Animal fighting, in various forms, has been around for quite a while. Certain cultures have considered multiple forms of animal fighting to be entertaining and have celebrated this brutal sport by making it a spectator event. Animal fighting does occur in Sedgwick County in several forms and various county agencies are working together to help fight this. Animal fighting generally occurs in one of two forms: cockfighting or dog fighting.
Cockfighting has been commonplace across the globe for thousands of years. It was introduced to the American colonies relatively early on and was later outlawed in the early states due to the cruelty involved. As of today, cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia.
During this sport, two cocks (also known as roosters) are pitted against each other in some sort of a “pit.” Pits can be specifically constructed for the sport or can be as simple as placing several bales of straw together and forming an enclosure. Birds are then pitted against each other in fights that can last anywhere from minutes to up to half an hour. Death usually occurs in at least one of the fighting birds.
Fighting birds are bred and trained for these fights. They are often fed and/or injected with various steroids, vitamins, and other substances during a training cycle and this will usually result in a much more aggressive and fearless nature in the birds. Because of this it is very rare that former fighting birds are able to be rehabilitated after rescue.
1. Aren’t roosters naturally aggressive?
- “In nature, a rooster may fight another rooster over territory or over a mate, but these fights are usually brief and don't involve serious injury. In organized cockfights, however, the roosters' natural instincts are exaggerated. Through breeding, feeding, training, steroids and vitamins, the roosters become killing machines for people's entertainment.”1
2. I thought that only dog fighting was illegal. Is
cockfighting illegal as well?
- Yes. Cockfighting is now illegal in all 50 states, including the District of Columbia. In some states it is even a felony offense. If you want to know about your state, you should visit www.aspca.org.
3. Is it true that metal spurs are tied to a fighting
bird’s legs during the fight?
- This is often the case. These “spurs” are called gaffs. The bird owner or trainer will cut off the natural spurs on the bird’s legs and leave behind only a short stump that the gaff can be attached to. The gaffs come in a number of varieties and are used so that the bird can puncture vital organs in its opponents.
4. I have heard that wattles and combs are often cut
off of the birds before they fight. Why?
- The wattle (the comb below the beak) and the comb (the flap of skin on top of the beak) are often removed so that the opposing bird does not rip them off in battle. Generally, to lose one of these body parts would result in blood loss which might hinder the fighting bird during the match.
5. They are just chickens. Why should we care about
cockfighting in our community?
- Cock fights are very violent in nature and often result in birds sustaining extremely painful injuries which may lead to death. Sometimes injured birds are just left to die and may be in agony for quite some time before they pass on. The gaffs often cause eyeballs to be punctured and/or bones to be broken.
- In addition to the extreme cruelty involved with cockfighting, it has been documented that cockfighting often goes hand-in-hand with other criminal offenses such as gambling, narcotics, weapons violations, and alcohol-related crimes. There have been multiple incidents where violent street gangs have been closely linked to cockfighting and dog fighting enterprises.
- “…cockfights often inspire a party-like atmosphere in which entire families gather, including children. This often leads to concerns that a child will not only become desensitized toward cruelty to animals, but are at risk of becoming injured by the sparring birds or abused by other people.”1 “Seeing adults relish such brutality can teach kids to enjoy violence and think that animal suffering is okay.”2
6. What should I do if I want to report a possible
cockfighting location in Sedgwick County?
- You should call either Sedgwick County Animal Control at (316) 660-7070 or the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office at (316) 522-2610 and report your suspicions. They will answer any questions you might have about animal fighting or other animal-related crimes. If you are unable to make contact with someone please leave a message or call 911. If you believe that an actual cockfight is in progress, you should call 911.
Dog fighting has also existed in various countries for hundreds of years. “While organized dog fighting activity seemed to decline in the 1990s, many law enforcement and animal control officials feel that it has rebounded in recent years. Street fighting has reportedly continued to grow as a significant component of urban crime. The Internet has also made it easier for dog fighters to rapidly exchange information about animals and fights.”
Due to the recent publicity surrounding the Michael Vick case, more people are becoming aware of the brutality that’s involved with dog fighting. Dogs that are being trained for this sport most often are kept chained up nearly twenty four hours a day with what is usually a logging chain. It is believed that the heavier the chain the better so that the dog’s neck muscles can be built up. Dogs are then trained to fight in a variety of ways. “Dogs are trained from a very young age to develop their "gameness". The dogs are often beaten, starved, drugged, and constantly antagonized to promote aggression toward other dogs. Some types of equipment used in training might be a treadmill, heavy chains to build chest muscles, weights to hang from necks, spring poles, etc.” If they aren’t killed in the actual fight, they often are later killed inhumanely because they had lost the fight or gave up.
"The dog's mouth was taped shut, and the dog was leashed to a
tree stump and soaked in furniture polish. A necropsy showed the dog was alive
when it was set on fire."
Oftentimes, innocent dogs are stolen out of people’s backyards or are picked up as strays and are used as bait dogs. Bait dogs are used to test a fighting-dog-in-training’s “gameness” which often means that they are rendered helpless and are brutally attacked by the fighting dog.
During the fight itself two dogs are pitted against each other in a “pit” and fights may last anywhere from minutes to hours. At the street level, there are generally no rules and they will fight until one dog kills the other or until one of the owners calls the fight off. During a more organized fight, there are a number of rules and a referee will stand by to ensure that all rules are followed.
While it is most often the pit bull that is used in dog fighting, there are several other breeds that have been and are being used for this barbaric sport. “Fila Brasileiros, Dog Argentinos and Presa Canarios have also been used in this blood “sport”. Occasionally Doberman Pinschers or German Shepherds are reportedly used in street fights, or as “bait dogs” to train fighting dogs.” It has been reported that some “fighters” have begun to cross bullmastiffs with pit bulls in an attempt to create an even more aggressive and physically strong breed. It is important to remember that none of these specific breeds are “evil or aggressive” dogs by nature. Pit bulls, with the appropriate socialization, are generally very loving dogs that can be great with children. They are well known for their strong desire to please their owners. This desire is sometimes what is taken advantage of by owners who want their dogs to fight.
“These dogs don't ask to fight but it is in the nature of the pit bull to do anything to please its master. These dogs fight through unimaginable pain, often with broken limbs, half their faces torn away, but when they hear the voice of their master you can see their tails wag. They only want to make humans happy. What kind of human being does this to a dog? Takes this kind of advantage of unquestioning loyalty and love?”
As previously mentioned, dog fighting is not only an issue in our community because of the animal cruelty involved but also because of the propensity for other crimes to be occurring concurrently. In other words, narcotics, illegal weapons, gang-related crimes, gambling, and various violent crimes usually go hand and hand with dog fighting. It is not at all unusual for law enforcement officers to discover evidence of the above crimes and more during a dog or cockfighting investigation. Part of this may be occurring because, nationwide, law enforcement has been discovering that dog fighting is becoming even more popular among urban gang members in recent years.
If you suspect that dog fighting may be occurring in your area, please contact 9-1-1, especially if you know of an organized dogfight in progress. You may also report your suspicions to Crime Stoppers at (316) 267-2111. If you have any questions about dog fighting, please feel free to contact Sedgwick County Animal Control at (316) 660-7070 or the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office at (316) 522-2610. The Humane Society of the United States is even offering a $5000.00 reward for tips that lead to the arrest and conviction of a dogfighter. For more information please see www.humanesociety.org or see the link in the Links section of this article.
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