Tougher sentences for dog fighting
Around 26 BC (or BCE if you are a pedant for political correctness) the Berber King, Juba II visited and named the volcanic Canary Islands after the ferocious dogs (canaria) that roamed the area. For all those, including me, who haven’t been to this holiday hot spot, the largest of the islands is Tenerife, 785 square miles, around the size of Cambridgeshire it was the last of the islands to fall to Spain in 1496 and apparently around five million tourists visit the island every year.
It seems that not all the tourists were looking for sun, sea and sangria, just last month a massive police raid on a house in Tenerife rounded up a large group of men gathered at a farmhouse, where dog fighting was taking place. The distressing video and photographs from Policia Nacional that night show the ‘main ring’ where two dogs are still in combat.
The evidence doesn’t convey the smell of fear, the room vibrant with testosterone or the ferrous tang of blood in the air. The dogs awaiting their turn in the ring are cramped in small travel boxes; some have been on the ‘fighting circuit’ for months, fed steroids and pumped with protein. If they survive, their next bout could be in mainland Spain, UAE or even Thailand.
Simultaneous Police operations in Alicante, Madrid and Murcia rescued a total of 230 dogs. Illegal dog fighting in Spain is an ‘open secret’, those who take part may well protest this is tradition but this is far from the dog pits of the 18th century, it is a slick and profitable operation with drug trafficking at its black heart.
The shocking pictures showed dead dogs in plastic sacks and a later raid at a nearby farm found a further ten dead animals in various states of decomposition. Make no mistake these dogs died in agony, the very few were given a swift death by their opponent of a broken neck.
Here, in the UK, this abominable blood thirsty ‘sport’ is alive and thriving and yet what sentence is being metered out by the full weight of the law? Six months in jail, most serving only half of that with good behaviour, as Mike Butcher Chief Inspector of the RSPCA’S Special Operations Unit said: “It’s no deterrent…”
In the US dog fighting is recognised as a Grade A felony by the FBI. France applies a sentence of up to two years, and Germany and the Czech Republic apply a sentence of up to three years.
The RSPCA recorded 5,000 calls regarding organised dog fighting in the last ten years, with 137 convictions in that same time scale. The filthy list of venues with the most reports per population names the West Midlands as the most reported area closely followed by Torfaen in Wales. South Yorkshire, Denbighshire and West Yorkshire rank high on the list too. As to the area with the most reported organised dog fights, that grisly ‘honour’ goes to Greater London. The League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) reported to the UK Government that there appears to be three levels of combat.
Level One: Street Rolls. One on one fights in urban parks and housing estates. Likely to occur somewhere in the UK every day.
Level Two: Hobbyist. Often gang affiliated with gambling involved. Likely to occur somewhere in the UK every couple of weeks.
Level Three: Professional. Sophisticated dog rings with highly trained dogs of reputable bloodlines. Likely to occur somewhere in the UK every few months.
Isn’t it time the full force of justice came to visit these despicable gatherings and put in place a sentence that reflects the gross abuse and cruelty involved? Organised dog fighting has long been recognised as a ‘gateway’ crime, it provides a social gathering that spawns more activities such as drug dealing, trafficking of people and extortion.
You don’t have to wear the label of ‘Dog Lover’ to be appalled by the use of animals in this way, anyone who recognises that sadistic pleasure gained from a fight to the death cannot be healthy should realise they could well be living next door to a fan or maybe you will rub shoulders with them at the next PTA meeting.
The misery created by dog fighting goes beyond those dogs pitted against each other and the conditions in which they have to live; it is also about the bait animals used to increase the fighting dogs keenness to battle. I hesitate to call the participants professional trainers, but they do take time and effort into producing a valuable winning dog, but like Greyhound racing where the waste is heartbreaking, this too leaves a trail of broken and dead animals. Cats and kittens are tossed into a crate, their frantic efforts to survive pointless. Smaller dogs are stolen to suffer the same fate, used with little thought other than for the big prize and means to an end.
This week Crufts, possibly the greatest dog show in the world, has drawn thousands of people who love and admire dogs, people who know the value of a beloved companion, of a trained assistant, of a dog who trusts us to do the right thing. Is it time for you to be the person your dog thinks you are?
If this article has upset or shocked you then please use that energy to at least sign a petition that calls for our Government to bring in stronger sentences and support the LACS action plan which would include the formation of a task force and a national register for individuals banned from keeping dogs to prevent those already convicted of animal cruelty from being able to re-offend. You can find further details at www.league.org.uk/dog-fighting.