The Irreverent Vet Speaks out on DOG FIGHTING

Recently, there has been a lot of press about dog fighting after the well known Atlanta Falcons football player Michael Vick was accused of owning and training Pit Bull's for fighting purposes.

Is dog fighting an exciting sport? A gambling opportunity? Or a crime?

Is it natural for dogs to fight? Is it a part of our history and culture?

How do you feel about it? Email me, I'm curious about what you think.

Now…I'll tell you what I think. I don't believe in using any animal for which injury is intended. I think dog fighting is a crime. I also don't believe in cock-fighting. I'm not even sure about bull-riding.

For a full history of dog fighting in the United States, go to The History of Dog Fighting.

People may put themselves in situations that can cause injury for money such as football players or boxers. But putting someone or something else in that situation that may result in injury or death for MONEY, is not right.

How Can Your Tell if a Dog has Been Fought in a Dog Fight?

There are some common signs of a dog that has been fought. Generally, they are pit bulls, Presa Canarios, Dogo Argentino, or other fighting breeds brought into vets and veterinary emergency clinics at night with bite wounds over the face, neck, chest and front legs.

Another common sign is that dogs will have multiple wounds in different stages of healing that suggest other fights at various times

Some clients bringing in these dogs for treatment gives stories of an injury inconsistent with the injuries e.g. the dog ran through a glass window or was in the yard and got caught on a fence. Most veterinarians can identify and diagnose dog bite wounds. Some owners will say their dog was in the yard and attacked by another dog or a group of dogs. It is impossible to PROVE that the dog was fought in a dogfight but many times there are very suspicious circumstances that lead you to believe that a dog was.

Another common characteristic of dogfighting owners is that they are willing to pay the expenses associated with helping their pet and many will pay in cash.

What is the Veterinarian's Role in Dog Fighting?

What is the veterinarian's role in dealing with dogs that have been fought? According to a recent policy statement by the American Veterinary Medical Association, "The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) condemns dogfighting and any event involving animals in which injury or death is intended, and supports the enforcement of laws against dogfighting and dogfight-related activities. AVMA members are encouraged to collaborate with law enforcement with respect to recognition, enforcement, and education.".

This statement encourages veterinarians to cooperate with law enforcement. Seven states require veterinarians to report dogs that are suspected to have been fought.

As a veterinarian, you treat injured and sick animals to the best of your abilities. This includes animals with bite wounds. In the end, how or why an animal is injured does not change your ethical obligation to help the injured or suffering pet. How about the moral obligation?

What is the Veterinarians Moral Obligation in Dog Fighting?

To report or not to report. That is the question. Many believe, including the AVMA, that there is a moral obligation for a veterinarian to report a suspected dog fight and to cooperate with law enforcement to eliminate dog fighting. In theory, I totally agree with this. But this also puts the person reporting in a dilemma.

Consider that the person bringing the pet in is doing what they think is right to "help" the injured pet by bringing it to your office for care. They have other options such as trying to treat the pet themselves, or doing nothing and letting the animal die. Personally, I'd prefer they bring them in. If every fighting pit bull owner thinks that they will be reported, they won't bring them in. They will suffer, receive suboptimal care or will be euthanized in some inhumane way.

Also consider that the individuals that participate in fight are also often involved in drugs, gambling and gangs. Are these the types of people you want to "tick off"? Not really. Not when they have seen MY face and know exactly who is reporting them. I understand that the right thing to do is to "report" the possible fight but I'm not totally comfortable with reporting a client that knows exactly where I work and probably where I live. This can put my staff and even my family at risk.

Intellectually, I realize that NOT reporting a dogfight would be like a physician not reporting suspected child abuse. Your first obligation is to your patient. However, child abuse is different. Child abuse is not a sport at which many people attend and gamble. It is not tracked by the FBI. By the way, can't the FBI even find a dogfight? Do they really need health care professionals to put their safety on the line to help them figure that out?

My Final Thoughts

So…I don't believe in dog fighting. I think it should be illegal and those that breed, gamble and perpetuate the trade should be punished.

Should it be reported? Yes. Am I brave enough to report it if I'm not legally required to do so? I'm not sure. Probably not.

What about Michael Vick? I think he has become the presses icon for this cause. On one hand, he is getting prosecuted by the press without proof of his guilt. On the other hand, as a celebrity in the lime-light and should be extremely smart and cautious about what he does. People and kids look up to him. If he is guilty, put him away.

That's my opinion and that's all I'll say.

Feel free to disagree or give me your thoughts. Email me, I'm curious about what you think.

Or take the short survey about dog fighting. Click here to go to the short survey.



The Irreverent Vet is a columnist that regularly contributes to The goal is to add a balanced and alternative view of some controversial pet issues. As happens with all of us, veterinarians can't say what they really think without offending some clients. This commentary allows vets to say what they think and give you, the pet owner, the opportunity to consider another view. All opinions are those of the Politically Incorrect Vet and not the views of and are not endorsed by