Dogfighting: Legal Protection in the U.S. and Asia

February 1, 2021Lu Shegay

Introduction

Dogfighting is a cruel practice involving dogs in the blood sport by pitting them against one another in a ring. As it was mentioned in the cockfighting article, dogfighting is linked to other illegal activities, e.g, gambling. After the fight, dogs usually have serious injuries, broken bones, bleedings, etc. Upon the end of the match, dogs are not euthanized with humane methods, they are tortured or beaten. Dogfighting matches are conducted in abandoned buildings, basements, garages, etc.


Signs of dogfighting

There are certain signs according to which you can identify if the conduct occurs. Dogfighting is prohibited by law in many countries, however, it oftentimes does not stop the organizers from conducting dogfighting. Thus, below is the non-exhaustive list of signs of dogfighting:

  1. Breeds of dogs are not limited only to pit bulls. Multiple dogs are kept in one location, some places may look like a kennel. Dogs used for fights usually have fresh wounds or scars.

  2. Law enforcement agencies may pay attention to those who have a few residences, not limited to one town. A dogfighting database is also the best tool to check the information.

  3. Blood on the surface is a sign of dogfighting training and matches. Take a close look at the basements, garages, vacant buildings. Dogs are generally trained outdoors, so there might be blood stains outside.

  4. Portable dog kennels are a sign of possible keeping of dogs for fights. Adult pit bulls that appear and disappear from a certain location may be involved in fights.

Training equipment

There are various types of equipment that are used on dogs during training. These inflict physical injury and harm to dogs, but apart from them, grow aggression in animals. Below is the list of training equipment with a brief description.


Treadmill

Dogs are run on the treadmills to increase cardiovascular fitness and endurance.


Catmill/Jenny

Apparatus that looks like a carnival horse walker with several beams jetting out from a central rotating pole. The dogs are chained to one beam and another small animal like a cat, small dog, or rabbit, is harnessed to or hung from another beam. The dogs run in circles, chasing the bait. Once the exercise sessions are over, the dogs are usually rewarded with the bait they had been pursuing.


Springpole/Jumppole

A large pole with a spring hanging down to which a rope, tire, or animal hide is affixed that the dogs jump to and dangle from for extended periods of time. This strengthens the jaw muscles and back legs. The same effect is achieved with a simpler spring-loaded apparatus hanging from tree limbs. A variation of the spring pole is a hanging cage, into which bait animals are placed. The dogs repeatedly lunge up toward the cage.


Flirt pole

A handheld pole with a lure attached. The dogs chase the lure along the ground.


Chains

Dogs have very heavy chains wrapped around their necks, generally in lieu of collars; they build neck and upper body strength by constantly bearing the immense weight of the chains.


Weights

Weights are often affixed to chains and dangled from the dogs’ necks. This builds neck and upper body strength. Generally, dogs are permanently chained this way. However, sometimes the trainers run them with their weights attached.


Bait

Animals are tied up while the dogs tear them apart or sometimes they are confined in an area to be chased and mauled by the dogs.


Drugs/Vitamins/Supplements

Dogs are given vitamins, supplements, and drugs to condition them for or to incite them to fight. Commonly utilized vitamins, supplements, and drugs include iron/liver extract; vitamin B-12; Provim; Magnum supplement; hormones (testosterone, Propionate, Repotest, Probolic Oil); weight-gain supplements; creatine monohydrate; speed; steroids (Winstrol V, Dinabol, Equipose); and cocaine.

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Legal protection in the United States

Dogfighting is a federal crime and regulated by the Animal Welfare Act, which prohibits the interstate transportation of dogs for the purposes of fighting. Generally, the cash in after the match includes gambling winnings, admission fees, breedings, pup sales, side businesses, etc.


Cases

In Hargrove v. State, the Supreme Court of Georgia (1984) decided if Section 16-12-37 of the Georgia Code was vague.


Sec. 16-12-37 of Ga. Code Ann. provides:

  1. A person commits the offense of dogfighting when he causes or allows a dog to fight another dog for sport or gaming purposes or maintains or operates any event at which dogs are allowed or encouraged to fight one another.

  2. A person convicted of the offense of dogfighting shall be punished by a mandatory fine of $5000 or by a mandatory fine of $5000 and imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than five years.


The court held that the word “allow” in the statute means “any act which contributes to the cause of a dogfight for sport or gaming purposes or furthers the success of the enterprise of a dogfight for sport or gaming purposes. Thus if a person engages on any level in the planning or financing of the event, including paying an admission, providing a location of wagering on the even or if a person encourages the event by applause or cheering, such person violates the statute. We hold the statute is sufficiently definite to put those of common intelligence on notice that knowing participation in a dogfighting event is prohibited.” (See more Hargrove v. State)


In Ash v. State, Arkansas (1986), the Supreme Court was deciding if dogfighting was promoted within the language of the statute. Act 862 of 1981 prohibited persons from promoting dogfighting, engaging in dogfighting, being present at a dog fight, or committing various acts connected with dogfighting. The court held that “Mrs. Hook was familiar with the pit and knew it could be used for dogfighting. She knew that her husband had fought dogs; she herself saw nothing wrong with the dogfighting.” The court also emphasized that “she and her children had helped to take care of the dogs, washing them and feeding them. In short, from the evidence presented the jury could reasonably have concluded that Mrs. Hook was aware that on property owned by her and her husband an arena had been built for the specific purpose of clandestine dog fighting and that she was aware that it was being so used. The jury could find that she “promoted” dogfighting. The direct and circumstantial evidence to support the jury’s verdict is more than sufficient to meet the test of substantiality.” (See more Ash v. State)


The recent case in the United States that became famous nationwide is the Michael Vick case. Michael Vick was one of the best NFL quarterbacks having won for the Atlanta Falcons. However, in 2007, the newspapers and other news platforms appeared with the headline that Michael Vick was involved in a dogfighting ring with more than 50 dogs. Vick was suspended for violation of the league’s personal conduct policy. He was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison in 2007.

Legal protection in Asia

Dogfighting is illegal in most of the countries across the globe, however, remains legal in Japan and some parts of Russia. Unfortunately, despite the ban in a lot of countries, dogfighting is still practiced illegally and regularly reported by animal law organizations and animal rights activists. With regard to Asia, dogfighting is illegal in India, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, United Arab Emirates.


Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, for instance, although mullahs opposed this kind of sport and called it sinful, such events still occur unchecked in the country. Not only dogs are used for fights but also camels, roosters, finches, canaries, quails, pigeons. Dog fights in Afghanistan usually occur during the winter season because they say “it would be inhumane to fight in the heat.”


Japan

Japan does not prohibit dogfighting in several parts of the country. Moreover, the legislation does not require to obtain a license or permit to fight dogs, so it remains unknown how many dogs fight each year. For instance, Teruaki Sudo, president of the East Japan Dog Fighting Association, said that “his group holds eight or nine tournaments per year, while smaller groups might hold two or three.”


Tokyo has laws against dogfighting, but only five prefectures, including the capital, prohibits such conduct. However, it does not prevent the residents of the capital to come to small towns and participate and fight dogs.


Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan does not regulate dogfighting. Soft law does not allow dogfighting but it does not prohibit it either. A dozen small towns organize dogfighting events and due to the absence of the Animal Welfare Act in the country, those cases are not prosecuted because the acts have no criminal elements. In Taraz city, animal rights activists reported about the upcoming dogfighting events, however, the police said they had an official permit from the local authorities to allow such events.


Recently, in the Mangystau region, another dogfight event was organized. Despite the COVID-19 precautions of no group gathering, there were approximately 50 people on the video.


Animal cruelty in Kazakhstan is currently regulated only by the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan, however, dogfights are not qualified under this Article and the police refuse to investigate such cases due to the absence of criminal elements or the local authorities permit.


Kyrgyzstan

Dogfighting is considered a national tradition in Kyrgyzstan. Spectators, including children, are watching the fight of the bred dogs. In Central Asia, Alabays, otherwise known as Central Asian Shepherds, are pitted against each other. In Kyrgyzstan, dogs do not fight to the death as in most cases. Once the dominant dog is identified, that dog is proclaimed the winner.

Conclusion

Dogfighting is an unethical practice, involving other types of crimes. Even though dogfighting is prohibited in most countries in the world, it is practiced illegally, in abandoned places. Some countries, where on the federal level it remains legal, enacted city bans that prohibited dog fights. This is certainly the first step in enacting the country ban, however, it does not prevent people from participating in the matches or fight their dogs. Some countries also organize these events as part of the nation’s tradition.

If you suspect or become a witness of the dogfighting event, report the police or local law enforcement immediately if the conduct is illegal in your area. Share the information about the cruel practice of dogfighting with your friends, family, neighbors.

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