This week on Ireland AM, Pete discusses the dangers of illegal dog fighting and what you should do, if you suspect it’s going on in your area.
Dog fighting in Ireland
The true extent of dog fighting in Ireland is hard to establish, because animal fighting is often linked to criminal activity, so undercover surveillance is risky. It’s a hidden, dangerous world, kept out of the public eye. There is no doubt that it goes on, but it’s hard to discover much about it.
Dog fighting is illegal, under the Animal Health and Welfare Bill, although some animal welfare groups would like the law to be more specific about precisely what is illegal, so that convictions could be possible for e.g. owning equipment associated with dog fighting, being present at a dog fight (even if not organising it), and making videos of dog fights.
Many breeds of dogs are used for fighting, but the Pitbull, or cross breeds of bull terrier types are most commonly used. There are fears that stolen pet dogs may be used to give fighting dogs the taste of blood, but there is scanty evidence to support this theory.
Who is involved in dog fighting?
A range of people, including the fight organisers, the participants (owners of the dogs, spectators and people illegally betting on the outcome of the fights. Events are publicised in underground publications and now via the internet.
Where do fighting dogs come from?
They are usually sold as puppies from parents who have won fights but any dog can be used.
How are fighting dogs trained?
Again, this happens behind closed doors, and much of our information about these activities has come from detailed investigations of dog fighting rings in other countries such as the USA. Fighting dogs tend to be kept in poor conditions, kept out of the public eye. They may be exercised on treadmills, and they usually live a rough life, without veterinary care or normal socialising/ family life. There are well known accessories used to train and fight dogs – so called “paraphernalia” – and in other jurisdictions it can be illegal to own such equipment.
What happens during a fight?
Dog fights usually take place in a pit or a ring, around six metres in diameter, with fencing or hoarding to contain the animals. Dogs are set up to face each other, 3 or 4 meters apart, and they are literally set upon each other. Fights can last a few minutes or several hours, with both animals being badly injured or even killed.
What should you do if you suspect dog fighting may be going on in your area?
Phone the Gardai, the ISPCA or the Dublin SPCA. Such reports can be made anonymously.