Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.
It’s one of the ugliest crimes you’ll ever hear about on the news: dog fighting.
A brutal sport in which criminals pit two dogs together in a makeshift ring, often forcing them to fight to the death, dog fighting isn’t as popular as it once was. Still, even forced underground, it has remained frustratingly persistent.
Most people know little about this horrific pastime, and for them, the statistics below will be educational. However, it’s better to learn about the horrors of the sport than to turn a blind eye to them, which is why we’ve compiled 10 eye-opening dog fighting statistics.
The 10 Dog Fighting Statistics
- According to The Humane Society, there are an estimated 40,000 people active in dog fighting in the United States.
- Based on a poll conducted by the ASPCA, most people believe that dog fighting never happens in their community.
- Dog fighting bouts can boast purses up to $100,000.
- Dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states.
- Dog fights almost always involve several other crimes as well.
- The first arrest for dog fighting in America happened in 1870.
- The average length of a dog fight is 1–2 hours.
- Over 500 dogs were seized in the largest dog fighting bust in U.S. history.
- A 1997 study showed that animal abusers are much more likely to harm people as well.
- The reward for reporting dog fighting is $5,000.
Dog Fighting Statistics
1. According to The Humane Society, there are an estimated 40,000 people active in dog fighting in the United States.
With numbers this high, it’s clear that the problem isn’t just limited to a few bad apples. It’s a surprisingly popular activity, and dog fights can be found all over the country.
These numbers also make it clear that efforts to curb the sport aren’t as effective as they should be. While penalties for participating in dog fighting have grown stiffer in recent years, more can (and should) be done to discourage involvement in this brutal crime.
2. Based on a poll conducted by the ASPCA, most people believe that dog fighting never happens in their community.
This fact lies in stark contrast to the one that precedes it. Given the enormous number of people who participate in dog fighting in some form or another, it’s tremendously likely that it’s happening in places that no one would suspect.
Even more troubling, that same survey revealed that only about half of the people who suspected that dog fighting was occurring in their community reported it. This nonchalant attitude allows the activity to proliferate, directly leading to more dogs being abused and murdered.
3. Dog fighting bouts can boast purses up to $100,000.
This statistic goes a long way toward showing why people continue to be involved with this barbaric practice: There’s money in it. Of course, the only way to justify purses that big is to have a great deal of betting on a bout, which means you need many spectators in the crowd.
With that much money changing hands, this won’t be an easy activity to stamp out. However, the bigger the purses get, the more fights will be staged—and the more dogs will be harmed in the process.
4. Dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states.
As of 2009, actively participating in a dog fight is a felony in every state in America. The penalties vary, but most involve at least one year in prison (and in many cases, more time than that).
Attending a dogfight is still a misdemeanor in many jurisdictions. This is changing bit by bit, but those who keep the sport in business are still often skating by without being suitably punished for their actions.
One other thing that all 50 states can agree on is that it’s a felony to bring a minor to a dog fight.
5. Dog fights almost always involve several other crimes as well.
According to the Animal Control Officers Association of New Hampshire (ACOANH), virtually every dog fighting bust involves drugs and gambling, and 2/3 involve the seizure of illegal weapons.
Furthermore, people involved in dog fighting rings tend to be well-informed about larger criminal activities in their area, and that should make these fights a priority for any law enforcement personnel looking for cooperative informants.
6. The first arrest for dog fighting in America happened in 1870.
To give you an idea of how long dog fighting has been a favored activity of the criminal class, the earliest known arrest for staging a bout happened in New York City in 1870. Kit Burns, a saloon keeper with mob ties, ran the city’s largest dog fighting ring. However, his penchant for animal cruelty eventually led to him getting arrested.
His incarceration was largely due to the efforts of Henry Bergh, the founder of the ASPCA. Burns was acquitted at trial, but he caught pneumonia along the way, eventually dying from it.
7. The average length of a dog fight is 1–2 hours.
If you had any doubts as to the barbarism of these events, this statistic should put them to rest. An average fight lasts one or two hours, which gives plenty of opportunity for the dogs to inflict incredible amounts of harm on one another (not to mention plenty of opportunity for money to change hands via betting).
Many fights go to the death as well, and that end is almost never merciful. In many cases, the dog’s death is as drawn out as the fight that caused it.
8. Over 500 dogs were seized in the largest dog fighting bust in U.S. history.
In 2009, various federal, state, and local task forces broke up a multi-state dog fighting ring, seizing more than 500 dogs (mostly Pit Bulls) and arresting 26 people in the process.
The events took place in Missouri, Illinois, Texas, Iowa, and Oklahoma, and they involved organizations that posed as animal kennels to disguise the true nature of their activities. The case took authorities more than 18 months to build.
While hundreds of dogs were rescued, many were in tragic states of disrepair. Those dogs had to be euthanized as a result.
9. A 1997 study showed that animal abusers are much more likely to harm people as well.
A research study performed by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Northeastern University looked at crime data spanning a 20-year period. They found that animal abusers were five times more likely to commit other violent crimes than non-abusers. Their research also showed that 71% of domestic violence victims had witnessed their partner abuse or threaten to abuse family pets.
While many may have a laissez-faire attitude toward dog fighting—after all, the victims are “only dogs”—it’s clear that stopping animal abuse will go a long way toward limiting violence towards humans as well.
10. The reward for reporting dog fighting is $5,000.
If you suspect that there may be an active dog fighting ring in your area, don’t hesitate to report it to the police. If your tip leads to a conviction, the Humane Society will give you a $5,000 reward.
While the money may be a nice incentive, the opportunity to save dogs from cruelty and death should be more than enough to spur you into action. By alerting authorities, you may even help stop other violent crimes as well.
When Was Dog Fighting Created?
Sadly, dog fighting has been around for thousands of years. In many cases, it occurred as an adjunct to war; both sides would bring war dogs into a conflict, and they would battle to the death, much like their human masters did.
In 43 A.D., Rome invaded Britain. The ensuing conflict lasted 7 years, which meant there was a great deal of dogfighting on the battlefield. The Romans were so impressed with the ferocity of the British dogs that they began importing them for use in the gladiatorial arena. Thus, the practice of watching dogs fight for sport was born.
This led to the rise of “baiting,” a sport in which dogs would attack chained bulls and bears. It was tremendously popular for hundreds of years before being largely banned in the 19th century. Once baiting was criminalized, bloodthirsty patrons turned to dog fighting instead. It became especially popular in the United States after the Civil War, and many fights were held publicly for paying crowds.
In the 20th century, the sport became illegal in most states, forcing it underground, where it remains. However, it’s still popular—and in some countries, like Russia and Afghanistan, it’s enjoying more success than ever before.
Why Do People Get Involved in Dog Fighting?
There are many reasons that a person might decide to get involved in dog fighting, but chief among them has to be money. The purses for winning a dog fight can be tremendous—more than many people make in a year. Even those who merely attend dog fights as spectators can make money gambling on them.
A fight can also act as a hub for criminal activity. In addition to the omnipresent gambling, you can have drug deals, gun buys, and all manner of other illicit activity occurring in the stands. Many criminals set up dog fights in order to facilitate their other enterprises.
In many cases, early exposure to dog fighting inures a person to the horrors of the sport, so they grow up thinking that it’s a normal part of everyday life. Many people seem to view their dogs as an extension of themselves. That can mean that if their dog is fierce and intimidating, they may assume that it means they’re fierce and intimidating as well. Of course, that’s absolutely false.
What Is the Punishment for Dog Fighting?
As of 2009, participating in dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states and every U.S. territory. The penalties will vary from state to state, but anyone convicted of such acts will face a minimum of one year in prison, as well as a hefty fine. Furthermore, anyone convicted of transporting dogs across state lines for the purposes of dog fighting faces a fine of up to $250,000 and up to three years in prison.
Merely acting as a spectator at a dog fighting match is generally considered a misdemeanor. That usually caps possible jail time at one year, and any associated fines are much lower. Bringing a minor to a bout is a felony, though.
Keeping a dog for the purpose of fighting is sometimes only a misdemeanor. However, defendants will usually face separate charges for each individual dog, which could drive up their sentence or fine. It’s also important to remember that dog fighting bouts almost always attract other illegal activity. This can make raiding such an event a boon for law enforcement, as they’ll have their choice of criminal charges to draw up.
Dog fighting is one of the most callous and brutal pastimes known to man; despite that, it’s quite popular in many places. While many people prefer to believe that the sport is fading out, the evidence is clear that it’s as strong as ever.
The sad truth is that there’s too much money to be made in dog fighting and not enough interest on the part of law enforcement to stop it. Until those things change, we’re unlikely to see any huge dip in its popularity.
Until then, it’s up to the average animal lover to take a stand against this heinous practice. That means being forever vigilant—and not being afraid to speak up when you think that abuse might be occurring.