Yes, dog fights are illegal in America. Organized dog fighting still takes place in many parts of the United States, despite this bloodsport being a felony offense in all 50 states. Dog fights have been recorded as far back as the 1750s and professional fighting pits were popularized in the 1860s, according to the ASPCA.
The Dog Fighting Culture
Just like any other illegal activity that happens underground, it is not possible to determine how many people are involved in dogfighting in America. Estimates suggest that the number of participants is in the tens of thousands, based on animals entering shelters with dog fighting injuries and fight reports issued in underground publications of the bloodsport. While it seemed as if dog fighting had declined in the 1990s, many animal control authorities and law enforcement believe that it has rebounded because of the internet–making it easier for dogfighters to exchange information.
People get involved in dogfighting for several reasons including monetary gains (both in bets on fights and breeding dogs from champion parents), strength and power of owning a champion fighter, and enjoyment of a brutal sport. There are many breeds of dogs that are used for fighting around the world, the most popular one in the United States is the American Pitbull Terrier. Other dog fighting breeds used outside of the U.S. include the Fila Brasileiro, Dogo Argentino, Tosa Inu and Presa Canario.
Dog Fighting and the Law
Dog fighting became a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands as of 2008. Moreover, a majority of the states make the possession of dogs for the purpose of fighting a felony crime. Additionally, being a spectator at a dogfight is also against the law in all 50 states. The specific laws, and their resulting penalties for violations, vary state-by-state.
There are, however, several federal laws that criminalize dog fighting. This includes:
- The Animal Welfare Act of 1966 (AWA), which prohibits specific animal fighting-related activities when they involve interstate mail services or more than one state;
- The Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act of 2007 (AFPEA), which amended the AWA and provides felony penalties for import and export, interstate commerce, and other activities and paraphernalia relating to animal fighting (and not just dog fighting);
- The Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act of 2014 (AFSP), which makes attending an animal fight anywhere in America a federal crime and imposes additional penalties if a child under the age of 16 is brought to an animal fight.
In addition to criminal charges, prison time, and monetary fines dog fighting is also connected to other crimes such as animal cruelty, operating a kennel without a license, and child endangerment.
Follow the Law
The moral of the story is do not engage in dog fighting as a spectator, operator, or participant, or you will face serious consequences. If you have any legal questions, particularly those involving personal injury claims, contact H&P Law. Our skilled lawyers can help guide you every step of the way.