Dog Fighting: Tradition or Brutal Sport

Dog fighting is an extremely disturbing crime that receives more and more attention in the underground world. For immoral and unethical reasons this corruption became illegal until the late 1870s in most of the United States. Yet, owners still continue to risk their dog’s life for money or in some cases just show. In a fight, two dogs are set against each other in a small ring, with the only intention to survive and kill the opponent. The injuries that the animals have to endure are extreme.While the spectators are watching in amazement, the dogs literally rip each other apart, biting the flesh of their bodies and breaking bones. The resulting injuries are so severe that most of the dogs do not survive, or they lose all value they had to the owner and get brutally murdered. The awareness of illegal dog fighting should be increased because of the inhumane training methods that are used for the dogs, the severe injuries the dogs endure during the fights, and the brutal deaths the dogs have to face in case they lose a fight.With these horrifying facts it is clear for most, why the “blood-sport” and the possession of dogs for fighting are illegal in the United States (Gibson). Even being a spectator of a dog fight is illegal in all but two states. No living being fights out of amusement, especially in situations of life or death. Mortal fear is the strongest and most uncomfortable incitement there is; not only for us humans, but also for animals. From an animal welfare standpoint, dog-fighting is one of the most serious forms of animal abuse, not only for the heinous acts of violence that the dogs endure during and after the fights, but because they literally suffer their entire lives” (Gibson). The training of dogs to attack and kill was a very common and useful method for the protection of the owners and their property. In the middle Ages, breeds like the hunting hound were specifically admired and feared as faithful hunting companions to their owners.It was not until the twelfth century, that people began to concentrate on breeding much stronger and courageous dogs, such as the English mastiff. This breed was valued to emblematize the “English masculine prowess, not only to the English themselves but also to their visitors from foreign lands” (Kalof and Taylor 322). To defend its owner, the Mastiff was trained to attack and kill enemies. For training purposes, bears and bulls were preferred to be used as a substitute for humans.However, other animals such as “boars, chimpanzees, and even horses” were perfect opponents to increase the dog’s fierceness and readiness to fight “to the death” (Kalof and Taylor 322). For its appearance, the bear was seen as a perfect representative of the human; whereas challenging dogs with bulls not only increased the dog’s aggressiveness, but also tenderized the bull’s flesh. What was once training for human and property protection, turned into a blood-sport throughout the Renaissance.Fights between dogs and bears or bulls were seen as huge entertaining events of all social groups and even attracted tourists. Rats were also a very popular opponent to the dog. Baiting animals, which also represented the masculine power of men over women, was banned in England in 1835. This was the time when people realized that pitting two dogs was also very impressive, even had benefits. Getting rid of a deceased dog was much easier than a bear or bull, and watching two dogs fight was more exciting than using bait, that was tied up and had no chance of escape.After the sport became illegal in England and died out in “the beginning of the twentieth century”, the English continued to breed aggressive “fighting dogs” for export to the U. S. (Kalof and Taylor 323). There, it was not legally banned until the 1870s, when Henry Bergh, the founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), was able “to secure search and seizure rights” (Kalof and Taylor 324). With the ban of dog fighting in the United States, enthusiasts were forced to continue the cruel sport underground.The legal restriction of training dogs for such purposes limits their drill techniques to only few but extreme ones. The dogs are acquired for solely one purpose, which is to fight, and do not receive any attention from their owners except for training. To boost the dog’s aggression, they are mistreated and ignored, “spend their entire lives alone on chains or in cages… and they only know the company of other animals in the context of being trained to kill them” (Gibson). Hidden to the outside world, such dogs do not receive the necessary nourishments and shelter, and have to endure hardcore training techniques.Common training methods include running the treadmill to “increase cardiovascular fitness and endurance”, exercises to strengthen “the jaw muscles and back legs”, by attaching some type of bait with a rope to a tree or pole “that the dogs jump to and dangle from for extended periods of time”, and extremely heavy chains that are tide around the dogs’ necks to enhance the strength of the neck and upper body (Gibson). Other methods are daily vitamins, supplements, and drugs; using other animals as bait; and extra weight that are attached to the heavy chain collars (Gibson).During the primary training phases, dogs are taught to show aggression to each other in “controlled fights” (Gibson). A dog is only considered ready to fight after it proves its endurance in such fights against experienced dogs. This is when the animals are pitted against one another in a fight that does not end until one quits or dies, leaves the fighting ring, or the police storms the fight. The society was reminded of the brutal and illegal sport, when Michael Vick’s secret hobby reached the public. The famous NFL player plead guilty to “knowingly sponsoring and exhibiting an animal-fighting venture” (Josey 51).Along with three other companions, Vick was operating an underground dog fighting ring, “involving gambling, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting, and transporting the dogs across state lines for fights” (Josey 51). The famous football star began to train dog to kill in 2001, and the fights were held on his own property in Surry County, VA. After the raid, the police have confiscated over 50 dogs on Michael Vick’s property, along with training gear and the bodies of seven deceased dogs. Starving the dogs was one method to increase aggression for the fight and in case a dog lost, it had to face inhumane killing methods.Even after the rescue of remaining fighting dogs, their future does not look bright. Up until the case of Michael Vick, rescued dog were put down because they were too aggressive and considered to be “killing machines” (Hanks 38). The dogs in Vick’s case were evaluated and “49 were placed with rescue groups”, two dogs were put down for health and aggression reasons, another two dogs died soon after the rescue, and one of the dogs “went into law enforcement” (Hanks 38). Sadly, only very few cases end so well for the dogs, that is if such organizations are even found.The number of underground dog fighters in the United States is estimated to exceed 40,000. It is almost common in areas with high rates of criminality, where young people are exposed to such cruel acts on an everyday basis. “Further, most of these youngsters believed that there was nothing wrong with dog fighting, indicating that they were highly desensitized to the violence” (Kalof and Taylor). One of the main goals of animal right advocates is to prevent such thinking and to convince every member of the society, that not only dogs are victims of the blood sport, but whole communities that are exposed to it.DNA samples, like they are used in human crime scenes are now used to “help criminal investigators piece together an abused animal’s history by establishing ties among breeders, owners, pit operators and the animals themselves” (Gay) A “dog-fighting DNA database” which consists of digital archives of DNA samples of previous fighting dogs, helps to reveal “whether the animal comes from one of several known dog-fighting bloodlines” (Gay). The illegal status of dog fighting does not give the people many choices to acquire dogs for their purposes, which is why it is safe to assume that the dogs drive “from established bloodlines” (Gay).The case that an animal’s DNA fits one of the samples in the database can be used as evidence against the dog owner. The dog fighting DNA database was created by Henry Bergh’s ASPCA and other societies and researchers, after what is considered to be “the largest dog-fighting raid in United States history” (Gay). The defendants of this raid claimed, just like many others, that they were all independent breeders without any connections. However, by means of the DNA samples, 400 dogs and crime scenes throughout sever different states could be connected.Although, “DNA evidence alone will rarely make a case…” it is very effective as additional evidence and the database will prove itself to be much more valuable as it develops (Gay). There are many different campaigns and groups that fight for animal rights and against animal cruelty such as dog fighting. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is one of the largest of many animal cruelty and fighting campaigns. It focuses and is actively involved in stopping animal fighting within the whole nation. This organization “was the first humane organization in the Western Hemisphere” (About Us).With the help and support in form of donations, “the ASPCA works to rescue animals from abuse, pass humane laws and share resources with shelters nationwide” (About Us). This and many other organizations have aided in the rescue of many fighting dogs, and built cases against their owners, breeders, or handlers. Organizations as such inform the public of all cruel details that have to be endured by these dogs; not only during the training, or in the fighting rings, but also once the fight is over and all spectators leave. The losing animal is lucky if it is killed during a fight or by being shot, because most of them do not receive such mercy.All a dog fighter sees, when his or her dog dies in the ring, is the amount of money that was lost in the bet, or the dignity the dying dog cost him or her. This is why the angry owner does not allow the dog to get away without punishment, which usually means “torture and mutilation” of the ashamed or enraged owner (Gibson). The sport that is now illegal and can only be found in the underground world, began in the ancient world and for many centuries, it was used solely for human protection. Bloody fights between humans, dogs, and other animals can be dated back “to at least the fifth century BC” (Kalof and Taylor 321).Kalof and Taylor write “Etruscan wall paintings show scenes of bloody competition between humans and dogs, black figured vase paintings depict Greek men provoking dog fights, and floor mosaics from Libya celebrate the Roman arena slaughters with scenes of humans and dogs working together to spill the blood of a wide variety of other animals, including horses, antelope and wild boar” (qtd. in MacInnes 2003). Dogs were the humans’ faithful friends and protectors. Many years ago, before the legal system was fully developed, people owned dogs to guard and defend their owners’ life and land.It was not considered to be a cruel and inhumane sport but merely protection from intruders, burglars, and criminals. What started as a mean of protection against enemies, turned over time, into a horrifying and brutal act of animal cruelty. Using bait to train dogs to become more aggressive for property protection, was widely accepted in England and even believed to symbolize the power men had over women until 1835. This was a deciding moment for the beginning of dog fighting in the United States where, although banned since the 1870s, it is still present and a common underground crime.Dogs are bred and trained, neglected, and abused for solely one purpose which is fight to kill. Both opponents endure brutal injuries in the ring, while the audience is cheering and placing bets. The loosing dog either dies in the fight, is left for death in the ring, or is tortured and killed by the angry owner. This horrific act belongs to the everyday life of many people in places with high rates of crime. To prevent dog fighting, it is necessary to first educate such people about the wrongness of such activities. Animal abuse prevention organizations such as he ASPCA, engage people to actively participate in their program and report dog fighting crimes. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals has helped rescuing many dogs from dog fighting owners and breeders, and found loving homes for the abused animals. Together with others, they even created a database with the DNS samples taken from dogs that were saved from the underground crime scenes. Millions of people are aware of the gruesomeness of dog fights, and many of those people actively involve themselves in rescuing and preventing such fights.In order to completely stop the torture, the blood sport awareness has to be increased to find more support from followers.

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