Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dog Fighting: Crime or Culture?

It's taken me along time to work up to writing this post.  Not because I'm afraid of making people angry, or because I was afraid people wouldn't agree with me, but because I wanted to collect my thoughts and make sure I was being clear.

Back in April, I reviewed The Lost Dogs, by Jim Gorant, but I didn't discuss Michael Vick at all, or dog fighting at all.  Just a bit of breed prejudice, and rehabilitation.

A lot of people argue that dog fighting comes from one's culture, which I can both understand and not understand.  There is a certain demographic (low income, black, urban, white, rural, high income, middle class) that seems more likely to have dogs that they pit against one another, but not all of those individuals choose to do so.  In fact, I'd say that most people live their lives never watching nor inciting animals to tear into one another.

So when I talk about dog fighting, I'm not talking about race.  I'm not talking about how much money you have. Because, to use Michael Vick as our example of the day, once he had millions of dollars and a successful football career, what did he do?  Continued dog fighting.  Personally, I feel that if he actually thought what he was doing was wrong, he would have stopped after he killed that first dog for not performing.  He stopped because he got caught.  Am I happy that Michael Vick is now supporting anti-dogfighting legislation?  Yes, I am.  Do I think he would have, had he not gone to jail and lost a lot of money over it?  No.  And besides, it's not like the Philadelphia Eagles seem to care, or like Nike seems to care, or those other companies who have signed him on.  We have such a contradictory commercial culture sometimes.

Dog fighting is a felony in the United States.

Boxing, though.  Humans fighting!  Why is that a legal sport?  Well, there are rules that both contestants agree to.  Same with MMA (mixed martial arts).  I think that, perhaps, is what I'm trying to get at.  Both contestants agree.  Will a dog choose not to fight?  Many dogs live in daily harmony and never lay tooth on one another.  Will a dog that is the product of generations of selection for dog-aggressive tendencies choose not to fight?  I don't know if he or she can, but even then, that "choice" is a subjective one.  Genetics are hard to override, and in this instance, genetics is the result of human choice.  Dogs are dogs, not humans, but you may have noticed I tend to anthropomorphize a bit here, but I try to stop short of being ridiculous.  Dogs can't choose their own lives.  They are reliant upon the humans in charge of them for everything; shelter, support, food, training.  If the human decides to make the dog a tool of violence, it isn't the dog's fault.  Dogs fight, for sport, because of what humans have done to them and what some humans continue to do to them.

As somebody to whom dog fighting is not a cultural adnate, I don't see the point.  In fact, to me, the only point of dog fighting seems to hurt dogs.  My assumption is that these fights are to the death.  So, dog fighting kills dogs.  And the winner breeds that dog to make more dogs to kill or be killed.  Nature red in tooth and claw, right?  Except it's not nature.  Dogs aren't wolves, and wolves don't fight each other to the death, at least not regularly.  There wouldn't be many wolves if what they did was kill each other on sight, which is what fighting dogs are bred to the point of.  Granted, there aren't many wolves left anyway, but that's another thing to lay at the feet of humanity.  Wolves, and wild dogs, and coyotes and things all have rules that they follow, instinctively.  Human breeding mucks all of that up, and breeding for dog fighting takes it a step further.

So, why is dog fighting bad, in my humble opinion?  Dog fighting makes dogs suffer.  Dog fighting kills dogs.  Dog fighting produces dogs that end up in "the system" after law enforcement raids, which is a tremendous draw on time and resources and a large percentage end up euthanized anyway.

While poking around online to make sure I was making a cogent point (which I'm still not sure I did, but there it is), I happened across, which has a detailed and very put together article on dog fighting, covering all the angles.


  1. The breeding for dog fighting is also harmful as it stigmatizes whole breeds. In the eyes of the public "all" individuals of a breed are deemed dangerous because of the actions of a few. While in fact they are, as a breed, perfect pets.

    And people that are typical irresponsible owners, as they want a status symbol and not a pet, are drawn to these breeds. Which makes them suffer even more.

  2. Bad owners make bad dogs. It can't be said enough, I think. And bad owners make bad breeders, who fill the papers and the shelters and online ads with poor specimens of their chosen breed.

    Bad media isn't any kind of help either. Though not a "dog fight dog" (that I know of), the Doberman breed is also an obvious publicly-maligned example, with even Disney reinforcing the model, and instilling it early!