Dog fighting: bans don't work
The breeding of dogs of dangerous breeds, primarily Staffordshire terriers and pitbulls, is illegal in some European countries. In the United Kingdom, the Dangerous Dogs Act was passed in 1991. There have been attempts to pass a similar law in the US. In many countries, including Afghanistan, dogfights are prohibited. However, the bans and the prospects of high fines and even prison time are no deterrent to some. Along with prostitution and drug dealing, the organization of dogfights is a source of illegal income in the criminal world. In Russia, bans on breeding dangerous dogs and dogfights are only being discussed. Volunteers with various petitions fight against the bloody and cruel business.
Bull baiting and bear baiting, where dogs fought against bulls or bears, were the favorite entertainment of Ancient Romans and the Victorians. In the 19th century those bloody sports were toned down to dogfights, where dogs fight with each other, as it was simpler to organize. In the 1990s, when the “green” lobby started demanding a complete ban, the dogfights went underground.
Today, any news about dogfights causes a scandal and can ruin reputations. This past April the brewing company Heineken had to explain its advertising campaign wherein advertising billboards appeared in pictures taken during a dogfighting tournament in Mongolia. Dog breeders of so-called fighting breeds are in favor of banning the vicious practice. Ilyana Sidorova, the owner of RAMBO kennel that breeds American pitbull terriers, says that dogfights are necessary for the dogs themselves to perfect their breed’s qualities:
“The thing is that each breed was created for a specific purpose. There are hunting dogs, let's now ban hunting. There are guard dogs; lets ban any guard dog baiting people for training purposes. There is of course nothing good about dogfights, because dogs suffer. But it is impossible to ban them. They can only completely move underground and be conducted in less humane conditions, as it happened let’s say in the US.”
In the US and Europe the organization of dogfights is punishable with heavy fines or imprisonment from a half a year to five years. However, it has not stopped those who want to challenge the system. Recently, on May 15, a group of organizers of such tournaments was arrested in Phoenix, Arizona. In 2007, professional football player Michael Vick was sentenced to 21 months in prison for organizing dogfights and cruelty to animals.
In Russia, those involved in the business of dog fighting face animal cruelty charges. However, no such criminal case has gone to court so far. In Bashkortostan in early May, the republic’s parliament reviewed a draft law “On Amending the Law On Domestic Animals”. Svetlana Ilyinskaya, president of the Center for Legal Protection of Animals, is doubtful about the effectiveness of such legislative measures. In her interview to the Voice of Russia, she called the incidents with fighter dogs to have “artificial causes”:
“The real problem is the homeless animals. In the 1990s when it only arose in order to cover up the allegedly ‘humane’ scheme of sterilizing homeless dogs, the accent was artificially shifted towards the ‘other cruelty’ – the dogfights. The main thing is that those animals are cared for; they have their owners, who care for them in this way or another. I am not a dog specialist and cannot give an expert opinion on this, but perhaps fighter dogs get a certain release of tension in those fights.”
Yet not just fighter dogs need to release the tension. Even a Labrador can snap. The reasons why dogs attack people are numerous. It depends on the purity of breeding and discipline. According to dog specialists, a purebred fighter dog does not behave aggressively towards humans. As Ilyana Sidorova noted:
“The most aggressive dogs that I have seen are not pitbulls or Staffordshire terriers, but crossbreeds that are bought in obscure places at the pet markets with fake documents, but for 500 rubles. And then also note that majority of tragedies happen in problem families. So the problem is not with the breed of a dog, but in its owner.”
In most cases when dogs attack people, it turns out that the dog’s owner was a heavy drinker, or the animal had been abused in the street. Naturally, a dog with specifically bred fighting qualities, unlike a Maltese, can be more predisposed to fighting – but if it has been trained properly, those qualities will never be used against humans.