Dog fighting contributes to the culture of violence in society today. It is a cruel sport, which victimizes dogs and people. Dog fighting is illegal in all fifty states and a felony in over forty states. Severe prosecution for this offense has been lobbied by animal rights groups such as the ASPCA, the Humane Society and many others. The injuries inflicted on the dogs is a main concern of these organizations, but in the broader societal picture, animal advocates point to the enthusiasm for violence and the possible insensitivity towards violence present at dog fights as having repercussions throughout our culture. In particular, the effect on children:
beyond these immediate dangers, violence that is condoned and encouraged, such as in these fights, can effect children (as well as adults) by promoting a desensitization to the suffering of others. They show that an acceptance of violence is a “norm.” A survey of Chicago’s school children has found that students are almost universally aware of dogs fighting in their neighborhood, with 1 out of every 6 children admitting that they have attended a dog fight (www.anticruelty.org).
For many years the one major complaint of animal rights groups and law enforcement was the lack of serious punishment for animal fighters. They fought for tougher conviction by judges and support for this in the legislatures. In 2004 Ariana Huemer wrote an article on a South Carolina man named David Tant who received a thirty-year sentence for his dog fighting activities: It must have come as quite a shock to Tant who, like so many other dog fighting organizers across the country, has spent years profiting off the blood of animals with relatively little interference from law enforcement authorities. Yet Huemer warns that dog fighting is actually on the rise regardless of the recent stronger approach by law enforcement. She blames the attitude that animal abuse is deemed socially insignificant by law enforcement because the officers believe that their limited time and resources would be better spent fighting crimes against humans.
Typically it is the Pit Bull breed that is used in dogfights. Dog fighters often bred and train these dogs to be vicious. This training essentially entails abuse and torture to condition the animals for the ring. To prepare their dogs, some dog fighters use small rodents (raccoons, squirrels, possums, etc.) as bait, thus escalating the cruelty inflicted on animals. Two dogs are placed in an enclosed area and prodded to fight until one dog dies or refuses to continue. It is very common for both dogs to die; sometimes a dog will die soon after a fight due to infection, blood loss, shock, or injuries sustained in the fight. Even worse, dog fighters might choose to kill a loser in efforts to maintain their reputation in the dog-fighting world. According to most accounts, the average amount of time for a dogfight is one hour.
What is the purpose of such a sport? Supporters would argue it is a legitimate way to make money and it is in the nature of dogs to fight. Protestors claim that the sole purpose of such barbarity is entertainment, not to mention the money made on bets. The repercussions on our culture are potentially sinister. Insensitivity to animal cruelty, the lack of loud public outrage, the belief that animal abuse is not connected to abuse of humans and the quiet acceptance of dog fighting as an underground activity reveal a lack of caring on the part of a society that professes justice and humanity as its core values. The social consequences reach far and wide. Dogs trained for fighting are dangerous to humans, but most especially children due to their small size.
Shelters are at a loss when they inherit former fighting dogs because few people want to adopt a potentially threatening animal. These dogs will never be companion animals. If they are to be euthanized, then these dogs will spend their days caged up before their bitter demise.