Dog fighting still rife as RSPCA reveals shocking number of reported annual cases

Dog fighting is an offence under section 8 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. (RSPCA)
Dog fighting is an offence under section 8 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. (RSPCA)

*WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT*

More than 1,500 reports of dog fighting are still made every year, according to campaigners trying to ‘consign the pastime to history’.

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The RSPCA said the barbaric practice is still rife around the UK despite being banned almost 200 years ago.

The animal charity released shocking statistics this week claiming that nearly 8,000 dog fighting reports were made between 2015 and 2018.

The RSPCA is the country’s leading organisation tackling this crime, and for the last four decades the Special Operations Unit (SOU) have been investigating reports, rescuing dogs and prosecuting perpetrators.

Though the numbers of incidents have been decreasing, from 2,128 in 2015 to 1,583 in 2018, the charity is aware that many dogs are still in vulnerable conditions.

The aftermath of a dog fight. Source: RSPCA
The aftermath of a dog fight. Source: RSPCA

RSPCA dog fighting expert and SOU chief inspector Mike Butcher said: “Our figures show that in the past four years the RSPCA has received 7,915 reports of dog fighting incidents.

“While it’s promising to see that these figures are dropping year on year, it’s still staggering that something which has been illegal for almost 200 years and a bloody pastime which most people would consider consigned to history is still so rife.”

Last month, a group who trained and bred dogs for fighting in Lincolnshire and Wales were convicted following a trial in a case brought by the RSPCA.

John Knibbs and Kimberleigh Steele were both convicted in their absence for offences and a warrant was issued for their arrests.

John Knibbs was first prosecuted for dog fighting by the RSPCA in 2009 when he was disqualified from keeping animals for life. (Twitter/@joynes85)
John Knibbs was first prosecuted for dog fighting by the RSPCA in 2009 when he was disqualified from keeping animals for life. (Twitter/@joynes85)

People found guilty of dog fighting, a practice illegal in the UK since 1835, can be jailed for 12 months, fined up to £20,000, or both.

In Northern Ireland, the maximum sentence for animal cruelty was increased from two to five years.

Yesterday, a law, colloquially known as ‘Finn’s Law‘, which gives protection to service dogs and horses was given Royal Assent.

Sadly, many of the dogs used by dog fighters are never found and those who are rescued are often banned breeds under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

The law prohibits four types of dog – the pit bull terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Brasilian mastiff – and therefore when the RSPCA finds them, they cannot legally be rehomed and must be euthanised.

Dog fighting has been recorded in nearly every county in England. (RSPCA)
Dog fighting has been recorded in nearly every county in England. (RSPCA)

However, it is not all doom and gloom for these dogs, and sometimes there are the lucky ones.

Staffordshire terrier Kali was rescued as part of a dog fighting investigation after she was found cowering in a garden, in Hertfordshire, in March 2017, covered in scars, open wounds and bloody bite marks.

RSPCA officers traced her owner, who was later convicted at court of animal welfare offences, and she was taken into care for treatment and rehabilitation.

Georgina Arnold and boyfriend Owen Gray, from Yaxley in Cambridgeshire, read about Kali’s story in the local newspaper and fell in love.

Before and after pictures of Kali. (RSPCA)
Before and after pictures of Kali. (RSPCA)

“We love her so much, we couldn’t be without her now,” Georgina said.

“I couldn’t believe it when I found out the life she’d had before, the whole experience for her must have been so frightening.

“She has scars and is missing teeth so she has been through a lot, but she is so kind, she is like a teddy bear, there’s not a bad bone in her body.

“I’m just glad that she’s safe now and she’ll never have to know fear or cruelty again.”

The top 10 dog fighting hotspots are (number of reported cases over four years):

Greater London – 653
West Midlands – 456
Greater Manchester – 380
West Yorkshire – 380
South Yorkshire – 279
Essex – 257
Kent – 230
Lancashire – 228
Lincolnshire – 215
Merseyside – 180

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