Animal fighting has existed across the globe in many forms for centuries. Unfortunately, this callous and brutal form of entertainment still plagues the United States in modern times. Common examples of bloodsports commonly known include cockfighting and dogfighting.
What is a Blood Sport?
Although there is no legal definition, a blood sport or a bloodsport as a category of sports or entertainment that involves bloodshed, dating back to ancient Roman times.
Why is Animal Fighting Illegal?
Animal fighting, especially dogfighting and cockfighting, is considered illegal and unlawful in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. These sports are prohibited for many reasons, aside from the heinous animal cruelty and obvious trauma that participating animals must endure (if they survive). Animal fighting also attracts other criminal activities, such as theft, gambling, drug dealing, illegal weapons, money laundering, and more.
In fact, the average dog fight could easily net more money than an armed robbery or a series of isolated drug transactions.
Unfortunately, many animals trained for these inhumane sports are grossly mistreated, drugged, abused, and purposefully aggressive that they must be euthanized.
Organized animal fighting is usually a secretive industry and very difficult for law enforcement to infiltrate.
What is Dogfighting?
Two or more dogs are put into a ring or pit to fight until one cannot continue or dies. In rural areas, fights are often staged in barns or outdoor pits; in urban areas, fights may occur in garages, basements, warehouses, abandoned buildings, back alleys, neighborhood playgrounds, or in the streets.
Dog fighting generates revenue from stud fees, admission fees and gambling.
Dogs who have been raised and trained to fight are commonly forced to wear heavy chains, left outside without adequate shelter, starved to make them more aggressive or meet weight requirements set by each fight, given narcotics, stimulants, and steroids, among many more extreme and abusive tactics.
Image Courtesy of Operation Kindness
What is Cockfighting?
Two gamecocks are released into a pit or ring, commonly referred to as a cockpit, to fight to endure significant damage to the other. These fights typically last anywhere from a few minutes to over 30 minutes.
Gamecocks are bred and trained to have increased stamina and strength. Handlers often attach a metal razor or gaff to each rooster’s leg for a more brutal match.
The possession of birds for fighting is prohibited in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
Being a spectator at a cockfight is prohibited in 43 states and the District of Columbia.
The possession of cockfighting implements is prohibited in 15 states.
See specific states laws regarding cockfighting here: https://www.humanesociety.org/sites/default/files/docs/cockfighting-state-laws-0120%20%28final%29.pdf
Birds who are raised for cockfighting are often given muscle-building hormones, steroids, antibiotics, vitamins, and forced to train inhumanely.
Aside from the cruelty of the sport itself, the birds are kept in such close proximity that diseases tend to infect whole flocks of birds and any of the fighting birds who have come in contact. One extremely contagious disease between birds is known as infectious laryngotracheitis, or ILT. It is a herpes virus infection of poultry characterized by labored breathing, coughing, a rattling sound in the lungs, coughing up blood, eye infection, and more. Birds and flocks who test positive for this disease must be euthanized.
State Laws regarding Animal Fighting:
Dogfighting is a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and is a felony in 37 states and D.C.
Being a spectator at an animal fight may be legal or only a misdemeanor offense according to some state laws, so prosecutors must be able to prove who is an organizer in order to achieve a felony conviction for animal fighting.
Dog Fighting in Texas
Our sister 501(c)4 organization, THLN, was instrumental in getting dog fighting outlawed in Texas, and later strengthening the statute to increase penalties for various offenses.
- The Dog Fighting Act, passed in 1983, outlaws dog fighting, promoting a dogfight, training dogs to fight, and attending a dogfight.
- The Dog Fighting Penalty Enhancement Bill increased the punishment for dogfighting from a Class A misdemeanor to a state jail felony, and increased the punishment for attending a dog fighting exhibition from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor (HB 916, 2007). [Sec. 42.10.]
- The Dog Fighting Classified as Organized Crime Bill was passed in 2009 (SB 554). It allows dog fighting to be classified as organized crime and additionally allows for the forfeiture of all property including cash, vehicles, etc. associated with dogfighting.
Cockfighting in Texas
THLN also worked closely with the Texas Animal Control Association and the Humane Society of the United States in passing HB 1043 to strengthen the cockfighting laws in Texas. In addition to cockfighting itself, HB 1043 outlaws promoting a cockfight, allowing one’s property to be used for a cockfight, training fighting birds, and attending a cockfighting event.