The Grim Allure Of Dog Fighting

Michael Vick posing with a dog

Why do people fight dogs? Ever since we started covering Michael Vick’s dog fighting scandal back in May, the question has lingered in my mind. What is it about two animals tearing flesh from one another that so enthralls people? Why would they cross the country in search of such inhumane acts, risking their freedom in the process?

After reading the horrific descriptions in the Michael Vick indictment, I wondered if money was the motive behind dog fighting. Vick and his millions aside, do people fight dogs because of the tens of thousands of dollars involved? Maybe, but you could just as easily bet illegally on sports without crossing state lines.

If you think dog fighting is limited to a certain skin color, educational background, or income level, you can stop right there. Regardless of the people in this case, this isn’t a black community problem. “Old dogfighting lithographs show gentlemen dressed in their Sunday best, but today it could just as easily be the country guy down South as the gangster wannabe in the big city.”

Dog fighting is a relic of barbaric humanity that still lives in the uncivilized, unspoken corners of our hearts. It’s ugly, brutal and bloody, and that’s exactly the reason it thrives. Those who fight dogs know that it’s barbaric — whether they like the term or not. Calling it barbaric is no deterrent to those who love dog fighting — the more barbaric it is, the more the attraction to the “sport.”

Is it a sport? Absolutely not. Today’s dog fights are ramshackle relics of ancient gladiatorial combat. The grand arena of Rome have been replaced by barns and back alleys, the emperor is played by a bookie, the gladiators replaced with unsuspecting Pit Bull puppies whose instinct have been twisted by men whose bravado outstrip their braveness. Sadly, the whole spectacle is idolized by men and boys who confuse manhood with the appetite for violence and blood.

(Picture: Michael Vick posing with a dog)

There’s an estimated 40,000 active participants in dog fighting and according to National Illegal Animal Fighting Task Force, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry whose mystique and glamor is perpetuated by pop culture and athletes. So how do you stop it? Or should we even stop it?

I’ve read this and variations on this debate on many websites with seemingly no conclusion in sight: “What’s wrong with two adults doing something natural with their own property? Dogs are here to serve us.” People can argue that we are harnessing the natural behaviors of animals to our gain, just as we have used cows to get milk or horses to carry us. So I am not going to give you the typical “it-is-not-natural” answer.

The ability and will to fight are natural instincts in animals — and, yes, even humans. Once upon a time, people solved disputes with axes and swords. Once upon a time, when a stronger person beat you senseless and took all your belongings, there was no police to call. Once upon a time, you had to do as your king commanded. But we learned. We got wiser. Dog fighting is wrong because the community of humanity says it’s wrong. We became better. Morality is enforced by the community at large and we’re telling you that dog fighting is evil, vile and inhumane. If you can’t understand why, I’m sorry to tell you that you’ve become a relic. We all grew up and you didn’t.

So to me, the only question remains: How do you stop dog fighting?

(Sources: Newsweek, Itchmo, Smoking Gun)

29 Responses to “The Grim Allure Of Dog Fighting”

  1. Avram says:

    I do take offense at this:

    “What’s wrong with two adults doing something natural with their own property? Dogs are here to serve us.”

    Animals are not here to serve us and they are not property any more than children are property of their parents. This is why so many of us have worked hard to change the language “pet owner” to “pet guardian” or “pet parent.” If a dog is a piece of property to you, then you shouldn’t have one.

    ITCHMO ADMIN: Avram, I’m not sure who your comment was directed towards, but just to clarify you can read that it is a quote from other peoples’ argument in favor of dog fighting, not our position.

  2. Lynne says:

    Avram, I agree.

  3. Lynn says:

    Well said, Avram. If it lives and breathes it can hardly be called property.

  4. sandi says:

    I venture to say, it is the thrill, for someone like Vick, has everything, money, toys on and on, so it is the thrill.

    For many years it was a wealthy man’s sport. Years ago, I knew of doctors, vets and other professional pesons with monies betting on pit and cock fighting. I know this as having been involved with shelters for over 16 years. It was in the lucrative suburbs of Mass, like Weston and other communities.

    It is not cultural, it is the zest, enthusiasm and the sickening thrill.

    As I always say do the same thing that child molesters and pesrons to to harm animals, and do it in public.

  5. Bridgett says:

    I hate the attitude that humans are a superior species and that the earth and it’s ‘lower’ inhabitants are here for our use. It just sickens me.

    Animals do fight - for their survival. They don’t fight for fun or because they bet money on it. They fight to protect their offspring, for territory or their food. It is to survive.

    Leave it to the “superior” species to take a natural behavior and use it in an unnatural manner for money.

  6. Bridgett says:

    How do you stop dog fighting?

    You make all forms of animal cruelty a first degree felony.

  7. Bridgett says:

    or death penalty.

    I am not a sports fan (except for cat and dog agility) but…The team that Vick play for needs to fire him. Contract or no. If they don’t fire him, they are sending a message that they support his activities.

  8. wescott20 says:

    I agree with Bridgett…to the question “how do you stop dog fighting”…stop it the same way we as a society stop murder and rape. We’re not always successful, but I daresay the threat of the loss of freedom or life sure stops a heck of a lot of folks who contemplate such crimes.

  9. kae family says:

    If boxing and similar bloody and brutal arena fightings are condoned as sports, why is dog fighting any difference?

  10. vida says:

    The difference I see with boxing is most televised matches aren’t to the death and no boxer is forced into the ring by an owner. That said, the enjoyment of ‘blood sports’ is something I don’t grasp but I know it exists for some.
    I think people are right, stronger laws and real enforcement are good but how to change the culture that accepts dog fighting? I don’t know, it does seem like an issue of cultural maturity and empathy. How to encourage empathy? And why is it so stunted in some people? A lot more questions than answers.

  11. bw says:

    In my opinion, such behavior is pathological. People who enjoy this have severe mental problems, however “normal” they may seem, however “successful” they may seem. I don’t really think it is a remnant of our primitive natures. I think is a manifestation of the degree to which our society has become severely ill.
    >>People can argue that we are harnessing the natural behaviors of animals to our gain, just as we have used cows to get milk or horses to carry us.> ugly, brutal and bloody,>Dog fighting is a relic of barbaric humanity that still lives in the uncivilized, unspoken corners of our hearts.

  12. bw says:

    (I have not mastered the art of editing something I have written and then successfully posting it, so I must continue my post below. Sorry)

    Baloney, it doesn’t live in the hearts of mentally healthy, self confident, morally mature individuals. It is a symptom of all that is sick, depraved, and unevolved in the nature of anyone who enjoys watching it. It is enjoyed by those people with crippled, inadequate self concepts, who secretly suffer from self loathing, and pent up rage.

    Nike says they may hold off on selling Michael Vick sneakers!!! They should burn the whole load of them.

  13. Trudy Jackson says:

    That’s a good question. How do you stop it? In Vicks case, I know PETA, animal Control, and the SPCA could have stoped it. they had to have known about it, because everyone around Va. knew about it. So, where were they?
    We had so many Pits come into the different vets I have worked for. Some they would take out of the trunk of a car. You can tell when a dog has been fighting, believe me. No vets have ever said anything that I know of. It goes on all around here.
    So, that’s the question- How do you stop it?

  14. Sabrina Marie says:

    God Bless Sen.Bryd ,he said there is a special pass in HELLL for people who does this to a dog. go to to down load the 19page inditment and to sign the petition for the comish. of the NFL. them poor dogs.

  15. Sky Eyes Woman says:

    “If boxing and similar bloody and brutal arena fightings are condoned as sports, why is dog fighting any difference?”

    Ahhh…we have something called “rationalization” going on here. Let us look at some of the things people say to rationalize dog fighting and discuss them, shall we?

    To the first question, what is different between boxing and dog fighting? Both are violent, but only one is legal. That is because in boxing, grown adult men make the concious choice to enter the ring and beat each other until one is declared the winner. A Pit Bull in the fighting ring does NOT make a concious choice to be in there, it is forced by the “superior” human to fight or die.

    “But these dogs WANT to fight, it’s in their nature to fight.”

    Wrong. These dogs want to please the human they see as their master. Pit Bulls have been selectively bred by PEOPLE to have more aggression toward other dogs and to not quit what their master has bidden them to do despite severe injury and agonizing pain. That could be fighting another dog, or pulling a heavy sled or sniffing out hidden drugs or dragging a person out of a burning house. The dog wants to do what YOU want him to do. YOU make the choice, will it be something good or something evil?

    “What’s the difference between dog fighting and slaughtering animals for food?”

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the huge ginormous difference between giving an animal a swift death so people can eat, and letting two animals slowly tear each other apart just for entertainment. One is necessary, and one is not. One is evil, and one is not.

    “Animals are lesser beings that are here to serve us, however we want them to do it.”

    Where do you draw the line at “lesser” or “not lesser”? Some animals? All animals? Some people? Some races of people? There was once a man who didn’t stop with animals. He strove to eliminate what he saw as “lesser beings” and they were people, humans just like him. Does the name “Hitler” ring a bell? You know, he thought what he did was right too. He rationalized his sins just like the dog fighter does.

    Any more questions?

  16. Jenny Bark says:

    I agree with all of you, especially Avam & Sky Eyes Woman. Kae Family I hope your question was answered. Trudy your right a lot of people do know about the ones doing it & don’t do anything about it. I believe some are involved, some getting paid off, and some very afraid for good reason. These people are bad (drugs, money & power) and they will hurt you, scare you kids, kill your pets, destroy you house or car. I’m getting old but about 28 years ago my husband & I got involved. Not dog fighting but satin worship & drugs and believe me they where bad enough. My neighbor’s son (in his mid 20″s) got this beautiful German Shepard puppy & I caught him hurting it. I stopped him & told his mother. She said she didn’t want him to have a dog and she didn’t want him either but he wouldn’t leave. He put the dog in a metal shed with no windows in the summer time, out I would go after him. I called the police all the time, they did nothing but talk to him. My husband whent after him ( they always hurt the dog when he wasn’t home) he got even by moving in 4 sometimes 6 of his buddies. My dog would bark ever time that puppy would cry and I would call the police and then go out after them. My oldest brother had a job that had power, he whent to the police, still nothing but talk. He got us a wise older animal control agent. With his help & our dog barking we got lots of pictures. He was able to take the dog and we got our day in court. He got $250.00 in fines, that was alot in Pa. 28 years ago. Wish that was the end but it wasn’t. They would hang out around our house day & night. We both carried guns. A friend of mine lived about 7 blocks away. Their 2 kids and their dog (Germen Shepard) where sleeping in a tent in their fenced in back yard. That evil son of !!!!!!!!!!!! and one of his buddies scared the kids (they ran in the house) they took the dog hurt it real bad then chained it up to the back of the car and drove away. They called the police, they came followed the bloody trail to a garage and found him having sex with that dead dog. Guess what the police did? Nothing. The chief of police was dating the Mother. This all took months not days or weeks. We moved with no forwarding address.He’s been in jail a few times but only for drugs and breaking into houses. That’s just drugs & satin worship, dog fighting is a lot more powerful. We didn’t have kids, I hope if we did we would have still taken then on. The truth is I just don’t know. I was scared but I was raised to always respect people and do what was right. I love people & animals so I didn’t have a choice. I believe I know where we will be & they will be in the forever. Rights right, wrong is wrong period.

  17. 2CatMOM says:

    Jenny Bark - that was amazingly brave of you.

    I live in Chicago and I can tell you that people who live where gang activity is high are terrified for their lives. These subhuman gangs have no problem killing children, torching houses, recruiting 10 and 11 year olds to commit their murders and the police are totally ineffective. If they don’t have the will to clean up this kind of mess, how much effort are they going to put into dogfighting? Hey we’re finally see some of the mobsters who committed murders 20-30 years ago go on trail.

    And the really strange thing, you would think there wasn’t any dogfighting in Chicago. Except for a recent fairly big bust (rural outside the city) , this issue is never covered in the news. But if you talk to shelter workers, they tell you its as bad as anywhere (they usually use Detroit as a comparison). A shelter I work with took in a bait dog and it was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. The good news is the dog is fully recovered and in a wonderful home. Most shelters won’t take in a pit bull, and those that will are always, always full.

    And the gang activity? Unless a child is caught in the cross fire, you don’t here much about the every day terror people in these neighborhoods have to live with.

  18. Sharon says:

    It’s a Southern thing. Only down here do they think of animals and people as property with which you are free to do whatever you want. It’s a mentality that is inbred.

  19. Elaine Vigneault says:

    How do you stop dog fighting?

    1. Humane education in elementary schools may help create a generation of compassionate people.

    2. Humane education and animal rehabilitation in prisons may help people become less violent.

    3. Severe penalties for the crime may act as a deterrent to those who not persuaded by moral arguments.

    4. Social stigma may act as a deterrent. If more of us are outraged about dog fighting and we stigmatize those who aren’t outraged, the social pressure could deter people.

    5. Media may change people’s opinions. For example, we have seen major motion pictures that have raised awareness about rape and racism, perhaps we need a few Law and Orders to tackle dog fighting. Maybe, a movie or two. Maybe a “To Catch A Dog Fighter” like “To Catch A Predator” TV news stings.

    Those are just some ideas…

  20. How To Stop Illegal Dog Fighting | Elaine Vigneault’s Diary says:

    […] Itchmo asks, “How do you stop dog fighting?” […]

  21. Trudy Jackson says:

    Jenny and 2Catmom, you are both so right. and Va. is full of gangs. More so now than ever. And it’s the gangs here that do it too. If I am ever missing a cat i’m so scared that they are using it to train their dogs.
    I would tell if i knew who it was. It’s just that I and everyone knows it;s going on, but can’t name any names. Can’t tell for sure. And the dogs they brought to the vets, i didn’t even see their names.

  22. 2CatMOM says:

    Sharon - its not just a Southern thing anymore. The gangs use the pitbulls not only for fighting but for protection and another means of intimidation. These thugs don’t value human life, so they aren’t going to value a dogs life either.

  23. 2CatMOM says:

    I just saw a clip on CNN (they are having a special on dogfighting tonight) that showed a dog-hog fight. Its a family event!!! People bring their kids, little kids to witness this horror!

    I can’t believe it. Do these people get up on Sunday and say to their kids, “hurry up, we’ve got a big day today?” First to church, then lunch with Mom’s apple pie, and then we’ll all go out and see a dog rip a hog to shreds.”

  24. Velvet's Dad says:


    Back in the 20s and 30s parents actually brought their children to witness lynchings — whites hanging blacks. Fully documented.

    There is something dark and sinister in the heart of humankind. But there is also goodness and light. It is only through education and the sharing of good, honorable values that we can hope to change things for the better. And I fully agree with those who understand that animals and plants do not exist for human exploitation. We, as humanity, have a unique responsibility to hold all forms of life sacred.

    A wise friend years ago said: See how a person treats an animal and you will see that person’s true measure.

  25. catmom5 says:

    I, too, watched part of the CNN special last night ~ at least as much as I could stomach. Never even seen clips of dog fights and it was beyond disturbing to me. And it showed adults taking their children and grandchildren to these “events”! I believe they said that 1 in 5 Chicago school age children had been involved in one way or another in a dog fight. These children are learning that it’s “entertainment” to watch one dog mutilate/kill another. We have to reach these children, as well as deal with the Michael Vicks of this world.

    Couldn’t bring myself to watch the dog/hog fighting after the interview with the “hunter” who defended this as a way to train hunting dogs.

    God help us all

  26. Denise says:

    The Vick Indictment has given this country a window of opportunity to come out from behind the blinds and confront this heinous crime head on.

    We need to contact local, state and federal leaders that we want and need strong laws and enforcement resolve in combating this ever growing menace if we are not to lose another generation to this social abomination.

    I’m a VA resident and waiting to see if Surry Country prosecutor Gerald Poindexter presents evidence to the State Grand Jury for an indictment this
    coming tuesday. If he does not act I will be contacting the State Attorney General’s office to file a complaint and ask that the State’s Attorney take over the case on behalf of VA. Dogfighting and Animal Cruelty is a Class 6 felony in VA.

    please thank Sen. John Kerry for sending a letter to the NFL Commissioner urging Vick be suspended and that you support his proposal for tougher animal fighting laws.

  27. Moony says:

    A grandfather once told his grandson that he had two wolves living inside him, a good wolf and an evil wolf, and they were always fighting.

    “Which one is winning?” asked the grandson.

    “Whichever one I feed.”

  28. Nikki says:

    New website for the Michael Vick dogfighting case:

    New information portal for the dogfighting case against the Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback, Michael Vick: News, links, videos, contact info for the Falcons, NFL and Nike, as well as the address of Michael Vick’s upcoming bond appearance at the U.S. District Courthouse in Richmond Virginia (Thursday, July 26, 2007, 3:30 p.m.)

    and the mirror site:

  29. Stefani says:

    If the version of history I heard is true, it wasn’t just gladiators who were bloodied and killed in the roman coloseum, and many of the victims were exotic animals brought in to be killed in front of cheering crowds. Basically, as a species, we suck. Killing may be part of nature, but there is no vulgar sadism when an animal kills for territory, sex or food. As for humans, many among us seem to thrill to cruel sadistic tortures inflicted on others who we dehumanize, whether they be other human beings or helpless animals. The widespread devaluing and cruelty to animals just shows how we can lie to ourselves and tell ourselves these beings are objects, without feelings, and that killing them is sport. From there it is just a small “evolutionary” step to devaluing another human because of their ethnicity, disability, gender, nationality, religion, or any other characteristic that allows us to rationalize them as something less than fully human. This is apparent the world over in genocide, slavery, rape and torture, terrorism, etc etc etc.

    I think that people like this ought to be locked up, and that we ought to throw away the key. I think that Vicks entire fortune should be seized and given to animal charities.

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