Back in America in the early 1800s, a cruel "blood sport" called dog fighting was very popular. Two dogs would fight while people watched and bet on which animal would survive. This cruel sport was legal in New York State until 1866, when Henry Bergh founded the ASPCA and got a law passed that made dog fightingand all cruelty to animalsillegal.
Today, dog fighting is against the law in all 50 statesbut unfortunately, it still secretly happens in many places around the country.
Dogs are not the only animals that humans force to fight each other. Cockfighting, for example, has been around for centuries. People breed a special kind of rooster and make two or more of them fight; the battles last until at least one of the birds is dead. It is believed that people first began breeding roosters for fighting in Southeast Asia more than 3,000 years ago. Cockfighting later spread to Greece and Rome and then on to Britain, before finally crossing the Atlantic about 200 years ago to find popularity in North, South and Central America. In the colonial days, cockfighting commonly took place in cities like New York, Philadelphia and Boston.
Why would people make animals fight? Is there anything you can do to stop dog fighting and cockfighting? Read on to find out more.
Q. All the dogs I know are so loveable and sweet. What kinds of dogs are involved in dog fighting?
A. The animals who fight have been bred and trained to do it. They are specially conditioned to never give up when they are fighting, even if it means that they'll be badly hurtor be so injured that they could die! These dogs are extremely aggressive to other animals. Other animals besides dogs are victims of dog fights, too. Some trainers teach their dogs to fight using smaller animals like cats and rabbits as bait.
Q. So dogs can get really hurt in fights?
A. The dogs who are used to fight are incredibly strong, and their powerful jaws can inflict severe wounds and even break their opponent's bones. It's not uncommon for a dog to die in battle, or a few days after the fight.
Q. Dog fighting really IS cruel and terrible! Why would people make dogs fight?
A. It's hard to understand why people would put their dogs in such dangerous situations, and to understand why people would actually want to watch dogs fight. But being involved in dog fighting gives these people the power and respect that they don't have in other parts of their lives. It makes them feel accepted, and makes them feel that they are worth something. And basically they think that if their dog is a winner, then they're a winner, too. It's just not cool that innocent animals have to pay the price.
Q. How can I help stop dog fighting?
A. The good news is that dog fighting is illegal and a felony in all 50 statesand a person who commits a felony is severely punished.
To find out what the penalties are in your state, visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center. To find out who your legislators are and how to contact themand what to say in your lettervisit our Write a Letter to Congress section.
You may also want to check out the dog fighting page on ASPCA.org.
Q. What happens in a cockfight?
A. Two or more roosters are put in a ring and forced to fight, and people bet on which bird will win. The birds wear spurs on their legs, and these steel blades are so sharp that they can puncture a lung, pierce an eye or break bones. The actual fight usually lasts until one of the birds dieswhich can take anywhere from a couple of minutes to more than 30 minutes.
Q. I didn't think that roosters could be so, well, vicious! Where do these birds come from?
A. Well, these aren't the average roosters you'd find on a farm. The birds used in cockfights have been specially bred to be aggressive, and some are even given drugs to make them even more aggressive. They also have to go through several months of training before a fight, when they run long obstacle courses and have practice fights with other roosters. Just before a fight, most of the bird's feathers are plucked, except the feathers from his wings, tail and head. The breeder also cuts off the combs below the rooster's beak (these are called "wattles") so that his opponent cannot tear them off during the fight. The trainers also use harsh chemicals to toughen the rooster's skin.
People who raise and breed fighting roosters invest large sums of money to maintain their animals. They keep detailed information about each rooster's family history, medical history, characteristics and fight history. They use this information so they can brag about how well their rooster fights, and who his ancestors were.
Q. Dog fighting is illegal, so cockfighting must be illegal, too, right?
A. By the 1800s, cockfighting had spread to the Southern states and to the West Coast, but people started to realize how cruel this "blood sport" wasand it wasn't long after that many states passed laws that made cockfighting illegal. It took a long time, but cockfighting is now ILLEGAL in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Fortunately, many states have recently passed legislation that increases the charge for cockfighting from a MISDEMEANOR to a FELONY. It is also against the law to transport birds to fight in states where cockfighting is still allowed.
Q. Does cockfighting take place outside of the United States?
A. Yes. It is still common in many other countries, such as France, Mexico, Belgium, Spain, Haiti, Italy, Malaysia, and the U.S. commonwealth, Puerto Rico. Many of these countries have well-established arenas with seats or bleachers for spectators surrounding the ring, which is similar to a wrestling or boxing arena. Fights may be held all throughout the day, with people betting on which birds will lose. In several of these countries, cockfights are as popular as baseball and football are in the United States! Competitors love to show off their prized roosters and try for the championship title. And parents often bring the whole family to watch the fightsso kids like you are exposed to this cruelty at an early age. Of course, not everyone in these countries thinks cockfighting is okaybut it's still popular among the people who see it as one of their country's traditions.
Q. How can we put an end to cockfighting once and for all?
A. Well, we can start by strengthening the laws in states where cockfighting is not considered a very serious crime. To find out what the penalties are in your state, visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center. To find out who your legislators are and how to contact themand what to say in your lettervisit our Write a Letter to Congress section.
You may also want to check out the Cockfighting page on ASPCA.org.