New figures from the RSPCA reveal that despite being illegal for almost 200 years, dog fighting is still rife in the UK.
Almost 8,000 reports of dog fighting incidents have been reported in England & Wales in the past four years, according to the figures from the RSPCA.
The RSPCA released new figures ahead of Dog Fighting Awareness Day (Monday 8 April) – an American awareness day that the charity believes should be extended to the UK where dog fighting is still rife.
RSPCA dog fighting and Special Operations Unit (SOU) chief inspector, Mike Butcher, said: “Our figures show that in the past four years, the RSPCA has received 7,915 reports of dog fighting incidents. While it’s promising to see that these figures are dropping year on year, it’s still staggering that something which has been illegal for almost 200 years and a bloody pastime which most people would consider consigned to history is still so rife.”
Dog fighting was outlawed in England in 1835 but still goes on today. The RSPCA is the country’s leading organisation tackling dog fighting, and for the last four decades, the charity’s SOU have been investigating reports, recuing dogs and prosecuting preparators.
Dog fighting hotspots in the UK are reported to be:
- Greater London – 653
- West Midlands – 456
- = Greater Manchester – 380
- =West Yorkshire – 380
- South Yorkshire – 279
- Essex – 257
- Kent – 230
- Lancashire – 228
- Lincolnshire – 215
- Merseyside – 180
Last month, a group who trained and bred dogs for fighting in Lincolnshire and Wales were convicted following a trial in a case brought by the RSPCA.
John Knibbs and Kimberleigh Steele were both convicted in their absence for offences and a warrant was issued for their arrests. They are due to be sentenced on National Dog Fighting Awareness Day.
An investigation into Mr Knibbs, who was first prosecuted for dog fighting by the RSPCA in 2009, led to a warrant at a property in Sleaford, Lincolnshire in September 2017 where eight dogs were removed.
Investigators found dog fighting paraphernalia and messages, photos and videos on his phone, some of which showed dogs being trained and forced to fight. A third man was arrested and convicted and a warrant is out for the arrest of a fourth man – Stephen John Gardner of Willows End, Bloxham, Lincolnshire who has failed to attend court.
Sadly, many of the dogs used by dog fighters are never found and those who are rescued are often found to be banned breeds under the Dangerous Dog Act and cannot legally be rehomed.
Mike added: “Dogs who win fights are prized and are often treated like kings, but those who refuse to fight or lose are often abandoned or barbarically killed. The dog fighting world is a dark and frightening place. But it could be happening in an inner-city warehouse next to your office or on a rural farm in your quiet village.
“We’d urge the public to be our eyes and ears and report anything suspicious to us to investigate. If you’re concerned about the welfare of an animal or suspect dog fighting may be taking place, please call our 24-hour cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.
“Dog fighting is a serious, organised animal cruelty and we would not want anyone to put themselves at risk with the sort of people who are involved in such a violent pastime.”