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The Truth About Pit Bulls and Dog Fighting

Updated on November 23, 2010

Dog fighting

Dog fighting is a major problem all across the United States. Many people think the problem is confined to urban black youth of large cities, but the fact is that dog fighting is also popular with whites and Hispanics in some rural areas, especially in the Deep South. Just a couple of years ago, a large dog fight was raided by law enforcement in Southeast Georgia. This took place in a remote wooded area, with observers from not only Georgia, but from surrounding states, as well. The event was held at night, and police helicopters with spotlights were used to help locate the fight and participants who fled into the adjacent woods. Almost forty people were charged, and numerous vehicles and dogs were confiscated. Spectators included women and children.

What is a pit bull?

Almost all dog fights involve the dog breed known as the pit bull – the American Pit Bull Terrier. This breed is not recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), but it is recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC). The American Staffordshire Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier are sometimes referred to as pit bulls, also. Even breeders have trouble distinguishing between American Staffordshire Terriers, which are recognized by the AKC, and American Pit Bull Terriers. According to them the difference lies in the bloodlines, and most dog fighters won’t fight a dog with Amstaff bloodlines because they consider them show dogs – not fighting dogs. Even so, some Amstaffs are registered with both the AKC and other breed registries.

The American Pit Bull Terrier is from 18 to 22 inches tall at the shoulder and can weigh as much as 110 pounds. They are powerful dogs, with especially powerful jaws and large blocky heads. In the U.S., the ears are usually cropped, but the tapered tail is left long. The short coat can be any color.

Pit bulls are intelligent with a strong desire to please. Unfortunately, in irresponsible hands, the dogs can become very aggressive, especially toward other animals. If a pit is raised and handled by a responsible owner who establishes himself as the pack leader, the dog can be trained to tolerate other animals and be a wonderful pet.

If you picture pits as fighting dogs only, watch the videos below. Remember, however, dogs and small children should NEVER be left together unattended - regardless of the dog's breeding!

How are pit bulls trained?

Most pit bulls that are purchased to be fighting dogs are trained from puppies to be animal aggressive. Generally, only the males are trained to fight. Some trainers begin with small helpless animals like kittens. This teaches the dogs to kill, and since a kitten is no match for even a young pit bull, the dog’s confidence is increased. As the puppy grows, adult cats might be used next, followed by medium-sized dogs.

The pit bulls’ physical condition is a main concern. The dogs are placed on treadmills to increase their endurance and stamina. Many are chained with huge, heavy logging chains. Supporting and dragging around this weight builds up the muscles in the dog’s neck, shoulders, and chest.

Ironically, even though pits are taught to be very animal aggressive, they’re taught to be people friendly. They have to be in order for their handlers to be able to manage the dogs.

Many female pit bulls have no interaction with humans. They’re used simply as puppy-producing machines.

The dog fights

Many dog fighters belong to groups, often referred to as “dog fighting rings.” The fights may be held in basements, abandoned houses, or garages. The winner can earn as much as $10,000 for a single fight. Betting on the dog fight by observers is a regular occurrence. Losing dogs are almost always killed. Since the losing owner sees the defeat as personally humiliating, the dogs are not humanely euthanized – they’re most often drowned, hanged, electrocuted, or beaten to death.

A new form of dog fighting is called “street dog fights,” in which teenagers meet on the street and fight their dogs in the open. Sometimes the young men choose a ball field or playground for such encounters, too. These fights are often done between rival gang members or between two individuals in order to settle a score. Dog fighting has been somewhat glamorized among these youths, especially since the Michael Vick case. Also, some rap music lyrics celebrate dog fighting, making it appealing to impressionable teenagers.

Rescued fighting dogs

Historically speaking, when an animal welfare group discovered a dog fight and confiscated the pit bulls, the dogs were all euthanized because they were considered to be too dangerous for adoption. Now, however, some shelters and rescue groups are taking a second look at this practice. With these organizations, each dog is assessed as an individual and is not automatically branded as “dangerous.”

Shelters that still euthanize any dog associated with fighting cite cost as a reason for doing so. It takes $30-$40 a day to house the average shelter dog, and they feel that it’s more important to spend that money on a highly adoptable pet rather than on a pit bull.

Michael Vick’s rescued pit bulls were lucky. As part of his punishment, he was required to pay $150,000 in restitution for the upkeep of his dogs, most of which ended up in sanctuaries.

Re-thinking pit bull fighting

Thanks to concerned animal welfare workers, new opportunities for pit bull owners are being employed. For example, in Atlanta and Chicago – two of the worst sites for dog-fighting teens – volunteers are offering pit bull owners an opportunity to harness their dogs’ power and agility in a positive way instead of by fighting.

Free obedience clinics are provided in several inner-city neighborhoods exclusively for pit bulls and pit pull crosses. This gives young owners another outlet for their competitiveness and helps them learn to work with their canines in positive ways. The teachers also educate young dog owners about the inherent cruelty and possible results of dog fighting – it’s now a felony in all fifty states.

So far, the Atlanta and Chicago programs have had great response. Hopefully, more cities and towns will join in this new slant on reducing the number of dog fights.

American Pit Bull Terriers
American Pit Bull Terriers

A well trained pit bull

A pit bull makes friends with a kitten

A pit bull "attacks" a baby with kisses


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    • profile image

      Ankur 4 years ago

      DON'T BUY THE PUPPY THEY COULD BE MILLER THEY RAISE PUPPIES BADLEY AND MOST DIE SOON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! call the police to ineattigvse you can be annomis. If they let you see the dogs make sure they have no fleas ticks missing hair pink gums no poo in the cage fresh water in bowls not bottles!!! please be carefull buying a pet i hope you have a great life with your dog just follow these steps i mean itp.s. if you have kids pits are amazing with them if they are trained and fixed also make sure you take your puuppy to the vet the day after you get it to get any shots it needs this is leagle you must do it!!!!! ask the breeder what vet the puppys went to call the vet cheak him out if they never have been to a vet don't buy call the cops get a dog from a sheletrsorry forgot have a fenced in yard a collar then your going to have to buy a strong leash no chokes the can kill a dog get a head mussle the louse one the dog can still back open his mouth ect it just gives you contorrl over the head bowls for food blankets wipesoh if your dog has an accident in the house and you catch him say NO lound and sharp do not put his head it him or put him in his cage but him out side for about 2 mins. Also never punshie him if you didn't catch him do it just show him it say bad but him outside!never hit him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! no choclate, lots of treats! walk him 2 tice a day if you don't your dog will become hyper! and be a mence. walk him for 30 mins each time no matter what! oh no rawhides they killed my neiborges dog!i think that's it

    • profile image

      tkaye 5 years ago

      Heaps of useful info but photo luks more bully like not a pitbull

    • profile image

      Anna 5 years ago

      The thing that makes me sad is people don't get Pitbulls.They are most common for dog fights.People think they're vicious,but they're not.I have 2 myself and i love them more than anything,they bring so much joy to my life and i don't know what i'd do without them.If you are reading this and you know a dog fighter,please tell them that they're killing sweet, innocent dogs.;-(

    • profile image

      James 6 years ago

      The best thing to do with these animals would be to eat them. Or export them to countries where they are considered a delicacy. The day is coming when Americans are going to have to consider "non-traditional' sources of meat-or just do without.

    • Suzie Rosa profile image

      Suzie Rosa 6 years ago

      Great article! I've known people to say "I don't like pit bulls they are mean dogs" I try and try to convince people, any dog can be mean, any animal can be mean really. They don't understand that they are mean and vicious only because of how vicsiously the inhumane human treated them!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, Hi!

    • profile image

      hi 7 years ago


    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, Misty! I agree - ALL animals are unpredictable. When you really think about it, so are humans! lol

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Run, I agree with Mkott's point of view. Many of the nastiest-tempered dogs are toy breeds, but they can't do as much damage as a larger dog.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Lol, Nikii - very true!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      This is so true mkott, a friend of ours has a gorgeous young Lakeland Terrier that we have looked after before with no problems, (in spite of the fact we have cats). She tried to pick him up to comfort him when he heard fireworks the other day. He was safely indoors, but freaked out by the bangs outside. As she tried to lift him up he turned around and bit her on the face. No damage was done luckily, but this was completely out of character for this dog, who is already proven to be excellent with other animals and young children. Any breed can bite, it is just that the press love to report on so called "Vicious Dog" attacks as the damage is naturally a lot more severe.

      Excellent hub by the way Habee, don't know how I missed it before.

    • mkott profile image

      Michele 7 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      RunAbstract any breed can do this. I know a well trained Dalmation that ripped the face off of a friends niece while looking at wedding pictures. There's always a bad apple in the bunch somewhere. The dog you talk about? Who knows what set him off but it could happen to any dog. Even a dog that has never snapped at anyone or anything can turn around and bite or attack someone. It is not just Pit Bulls.

    • RunAbstract profile image

      RunAbstract 7 years ago from USA

      Peter Borchelt, an author who holds a doctorate in animal behavior, and who provided expert testimony in both Denver and Toledo courts regarding pit bulls, got zinged in a lawsuit after a pit bull HE WAS TRAINING for a client "suddenly" attacked. The victim was awarded $1 million dollars.

      A three-man, three-woman jury in Brooklyn awarded $500,000 for past pain and suffering and $500,000 for future pain and suffering to Gabriel Febbraio for the urological treatment and psychological injuries he suffered when the pit bull bit him on the groin, removing the end of his penis.

      In February 1997, Febbraio had left his mother's home in Bensonhurst to go jogging, when he realized he forgot his gloves. As he headed back to the house, he encountered Peter Borchelt and the dog on the street. When Febbraio asked him if the dog was friendly, Borchelt assured him it was. But when the ex-fireman, took several more steps, the dog broke free and attacked him.

      If a pit bull being TRAINED and handled by an EXPERT can still fool this expert, what does this mean to the rest of us, specifically to a grandparent or a child?

    • profile image

      NikiiLeeReyes 7 years ago

      if "bad owners" preferred yorkies they'd try banning those dogs too.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      My sincere thanks, erthfrend!

    • erthfrend profile image

      erthfrend 7 years ago from Florida

      Thank you so much for writing this article. Its so important to educate people about this. Its really sad what happens with these dogs and the only way to stop this is through education and teaching responsibility. Very good hub!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      "Bad owners" are attracted to pit bulls because of their bite pressure. In other nations, other breeds are used for dog fighting.

    • Software - Photos profile image

      Software - Photos 7 years ago from Canada

      "it's the bad owners it's the bad owners." bad owners sure love owning pit bulls. or should i say, pit bulls sure have a lot of bad owners.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      There are many wonderful pit bulls. It's not the breed that's the problem - it's the bad owners.

    • outdoorsguy profile image

      outdoorsguy 8 years ago from Tenn

      excellent Hub. I voted it up.

      Nibbler my pit is the best dog Ive ever had. the few times ive heard her bark or growl I can count on one hand. the most damage shes inflicted was to a Couch, when she got upset at my being gone for two weeks.

      People need to get a grip and stop listening to Idiot news storys. 100 thousand pit bulls out there and a handfull have given the rest a bad name.

      as far as fighting dogs. It goes on around here. Ive been offered up to eight hundred dollars for the nibbler. which is one of teh reasons I don't leave her outside when Im not out there. they don't mind stealing dogs if they can. Sorry excuse for humans.. Stealing dogs

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Mine, too, Sandy. So sad.

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 8 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      It is so sad that heartless people exist in this world. My heart sinks every time I hear something like this.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Lady Seren, now that's ironic! People are often terrified of my Danes, too, even though they're harmless and friendly - unless one of their human family is threatened.

      Thanks for reading!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      It is a shame, Ethel. I hate to brand any breed as "bad." It's usually the owners who are bad - not the dogs.

    • LadySeren profile image

      LadySeren 8 years ago from UK

      Great hub - good to see you raising awareness on how these dogs are trained too. The actual dog fight is not the only cruelty involved.

      I have 2 dogs, a staffordshire pit bull and a jack russell terrier. People will cross the street to avoid my staffie and yet let their kids run up to play with the jack russell! Out of the 2 dogs, the staffie is the most good natured and patient dog lol

      In reply to Hello Hello, I'm in the UK too - bull breeds are bought for a "status" reason by less savoury members of the population, they look hard and tough. They aren't all trained to fight.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      It's such a shame that these dogs often end up in the wrong hands.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      I like that, Faybe! I hope it is something like that on J-Day!

    • Faybe Bay profile image

      Faye Constantino 8 years ago from Florida

      My favorite vision of judgement day, The Judge, (God if you will) Has the face of those you abused in life. If the person abused dogs or cats or children or the elderly or their wife/girlfriend... You get my point. Imagine that, didn't know you were abusing your future judge, did ya. :)

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Yen! I kinda had to mention Vick in the hub. lol

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Michael, good for you for abstaining from cruel behavior!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for stopping by, Daisy!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      I think these animal abusers will be punished in the end, Audrey! Thanks for reading!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      I figured it was legal there, Maita. So sad...

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Ann! Terrible situation, for sure.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      I hope you read if before the banana burritos, Bpop!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, Chris. And I agree with you!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Sounds scary, HH! Maybe you should take a can of mace with you on your walks.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Mel, I like the way you think!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Deb. Some bloodlines have bad temperaments, from what I understand. This could be the case with the dog you mentioned.

    • yenajeon profile image

      yenajeon 8 years ago from California

      Habee, how are you! Anyway, I am with Mr. Shane, I also completely thought there would be a joke or two about Michael Vick in here =)

      Awesome and informative hub!

    • Michael Shane profile image

      Michael Shane 8 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

      I figured Michael Vick would show up in this hub. Very imformative hub! I lived in a neighborhood when I was a child & there was a certain house in the neighborhood that fought dogs such as Dobermans, German Sheperds, pitbulls, & other types of dogs. My dad had 2 dobermans in our backyard & I had these bullies always trying to get me to fight the male dog we owned but I never submitted to such behavior, luckily, we moved away shortly after...

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 8 years ago from Canada

      So sad! I hate hearing about dog fighting, its so unfair that these animals are trained this way.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 8 years ago from Washington

      Another sad part of our culture and what we do - I always say though there are no bad dogs - just lousy dog owners. It is all about what you do to them, with them, and what you expect from them. My son has had a pit bull for years and he is the best dog. On the othe rhand, my sister's dog was almost killed by one on a walk one day because of the way it was trained and then because of its jaw lock. Having malamutes (another misunderstood breed), I completely understand MY responsibility in training them appropriately and not putting them into situations that can evoke their natural instincts. Every dog was bred or 'made' for something and they all have their weaknesses and strengths. What I can't understand is taking a beautiful animal like a dog and making it fight - and enjoying it. Maybe I should train my mals to police dog fights and go take a 'bite out of crime' - har har. Great hub though and very informative. I always hope that these folks that do these things to animals or with animals have to come back and BE those animals in another life....old lady dream on!

    • prettydarkhorse profile image

      prettydarkhorse 8 years ago from US

      Hi habee, you know in the Philippines this is legal even cockfighting sad but true, this article shows your love for animals, thank you, Maita

    • Ann Nonymous profile image

      Ann Nonymous 8 years ago from Virginia

      Aw, poor dogs, and shame on those who partake in it! Great hub and I had no idea, habee!!!...All I knew is when I saw a Pit-bull I stayed away!

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 8 years ago

      The thought of this makes me sick!

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 8 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      The American Pit Bull Terrier is a very smart breed.. it's a shame it's been abused in such a manner. Fine post, Habee.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

      I never thought it happened in America. But there I am wrong again. In England, most of the drugdealers keep Pits and most properly they fight them as well on the quiet. However, the worst thing of this situation is that they keep them in the house where small children are present. Every year there are at four or five cases where a rottweiler or pits mauled a child to death.

      Another point is that they feed them with raw meat so they get dangerous. They very rarely attack a grown-up to kill but they attack small children. They might attack a grown-up to bite but not enough to kill. It just shows that they know what they are doing. Here, you can't go into forests anymore because they take them for a walk there and let them off the leash. Let's face it, they are animals and might be in a bad mood or get the wrong scent and you get attacked. Over here you hardly see another dog anymore but dangerous dogs because of the drug trade. I feel very sorry for those dogs because they get nothing but used. They don't deserve that.

      You should see me - 6ft tall - and I make a beeline like anything. I eye the dog and the dog eyes me, sometimes smacking its lips.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      UG, bless you for helping care for God's creatures! My husband and I have rescued numerous animals, also. Keep up the good work!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, Sis. I love animals and hate for any of them to be mistreated!

    • mel22 profile image

      mel22 8 years ago from ,

      As punishment, anyone caught fighting their dogs, should be made to fight in the octagon cage against the likes hevyweight maulers like mir, lesnar, or fedor of MMA. That might deter them !

    • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

      DeBorrah K Ogans 8 years ago

      Habee, Very informative hub! This is so interesting, A very nice couple I know usually keeps their daughter's pit bull. The other day he nearly took her ear off as she was getting up out of her reclining chair... Had she not turned it would have been her face.

      Due to the severity of the attack the dog has to be put to sleep. This dog had been well cared for and was well trained... Thank you for sharing, Blessings

    • Unchained Grace profile image

      Unchained Grace 8 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      Habee, I've owned neglected and abused Pits and Rottweilers. Animals who were put aside and almost starved to death by owners who could no longer handle them. Some had fought.

      I've some friends within Maryland's ASPCA and others who knew my reputation with abused and neglected animals. I've taken in cats, dogs, unwanted reptiles and others who were left to die in inhumane conditions. Dog Fighting was once a serious issue here in Baltimore, though the Baltimore PD launched major investigations and shut down many.

      Pits, like any other animal, can be turned around. It's takes time, love, patience and compassion. Really, it ain't all that different than the way we treat our homecoming combat vets. Believe me. It's not

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 8 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks for this Hub -- and bringing this pitiful situation more into the light. Dog fighting has gone on forever and hopefully it can be brought to abrupt halt by some laws with teeth (no pun intended.) I've had friends with Pits that were only family pets and they were wonderful, well adjusted dogs. It's a shame that all Pits are branded with the "fighting" label and often not given a chance at all. An important subject and well written/researched Hub -- thanks again. Best, Sis

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      It makes me sick, too, SEO! Glad you're teaching your kids about kindness to animals!

    • SEO IT! profile image

      Karla Whitmore 8 years ago from Tucson, AZ

      Thanks for the hub, Habee. I was just talking about dog fighting with my son, yesterday and he had been talking to somebody who had almost convinced him that the dogs "love it"! I've bookmarked and am going to have him read your hub -- not that he would do such a thing, but I want my kids to be well-informed and ready to protect.

      I used to be terrified of pitbulls, but recently had the opportunity to get to know a sweet little girl(pit) named "Maddie". The whole idea of what they do to those dogs just makes me feel sick inside. :(

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      I agree, Veronica. When we lived in the country, I had to drive through a bad section of a small community. Several times, I saw young black males fighting their dogs. So many people think that dog fighting is done ONLY by young urban blacks, but that's incorrect. It also takes place in small towns and in rural areas, by whites and Hispanics.

      I feel so sorry for the dogs and for the animals used in their training. I will never understand how anyone can consider this a sport - along with cock fighting and bull fighting.

      Thanks for reading and for leaving your thoughtful comment!

    • Veronica Allen profile image

      Veronica Allen 8 years ago from Georgia

      Oh my God habee! I never knew the details behind how the dogs are trained to fight - it's no wonder dog fighting is such a horrendous act.

      I don't understand why some view this as a form of entertainment.

      The dog fighting in of itself is horrible, but the way they are trained is what really sends it over the top - those poor kittens, cats and other animals that may be used, lost their lives for a "sport". I use the word sport loosely.

      I am however, so glad to see that the rescued dogs are being evaluated to see if they have a chance at adoption.

      Although this was hard for me to read (I kept visualizing those poor kittens), it is important for us to understand the ugliness behind this activity.

      Everyone is effected - the dogs, the victims, and people that already view these loyal and beautiful animals in such a bad light.

      This definitely will bring more awareness to what really goes on behind the scenes of dogfighting. Thanks!


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