What is Wrong with People who Fight Dogs?

Via my favorite internet uncle, a link to the Commercial Appeal‘s pitbull blog. One word of warning: the video starts playing immediately every time you load the page, which is very annoying. And, if you have a heart, this will break it.

Here’s what I wonder, which is a little more specific than “what the hell is wrong with people who fight dogs?,” If a kid in your neighborhood was responsible for the deaths of, let’s say, three dogs, you’d have your eye on him as a potential serial killer or violent sexual offender. And yet, I don’t see a lot of people asking questions about what this kind of animal cruelty–dog fighting–might indicate and yet there are folks out there who are responsible for a lot of dogs suffering and dying.

Dogs will fight, true enough. But to enjoy that? To train your dog to cause pain and suffering to other dogs? Isn’t that some kind of enormous warning sign that other people might want to steer very clear of you? I just don’t get it. If killing dogs in one context is known to be a precursor to other anti-social behaviors, why isn’t killing dogs in this context?

Why are we still talking about breed banning when that does nothing to address why so many folks enjoy causing the dogs to suffer until they become ticking time bombs?

24 thoughts on “What is Wrong with People who Fight Dogs?

  1. I would have preferred that you asked “what the hell is wrong with people who are fascinated by guns?”

    Seriously, isn’t this activity banned everywhere? There is a guy down the road that breeds fighting cocks, and that disgusts me. But I believe that it is legal in some parts of this enlightened State.

  2. “what the hell is wrong with people who are fascinated by guns?”

    Nothing. We’re fine upstanding people who don’t go shitting our pants when someone says ‘boo’.

    It’s illegal in TN (both the cock and dog kind). But (gasp!) people break the law. Shocking, I know.

  3. Plus, Mack, like it or not, tons of people own guns and don’t engage in criminal activities. I’d be very curious to know how many people participate in dog fighting go on to other kinds of criminal activity. It seems to me an easy way to help one lose the conscience that would otherwise keep you from engaging in activities that hurt others.

  4. It’s kinda funny. my only exposure to mack has been through NIT and now this site. And each time, it’s been some pants-shitting hysteria about guns.


  5. plus, owning guns is not an inherently aggressive act. it’s quite possible to collect guns for reasons nothing to do with their destructive potential — historical interest, say — whereas animal fighting cannot but be harmful and aggressive by its very nature.

    dangerous, too. guns by themselves do not escape their owners’ premises to wreak havoc. dogs with their minds addled from too much fighting might well. from this point of view, laws against animal fighting ought to be more strictly enforced than gun laws, arguably.

  6. I have to agree with Nomen. When you own a dog for the purpose of fighting it there’s something inherently wrong with that. Owning and training an animal because you WANT it to hurt another one. It’s cruel and heart wrenching.

  7. Long academic passage follows. Skip it if that ain’t your thang.

    Before someone goes off on the “this is all a bunch of bullshit and you have no evidence that people who enjoy being mean to animals are a danger to humans…” well, just stop. It’s a well-researched topic and while there is some disagreement about how strong the connection is (ranging from “sort of strong” to “pretty damn strong”) between abuse of animals and abuse of humans, even the most skeptical voice (Dr. Heather Piper) concedes that such a connection exists.

    The most readily observable connection comes with domestic violence.
    Most of the studies on this are local in nature, dealing with one city’s shelters or one state’s reporting system. For example, a study of 111 battered women in South Carolina done in 1999, found that almost half the women who had a companion animal reported that their abuser had threatened or abused the animal. A 1995 study of 72 women taking refuge in Wisconsin shelters because of partner abuse found that of the women with animals, 80 percent said their batterers had been violent to the animals.

    One of the largest studies (done in 1997) surveyed the largest battered women’s shelters in 48 states. Workers at 85 percent of those shelters reported that their clients had detailed incidents of animal abuse. The shelter workers estimated that such abuse takes place in more than 40 percent of the domestic violence cases reported to their shelters.

    (The above two paragraphs are paraphrased from Cohen and Kweller’s “Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse” – the article itself is a lot on the anecdotal side, but those interested should give it a look.)

    The people who are usually most cited in the US are Frank Ascione and his research team.



    A bibliography of research – some empirical, some derivative, some theoretically and philosophical:


    The most stalwart defenders of links between animal abuse and domestic violence at the moment is probably Becker and French, Child Abuse Review 14:2 (2005). A more skeptical researcher, Heather Piper, questions the research methods of most of the studies thus far and frets that everyone is getting carried away in the “what about the children and puppies?” emotional appeal. She urges people to seek better data to verify what she admits is robust anecdotal evidence. Piper, Child Abuse Review 15:3 (2006). This makes her look like an asshole, but she probably has a point. The problem is that dead and mutilated pets can’t speak for themselves and there are some people who just will not believe a word that comes out of a woman’s mouth once she leaves a man she claims is an abuser. So what’s a researcher to do?

    So yeah. Blood sports bad.

  8. I couldn’t bear to send you the link. I thought of you the whole time I was reading the horrible article. It’s so frickin’ sad.

  9. Say Uncle, put down your penis-extender and re-read the second paragraph. It begins: Seriously,

    It was a little humor. I have made no secret of the fact that I think an obsessionwith guns is unhealthy. I own a few, I’ve used them in all kinds of circumstances, and had them pointed at me. I have also served in the military, and a police dept, and have seen the damage they can do in the wrong hands. I believe I have earned the right to my opinion. I’ll ask you to allow me to share it wherever I please, or to kindly go fuck yourself. It’s your call.

  10. Let’s all take a deep breath and relax.

    We’re just talking. That’s all. Just talking and imagining Christopher Meloni naked. Breathe in, think of Christopher Meloni naked, breathe out, let go of all that needless hostility. Breathe in, think of Christopher Meloni naked. Breathe out, let go of any desire to have a fight that involves the phrase “penis-extender.” Breathe in, wonder if this counts as masturbation for Chez Bez, breathe out, think of how cute my boob freckle is. Breath in, everyone has perfectly fine penises of a shape and size pleasing to all, breathe out, and stop.

    Calm. Relaxed.

    Let’s aim to keep it that way.

  11. I don’t think the question is “what the hell is wrong with people who are fascinated by guns?”
    It’s more, “what the hell is wrong with people who like to kill things with guns, for fun?” What is fun about shooting a deer or a duck or a bunny or whatever.
    Yes I understand some people shoot game for food and that feral animals need to be kept under control. No, I don’t think we should all live on carrots and lentils. But to say hunting is a hobby, your fun – well, isn’t that the same as enjoying watching dogs (or birds or people) fight until they bleed and possibly die?
    Enjoying the killing or hurting of others, horrible, just horrible.

  12. Ooh. Penis reference. So original. Write your own stuff? Shall I break out the freud bit about a fear of weapons being a sign of sexual, err, something. I forget.

    Obsession with anything is unhealthy.

    You can share you opinion wherever you want. But I’ll still call you an idiot when you’re an idiot, idiot.

  13. wow, I get home from work and look at what I’ve been missing!

    Mack, that whole cock fighting thing is very common down where I’m from, but I don’t think it’s legal there or here. I think it’s actually legal in New Mexico, although I may be wrong. Anyway, it is horrible to watch, and I truly do not understand how anybody could bear to watch any animal fight to their bloody demise like that. It’s sick.

    I do believe that people who abuse animals have serious problems. Jeffrey Dahmer was an animal abuser. I’d bet that is a common thread in a lot of killers’ and abusers’ pasts.

  14. Breath in, everyone has perfectly fine penises of a shape and size pleasing to all, breathe out, and stop.

    Don’t start the snipping debate again, please!

  15. Mmm… carrots and lentils… I make a really good soup that’s based primarily on carrots and lentils. I wonder how it would taste with chunks of lamb thrown in.

  16. I grew up a half hour or so from Newport, historically a cock-fighting hotbed, but I can’t claim to understand it or dog fighting. I tend to think, perhaps simplistically, that people involved in it are people who enjoy violence, watching violence and perpetuating violence (and profiting from violence), which disturbs me. If people want to become boxers and punch each other for fun and money in a consenting way, fine. To raise up animals to tear each other apart is something else entirely, in my opinion.

  17. I’m all for everyone being calm and relaxed, but I kind of hope everyone in this thread isn’t going to think pleasant thoughts about Christopher Meloni naked.

    I, however, will be. Swoon.

  18. Although I certainly agree with the tenor of the thread (Dogfights bad! Torturing animals bad!), I feel compelled to point out that animal fighting can have meaning outside the blood/guts/sadism spectrum.

    Clifford Geertz’s essay “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cokfight” provides a very clear and striking example of such a context. The stakes are more than just money, and the personal and group-level investment is significant. It means something, and by and large, its practitioners are decent, normal human beings.

    I don’t think that makes the practice any less inhumane, but it does make it more human. Context matters. Here, now, the way things are usually done, training fighting animals is absolutely cruel and problematic, and ought be treated as such. A lot of that has to do with its illegal (or at best quasi-legal) status – the people who are willing to break the laws to engage in the behavior are doing so because they have a need to see things hurt. Not all, but many. We don’t have a widespread sociocultural system providing these alternate meanings (and mandating and enforcing generally humane treatment for the animals outside their fighting lives, for one), so what they stand to gain is lessened.

    Eurgh this is jumbled. The point I wanted to make was that the line between ‘person who trains and fights animals’ to ‘evil awful abuser’ is completely tied up in the “here, now, in this context”-ness of it all. The actual practices can certainly be condemned on their own merits (no matter how you love your bird and use it as a proxy for your very own penis, shoving cayenne pepper into its orfices is still cruel), but the “what kind of people would do such a thing” is mediated by the context in which they’re doing that thing.

    Does that make sense? I don’t want to disagree, I want to refine the argument.

  19. Oh! Oh! I know! I have at least a partial solution to the
    cockfighting problem!

    Let all of those who want to participate in cock fights, do so.

    Only, not with any birds.

    Bring on the cayenne pepper for the participants!

  20. Ewwww. Cayenne pepper does not go there!

    But I do think people so willing to tie their lives up in their fightin’ animals ought share their, ah… pain. If you can live with it and hug it and cuddle it and make it a proxy for your personhood, it’s only right. And if you can’t do those things – if you’re only fighting it because you get off on pain, or for money, or because you don’t particularly like animals, or you don’t know any better – then you shouldn’t do it at all.

    … of course, your comment also brings to mind images of men having literal cockfights, Bella Donna, which is far funnier. Add some glow-in-the-dark condoms for extra light-saber fun!

  21. Yep, Magniloquence. That was my intention. None of this “proxy”
    nonsense. Let’s see how tough they are once they start fighting
    with those sharpened spur attachments.

  22. I don’t even like to fight…why would I like dogs to fight???
    Take all of those people who fight dogs and throw them in the
    bottom of a snake pit! Take all of the cock fighter and tie
    them down and let the cock peck out their eye balls!
    Well, some of might say…wow that women is pretty tuff… I
    reply…an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth!

    These people are social deviants!

    Smiles and world peace,


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