Dog Fighting: The Pit of Despair
Renae Hamrick, RVT
Types of Dog Fights
According to law enforcement, there are three types of dog fighting: street, hobbyist, and professional.
Street fights are the cruelest of the three. These battles exist without rules or regulations. They occur in alleys, parks, backyards, etc. These fights are usually not planned and are often triggered by a disagreement or threat between owners. There is no concern for the dogs involved at all; the dogs are simply there to fight the owner's battles and inflate their egos. Drugs and gangs are often tied to these fights.
Hobbyist fighters usually give slightly better care to their dogs than street fighters. Hobbyist fighters participate in a few organized fights a year as a hobby and/or for financial gain. This group often travels out of state for the dog fights.
Professional dog fighters have a very large quantity of dogs used for fighting and breeding, which are usually their main source of income. They pay close attention to bloodlines of talented fighters, and they inhumanely destroy dogs who do not fight well.
The "sport" of organized dog fighting is sick and gut-wrenching. The activities that occur inside the pit of a dog fight are enough to infuriate any dog lover. Through education and awareness, it is that anger that fuels the race to eliminate dog fighting.
Organized dog fights can happen anywhere and anytime. Because dog fights stir up controversy and are illegal in most areas, the fights are typically held in secret locations, and they are not openly advertised.
The fight takes place in a pit that is approximately 15 to 20 square feet and enclosed with materials such as fencing, hay bales, plywood, etc. There are two lines drawn 12 to 14 feet apart at which the dogs stand and face one another to begin their competition.
The dogs are often weighed before the fight in order to match up competitors of similar size. They are also bathed pre-fight to clean them of any substances on their coats which may discourage the opponent from biting.
When the fight begins, the dogs are released from their start lines, and they tear after one another, working to get their powerful jaws around their enemy. These fights sometimes last multiple hours, ending with bleeding, broken, exhausted, and sometimes dead dogs.
The dogs are not permitted to be touched by people during the battle, unless the referee permits it. If a dog gets a tooth stuck in the skin of the opponent (termed "fanged"), the fight can be paused for someone to untangle the dogs. Sometimes a tool called a "bite stick" is required to separate them.
If the fight is winding down or one dog is losing interest, the referee can decide to return the dogs to their lines and release them again after several seconds. If the dog who was losing interest does not resume fighting, he loses. If neither dog chooses to fight, a draw may be called.
At the end of the fight, there is an exchange of large quantities of money based on bets and the results of the fight. Emotions are high, people are loud and often intoxicated, and the dogs are either celebrated or despised based on their performances. Losing dogs are often left to suffer with their wounds, or they may be destroyed inhumanely in front of the cheering crowd.