The Panorama program
dog fighting undercover
which was broadcast in summer 2007 was one of those programs that I will never forget. Do you ever watch something that you know you’re going to really find disturbing, but you are fascinated and watch it anyway and then wish you didn’t? That was one of those programs.
This week, a series called Lawless Ireland on TV3 revisited the subject of dog fights, and reminded me of just how sickening and brutal this really is. If you are very sensitive, maybe you should stop reading this right now.
Dog fighting is a very secretive and barbaric blood sport. The dogs used are specially bred and conditioned to fight. Pit bull terriers are the most common breed. The fighting gangs use small dogs and cats as bate to train or ‘blood’ the fighting dogs. These can be strays, stolen family pets or kittens or puppies obtained through ‘free to good home’ newspaper ads. The terrified creatures have their legs tied together before being tossed to the dogs. Cats are also dangled from pieces of string to tease the fighting dogs. The dogs are encouraged to savage them and slowly hack them to pieces. They cannot be walked or exercised in public, so treadmills are used to make them run and strengthen their muscles.
Contests are organised in remote areas in converted barns or sheds, away from the public eye. At each fighting session, the animals are paired off against each other in a small pit or arena, enclosed by plywood or galvanised walls. Matches are governed by a strict set of rules. There are 19 in all and each offers a unique insight into how underground fights are conducted. A fight can last more than two hours and the contest ends only when one of the dogs is no longer able or willing to continue.
“STEVE: The dogs clash like a steam train hitting the wall. You can hear it, you can hear the bone crunching. The heavier the dog, the more the crash; a really significant noise of bone on bone. The sounds are quite graphic, you can hear teeth on teeth as the dogs are chewing at each other’s mouths and gums and lips. And if the dogs go onto the legs, you can hear teeth crunch on bones and rubbing off bones into the skin, ripping sounds. You know that once you hear the sound, within seconds you’ll see the blood.”
The competing dogs suffer horrific often fatal injuries. American pit bulls have powerful jaws that inflict severe bruising, deep puncture wounds and broken bones. These dogs cannot be taken to a regular vet, because their owners would more than likely be reported. Instead the owners do a DIY job themselves, often using stables to stitch their war wounds together. Many fighting dogs die of blood loss, shock, dehydration, exhaustion or
Infection after contests. Sometimes, if they are just barely alive after a fight, they are killed by their owners with a severe electric shock.
Like other forms of cruelty to animals, this nightmarish practice thrives on
Silence. Dog fighters depend on friends and relatives who know of their activities to keep their mouths shut, out of loyalty or fear.
I know there is so much child abuse and cruelty to humans in the world, but hearing about organised fights like these make me feel just as angry and disgusted. When I was watching the report on dog fighting on TV3, OJ got up from his bed in the corner of the kitchen and came over to me. He put his head on my knee to get petted for about a minute, and then lay down in his bed again. He just wanted a quick cuddle and to make sure that I didn’t forget he was in the room. Possibly this so called sport is harder to comprehend because I am a guide dog owner. Lots of time, hard work and effort is put into training dogs like OJ to improve the lives of their owners, but these dogs are trained to destroy. It is true that some of these breeds have fighting tendencies, but they are encouraged to be aggressive, giving all dogs of a particular breed a bad reputation. German shepherds for example are often viewed as aggressive, even though they are intelligent and can make excellent guide dogs.
5 year old Ellie Lawrenson was the first child in Britain to be killed by a pit bull terrier, and she probably won’t be the last. The criminals involved in dog fighting are too interested in drugs, money and owning the most vicious dog to care about the lives of other people.
You have probably read enough already, but to get a better understanding of how sick this really is, it is worth reading
the transcript of dog fighting undercover.
“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight
it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”