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ACT Newsletter – Animal Bloodsports

Humane Society of Southern Arizona

Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona’s
Newsletter for Law Enforcement, Criminal Justice and Animal Protection Professionals

Volume 1, Number 3
Summer 2001


A bloodsport is an activity that causes an animal to suffer and die for the entertainment and financial gain of the sport’s promoters and patrons. Examples include dog, cock and bullfighting. Since local law enforcement will have very little chance to encounter bullfighting, this newsletter will focus instead on dog and cockfighting.

ACT Newsletter - Animal Bloodsports



Dogfighting is a sadistic “contest” in which two dogs, specifically bred and trained to fight, are placed in a pit (generally an area enclosed by plywood walls) for the purpose of attacking and mauling each other to earn money for their owners and entertain spectators. Fights average nearly an hour in length and often last more than two hours. Dogfights end when one of the dogs is no longer able or willing to continue. Dogfighting is against the law in all 50 states with felony status in 44 states, including Arizona, where it is considered a Class 5 felony (ARS 13-2910.01). This law also prohibits owning, possessing, keeping or training any dog with the intent of fighting.

Levels of dogfighting:

  • Professional dogfighters typically travel the country and the world, fighting and breeding dogs for profit.
  • Hobbyists may have a handful of dogs they breed and follow the rules of a refereed dogfight, but they usually stay at the local level.
  • Street fighters fight all breeds of dogs and don’t typically keep track of a dog’s record or bloodlines. Street fighters often take to stealing dogs to fight or to use as bait.

Animal cruelty concerns: The injuries inflicted and sustained by dogs participating in dogfights are frequently severe, even fatal. The American pit bull terriers used in these fights have been specifically bred and trained for fighting and are unrelenting in their attempts to overcome their opponents. These dogs have extremely powerful jaw muscles and are able to take hold with their front teeth while chewing away with their rear teeth. This produces severe bruising, deep puncture wounds, and broken bones. Dogs who survive a fight often die of blood loss, shock, dehydration, exhaustion or infection hours or even days after the fight.

Other animals are often sacrificed as well. Owners often train their dogs for fights using smaller animals such as cats, rabbits, or small dogs. These “bait” animals are often stolen pets or animals obtained through “free to good home” advertisements.

Other concerns:

  • Young children are often allowed or forced to watch, which promotes an insensitivity to animal cruelty, an enthusiasm for violence, and a lack of respect for the law.
  • Illegal gambling is the norm at dogfights. While enjoying watching dogs injure and maim one another, owners and spectators spend thousands of dollars wagering on their favorites.
  • Firearms and other weapons are quite common at dogfights because of the large amounts of cash present.
  • Illegal drugs are often sold and used at dogfights.

Effects on the community:

  • Dogs used for fighting have been bred for many generations to be dangerously aggressive. The presence of these dogs in a community increases the risk of attacks not only on other animals but also on people. Children are especially at risk; their small size may cause a fighting dog to perceive them to be another animal. Bloodlines of dogs bred specifically for fighting may make their way into the genetic makeup of companion animal populations, increasing the chance of human injury or fatality.

The reasons for felony classification:

  • Dogfighting yields large profits for participants. Therefore, the minor penalties associated with a misdemeanor conviction are not a deterrent. Dogfighters merely write off these fines as part of the cost of doing business.
  • This is not a spur-of-the-moment act; it is a premeditated, cruel, and abhorrent practice that has no place in a civilized society.
  • Those involved with dogfighting conspire to keep dogfights secret, so investigations and other law enforcement actions may be difficult and expensive. Law enforcement officials are more inclined to investigate dogfighting if it is a felony.

Spectators – also felony classification:

  • The money generated by admission fees and gambling helps keep this cruel “sport” alive. Because dogfights are illegal and therefore not widely publicized, spectators do not merely happen upon one of these fights; they must seek them out. They are willing participants who aid and abet a criminal activity through their paid admissions and attendance. In Arizona, presence at a dogfight is a Class 6 felony (ARS 13-2910.02).


Cooperative program provides law enforcement with new “after-hours” drop-off sites for abused animals

The Humane Society of Southern Arizona (HSSA), Pima County Sheriff’s Department (PCSD) and local emergency veterinary clinics have combined forces to help the animal victims of domestic violence. HSSA’s SAFE HAVEN program has provided free medical and sheltering services for abused dogs and cats for years, but the Society’s location and hours of operation presented difficulties to police who might want to use the program.

“The problem was that most domestic violence does not occur during our business hours,” stated Marsh Myers, HSSA Director of Education. “And our location in central Tucson was an obstacle as well… The solution had to be found in locating 24-hour vet offices that were willing and equipped to care for these animal victims.”

As a result, SAFE HAVEN has expanded to include “after-hours” safe-houses at Pima Emergency Pet Clinic and Southwest Veterinary Specialists with others pending. PCSD deputies are currently undergoing training on how to access the new after-hours facilities in order to ensure security and proper documentation for the animal victims. Additional information on the SAFE HAVEN program is obtainable through the HSSA Education Department at (520) 321-3704, Ext. 125 or 141. Free training for vets on animal cruelty subjects is always available through both HSSA and PCSD.


Cockfighting is a centuries-old bloodsport in which two or more specially bred roosters (called gamecocks) are placed in a pit (generally a small, above-ground, enclosed space) to fight. A cockfight usually results in the death of one of the birds; sometimes it ends in the death of both. This activity is presented to spectators for entertainment and gambling purposes. A typical cockfight can last anywhere from several minutes to more than half an hour. Cockfighting is illegal in forty-seven states. In Arizona, cockfighting is a Class 5 felony (ARS 13-2910.03). This law also forbids the owning, possessing, keeping, or training any cock with the intent of fighting. In addition, ARS 13-2910.04 classifies a person’s presence at a cockfight as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Heritage or Cruelty?

All humane organizations reject the defense of bloodsports as vestiges of culture or heritage. The Humane Society of Southern Arizona summarized this opposition in a 1999 OUR VILLAGE newsletter:

While it is true that cockfighting is an activity that has been practiced for centuries in various countries, including the United States, it is not true that “old” necessarily means “good.” Nor is it true that evidence of an act in a given culture automatically makes that act acceptable. At one time the United States allowed slavery, had no child-abuse or child-labor laws, and did not extend the vote to women. Any “cultural tradition” which perpetuates the pain, suffering or needless death of sentient beings is in need of revision or elimination. In the words of Dr. Albert Schweitzer: “The time will come when public opinion will no longer tolerate amusements based on the mistreatment and killing of animals.”

Reprints of this newsletter are available by contacting the Humane Society at (520) 321-3704, Ext. 141.

Animal cruelty concerns: Even birds who do not die suffer in cockfights. The roosters cannot escape from the fight no matter how exhausted or injured they become. Common injuries include punctured lungs, broken bones, and pierced eyes. Such severe injuries occur because the roster’s legs are usually fitted with razor-sharp steel blades ranging from one to three inches in length or with implements called gaffs, which resemble three-inch long, curved ice picks.

Myth: Birds are natural fighters: While it is true that birds will often fight over food, territory, or mates, such fights are generally only to establish dominance within a group and seldom result in serious injury.

Child welfare concerns: The presence of young children at cockfights is especially disturbing. Exposure to such violence can promote an insensitivity to animal suffering and an enthusiasm for violence. Psychiatrists at the Menniger Foundation revealed that a history of cruelty to animals can be symptomatic of seriously abnormal aggression which is significantly associated with violent behavior directed against humans. Thus animal fighting is a vicious and brutal activity that breeds violence.

Connection between cockfighting and illegal drugs:
Law enforcement officials nationwide have documented the strong connection between cockfighting and the large-scale manufacture and distribution of illegal drugs. Drug enforcement agents often discover animal fighting operations as a result of narcotics investigations.

Other concerns:

Thousands of dollars in presumably unreported income exchange hands as spectators and animal owners wager large sums on their favorite birds. The owners of birds who win the most fights in a derby (a series of cockfights) may win tens of thousands of dollars. Firearms and other weapons are quite common at cockfights, mainly because of the large amounts of cash present.


In conjunction with local domestic violence agencies, ACT will be supporting October “Domestic Violence Awareness Month” by sponsoring a seminar focusing on the connections between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence, especially domestic violence. ACT will also be issuing press releases each week during the month of October, promoting awareness of animal-related cruelty issues, including:

  • Week of October 1: The Link Between Animal Cruelty and Interpersonal Violence
  • Week of October 8: Children and Animal Cruelty
  • October 10: The Role of Animals in Domestic Violence. A free public seminar to be held at the Tucson-Pima Public Library, Downtown Branch, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Week of October 15: Animals and Violence in the Home
  • Week of October 22: Ritualistic Abuse of Animals

For more information on any of these topics or to register for the seminar, please contact Jami McDowell or Marsh Myers at 321-3704, Ext. 141 or 125. Additional resources listed on the opposite page.


New statewide law empowers and protects veterinarians

ARS 32-2239: Duty of veterinarian to report suspected dog participants of dog fights or animal abuse; immunity.
In summary, this new law extends legal protection to veterinarians reporting, in good faith, any suspected case of animal abuse. This includes dog fighting, domestic animals and livestock. The exact wording of the law is as follows.

  1. A veterinarian shall report in writing concerning any dog fighting or animal abuse to a local law enforcement agency in the county where the veterinarian is practicing within thirty days of any examination or treatment administered to any dog or any animal which the veterinarian reasonably suspects and believes has participated in an organized dog fight or any animal which the veterinarian reasonably suspects and believes has been abused. The report shall contain the breed and description of the dog or any animal together with the name and address of the owner.
  2. A veterinarian shall report, in writing, suspected cases of abuse of livestock to the associate director of the division of animal services in the Arizona Department of Agriculture pursuant to Title 3, Chapter 11, Article 1. The report shall be made within thirty days of treatment or examination and shall include the breed and description of the animal together with the name and address of the owner.
  3. A veterinarian who files a report as provided in this section shall be immune from civil liability with respect to any report made in good faith.

ACT co-chairmen are honored at Red Cross Real Heroes Breakfast

Animal Cruelty Taskforce chairmen Det. Mike Duffey and Mike Lent, DVM, were both nominated to receive the Red Cross’s coveted Real Heroes award. Det. Duffey won the award under the category of animal rescue for his “crusade to draw attention to the connection between animal cruelty and violent crime…” The Real Heroes Breakfast honors citizens who “embody the mission of the Red Cross [by] providing relief to the most vulnerable.”

The taskforce congratulates Det. Duffey and Dr. Lent on this wonderful honor!


Videos on this topic:

Animal Fighting in the Rochester Community (Anti-dogfighting). Produced by the Anti-Animal Fighting Task Force of Monroe County, Humane Society at Lollypop Farm, PO Box 299, Fairport, New York 14450. (716) 223-1330.

Matador (Anti-bullfighting PSA). Produced by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front Street, Norfolk, VA, 23510. (757) 622-7382. Available in English and Spanish. Running time: 30 seconds.


The Final Round (Anti-dogfighting packet). Produced by the Humane Society of the United States, 2100 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037. (202) 452-1100.

Books and periodicals on this topic:

Playing the Culture Card,” OUR VILLAGE, Issue 2, 1999-2000. This newsletter investigates why some bloodsports are defended as “cultural tradition.” Humane Society of Southern Arizona, 3450 N. Kelvin Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85716. (520) 321-3704, Ext. 125.


Dowling, Julie Miller. “Animal Cruelty & Human Violence: Making the Connection” in Animal Sheltering, January-February 1998. Published by the Humane Society of the United States, 2100 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037.

Lockwood, Randall and Frank R. Ascione. Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Animal Abuse: Linking the Circles of Compassion for Prevention and Intervention. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1999.

–––– Cruelty to Animals and Interpersonal Violence. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1998.

Patterns of Abuse: Exploding the Cycle (video). Produced by the Anti-Cruelty Society, Chicago, IL, 1999. Running time: 23 minutes.

Weissbourd, Richard. The Vulnerable Child: What Really Hurts America’s Children and What We Can Do About It. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1996.

Wilson, K. J. (Ed.D.) When Violence Begins at Home: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding and Ending Domestic Abuse. Alameda, CA: Hunter House Publishers, 1993.


Detective Mike Duffey, Co-Chair
Pima County Sheriff’s Department
1750 E Benson Highway
Tucson AZ 85714
(520) 741-4751 FAX: (520) 741-4886

Michael Lent, DVM, Co-Chair
Pantano Animal Clinic
8333 E 22nd St
Tucson AZ 85710
(520) 885-3594 FAX: (520) 885-3531

Jami McDowell, Secretary
Humane Society of Southern Arizona
3450 N Kelvin Blvd
Tucson AZ 85716
(520) 321-3704, Ext. 141

Additional information about the Animal Cruelty Taskforce can be found online at:

Courtesy of
3450 N Kelvin Blvd.
Tucson, Arizona 85716
Shelter Phone: (520) 327-6088

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