Dog Fighting

Dog fighting is a sadistic gambling “contest” in which two dogs, specifically bred and trained to fight, are placed together for the purpose of attacking and mauling each other to earn money for their owners and entertain spectators.  Dog fights end when one of the dogs is no longer able or willing to continue.

Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter (SCCAS) considers animal fighting one of the cruelest examples of inhumane treatment towards animals for it involves the purposeful decision to allow, and in fact encourage, animals to harm each other.  Currently, dog fighting is expressly prohibited in all 50 states by state statutes and is a felony in most states.

Dog fighting generally takes place in basements, garages, abandoned warehouses and alleys. The secretive nature of these organized events, as well as the “ad hoc” nature of street fights, makes it difficult to identify the training and fighting locations of these matches.  SCCAS cannot reduce the incidence of animal fighting in Santa Cruz County without the continued support of law enforcement agencies and the public.

Why is this cruelty to animals?
The injuries inflicted and sustained by dogs participating in dog fights are frequently severe, and often fatal.  Dogs who may survive a fight often die of blood loss, shock, dehydration, exhaustion or infection hours or even days after the fight.  Owners often train their dogs for fights using smaller animals, such as cats, rabbits, or small dogs.  These “bait” animals may be stolen pets or animals obtained through “free to good home” advertisements.

What other effects does the presence of dog fighting have in a community?
Dog fighting should not be a concern for “animal lovers” only.  Dog fighting is closely linked to many other illegal and criminal activities. Illegal gambling is the norm at organized dog fights. Firearms and other weapons are common at dog fights because of the large amounts of cash present. Illegal drugs are often sold and used at dog fights, which are almost always connected with other criminal activities like gang violence, child abuse and domestic violence.

Dog fighting may promote emotional desensitization and an enthusiasm for violence. Young children are often allowed and encouraged to watch the fights and this may result in an increase in violent behavior towards humans as well as animals. 

Dogs used for dog fighting may be dangerously aggressive. The presence of these dogs in a community may increase the risk of attacks not only on other animals but also on people. 

Why is dog fighting a felony offense?
The minor penalties associated with a misdemeanor conviction are not a deterrent.  This is not a spur-of-the-moment act; it is a premeditated, cruel, abhorrent practice that must be seriously punished. 

It is important to note that even attending a dog fight as a spectator is a Class C misdemeanor violation of state law.  Without spectators, the profits associated with dog fight gambling would be reduced.

What can you do?
It is up to you and your neighbors to spread the word that dog fighting is not acceptable in your neighborhood. Report animal fighting that is seen to the emergency police telephone number of 911. Any other information pertaining to animal fighting (such as fight rings, training areas, participants, dead or injured fighting animals) should be forwarded to your local police department.  Remember, reporting dog fighting will reduce violence and illegal activities in your neighborhood!

Some signs that might indicate there is dog fighting occurring in your neighborhood include:

  • people walking their dogs with large heavy chains, such as bike chains, and spike collars
  • dogs with fresh wounds or numerous scars
  • people transferring dogs in the trunks of their cars
  • dogs that are overly aggressive towards people or other animals, particularly
  • dogs that are fierce without any provocation
  • people leaving dogs in empty apartments or abandoned buildings