Underground dog fighting rings in UK are using people's pets as bait
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** WARNING: Contains distressing images**
- One dog fed steroids to become stronger and more aggressive
- Smaller animals being stolen and used as bait for fighting dogs
- Dog fighters using the dark web for international networking
Dogs in the UK are being forced to fight in barbaric underworld gambling rings and people's pets are being used as bait.
Despite dog fighting being banned in England and Wales in 1835, animal abusers are still using horrific methods to get man's best friend to kill so that grown men can bet on it.
LADbible has learned of dog owners who are too afraid to walk their own pets for fear of an attack in certain areas.
Intelligence from anti-cruelty organisations has also found links between dog fighting and other organised crime such as firearms, drug trafficking, modern day slavery, money laundering and prostitution.
- Bert (top left) was fed a diet of steroids believed to have caused kidney stones
- Percy (top right) had 42 wounds across his body and died from his injuries
- Hector (bottom left) looked to have teeth filed down so that he couldn't defend himself
- Bella (bottom right) found with horrific scarring and successfully rehomed
Despite the Covid-19 lockdowns, at least 1,156 cases of dog fighting have been found by the RSPCA since 2019.
The League Against Cruel Sports is also working tirelessly to lift the lid on the outdated blood sport.
Head of Campaigns, Emma Judd, explained that along with pets being stolen to be used as bait, dog fighters will also pick up animals online.
Emma told LADbible: "It's often linked to betting, it's often linked to dangerous dog breeding, and it's linked to horrendous animal cruelty - not just for the dogs that are forced to fight each other in the ring just so people can bet on them, but also for other dogs and small animals like cats and other household pets that are used to train the dogs to attack and kill."
The places where families should feel safe - public spaces in their own neighbourhoods - have become battlegrounds for underworld dog fighting in some areas in the UK.
One resident told LADbible that dog fighters are taking to the streets at night in their area.
'Street rolling' sees fighting dogs taken outdoors to prepare for the brutal sport.
Emma said: "You'll often find that at night time the dogs will be taken out into parks and other areas and trained to hang from low level branches on trees by their jaws.
"You might find that they are wearing really heavy collars in order to strengthen their necks so that they're tougher for the fight.
"You might also find them being taught to jump really quite high. There are behaviours that you can look out for and they are typically after dark."
Emma stressed that dog fighters are not launching attacks on random dogs or owners but organising fights with other criminals to kickstart the process of their animals being willing to kill in the ring.
She said: "Typically, they're not aggressive to humans because their owners have to be able to step into the ring to separate the dogs if needs be. They wouldn't want to put themselves in harm's way - which is the difference between dog fighting and and things like the American bully XL attacks."
Where do dog fights take place?
While you might assume the shady world of dog fighting only happens in remote and abandoned buildings, evidence shows that dogs are also being forced to attack each other on housing estates in the UK.
Emma told LADbible: "They're underground, you get dog fighting rings and people might not know that they're living in close proximity to a dog fighting place which could just be in a residential house.
"They're not very loud, it's quite quiet - they don't bark."
England's top 5 worst counties for dog fighting 2019-2023
- London is the worst hotspot with 91 incidents
- Greater Manchester (82 investigations)
- West Yorkshire (69 investigations)
- West Midlands (59 incidents)
- Lancashire (56) following closely behind
International connections in dog fighting
The League Against Cruel Sports has found that those involved in dog fighting often connect with other animal abusers internationally via social media, chat groups and the dark web.
These networks can be responsible for importing certain breeds which, if found to be a banned dog under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, will sadly be destroyed.
Emma told LADbible: "A lot of dog fighting rings in the UK have links to fighting dog breeders abroad. If you've got a dog fighting ring in the UK, they'll often have contacts in Europe and they will import banned breeds from those areas."
What is the punishment for dog fighting?
Tougher prison sentences for animal cruelty came into force back in 2021. The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021 raised the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years.
Along with a prison sentence, those found guilty of dog fighting can be give an unlimited fine.
RSPCA dog fighting expert and Special Operations Unit (SOU) chief inspector Ian Muttitt said: "Sadly we're back seeing pre-pandemic levels of dog fighting incidents.
"An average of 19 incidents were being investigated every month in 2019 and that has risen to a shocking 31 a month so far this year.
"Our figures show that in the past four years, the RSPCA has uncovered and dealt with 1,156 incidents of dog fighting in England and Wales. The north of England is the worst region for it, with 42% of the incidents occurring there.
"It's staggering that something which has been illegal for almost 200 years, which most people would consider consigned to history, is still so rife."
If you think dog fighting is taking place in your area you can report it to The League Against Cruel Sports' Animal Crimewatch, call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 or contact the police.