It's time to fight against dog fighting

Dog fighting as a ‘sport’ was banned in 1835, as even then it was considered barbaric. But this horrific form of dog abuse still goes on. Forcing dogs to fight each other is a devastating betrayal of the trust that dogs put in humans. Training methods which brutalise the dogs and the fights themselves inflict untold physical and mental suffering on ‘man’s best friend’.

The League is determined to uncover and help to prevent dog fighting in the UK. That's why we are asking the UK Government to introduce stronger sentences for dog fighting.

Sign our dog fighting petition

In 2015, we commissioned an academic report which suggested that dog fighting was still a problem in the UK. Traditionally, dog fighting was practised at a ‘professional’ level, with dogs trained to a high level, matches set up in advance, the fights taking place in specially built areas or ‘pits’, and even a referee taking charge. While this type of dog fighting still happens, the report identified that there are now potentially three levels of dog fighting:

  • Level One - Street Rolls:  Often spontaneous one on one fights in urban parks and housing estates, without much planning, rules or training involved.
  • Level Two - Hobbyist: Often gang affiliated with gambling involved, with some training and rules followed, but at a lower level than the professional fights.
  • Level Three – Professional: Sophisticated dog rings with highly trained dogs of reputable bloodlines, following strict rules and therefore requiring the highest level of organisation.
Dogs forced into fighting suffer terrible injuries, both from the fights and at the hands of their vicious owners.

What do we really know about dog fighting in the UK?

The report 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 aimed at discovering the why, where and when of dog fighting. We based ourselves in area which we inferred would be ‘average’ in terms of suspected dog fighting activity – urban areas within Bedfordshire – and set about uncovering the truth.

Two American Staffordshire terriers fighting

Project Bloodline

Within just a short space of time we received 40 pieces of intelligence which gave us an insight into the dark world of dog fighting. Information we were given included:

  • Reports of dogs possibly 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, being dumped near farmland
  • Prohibited breeds being bred in the area in order to supply the dog fighting and status dogs market
  • 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
  • We also were introduced to Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Cupcake, who had been used for fighting, its teeth ground down probably through trying to bite through the bars of a cage or a chain

Is dog fighting on the rise?

We do not really know, but we are trying to answer this question by studying this clandestine sport more closely.

A slight but steady increase in dog fighting related calls to the RSPCA may have been caused by an increase of dog fights or an increase of reporting them. A 76% rise in UK hospital admissions due to dog bites or strikes in the last 10 years has been recorded, but it is difficult to know if this is related to dog fighting. Other information such as the clandestine sale of potential fighting dogs in dark alleys, the seeming need for dogs as protection, and the apparent growth in the number of stolen dogs, could all be related to dog fighting.

We are continuing to gather more information from several sources so hopefully with time we will be able to get a better picture of the scale of the dog fighting problem.

The P.U.P 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 (P.U.P).

Key recommendations include:

  • The formation of a National Dog Fighting Task Force
  • Dog fighting to be recorded as a specific offence separate to animal fighting in order to enable the scale of the problem to be more accurately assessed
  • Increased penalties of up to three to five years for the worst dog fighting offenders
  • The Dangerous Dogs Act should be reviewed as a matter of urgency
  • The implementation of a national register for individuals banned from keeping dogs to prevent those already convicted of animal cruelty from being able to re-offend

The League Against Cruel Sports will continue to tackle dog fighting in the UK, as we believe it is a cancer in our communities. Not only are dogs injured and killed, but our research shows that dog fighting can be linked to other crimes such as drugs and gun crime, child abuse and domestic violence. Dog fighting must stop.

Chained scared pitbull full of scars caused by dog fights

Celebrities sign open letter calling to end dog fighting

We are being supported in our fight to end dog fighting in the UK by a growing list of politicians and celebrities. Here’s a letter they signed, with the names of our celebrity supporters below:

Dog fighting was outlawed almost 200 years ago. Yet, shockingly, it is still happening today.

This is a terrible betrayal of our most faithful and much loved companions. Dogs forced into fighting suffer terrible injuries, both from the fights and at the hands of their vicious owners. Pets are stolen and used as bait in ordeals too horrible to describe. Those involved in this ‘sport’ are often involved in serious and even organised crime, and must be stopped.

Undercover work and detailed analysis by animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sports has revealed the extent of the problem – and how to tackle it. We need sentences that fit the crime, and we need to reach out to people to educate them and prevent them from getting sucked into this cycle of violence and serious crime.

Dog fighting may sound like something that belongs in history books. But it will continue to be with us unless we act now to banish it to the past. We call on the public to help us by signing the League Against Cruel Sports petition here, raising this issue with their MP, and by contacting the League’s Animal Crimewatch on 01483 361108 if they witness or have evidence of dog fighting.

Yours faithfully,

Ricky Gervais
Graham Norton
Amanda Holden
Paul O’Grady
Nicky Campbell
Rachel Riley
Russell Tovey
Peter Egan
Tony Robinson
Bill Oddie
Gemma Atkinson
Dave Spikey
Chloe Meadows
Marc Abraham
Carol Royle
Tony Robinson
Bill Bailey
Alison Steadman
Ben Fogle 
Peter Wight 
John Bishop

Help us end dog fighting

  • Sign our petition for stronger penalties for dog fighting
  • Report any evidence you have of dog fighting in your area to our Animal Crimewatch team
  • Share this page on your social media


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