Dog fighting can be the 'entry level' to wider involvement in organised crime
Kevin Foster MP argues that the level of cruelty and sophistication involved in dog fighting demands much harsher sentencing if it is to be an effective deterrent.
It has been over a century since Dog Fighting was outlawed, yet a weakness in sentencing means many dogs still face the terror, pain and death that it involves.
Some hearing about this issue will, naively, think that dog fighting is merely a matter of a few thugs and sadists encouraging their own dogs to fight each other. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Last year a report by the League Against Cruel Sports laid bare the facts about this “sport”. There are three levels to it, with the first being impromptu fights or rolls in a park or housing estate. The second is “hobbyist”, those who take part in a series of fights with some levels of gambling involved. Then there are the professional dog fighters whose activities, whilst secret, have all the hallmarks of any other organised crime operation aimed at abuse and exploitation. They operate gambling operations that can see hundreds of thousands of pounds wagered on a fight, with the dogs involved being part of sophisticated rings based on bloodlines of previous fighting animals.
In the United States, dog fighting is rightly viewed as an entry level crime that can lead to wider involvement in organised crime. It does not take much research to discover that those who are prepared to profit and take enjoyment from the misery of dog fighting can quickly develop the same attitude to the suffering of fellow human beings. The dogs used in fights are abused on a daily basis to develop aggression and many other animals suffer as bait animals used to “encourage” dogs in training.
In the face of all the evidence of cruelty, sophistication and a potential for large amounts of money to be earned, a maximum of 51 weeks in prison is totally inadequate. As the League’s report pointed out, the Law Commission’s approach to other animal/wildlife offences recommends extending the penalty for the most serious offences from six months to two years in prison.
I agree with those who argue that the suffering the animals involved endure is enough in itself to justify an increase in sentences, yet it is also vital to deal with those criminal minds for whom profit versus risk is the deciding factor. Many criminal activities that have a similar potential for making immoral gains attract much higher sentences, providing a perverse incentive to the ruthless to move into this area. Whilst heavy fines can be imposed, the real deterrent for them is spending time behind bars, with the current maximum sentence not being the deterrent needed.
My Bill gives Parliament a chance to rectify this and ensure those who engage in this evil trade know they could soon find themselves in a Crown Court facing the prison term they have earned.
Kevin Foster is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Torbay
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