DOG FIGHTING IN THE UK

Dog fighting has been banned for nearly 200 years yet, shockingly, it remains a significant animal welfare issue in the UK. It inflicts untold violence and trauma on the dogs involved and it’s not just a matter of animal welfare: evidence points to dog fighting being a ‘gateway’ crime to serious and organised offences, including drug dealing and violence.

As well as calling for tougher sentences for animal cruelty – which the government has announced it will introduce – the League is asking the government to make dog fighting a recordable offence and to implement a national register for individuals banned from keeping dogs, to help prevent further animals falling victim.

As professionals whose work will potentially bring you into contact with dog fighters or dogs used in fighting, you can make a real difference in helping eradicate this horrendous activity. Please take the time to read the relevant information below, and don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions.


HOW YOU CAN HELP

Help us #EndDogFighting by learning more about the signs and what to do if you have concerns.

Read our Advice for Rescue Centres

Read our Advice for the Veterinary Community

Read our Advice for Law Enforcement


Support for Rescue Centres

We appreciate that caring for these dogs can be expensive for rescue centres as they often have higher veterinary bills, need more behavioural support and take longer to rehome.

The League offers a one-off payment of up to £500 as a contribution to help with these costs. In return, we’d like to use a brief summary of the information you provide to help raise awareness of dog fighting. By working together, we can do so much more to tackle this horrendous abuse.

Read the commercial agreement which sets out the terms and conditions for payment and complete an application form.

Or you can apply online.

However you apply, you'll need to show why you think dog in your care has been involved in dog fighting. If you’d like to discuss how the scheme operates email [email protected].

Download this information in pdf format: Dog fighting - Advice for rescue centres


Advice for the Veterinary Community

Dog fighting remains a significant animal welfare issue in Britain.

It’s one of the most horrific forms of organised animal cruelty, not only for the violence the dogs endure during fights but for the trauma they suffer throughout their lives. Training methods brutalise and fights inflict untold physical and mental suffering on ‘man’s best friend’.

This advice will help you identify the signs of dog fighting and explains how to raise your concerns. We’re appealing to the veterinary community for information to help us raise awareness and tackle this appalling abuse.


Typical dog fighting injuries

Graphic and photos showing typical injured produced in dog fightsAs with other forms of animal abuse, one of the most significant indicators that the animal’s injuries result from dog fighting is that they are inconsistent with the explanation provided by the owner; or the account given by the owner changes during the course of the examination.

The most common explanation given is that the injuries result from a ‘spontaneous dog fight in the local park’. But closer examination of the dog’s injuries may tell a very different story.


Warning signs

  • Multiple puncture wounds in various stages of healing suggest the injuries have happened over time, on separate occasions.
  • Typically wounds are to the head, neck, chest, and forelimbs; the front legs may show bite marks encircling the leg, or degloving injuries.
  • Gums may be damaged, missing or badly swollen with bruising and necrotic flesh.
  • X-rays may show new, as well as healed fractures.
  • Ears and tails may be crudely cropped to prevent the other dog holding onto them.
  • Damage to teeth - teeth may be broken, filed or extracted.
  • White marks on the fur could indicate scarring underneath - it may be worth shaving the fur to get a better look.
  • There may be marks around the neck from a weighted collar that’s used to build muscle.
  • You may be asked for drugs or medical supplies (such as antibiotics) for animals that haven’t been brought into your clinic because their owner wants to patch them up in secret.
  • You may see evidence of homemade veterinary treatment such as stitching, use of superglue or antibiotic sprays.
  • Owners may offer cash payments or arrange for a third-party to pay the bill to minimise the link between them and the animal you’re treating.

Not only do these animals suffer terribly during fights but by the time they’ve reached you, they may be in very poor condition. Dogs that are repeatedly forced to fight often have multiple puncture wounds, crushing injuries, fractured bones, swellings and infections. They may also suffer from blood loss, dehydration, and shock. Many also have Babesia and/or parvovirus.


Recording injuries

Making detailed notes of all injuries is crucial.

  • Scan for a microchip and take good quality overall photographs so the dog can be easily identified.
  • Note the extent, nature and position of wounds on the body and take photographs from the front and two sides before administering treatment.
  • Complete a separate scar/wound chart for every dog you see, taking photographs of all scars/ wounds present.


Reporting your concerns

It’s an offence under section 8 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (England and Wales) and the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2006 (Scotland) to force animals to fight. It’s an offence to attend, supply, publish or possess a video of a fight. It is also an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal. These offences must be reported to the police.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons provides advice on how to deal with situations where you suspect animal welfare is compromised and they are clear that public interest in protecting the animal overrides the professional obligation to maintain client confidentiality. If you see clinical signs that cannot be attributed to the history provided by the owner, you should record non-accidental injury in your diagnosis notes. ‘Recognising abuse in animals and humans’ provides guidance. It’s important to record a detailed clinical history as your notes may be used at a later date if a case goes to Court.

Share your concerns about the animal in your care with your Head of Practice. Once you’ve decided how to approach it, discuss your concerns with the owner. If your suspicions persist contact the League Against Cruel Sports via our Animal Crimewatch line on 01483 361 108 or email us at [email protected]. If you have concerns about your immediate safety contact the police.

The information you provide is strictly confidential. It will be used by us to help raise awareness and by our team of investigators to help bring people to justice.

Download this information in pdf format: Dog fighting - Advice for the veterinary community


ADVICE FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT

Despite being illegal since 1835, dog fighting remains a significant animal welfare issue in the UK. It’s one of the most horrific forms of organised animal cruelty, not only for the violence the dogs endure during fights but for the trauma they suffer throughout their lives. Training methods brutalise and fights inflict untold physical and mental suffering on ‘man’s best friend’.
This advice sheet is designed to help you understand the powers at your disposal, how dog fighting operates and how to spot the signs.


DOG FIGHTING IS OFTEN A ‘GATEWAY CRIME’

At a time when resources are stretched, it’s important to understand that dog fighting can be a gateway crime linked to drugs, gangs, theft, anti-social behaviour and other forms of violence. For this reason in the USA it’s treated as a felony because of the links to other serious crimes such as illegal possession of weapons and offenders wanted for other crimes.


LEGAL FRAMEWORK

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 provides a number of powers to help you tackle dog fighting:

The maximum custodial sentence for dog fighting is six months in prison. Proceedings must commence within three years of the date of offence, and within six months of the date on which evidence that the prosecutor thinks is sufficient to justify the proceedings comes to light.


LOCATIONS

Convictions for dog fighting show that it takes place in major cities and towns as well as rural communities.

Fights tend to take place anywhere out of sight: for example in garages, basements, outhouses, car parks and on farmland. If you’re dealing with professional dog fighters, it’s likely they’ll be using a fighting pit (usually between 14 and 20 feet square) with carpet or canvas on the floor to improve traction. Pits sometimes have diagonal lines marked in opposite corners to mark out ‘scratch lines’ with tape or paint. This can be a makeshift structure to make it easier to hide - a simple test for blood could provide useful evidence.


TYPES OF DOGS

Evidence from police forces around the country and internationally show a wide range of dogs are used. Bullbreeds are common but they’re not always large dogs. Dogs used as ‘practice’ can be of any breed or size.

HOW TO SPOT THE SIGNS OF DOG FIGHTING:

  • Frightened (aggressive) dogs with scars on the face, head, front legs or thighs with puncture wounds, swollen faces, and mangled ears.
  • Most dogs used for fighting are kept in poor quality housing and are in need of veterinary treatment.
  • Evidence of journals, books or online searches into dog fighting or ‘game dogs’.
  • Excessive dog exercise regimes which may involve weights that can be attached to the dog’s collar or chain to build muscle or treadmills used to build their cardiovascular capacity.
  • Break sticks which are used to force the dog to release its bite.
  • Scales used for weighing dogs before the fight.
  • Washing bowls to remove any noxious substances such as poisons from the skin before a fight.
  • Veterinary supplies such as intravenous drips, drugs – for example steroids and antibiotics, tools for stitching skin.

Grahic with several elements of dog fighting paraphernalia, including a fighting pit, DIY vet supplies and wooden break sticks.


INFORMATION-SHARING AGREEMENTS WITH POLICE FORCES ACROSS THE UK

The League has a number of Information Sharing Agreements with local police forces. These help share information about what’s happening on the ground and means we can work together to stamp out this horrendous abuse. If you are interested in putting this in place for your force please email: repo[email protected].

The League Against Cruel Sports is a respected animal welfare charity, leading the way on exposing and understanding dog fighting. We can help with information and advice from leading experts in this field which include ex-police officers.

Download this information in pdf format: Dog fighting - Advice for law enforcement