agencies to do all they can to tackle dog fighting, treating it more seriously and recognising it as a ‘gateway’ crime.
  3. The replacement of Breed Specific Legislation with a system focusing on ‘deed not breed’, as all dogs can be forced to fight – it is the owner’s behaviour that’s the determining factor.
  4. Strengthened border controls and pet transport rules to prevent the cross-border movement of dogs for fighting.

-ENDS-

Notes to Editors

A link to the League’s report on its investigation, video footage of a dog fight (believed to originate from Russia) and dogs being trained for fights (believed to originate from the USA) obtained by the League as part of our wider work in tackling dog fighting is available here:

Dog fighting report for journalists

Dog fight (Unlisted on YouTube)

Dog on treadmill (Unlisted on YouTube)

Photos available on request.

For more information or interview requests please contact the League Against Cruel Sports Press Office on 01483 524250 (24hrs) or email [email protected]

The League Against Cruel Sports is Britain's leading charity that works to stop animals being persecuted, abused and killed for sport. The League was instrumental in helping bring about the landmark Hunting Act. We carry out investigations to expose law-breaking and cruelty to animals and campaign for stronger animal protection laws and penalties. We work to change attitudes and behaviour through education and manage sanctuaries to protect wildlife. Find out more about our work at www.league.org.uk. Registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (no.SC045533).