Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.
Every year, thousands of dogs are abused and killed in the illegal dog fighting industry.
It’s a brutal sport where two innocent animals are trained to attack and kill. Dogs are pitted against each other and forced to fight to the death. Spectators bet on who will win the bloody, ugly matches.
A fighting dog’s life is full of pain from birth to death. It is hard to know the true scope of the dogfighting industry, but it is a large and profitable business. Tens of thousands of people participate in dogfighting every year. And yet most people don’t know much about dogfighting. If you want to know more about dogfighting and the fight to stop it, these facts and statistics are a great place to start.
The 13 Dogfighting Statistics
- Fighting dogs endure horrific training routines.
- Weaker dogs are treated as disposable targets.
- A single dogfight can last for hours.
- Upwards of 16,000 dogs are estimated to die every year from dogfighting in the US.
- About 40,000 Americans are involved in dogfighting each year.
- Dogfighting is a hobby for some but a professional sport for others.
- Bets on dogs can reach as high as $100,000 for a single fight.
- Dogfighting is a felony in all 50 states.
- Punishment for dogfighting can result in hefty fines and jail time.
- 50% of police officers have encountered dogfighting at least once in their careers.
- Dogfighting is seen as a gateway crime.
- Police raids can seize up to 500 dogs in one go.
- Many rescued dogs are rehabilitated.
A Fighting Dog’s Life
1. Fighting dogs endure horrific training routines.
Fighting dogs are usually trained from birth to be aggressive and powerful fighters. These training routines are brutal and abusive. Dogfighting breeders and trainers will often “toughen up” their dogs through beatings and forced starvation. They also put dogs through exhausting exercise routines such as chaining dogs to a treadmill for hours. Finally, trainers sic their dogs on other animals to teach them to attack, often killing the other animals in the practice.
2. Weaker dogs are used as disposable targets.
As part of their training, dogfighters often use weaker or more docile dogs as disposable targets to train their prize dogs. These dogs are sometimes called “cold” in dogfighting circles. Dogfighting breeders will save the most aggressive and powerful dogs to become fighters while the rest are treated as disposable.
3. A single dog fight can last for hours.
(The Humane Society)
Once a dog gets to the fighting ring, the fight itself usually lasts for 1–2 hours, although it can last longer. These fights are brutal and bloody. They end when one dog is killed or is too injured to continue. Even dogs who survive to the end of the fight often die shortly afterward from blood loss, infection, and lack of proper veterinary care.
4. Upwards of 16,000 dogs are estimated to die every year from dogfighting in the US.
Because so much dogfighting goes unreported, we don’t know for sure how many dogs die from dogfighting every year. However, some animal rescue organizations estimate that at least 16,000 dogs are killed in the dogfighting industry every year.
The People Who Participate in Dog Fights
5. About 40,000 Americans are involved in dogfighting each year.
(The Humane Society)
Like the number of dog deaths, it’s hard to know how many people are involved in dogfighting. Many organizations suggest about 40,000 people are involved in the US. This includes dog breeders and trainers, fight organizers, spectators, and gamblers.
6. Dogfighting is a hobby for some but a professional sport for others.
Most people involved in dogfighting do it for small amounts of money or purely as a hobby. It’s also common for gangs to use dogfighting as entertainment, including “street fighting” out in the open. However, there are also professional dogfighters. Professional dogfighters might travel around the country from event to event. They make their money through betting or selling dogs.
7. Bets on dogs can reach as high as $100,000 for a single fight.
Dogfighting often goes hand-in-hand with illegal gambling. Participants bet on which dog will win a fight or how long a fight will last. Bets on dogs are often in the range of hundreds to thousands of dollars. However, in some circles, the bets get much higher. In at least one instance, a bet related to dogfighting reached $100,000.
The Fight Against Dogfighting
8. Dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states.
In the United States, dogfighting is prosecuted as a felony. In many states, it is also a felony to own a dog used in dogfighting or be a spectator at a dogfighting event. If dogfighting were only a misdemeanor or other low-level offense, police would not be able to devote the resources needed to break up dogfighting rings. Even now, many police departments do not have the resources to properly investigate dogfighting.
9. Punishment for dogfighting can result in hefty fines and jail time.
Although dogfighters won’t spend their lives in prison, if they are convicted, they can still have serious consequences. Along with having a felony charge on their record, dogfighters can face up to 3 years in prison. They also can be forced to pay extensive fines as high as $250,000.
10. 50% of police officers have encountered dogfighting at least once in their careers.
Dogfighting isn’t as rare as some people think. According to a study done by the FBI, about half of police officers have dealt with dogfighting at some point in their careers. Dogfighting affects many jurisdictions across the United States, both urban and rural. Although dogfighting can occur anywhere, it is more common in high-crime areas.
11. Dogfighting is considered a gateway crime.
Dogfighting is not a crime committed in isolation. Many dogfighting charges come alongside other crimes. Often, dog fights also involve illegal gambling. Illegal weapons and drug dealing also take place at dogfighting events. Those involved in dogfighting are also highly likely to be convicted of violent crimes against humans, up to and including homicide.
12. Police raids can seize up to 500 dogs in one go.
The number of dogs seized in an anti-dogfighting operation varies wildly. In some cases, up to 500 dogs have been seized at once. Although some raids seize only one dog, that is less common. The average number of dogs taken per successful raid is 35.
13. Many rescued dogs are rehabilitated.
Once dogs are seized in a police raid, their path forward is complex. Dogs are both victims and evidence in a legal battle against dogfighting. In the past, dogs have been held in near isolation for a year or more pending criminal charges and eventually euthanized. However, in recent years, avenues have opened up to process the dogs more quickly and humanely. Through civil forfeiture suits, organizations can often claim the dogs in just a few months. This opens the door to rehabilitation, fostering, and eventual adoption. These programs are most successful for rescued puppies who are not yet permanently scarred by their abuses. Between 2016 and 2019, about 1,000 dogs were rescued and rehabilitated from dogfighting.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dogfighting
Why is it so hard to shut down dogfighting completely?
Dogfighting is hard to contain because it is so common and so well funded. Although there are no statistics for the amount of money made in dogfighting each year, dog fighters have millions of dollars to lose if shut down and the resources to fight long legal battles. It is also difficult to prosecute those involved in dogfighting because of the challenges involved in using living creatures as evidence. Awareness, funding, and police veterinary resources all help stop dogfighting. (NEACHA)
Is it illegal to watch a dog fight?
Being a spectator in a dog fight is a crime in all 50 states, but the severity of that crime varies from state to state. In some states, it is always a felony. In other states, it is only a misdemeanor. In some states, it is only a felony for repeat offenders. (NEACHA)
Are the dogs that are seized by police euthanized?
New methods of terminating custody of dogs have led to many dogs being rescued and rehabilitated, but other dogs are still being euthanized. For many dogs, a lack of resources leads to euthanization even when rehabilitation is possible. But some dogs, especially adult dogs who have spent their whole lives suffering abuse and aggression, are beyond rehabilitation. In these cases, it is often determined that euthanization is the most humane option. (FBI)
Are only Pit Bulls used for dogfighting?
Pit Bulls are often associated with dogfighting, but many breeds of dogs are sometimes called pit Bulls, including the American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and American Bulldog. All of these breeds of dogs are used in dogfighting, along with mixed-breed dogs and any other large dogs brought up for aggression. (LCA)
What are some signs that a dog is being used for fighting?
Dogs used in fighting often have cropped ears and sometimes cropped tails so that other dogs cannot bite them. They tend to be aggressive towards humans and other dogs and might be chained up with a heavy chain and collar. Fighting dogs might have visible injuries such as lacerations, puncture wounds, and torn fur and skin. (LCA)
What can I do if I suspect someone is involved in dogfighting?
If you witness signs of dogfighting, the best thing to do is report it. The Humane Society of the United States has a tip line available for reporting and offers a $5,000 reward if a dogfighter is convicted. They will work with local law enforcement to provide resources and guidance. You can also report the tip to law enforcement directly. (The Humane Society)
Dogfighting is a brutal and unfortunately common sport. It could involve around 40,000 humans and lead to the death of an estimated 16,000 dogs every year in the US. Dogs involved in dogfighting are abused and conditioned to be aggressive and violent. Although many involved in the dogfighting industry are convicted every year, the fight against dogfighting is still far from over.
- You may also be interested in: 12 Shocking UK Dog Fighting Statistics & Facts to Know.
Featured Image Credit: Zeralein99, Shutterstock