The Mercury; Jan 8 2012
The staffordshire bull terrier, above, and the mastiff, below, are two of the breeds of dogs most likely to be used in dog fighting. Anyone considering giving away such dogs should thoroughly check out prospective owners.
Family pets are being killed in their dozens as part of blood-thirsty dog-fighting events throughout Tasmania.
Tasmania Police and the RSPCA have joined forces to crack down on the criminal “sport” in what could be the biggest animal welfare case recorded in the state.
There are reports of individual dogs being trained to become killers and goaded into killing as many as nine other dogs at each event.
RSPCA chief executive Ben Sturges said he could not detail the specific focus or scale of the investigation only saying that police in Hobart and Devonport were helping his inspectors.
“RSPCA Tasmania and Tasmania Police are working together on a joint operation surrounding dog-fighting rings in Tasmania,” Mr Sturges said.
“Under the Animal Welfare Act it is illegal to participate in or attend a dog fight in Tasmania.”
Ringleaders of such events are widely known to use give-away or stolen household pets as “blood” or “bait” animals to reward winning dogs and test aggression of animals intended to fight.
The details of the illegal events has prompted animal welfare campaigners to urge people not to place “free to good home” advertising in online marketplaces or other listings.
In other jurisdictions around the world, traffickers of blood or bait dogs have been known to pay others to pick up free dogs often with children in tow to appear more legitimate.
And they warn that people involved in the dog fighting could be more likely to inquire about specific breeds including staffordshire bull terriers and mastiffs but that all breeds can be targets.
It is believed that rings are being organised out of Hobart’s northern suburbs and parts of the North-West. There are rumours about other areas.
Mr Sturges said the investigation started several weeks ago and he believed the fights were held outside metropolitan areas.
Events are believed to be organised in a similar way to street racing, in which people are told where and when fights will be held by text message at the last minute in order to avoid detection.
People with litters of unwanted puppies are advised to charge a price for them and even request to see the home of potential owners.
“The RSPCA urges people to be very careful when giving away dogs because these animals are often used as blood dogs or bait,” Mr Sturges said.
There are reports that dogs are not the only animals used to increase the aggression of the dogs small household pets also are being targeted.
Suspicions of pet thefts being associated with dog-fight rings have circulated since at least the late 1990s.
In 2007, the BBC infiltrated British and continental European dog-fighting rings and found that wagers on individual fights ranged up to $50,000.
In Tasmania, convicted offenders can face penalties of 12 months in jail and fines of $26,000.