Animal Fighting – Cruel or a Legitimate Sport?

If you owned an animal, would you love and take care of it or would you deliberately and maliciously inflict pain upon it? Today, animals are used for many purposes which Americans deem decent. Being

raised for a source of food, confined to a life of observation and spending a lifetime in a zoo are a few, among many, ways an animal can be used. However, there is another way animals are used and that is through organized fighting. Animal fighting is seen as cruel and torturous to many, however to some it is seen as a money making sport and a business-like way of life. This is a current conflict running through our society today. Animal fighting is illegal in the United States and most of society finds the “sport” appalling. However, just as there are two sides of a coin, there are those who are just as passionately opposed to dog fighting standing firmly on their beliefs that it demonstrates brutality towards animals, is inhumane, and bottom line an illegal activity; therefore is not a sport and those that participate should be prosecuted to the fullest extent the law allows.

In the state of Louisiana, it is still legal to have structured fights between two roosters known as “cock fighting”. There, families gather to watch and cheer their roosters during the battle, the same way many Americans gather to watch and cheer their favorite football team. Typically these rooster’s feet are strapped with razor blades, which usually result in a battle to the death. This is a state approved recreation and generates large revenue for the people involved; it supports the veterinarian industry and profits are taxed by the state. Is this different than game hunting; battling with an animal to its death?

Still, hidden deeper into the secluded corners of our society, is the sport of dog fighting. Dog fighting is a physical fight between canines, sometimes involving the pitting of two dogs against each other for the entertainment of spectators, and for the purpose of gambling. It is considered by some to be a sport, as the dogs are judged on their wrestling, bite and gameness while onlookers root and place bets. In recent news, Atlanta Falcons star quarterback Michael Vick was arrested and charged for dog fighting on his property. On April 25 2007, authorities raided a house in Surry County, Va., owned by Vick and reportedly found — among other things — 66 dogs (most of which were pit bulls), a dog-fighting pit, bloodstained carpets and equipment used in the fights (Carney). The American public was shocked at the behavior of a national role model and Michael Vick, for the most part, fell from the grace of the National Football League (NFL), and the American society as a whole. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s extremely firm and swift response to Michael Vick’s guilty plea reinforces how seriously he takes not only the integrity of the league, but his expectations of how animals should be treated in a humane society.

Yet some people were not totally opposed to what Michael Vick did. The National Basketball Association (NBA) star Stephon Marbury, was quoted as saying, “We don’t say anything about people who shoot deer or shoot other animals. You know, from what I hear, dog fighting is a sport” (qtd. in Carney). Marbury is arguing that fighting dogs is just like hunting and it is an individual choice to participate in the sport. Dog fighting is a high-risk business that is worth a lot of money. Michael Vick was known to bet $30,000 to $40,000 on his dogs during a fight (Bacon). There is a strong dog fighting community out there that embraces these fights. The impact of this quote demonstrates there are people around the world who look at dog fighting from the minority view point. There are people who agree with this statement and participate without moral objection in dog fighting. To many it is a thrilling, competitive, and blood-thirsty sport, which results in big business. These people are not worried about loving their animals and caring for them. Soliciting them is associated with producing a product that will earn money and a reputation. Moreover, people will challenge the ruling about animal abuse and find themselves struggling with the law. Again, Stephon Marbury’s statement shows there is an entire group of people follow dog fighting as a sport and will not let anything get in their way.

In the United States, dog fighting is an important issue and that occurs frequently. People who own and train these dogs feel they can do what they please with them because the dogs are rightfully their property. Instead of walking their dog, playing with them daily and loving them, they choose to tie them up and train them to be fighters. People of this view point consider dog fighting a sport. They will train their dogs for weeks or months leading up to a fight, similar to the sport of boxing. They will violate laws about dog fighting because they do not agree with the statutes the lawmakers have imposed. Dog owners will take a firm stance on the issue that it is their right to do whatever they wish to their dogs because they bought them and they are the rightful owners.
Additionally, dog fighting gives people a sense of meaning for their life. Somebody has to organize the fights and find a safe local site free of the police. These people make sure everybody present at these fights is legitimate and there for the right reasons. The business people in this activity believe they are involved in a significant sport and they take their role in it very seriously. A sense of value and meaning in life is important and dog fighting gives that to these people.

On the other hand, the majority of American citizens believe fighting dogs is wrong and the penalties for doing so should be taken very seriously. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have banned dog fighting and it is a felony offense in 47 states. Illegal dog fighting still remains a hidden practice in many cities. Trainers prepare a dog to fight by instilling an overwhelming routine on the dog from the beginning of their lives. Dog fighters starve the animals in order to make them mean, and beat them to make them tough. Dog trainers place heavy chains around their necks to increase muscle; they also force them to run on treadmills or to suffer other exhausting exercises for long periods of time. In order to promote the ferociousness of these dogs, trainers bait them with puppies, cats, and other small animals. Bait dogs include small Labrador retrievers, German shepherds or mixed breeds and are often cut or stabbed and tossed in with the larger fighting dogs (Szaniszlo). These dogs, having been beaten and deprived, maul the small animals to death. Trainers favor pit bulls over other dogs because pit bulls have strong jaws. Well-treated and humanely raised pit bulls are friendly and loyal dogs. To the surprise of many people, they are also good with children. Only pit bulls bred and trained to fight become violent and dangerous animals. All of these actions the trainers impose on these dogs makes it difficult to the American public to believe dog fighting really is a “sport”.

Many people believe there are several reasons why dog fighting should be a felony offense. Dog fighting produces large profits for participants, the minor penalties that often accompany misdemeanor convictions which are not a big enough deterrent. Dog fighters consider this risk as part of the cost of doing business and they certainly make up for it in profits. Those who oppose dog fighting feel the cruelty inherent in dog fighting should be punished by more than a slap on the hand. Detractors of the “sport” feel dog fighting is not a spur-of-the-moment act; it is a premeditated and cruel practice.

The actual fighting of dogs in itself is immoral to many people, but it is what they do to the dogs when the match is over that make people cringe. Dianna Jessup, former Washington state animal control officer, says “With dogs that don’t win, it’s not uncommon for them to be electrocuted, shot, hung or burned” (Bacon). These types of actions are what make the average person feel so strongly against dog fighting. People do not want to see mans’ best friend be tortured after fighting with another dog. The people who oppose Stephon Marbury’s comment about dog fighting are usually married, middle to upper class citizens with values and morals against killing dogs. The argument of torturing dogs after the fight merits consideration because it is morally wrong make something suffer.

Stephon Marbury’s comment about dog fighting sparked controversy about the moral and ethical issues regarding these fights. For many, it was the first time they have heard a statement publicly acknowledging support for dog fighting. Still for others, dog fighting is a way of life regardless to the nation’s reaction. In the end, people are still the master of dogs. Nevertheless, these masters must choose whether or not they want to purposefully and continually harm their helpless dogs or offer a loving home for their pets.