Tell-Tale Signs of a Dog Fighting Ring Near You

Pit Bull chained up in dirty yard signs of dog fighting ring
(Photo Credit: mgstudyo / Getty Images)

Dog fighting is still a massive national problem. Animal welfare groups like ASPCA estimate that tens of thousands of people are involved in dog fighting, despite the fact that Congress made it a federal crime to attend an animal fight back in 2013. One unfortunate factor that keeps authorities from busting more dog fighters is how secretive and normal they can appear from the outside. Here are 10 signs that dog fighting is happening at a residence in your community.

1. Pit Bulls on Heavy Chains

Pit Bulls are the top choice for dog fights, and this is a reason why they have the negative stereotype of being violently aggressive. Seeing a Pit Bull in a yard with a heavy logging chain, possibly with a padlock, is a sign that the dog is a victim of dog fighting.

2. Scarred or Injured Dogs (Especially Pit Bulls)

Scars from fighting will likely be present on the face, front legs, and around the thighs and hind end of the dog. They may look like deep scratches or like punctures from a deep bite. Mangled and ripped ears are another sign of dog fighting. Again, if this dog is also a Pit Bull, there is a good chance there is dog fighting happening. 

3. Breaking Sticks

People use breaking sticks to break up fights. They are usually wooden, around a foot long, and flattened out on one side. That side is what they shove down their dogs’ throats to stop a fight, and there may be blood on it.

4. A Spring Pole

This one can be tricky to identify because, from a distance, it can look completely innocuous. Some dog owners may be using spring poles for agility or strength training in an ethical manner. It is used by dog fighters, however, to condition a dog for fighting by building up their neck and jaw muscles. Made from rawhide, heavy knotted rope, or a tire, the spring pole is usually suspended from a beam or tree branch. Then the dog jumps up, grabs it, and hangs off of it.

5. Treadmills

A homemade or electric treadmill in your neighbor’s yard might not mean they want to exercise outside. Dog fighters often use treadmills as a conditioning tool for fighting dogs.

6. Fighting Pit

Dog fighting pits are often made from plywood and measure between 14 and 20 square feet. The walls are 2 to 3 feet high. Look for scratch marks in the opposite corners of the pit. These are the “starting lines” for the dogs before they fight. Blood in this area would also be a huge sign that this is a dog-fighting pit.

7. Washtubs

This one is scary. Yes, washtubs can be used outdoors to give your pup a bath, but dog fighters have their dogs washed to check for cheating. Sometimes, dog fighters will coat their dog’s fur with poisons to slow down or kill their opponent. Dog fighters watch as each of their dogs is washed to ensure there is no cheating.

8. Vitamins, Drugs, And Vet Supplies

This one may be hard to see just standing across the street from a possible dog-fighting ring location. If you see any discarded veterinarian pill bottles, especially those for antibiotics like amoxicillin and ampicillin, iron pills, or canine steroids lying around a suspected residence, this is a likely sign of dog fighting.

9. Jenny Mill or Cat Mill

A Jenny Mill is like a miniature horse walker. People harness the dogs to the contraption and a piece of bait, such as a caged cat or rabbit, moves one spoke ahead of the dog. The dog chases the animal but is never able to catch it. Jenny Mills are used to increase aggression in fighting dogs.

10. Dogfighting Publications

Again, this one might not be an obvious sign. Dog fighting circles run deep and wide, sometimes even across state lines. In order to keep track of winning dogs without getting busted by an e-mail, there are underground publications with the latest in this world of animal abuse. Some titles of these publications are Sporting Dog Journal, Scratch Back, International Dog Journal, and Certified Contender Report. You will not be able to find these in the suspected resident’s mailbox, as these publications are illegal to send via the United States Postal Service.

If you have witnessed one or more of these dog fighting signs, call local authorities. By no means should you take matters into your own hands. Dog fighting runs deeper than the abuse of animals and can sometimes occur alongside drug and weapon markets as well. If the residence is in fact a dog fighting location, you can also reach out to your local media for coverage. More media coverage leads to more awareness, and if we don’t know what to look for in our backyards, how would we end this terrible animal abuse?

Have you ever reported someone for suspected animal abuse? What signs tipped you off? Let us know in the comments.

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