Animals in Sports

Chapter 6
Animals in Sports

The eleventh edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (2003) defines a sport as recreation that includes physical activity. Most people would think of a sport as an athletic competition that demonstrates skills such as physical strength, stamina, agility, and speed. Humans recognized centuries ago that many animals possess such skills naturally and could be used in sporting events.

In the United States today the major sports in which animals are involved are horse racing, greyhound racing, sled dog racing, rodeos, and organized animal fighting. Except for animal fighting, all these are considered legitimate sports.

The legitimate sports probably began as friendly competitions between people wanting to show off their animals, but the most popular evolved into businesses in which large amounts of money are involved. Horse racing and greyhound racing are intertwined with the legalized gambling industry. Rodeos and sled dog races largely depend on sponsors. Sponsors are companies that provide financial backing in exchange for being allowed to advertise during an eventfor example, by placing advertisements around an arena, in programs, or on uniforms or vehicles. Even animal fighting has become a business of sorts, with profits driven almost entirely by illegal gambling.

In all these sports, skilled animals can be quite profitable for the people who own, train, and manage them. Some animals involved in the sports industry are well cared for during their athletic "careers"; others are horribly abused. Sports animals that are less skilled, injured, past their prime, or unwilling or unable to compete anymore have different prospects. Some retire and live comfortably, whereas others are sold to the slaughterhouse or are killed.

The fate and well-being of animals in sports lie in the hands of humans. To some animal rights activists, this is the root of the problem. They believe that animals should not be used by people for any purpose at all, including sports. Animal welfarists focus their attention on uncovering, publicizing, and outlawing practices in animal sports that they consider harmful to the animals. Animal participation is defended by insiders and fans who feel that their right to enjoy a recreational activity is being threatened by overzealous activists who do not understand the nature of these sports.

ROOTS OF ANIMAL SPORTS

All animal sports have their roots in historical customs: religious rituals; contests staged for audience entertainment; and warfare, hunting, and herding practices. Blood sports, such as animal fighting, may have their roots in animal sacrifice, but were really popularized by the Romans as entertainment. Thousands of wild animals died in Rome's Coliseum while doing battle with each other or with gladiators. These events were often more like slaughters than sports. The animals were usually tortured with hot spikes or even dabbed with burning pitch to make them fight more ferociously and violently.

Blood sports surged in popularity in Europe during the Middle Ages. These included bears, bulls, dogs, and cocks (roosters) fighting with each other in various forums. Baiting involved a large animal, such as a bull or bear, being set upon by a group of dogs. When legislation was passed in England and the United States outlawing bear- and bull-baiting, cockfighting and dogfighting became more popular. These blood sports required less space than baiting and could be conducted without drawing as much public attention.

Horse Racing

Sporting events involving horses have their origins in warfare, hunting, and herding practices, in which fast horses were a necessity. Archaeological records indicate that horse racing occurred in ancient Babylon, Syria, and Egypt. It was an event in the Greek Olympic Games as early as 664 BC. Selective breeding of horses dates back thousands of years and was practiced by the ancient Arabs and Romans. The Romans held chariot races in huge arenas called hippodromes, the most famous of which was the Circus Maximus.

TABLE 6.1
Horse sports other than racing and rodeos
Category Description Organizations
Source: Created by Kim Masters Evans for Thomson Gale
Cattle events Cutting or herd work: Rider on horseback selects a single calf from a herd in the arena, guides it into the center of the arena, and then using fast starts and turns, prevents it from escaping back to the herd. National Reined Cow Horse Association, National Reining Horse Association, National Cutting Horse Association, United States Team Penning Association
Reining: Rider maneuvers horse through various moves, including figure-eight patterns, 360 degree spins, and sliding stops.
Cow work: Rider maneuvers horse to control the movements of a running steer, including herding it back and forth along a fence and circling around an arena.
Team penning or sorting: Team of 2 or 3 riders on horseback must cut specifically marked cattle from a herd and herd them to designated areas.
Dressage Rider moves horse through a series of carefully choreographed movements and patterns. United States Dressage Federation
Endurance Long-distance trail riding conducted over natural terrain. American Endurance Ride Conference
Eventing or combined training A three-in-one competition including dressage, cross-country jumping, and show jumping. Fédération Equestre Internationale
Foxhunting A sport in which riders and dogs hunt foxes in the countryside. American Masters of Foxhound Association
Hunter-jumper Equestrian event in which horses and riders jump over obstacles. National Hunter and Jumper Association
Polo Two teams of players riding thoroughbred horses play a game similar to hockey using a small ball and mallets. United States Polo Association
Polocrosse Combination of polo and lacrosse in which riders use racquets instead of mallets. American Polocrosse Association
Ride and tie Long-distance race in which two people and one horse form a racing team. During a race the people alternate riding the horse and running. Ride and Tie Association
Steeple chase Equestrian event in which horses and riders jump over fences. National Steeplechase Association
Vaulting Sport in which a rider uses gymnastic moves to vault onto and dismount from moving horse. American Vaulting Association

Horse racing with riders became widespread during the Middle Ages, particularly in England. Knights returning from the Crusades brought back fast Arabian stallions that were bred with sturdy English mares to produce a new line of horses called Thoroughbreds. Thoroughbred racing was popular with the aristocrats and royalty of British society, earning it the title "Sport of Kings." Human dependence on the horse during hunting and herding led to the creation of many other competitions in which horses excelled, such as jumping over obstacles or chasing lost cows. Thus, rodeo sports were born.

Greyhound Racing

Greyhound racing probably began several millennia ago with the Bedouin tribes of Africa and Asia. It was popular with the Egyptian pharaohs and in ancient Greece and Rome. Aristocrats of the Middle Ages used greyhounds to hunt rabbits, deer, and foxes. During the 1500s Queen Elizabeth I is credited with inventing a hunting sport called coursing in which greyhounds were used to pursue hares. Greyhound racing came to be called the "Sport of Queens." It did not become popular in the United States until the 1800s.

SPORTS ANIMALS TODAY

The only animals used in major sports today are domesticated ones: horses, bovines (calves, bulls, and steers), dogs, and cocks.

Horses are the most versatile sporting animal, participating on a large scale in sports besides racing and rodeos. (See Table 6.1.) However, none of these sports are performed by horses alone. All of them include humans, who ride the horses, run alongside them, or are pulled behind in carts.

Although bovines are not nearly as glamorous as horses, they still play a major role in two organized sports: bullfighting and rodeos. Bullfighting has a long and illustrious past, but it has never caught on in North America. It is extremely popular in Spain and Portugal, some Latin American countries (Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador), southern France, and the African island of Pemba. In Portugal the bull is not killed in the ring but may be slaughtered afterward.

Rodeos have a much shorter history. They evolved in North America to show off the work done by ranch hands and cowboys during the 1800s to herd and control cattle. Besides their dependence on bovines, bullfighting and rodeos are unique among sports for another reason. They are the only major animal sports in which humans compete against (or kill) animals.

Dogs participate on a large scale in three sports: sled dog racing, greyhound racing, and organized fighting. These sports differ widely in their legitimacy. Sled dog racing evolved as a sport to show off the skills of hardy dogs that have been pulling sleds in snowbound regions for centuries. By contrast, greyhound racing began as a competition between fast and graceful dogs but evolved into a gambling pastime. Organized dogfighting is illegal in every state. Despite its illegitimacy, or maybe because of it, dogfighting continues to be popular. Its roots lie in the blood sports enjoyed by the ancient Romans at the Coliseum.

All three of these dog sports are largely breed-specific: Malamutes (named for the Malemiut Inupiat tribe) and Siberian huskies compete in sled races, greyhounds in track racing, and pit bulls in fighting. Only sled dog racing pairs humans and dogs during the sporting event. Greyhound racing and dogfighting are dog-only competitions.

There are also a variety of new amateur sporting events that are emerging for dogs. Agility-based competitions, such as catching Frisbees and traversing obstacles, are growing in popularity. One of the newest dog sports is called fly ball. This is a relay event in which teams of dogs compete against each other to jump over hurdles and race to retrieve a ball. In 2000 the International Federation of Cynological Sports (IFCS) was formed in Europe to unite organizations holding dog sports in various countries around the world. (Cynology is the scientific study of canines.) The IFCS is working to bring dog sports, such as those involving agility, to the Olympic Games.

A cock is the adult male of the domestic fowl (Gallus gallus ), also known as a rooster. Cocks participate in only one organized sport: cockfighting. Cockfighting is illegal in most states and is considered a blood sport because the roosters that participate are frequently killed or mutilated during the fight.

MAJOR ANIMAL SPORTS AND THEIR CONTROVERSIES

Animal sports enthusiasts argue that the animals are doing what they do naturally. Horses and greyhounds love to run, cocks naturally fight with each other in the barnyard, wild dogs fight over who will lead the pack, and unbroken livestock naturally try to buck off a rider. People involved in legitimate animal sports argue that the animals are well cared for because their welfare is crucial to the success of the sport and the people involved. In other words, they say it makes no sense for the owner or manager of a sports animal to mistreat that animal and perhaps lose money as a result. They also insist that safeguards are in place to ensure that animals are not mistreated during a sporting event and receive proper medical care if they are injured.

Critics counter by explaining that animal sports are not sports at all, but performances forced out of animals that have no choice in the matter. They believe that sports animals are not behaving naturally but doing things that they are either trained to do or have been bred over many generations to do. Because so much money is involved in animal sports, animal welfare and rights advocates say greed and financial advancement are the main motivators behind animal sports. General problems with animal sports revolve around four main issues:

  • Overbreeding of the animals
  • Mistreatment during training, performances, and the off-season
  • Lack of veterinary care
  • The ways in which unwanted sports animals are destroyed

Horse Racing

Thoroughbred horse racing is the king of animal sports in the United States. It is a multibillion-dollar industry involving people who breed, manage, train, own, and ride the horses, and the people who own and manage racetracks. Indirectly, the industry provides income to feed and equipment suppliers, veterinarians, and other support personnel. The industry is also a source of income for those state governments that allow gambling at racetracks and/or off-track betting locations.

THE RACES

The Jockey Club reports in "Thoroughbred Racing and Breeding Worldwide" (October 2, 2006, http://www.jockeyclub.com/factbook.asp?section=17) that in 2005 there were 52,257 Thoroughbred horse races in the United States. The total purse, or amount won by the owners of the winning horses, for all races was nearly $1.1 billion. As shown in Figure 6.1, the number of Thoroughbred races held each year has generally declined since 1995. Purses increased through the late 1990s as gambling increased in popularity around the country and by 2001 leveled off at just under $1.1 billion per year. (See Figure 6.2.)

As of 2007 there were about 130 Thoroughbred racetracks in the United States (http://www.trackinfo.com/index2.html). Some racetracks are only open seasonally, whereas those in warm climates are open year round. Racetracks vary in size and in ownership; some are government owned, and some are owned by private and public companies.

The three most prestigious Thoroughbred races in the United States are the Kentucky Derby at the Churchill Downs track in Kentucky, the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in Maryland, and the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in New York. The races are held over a five-week period during May and June of each year. A horse that wins all three races in one year is said to have won the "Triple Crown." Only eleven horses have ever captured the Triple Crownmost recently, a horse named Affirmed in 1978.

WELFARE OF RACING HORSES

The racehorse industry prides itself on the enormous investments it has made in horse health issues. Millions of dollars have been spent on veterinarian research concerning the injuries and illnesses that affect racehorses. The Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation is the leading private source of funding for research into horse health issues. The foundation, which dates back to 1940, is operated by the Jockey Club, though it accepts donations from private individuals, Thoroughbred clubs, racetracks, and other organizations. In 2006 it allocated more than $957,000 to universities conducting equine research projects and has contributed more than $13 million since 1983 (2007, http://www.grayson-jockeyclub.org/default.asp). The foundation receives financial support from donations and from special racing events staged by horse racetracks. During 2006 the foundation funded research in a variety of illnesses and injuries found in horses.

Most animal welfare groups are opposed to horse racing and contend that racehorses are treated as investments rather than as living beings. Specifically, they offer the following reasons for opposing the sport:

  • Thoroughbred racehorses have been inbred to the point that their bodies are too heavy for their slender, fragile legs.
  • Broodmares are forced to come into season too often and at unnatural times to lengthen the potential training season for their offspring.
  • Racehorses are drugged when they have injuries or illnesses (such as hairline fractures) so that they can still compete.
  • Track surfaces are too hard.
  • The racing season is too long.
  • Horses are run too young, risking damage to bones that are not fully mature.
  • The industry is regulated by state governments that have a vested interest in making the industry profitable, not in safeguarding animal welfare.
  • Racehorses suffer injuries and deaths during training and races.

As shown in Table 6.2, there were 320 racehorse fatalities in California alone between 2004 and 2005. In addition, the California Horse Racing Board reports in the Thirty-Fifth Annual Report of the California Horse Racing Board: A Summary of Fiscal Year 20042005 Racing in California (2006, http://www.chrb.ca.gov/annual_reports/2005_annual_report.pdf) that 514 racing-related injuries to horses were reported in California for this same time period, most of them to Thoroughbreds.

The slaughter of racehorses is a particularly controversial topic. Ray Paulick reports in "Death of a Derby Winner: Slaughterhouse Likely Fate for Ferdinand" (Blood-Horse Magazine, July 25, 2003) that Ferdinand, the winner of the 1986 Kentucky Derby, was possibly slaughtered for meat in Japan. Demand for horse meat has skyrocketed in parts of Asia and Europe. Horses intended for human consumption cannot be injected with drugs, either as painkillers or as a humane method of euthanization. By contrast, horses sold to rendering plants can be given drugs for pain in transit and can be euthanized by lethal injection. Horses sold for horse meat are given no painkillers in transit, and when they reach the slaughterhouse, they are knocked unconscious, then have their throats cut (in the same way that cattle are slaughtered).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service notes in Horse Transport Yearly Report (2006, http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/nahps/equine/horse_transport/yearly-rpt.html) that in 2004, 58,736 horses were slaughtered in the United States for human consumption overseas. It is unknown how many of these horses came from the racing industry. Animal welfare groups allege that many injured racehorses are not humanely euthanized but are shipped off to slaughter without being given painkillers. Besides the three horse meat slaughterhouses in the United States (two in Texas and one in Illinois), there are several in Mexico and Canada. Welfarists complain that racehorses going to meat slaughterhouses travel for many hours in cramped carriers with no food or water.

In 1996 Congress passed the Commercial Transportation of Equines for Slaughter Act, but the regulations enforcing the act were not published until December 2001. According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), in "Get the Facts on Horse Slaughter" (2007, http://www.hsus.org/pets/issues_affecting_our_pets/equine_protection/get_the_facts_on_horse_slaughter.html), the new rules allow the horses to be transported for up to twenty-eight hours without water, food, or rest.

RETIRED RACING HORSE ADOPTION

There are several organizations around the country that rescue retired racehorses and either adopt them out or provide lifetime sanctuary and care for them. Two of the largest are the Thoroughbred Retirement Fund (TRF) and the New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program.

The TRF is a nonprofit organization founded in 1982 by Monique S. Koehler. Since 1986 it has placed thousands of horses in adoptive homes, at horse sanctuaries, or in therapeutic programs for mentally and physically challenged people. The TRF also partners with several prison facilities around the country to operate work programs in which inmates feed and care for retired racehorses at stables built at the prisons. The article "TRF Caring for Record Number of Retired Horses" (Renews, Winter 2005) notes that the TRF took in 168 new horses in the fall of 2004, bringing its total to 903. Most of the new horses came from small racetracks in the Northeast and Midwest that closed after the racing season. The TRF purchased the horses to keep them from going to slaughterhouses. Many of the racehorses rescued by the TRF come from miserable conditions and suffer because of serious neglect and untreated medical conditions.

TABLE 6.2
Racehorse fatalities in California, 200405
Associations Breed of horse Occurred during
Thoroughbred TB QH APP AR ST P Race Traina Othera
TB=Thoroughbreds
QH=Quarter horses
ST=Standardbreds
APP=Appaloosas
AR=Arabians
P=Paint
aTraining and other fatalities include fatalities that occurred at auxiliary training facilities.
bNo fatalities reported.
cPer breed and circumstance; total fatalities = 320.
Source: "Racehorse Fatalities," in Thirty-Fifth Annual Report of the California Horse Racing Board: A Summary of Fiscal Year 20042005 Racing in California, California Horse Racing Board, 2006, http://www.chrb.ca.gov/annual_reports/2005_annual_report.pdf (accessed December 14, 2006)
Los Angeles Turf Club 44 19 16 9
Churchill Downs Operating Co. 33 13 17 3
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club 17 7 7 3
Oak Tree Racing Assn. 24 10 9 5
Churchill Downs Fall Operating Co. 23 11 9 3
Bay Meadows Operating Co. 31 16 7 8
Bay Meadows Operating Co. (Fall) 11 6 2 3
Pacific Racing Assn. 23 13 7 3
Pacific Racing Assn. 14 9 2 3
Harness
Capitol Racing LLC 6 1 1 4
Calif. Expo & State Fairb
Sacramento Harness Assn.b
Quarter horse
Los Alamitos
Quarter Horse Racing Assn. 9 35 1 3 2 29 10 11
Fairs
Stockton (San Joaquin County Fair) 4 3 1
Pleasanton (Alameda County Fair) 4 2 2
Vallejo (Solano County Fair) 8 1 4 3
Santa Rosa (Sonoma County Fair) 7 3 1 3
San Mateo (San Mateo County Fair) 1 1
Ferndale (Humboldt County Fair) 1 1
Pomona (Los Angeles County Fair) 14 6 4 4
Fresno (Fresno District Fair) 5 4 1
    Totalsc 272 36 1 3 6 2 154 99 67

The New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program adopts out retired racehorses (Thoroughbred and standardbred) at two facilities in Ohio. The group placed more than three hundred horses during 2006 (January 24, 2007, http://www.horseadoption.com/). The organization notes that most of the horses it has placed over the years had suffered injuries during their racing careers and required rehabilitation before placement. In addition, adopted racehorses must undergo training to be acceptable pleasure-riding horses. The program has strict requirements for people considering adoption and charges an adoption fee of several hundred dollars per horse, depending on its age and physical condition. Horses that are old and/or unrideable are sometimes adopted out for free.

Greyhound Racing

Greyhounds were brought to the United States during the late 1800s to help control the jackrabbit population on farms in the Midwest. Eventually, local farmers began holding races. Early races were held using a live rabbit to lure the dogs to race. In about 1912 Owen Patrick Smith invented a mechanical lure for this purpose. The first circular greyhound track opened in Emeryville, California, in 1919.

THE SPORT

In 2006 there were thirty-nine greyhound racetracks operating around the country. (See Table 6.3.) Greyhound racing is most prevalent in Florida, where there are fifteen tracks, the most of any state. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering reports in 2005/2006 Permitholder Activity Report (2006, http://www.state.fl.us/dbpr/pmw/statistics/2005_06/ytd_2005_06.pdf) that $477 million was wagered at the state's greyhound tracks during the fiscal years 2005 and 2006.

TABLE 6.3
Number of greyhound racetracks, by participating state, September 2006
State Number
Source: Adapted from "Racing States and the Number of Racetracks in Each," in U.S. Greyhound Racing Fact Sheet, Greyhound Network News and the Greyhound Protection League, September 2006, http://www.greyhounds.org/gpl/contents/PDFs/One_Page_Fact_Sheet_Sept%202006.pdf (accessed December 14, 2006)
Alabama 3
Arizona 2
Arkansas 1
Colorado 2
Florida 15
Iowa 2
Kansas 2
Massachusetts 2
New Hampshire 3
Rhode Island 1
Texas 3
West Virginia 2
Wisconsin 1

According to "Greyhound Racing Facts" (2007, http://www.hsus.org/pets/issues_affecting_our_pets/running_for_their_lives_the_realities_of_greyhound_racing/greyhound_racing_facts.html), the HSUS reports that revenue from greyhound racing declined by 45% in the 1990s, leading to closure or cessation of live racing at many tracks around the country. In addition, seven states specifically banned live greyhound racing during the 1990s: Idaho, Maine, North Carolina, Nevada, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

Three major organizations manage greyhound racing in the United States: the National Greyhound Association (NGA), the American Greyhound Track Operators Association (AGTOA), and the American Greyhound Council (AGC; a joint effort of the NGA and AGTOA). The NGA represents greyhound owners and is the official registry for racing greyhounds. All greyhounds that race on U.S. tracks must first be registered with the NGA. The AGTOA represents greyhound track operators. The AGC manages the industry's animal welfare programs, including farm inspections and adoptions.

The AGC (2006, http://www.agcouncil.com/racing.cfm?page=3) estimates that greyhound breeding farms and racing kennels pump approximately $96 million every year into local economies through the purchasing of goods and services.

WELFARE OF RACING GREYHOUNDS

The HSUS and other animal welfare organizations are strongly opposed to greyhound racing for the following reasons:

  • It is not governed by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) under the USDA as are other commercial animal enterprises, such as zoos and circuses.
  • The industry severely overbreeds greyhounds in the hopes of producing winners, leading to the destruction of thousands of puppies each year.
  • A racing greyhound's career is typically over at the age of four, well below its average life span of twelve years, meaning that thousands of adult dogs are also destroyed each year when they are no longer useful.

The AGC states that it has adopted standard guidelines for the care of greyhounds and the maintenance of kennel facilities based on the veterinary textbook The Care of the Racing Greyhound (2006). All the nation's greyhound breeding farms and kennels are subject to unannounced inspections to verify that they are complying with the industry's animal welfare guidelines. Violators can be expelled from the sport.

The AGC (2006, http://www.agcouncil.com/adoption.cfm?page=2) claims that greyhound tracks contribute about $2 million each year to local greyhound adoption programs and that twenty thousand dogs were adopted in 2005. The organization insists that more than 90% of all registered greyhounds are retired to farms for breeding purposes or adopted out as pets.

Animal welfare groups claim that thousands of adult greyhounds are destroyed each year by the racing industry. The Greyhound Protection League claims that 11,936 greyhounds were culled (killed) in 2005 alone. (See Table 6.4note that some of these numbers are calculated from estimates.) The league believes that 606,633 greyhound puppies and adult dogs have been killed by the industry between 1986 and 2005.

MASS KILLING

David M. Halbfinger reports in "Dismal End for Race Dogs, Alabama Authorities Say" (New York Times, May 23, 2002) that in May 2002 Robert Leroy Rhodes was arrested and charged with felony animal cruelty after the remains of more than two thousand greyhounds were found on his property in Baldwin County, Alabama. The man, who worked as a security guard at the Pensacola Greyhound Park in Florida, claimed that the track paid him $10 a piece to shoot the dogs and dispose of their carcasses on his eighteen-acre farm. He admitted to performing the service for forty years at the request of race dog owners. Authorities report that autopsies indicate some of the dogs were not killed instantly and therefore suffered before they died. It is a felony in Alabama to torture an animal. Racetrack officials denied involvement in the case and fired Rhodes along with several other security guards and a kennel operator.

TABLE 6.4
Estimated number of greyhounds bred, adopted, retained, and killed, 19862005
Year Number of litters born (NGA) Estimated number born Dogs individually registered to race (NGA) Farm puppies culled before racing Estimated greyhounds adoptedb Estimated dogs retained for breeding Racing dogs killed Total killed
Notes:
Litters: As reported by the National Greyhound Association (NGA), the U.S. registry organization.
Total born: Derived by multiplying the total number of litters by an average of 6.52 pups per litter.
Individuals registered to race: As reported by the NGA in the The Greyhound Review, the official industry publication. Each owner pays an additional fee to the NGA to have a dog individually registered.
Culled: This column shows the total number of young dogs that disappear annually between birth and individual registration at 18 months of age. Few pups or young dogs are ever delivered to rescue groups.
Organized, large-scale adoption efforts did not take place until the mid 1990's. During the late 1980's it is estimated that only a few hundred dogs made it into adoptive homes nationwide. During the previous 50 years of dog racing, all greyhounds that were not used for breeding were routinely destroyed.
aTo arrive at an estimated eighteen-year total of greyhounds killed, one must also subtract the number of dogs still in racing system (approximately 38,000), the number of puppies/youngsters currently at farms (approximately 26,000) and the breeding stock required to produce thousands of litters a year (about 500 males and 3,000 females).
bA liberal estimate of figures from those in the adoption community.
Source: Adapted from "U.S. Racing Greyhound Breeding Statistics and Analysis of the Annual Numbers of Dogs Killed from 19862005," in Know the Facts about Greyhound Racing, Greyhound Protection League, 2006, http://www.greyhounds.org/gpl/contents/PDFs/Know_The_Facts_Sept06.pdf (accessed December 14, 2006)
2005 4,300 28,036 26,207 1,829 14,600 1,500 10,107 11,936
2004 4,977 32,450 26,262 6,187 14,500 1,600 10,162 16,349
2003 5,171 33,714 26,277 7,437 14,500 1,800 9,977 17,414
2002 5,205 33,936 27,142 6,794 14,000 1,800 13,142 19,936
2001 5,015 32,698 26,797 5,901 13,000 1,800 11,997 17,898
2000 5,234 34,126 26,464 7,662 13,000 2,000 11,464 19,126
1999 5,266 34,334 27,059 7,275 13,000 2,000 12,059 19,334
1998 5,034 32,822 26,036 6,786 13,000 2,000 11,036 17,822
1997 5,192 33,852 28,025 5,827 12,500 2,000 13,525 19,352
1996 5,438 35,456 28,877 6,579 12,000 2,000 13,977 21,456
1995 5,749 37,483 31,688 5,795 10,000 2,100 19,588 25,383
1994 6,232 40,633 34,746 5,887 8,500 2,200 24,046 29,933
1993 6,805 44,369 39,139 5,230 6,000 2,500 30,639 35,869
1992 7,690 50,139 38,023 12,116 3,000 2,500 32,523 44,639
1991 8,049 52,479 38,430 14,049 1,000 3,500 33,930 47,979
1990 9,473 61,764 38,615 23,149 650 3,200 34,765 57,914
1989 7,690 50,139 38,443 11,696 450 3,000 34,993 46,689
1988 7,979 52,023 37,784 14,239 300 2,750 34,734 48,973
1987 7,638 49,800 33,021 16,779 200 2,500 30,321 47,100
1986 6,688 43,606 30,219 13,387 75 2,000 28,144 41,531
   Totala 124,825 813,859 629,254 184,604 164,275 44,750 421,129 606,633

Alabama authorities eventually charged four greyhound owners and trainers under the state's animal cruelty law based on statements from Rhodes and Clarence Ray Patterson, a kennel owner at the Pensacola Greyhound Track. At an April 2004 hearing, the Baldwin County sheriff testified that Rhodes, who died in 2003, had admitted killing between two thousand and three thousand greyhounds that were too sick or old to race. Florida investigators testified that Florida kennel owners and trainers paid Rhodes to shoot unwanted greyhounds because it was cheaper than having the animals humanely euthanized by a veterinarian. However, in 2005 the defendants' lawyers succeeded in having the case dropped after arguing that insufficient evidence existed and that the deceased Rhodes could not be cross-examined.

CONCERNS ABOUT DRUGGING

Alan Snel reports in "Drugs Taint Integrity of Greyhound Races" (Tampa Tribune, May 3, 2004) that forty-four racing greyhounds in Florida tested positive for cocaine following their races during fiscal year 2003. In total, Snel notes, 119 greyhounds had tested positive for cocaine since 2001. Owners of greyhounds testing positive were forced to forfeit their winnings, but there was no recourse for bettors who had wagered on greyhounds that might have won if the drugged dogs had been disqualified. Drug test results are not obtained until several weeks after a race has run. Rapid-screening tests that could provide results at the race track are considered too expensive by the greyhound racing industry.

Snel questions why state officials did not investigate how the drugs had gotten into the dogs' systems. The president of the National Greyhound Association suggested that the cause could be trace amounts of cocaine on the hands of trainers or other people touching the dogs. State officials denied that trainers were purposely drugging greyhounds to influence race outcomes.

In "Gaming Industry Bets on Davisand Crist" (Miami Herald, September 24, 2006), Mary Ellen Klas reports that Florida greyhound racing tracks had contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the campaign funds of the gubernatorial candidates Charlie Crist (Republican) and Jim Davis (Democrat). Both candidates had indicated a willingness to expand gambling activities at existing racetracks in the statea move staunchly opposed by the outgoing Governor Jeb Bush. According to Klas, the greyhound industry is especially keen to install video lottery terminals at the racetracks that would allow gamblers to compete against one another to win money. In November 2006 Crist won the election and assumed office in January 2007.

Sled Dog Racing

The sport of sled dog racing is small but extremely popular throughout Alaska, Canada, and parts of northern Europe. In North America the sport traces its origins to Native Americans, who for centuries have used hardy dogs bred for cold weather to pull their sleds. Typical draft animals, such as horses and oxen, were unsuitable for this purpose because of their weight and food requirements.

IDITAROD

The most famous sled dog race is called the Iditarod. It is held in Alaska in early March of each year and includes dozens of teams competing for thousands of dollars in prize money. In general, the race covers roughly 1,150 miles (from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska) and is completed in anywhere from eight to sixteen days. The speed record (set in 2002) is eight days, twenty-two hours, and forty-six minutes. Just over $750,000 in prize money was awarded to winning racers for the 2005 Iditarod (February 2,2007, http://www.iditarod.com/learn/2006results.html).

Mushers (human sled drivers) are allowed to start the Iditarod with up to sixteen dogs. A typical team includes fifteen dogs, one of which is the leader. The others are arranged in pairs behind the lead dog. The pair closest to the sled carries the heaviest load among the dogs. No dog substitutions are allowed during the race. If one or more dogs drop out for any reason, they cannot be replaced. The remainder carry the load. The dogs wear booties on their paws to help protect against cuts and abrasions.

The Iditarod includes about twenty-four checkpoints along the way. Each team is required to take three breaks during the race: one twenty-four-hour break and two eight-hour breaks. Mushers leave dogs that are sick, tired, or injured at one of the checkpoints for transport back to the starting point. According to race officials, each checkpoint has a veterinarian available.

Hazards of the race include the weather conditions, wildlife, and unpredictable terrain. Temperatures can drop to as low as 40° F during the race. However, unusually warm temperatures (up to 50° F) are also a problem as they can contribute to heat stress in the dogs and cause spoilage of dog food stored along the route.

The Iditarod received little media attention outside of Alaska until 1985, when a woman (Libby Riddles) won the race for the first time. Another woman, Susan Butcher, won the Iditarod four times between 1986 and 1990. The resulting publicity not only boosted the profile of the race but also brought more scrutiny and criticism from animal welfare organizations.

WELFARE OF SLED DOGS

The HSUS opposes the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, arguing that the sled dogs are forced to run "too far and too fast" in brutal weather and racing conditions. Critics point out that the pressure to run the Iditarod faster every year pushes the dogs beyond their limits.

In addition, the HSUS lists in "Facts about the Iditarod" (2007, http://www.hsus.org/pets/issues_affecting_our_pets/facts_about_the_iditarod.html) the following problems:

  • The race experiences dog deaths and injuries almost every year.
  • At least 120 sled dogs are known to have died during the race since its inception, including fifteen to nineteen dogs in the first race alone. Two dogs died in 2001, one dog died in 2002, and one dog died in 2003. Dogs have died from heart and other organ failures because of overexertion, pneumonia, and injuries, including being strangled in towlines (the ropes that stretch from the dogs' harnesses to the sled) and rammed by sleds.
  • At least three mushers have been disqualified from races for beating or kicking dogs or forcing dogs to run through dangerously deep slush. Two of the dogs in these cases died.
  • Race dogs have suffered heat stress, dehydration, diarrhea, pulled tendons, and cut paws because of their participation in the Iditarod.
  • Sled dog breeders kill puppies that are unable or unwilling to become good racers.

The HSUS also notes that most sled dogs are confined to short tethers in large dog yards when they are not racing. Tethering as a means of primary confinement is not permitted by the USDA for its licensed dog breeders and is opposed by the HSUS.

Iditarod mushers and supporters acknowledge that the race is grueling and can be dangerous, but they believe that sufficient rules and safeguards are in place to protect the dogs from injury and abuse. Many people involved in the sport believe that the dangers and wildness of the race enhance its allure.

The Sled Dog Action Coalition (SDAC) is another organization opposed to the Iditarod. Founded in 1999 by a former schoolteacher, the SDAC (2006, http://www.helpsleddogs.org/remarks.htm) lists hundreds of quotes from newspaper reporters, mushers, and other sources regarding abuses and mishaps that take place during racing and training. The SDAC calls for specific reforms to be made in race procedures to ensure the safety of the sled dogs.

Rodeos

The word rodeo comes from the Spanish word rodear, meaning "to surround." Originally, a rodeo was a roundup of cattle that happened once or twice per year. Open-range grazing was common in western North America during the 1800s, and cowboys were hired to round up the cattle and herd them to market. Following these cattle drives, as they were called, the cowboys would often congregate and hold informal contests to show off their skills at riding and roping.

THE RODEO BUSINESS

Rodeos now take place all over North America, even in big cities. They are seen by their fans as wholesome family entertainment that glorifies the rugged and hardworking cowboys of the Old West.

Animal welfare groups estimate that several thousand rodeos take place each year. Professional rodeo stars travel from event to event and compete for millions of dollars in prize money. Most big-money rodeos in the United States are sponsored by the Professional Rodeo and Cowboy Association (PRCA). Besides professional rodeos, the organization also sponsors amateur rodeo events for children and youth.

The animals used in rodeos include horses, bulls, steers (male cattle that have been castrated before reaching sexual maturity), and calves. Typical rodeo events include bareback bull riding, saddle bronc riding (in which a bucking horse, or bronco, is ridden), bareback horse riding, steer wrestling, calf and steer roping, and barrel racing (in which riders guide their horses around barrels positioned around an arena).

WELFARE OF RODEO ANIMALS

The PRCA defends the treatment of animals used in rodeos it sponsors, claiming that it has an extensive animal welfare program that governs the care and handling of rodeo animals and requires that a veterinarian be on-site during a rodeo. The PRCA posts an undated booklet on its Web site that it says includes "current" information on injury statistics compiled by on-site veterinarians at PRCA rodeos. As of May 2007 "Animal Welfare: The Care and Treatment of Professional Rodeo Livestock" (http://prorodeo.org/pdfs/AnimalWelfare.pdf) notes that out of 60,971 animal exposures there were only twenty-seven animal injuries. No information is provided on the rodeo events or dates associated with these statistics.

Animal welfare organizations are opposed to rodeos. They argue that rodeos are not representative of Old West ranching ways but are businesses that use animals as pieces of athletic equipment. They say that most injured rodeo animals are not humanely euthanized but are sent to slaughterhouses without receiving veterinary attention or painkillers. They also point out that today's rodeo animals are not naturally wild and unbroken as they might have been when rodeos first started in the 1800s but are relatively tame animals that must be physically provoked into displaying wild behavior. This is particularly true for the bucking animals.

Rodeo opponents say that bucking is unnatural behavior provoked in rodeo animals by tormenting them with painful straps and spurs. They also claim that bucking animals are sometimes poked with cattle prods or sharp sticks or rubbed with caustic ointments right before they are released from their chutes to incite more frenzied bucking action during the ride.

The PRCA notes that bucking horses do wear flank straps that encourage them to kick their legs high in the air. However, the PRCA requires that the flank strap be lined with fleece or neoprene and placed loosely around the horses. The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) says on its antirodeo Web site (http://bucktherodeo.com/) the straps are cinched tightly around the animals' sensitive abdomen and groin areas, causing the animals to buck to try to throw off the painful devices. The PRCA denies that the straps are pulled tight, arguing that a tight strap would actually restrict a horse's movement and not permit it to jump into the air.

Riders in several rodeo events wear and use spurs. The PRCA requires that the spur points be dull and that the wheel-like rowels on the spurs be able to roll along the animal's hide, rather than be locked. The organization contends that this prevents any injury to the animal from spurring. Riders who violate these rules or injure an animal are subject to disqualification. PETA argues that even dull spurs are painful because they are kicked into the animals' sides. It compares being poked by a dull spur to being hit by a hammer.

Cockfighting

Cockfighting is performed by cocks outfitted with sharp spikes called gaffs on their legs. Two cocks are thrown into a pit together, where they fight to the death. Cockfighting was banned by most states during the 1800s. As of 2006, it was illegal in forty-eight states. (See Table 6.5.) It was a felony in thirty-three states and a misdemeanor offense in seventeen others. States differ in their treatment of cockfight spectators and those caught in possession of birds for fighting.

Because cockfighting is still legal in Louisiana and New Mexico and in Mexico and many Asian countries, there is a commercial breeding industry in the United States. However, the AWA prohibits the interstate transport of birds for cockfighting into states with laws against cockfighting. As of 2005, the act also prohibited the transport of fighting gamecocks into or out of states where cockfighting is still legal and banned the exporting of fighting gamecocks to foreign countries.

TABLE 6.5
Laws and loopholes regarding cockfighting, by state, November 2006
State Cockfighting: on the law books Cockfighting: a felony or a misdemeanor Loophole: possession of cocks for fighting Loophole: being a spectator at a cockfight Loophole: possession of implements
Alabama Code of Ala. § 13A-12-4 Misdemeanor Legal Legal Legal
Alaska Alaska Stat. § 11.61.145 Felony Felony Misdemeanorh Legal
Arizona A.R.S. § 13-2910.03, A.R.S. § 13-2910.04 Felony Felony Misdemeanor Legal
Arkansas § 5-62-101 Misdemeanorb Legal Legal Legal
California Cal Pen Code § 597b
Cal Pen Code § 597j
Cal Pen Code § 597c
Cal Pen Code § 597i
Felonyc Misdemeanor Misdemeanor Misdemeanor
Colorado C.R.S. 18-9-204 Felony Felony Felony Felony
Connecticut Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53-247i Felony Felony Felony Legal
Delaware 11 Del. C. § 1326 Felony Felony Misdemeanor Legal
Florida Fla. Stat. § 828.122 Felony Felony Felony Felony
Georgia O.C.G.A. § 16-12-4 Felonyd Legal Legal Legal
Hawaii HRS § 711-1109 Misdemeanor Legal Legal Legal
Idaho Idaho Code § 25-3506 Misdemeanor Legal Misdemeanor Legal
Illinois 510 ILCS 70/4.01 Felonye Felonye Misdemeanor Misdemeanor
Indiana Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 35-46-3-9, Burns Ind.
Code Ann. § 35-46-3-8, Burns Ind. Code Ann.
§ 35-46-3-10, Burns Ind. Code Ann.
§ 35-46-3-8.5
Felony Misdemeanor Misdemeanor Misdemeanor
Iowa Iowa Code § 717D.2,
Iowa Code § 717D.4
Felony Felony Misdemeanor Felony
Kansas K.S.A. § 21-4319 Misdemeanor Legal Misdemeanor Legal
Kentucky KRS § 525.130 Misdemeanor Legal Misdemeanor Legal
Louisiana Legalf Legal Legal Legal
Mainea 17 M.R.S. § 1033 Felony Felony Misdemeanor Legal
Maryland Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code Ann. § 10-608,
Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code Ann. § 10-605
Felony Felony Misdemeanor Felony
Massachusetts ALM GL ch. 272, § 94,
ALM GL ch. 272, § 95
Felony Felony Misdemeanor Legal
Michigan MCLS § 750.49 Felony Felony Felony Felony
Minnesota Minn. Stat. § 343.31 Felony Felony Misdemeanor Legal
Mississippi Miss. Code Ann. § 97-41-11 Misdemeanor Legal Legal Legal
Missouri §578.173 R.S.Mo. Felony Legal Misdemeanor Misdemeanor
Montana Mont. Code Anno., § 45-8-210 Felony Felony Legal Legal
Nebraska R.R.S. Neb. § 28-1005 Felony Felony Felony Legal
Nevada Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 574.070 Felonye Legal Felonye Legal
New Hampshire RSA § 644:8-a Felony Felony Felony Legal
New Jerseya N.J. Stat. § 4:22-24, N.J. Stat. § 4:22-26 Felony Felony Felony Legal
New Mexico Legalg Legal Legal Legal
New York NY CLS Agr & M § 351 Felony Misdemeanor Misdemeanor Legal
North Carolina N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-362 Felony Legal Felony Legal
North Dakota N.D. Cent. Code, § 36-21.1-07 Felony Felony Misdemeanor Legal
Ohio ORC Ann. 959.15, ORC Ann. 959.99 Misdemeanor Misdemeanor Misdemeanor Legal
Oklahoma 21 Okl. St. § 1692.2,
21 Okl. St. § 1692.5,
21 Okl. St. § 1692.6
21 Okl. St. § 1692.3,
Felony Felony Felony Felony
Oregon ORS § 167.428, ORS § 167.431 Felony Felony Misdemeanor Misdemeanorj
Pennsylvania 18 Pa.C.S. § 5511 Felony Felony Felony Legal
Rhode Island R.I. Gen. Laws § 4-1-9,
R.I. Gen. Laws § 4-1-10,
R.I. Gen. Laws § 4-1-11
Felony Felony Felony Legal
South Carolina S.C. Code Ann. § 16-17-650 Misdemeanor Legal Misdemeanor Legal
South Dakota §40-1-9 Misdemeanor Legal Misdemeanor Legal
Tennessee Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-14-203 Misdemeanor Misdemeanor Misdemeanor Legal
Texas Tex. Penal Code § 42.09 Felony Legal Legal Legal
Utah Utah Code Ann. § 76-9-301
Utah Code Ann. § 76-9-301.5
Misdemeanor Legal Misdemeanor Legal
Vermont 13 V.S.A. § 352, 13 V.S.A. § 353 Felony Felony Felony Legal
Virginia Va. Code Ann. § 3.1-796.125 Misdemeanor Legal Misdemeanori Legal
Washington Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 16.52.117 Felony Felony Felony Legal
West Virginia W. Va. Code § 61-8-19a,
W. Va. Code § 61-8-19,
W. Va. Code § 61-8-19b
Misdemeanor Misdemeanor Misdemeanor Legal

In May 2004 the Louisiana House Agriculture Committee voted to defeat a bill that would have banned cockfighting in the state. A majority of the commissioners felt that cockfighting was of cultural and economic importance to Louisiana.

TABLE 6.5
Laws and loopholes regarding cockfighting, by state, November 2006 [continued]
State Cockfighting: on the law books Cockfighting: a felony or a misdemeanor Loophole: possession cocks for fighting Loophole: of being a spectator at a cockfight Loophole: possession of implements
aThese states do not use the terms "felony" or "misdemeanor", but rather have felony and misdemeanor equivalent penalties.
bWhile it is not specifically prohibited by state law, cockfighting can be prosecuted under the general anti-cruelty statute.
cA second or subsequent offense can be a felony. Felony charges may also be leveled against persons responsible for the mutilation of birds.
dWhile it is not specifically prohibited by state law, cockfighting can be prosecuted under the general anti-cruelty statute which includes felony level provisions.
eA repeat offense can trigger felony prosecution.
fCockfighting is legal under state law but has been prohibited in 9 Louisiana parishes [Orleans, Saint Bernard, Jefferson, East Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Beauregard, Plaquemines, Caddo, and Calcasieu ].
gCockfighting is legal under state law but has been prohibited in 13 New Mexico counties [Bernadillo, Cibola, Colfax, Doña Ana, Grant, Los Alamos, McKinley, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, San Juan, San Miguel, Santa Fe, Taos ] and 28 municipalities [Albuquerque, Aztec, Belen, Bernalillo, Bosque Farms, Clayton, Corrales, Deming, Espanola, Eunice, Ft. Sumner, Gallup, Grants, Hobbs, Las Cruces, Las Vegas, Lordsburg, Los Lunas, Los Ranchos de Alb, Raton, Rio Rancho, Ruidoso, Santa Fe, Silver City, Taos, Truth or Consequences, Tucumcari, Williamsburg ]
hFirst offense is a violation, second offense is a misdemeanor.
iBeing a spectator is illegal only when an admission fee is paid.
jCockfighting and dogfighting paraphernalia illegal.
Source: "Cockfighting: State Laws," in Humane Society of the United States Fact Sheet, Humane Society of the United States, November 2006, http://files.hsus.org/web-files/PDF/cockfighting_statelaws.pdf (accessed December 14, 2006)
Wisconsin Wis. Stat. § 951.08, Wis. Stat. § 951.18 Felony Felony Misdemeanor Legal
Wyoming wyo.stat. § 6-3-203
48 Illegal 33 Felony 25 Felony 12 Felony 6 Felony
2 Legal 16 Misdemeanor 7 Misdemeanor 29 Misdemeanor 5 Misdemeanor
2 legal 18 Legal 9 Legal 39 Legal
Washington DC § 22-1015 Felony Felony Misdemeanor Legal
American Samoa Legal Legal Legal Legal Legal
Guam Legal Legal Legal Legal Legal
Puerto Rico Legal Legal Legal Legal Legal
Virgin Islands Legal Legal Legal Legal Legal

According to Drew Jubera, in "The Fight of Its Life" (Atlanta Journal and Constitution, March 9, 2003), the Louisiana cockfighting industry generates millions of dollars in revenue. The state has more than seventy cockfighting pits that draw spectators from across the country. The larger pits can seat hundreds of people and charge gamecock owners as much as $1,000 to participate in a fight. Winners can earn $50,000 in these matches. Superior gamecocks sell for up to $300 each.

Jubera interviewed people involved in cockfighting to find out why they participated in it. Most said that they admired the natural fighting talents of cocks. Although they admitted that cockfighting was violent, they did not think that it was cruel to the birds. One breeder insisted that it would be crueler to keep the birds from fighting, because they love fighting so much.

In April 2006 the HSUS filed a legal petition demanding that the U.S. Postal Service discontinue delivery of two magazinesThe Gamecock and The Feathered Warrior. The HSUS claims that the magazines promote cockfighting activities by listing schedules of cockfighting events and including advertising for gamecocks and implements used in cockfighting. Both magazines are published in Arkansas. The petition was filed under provisions of the AWA that prohibit the use of the U.S. mail for promoting animal fighting. In February 2007 the HSUS filed a lawsuit against Amazon.com for carrying the two magazines.

Dogfighting

Dogfighting is widely considered to be one of the most horrific forms of animal abuseby members of animal welfare groups, criminal justice representatives, and law enforcement officials. In the United States dogfighting is an illegal, multimillion-dollar gambling industry, often associated with gangs, auto theft, arms smuggling, money laundering, and drug trafficking. Dogs most often used in dogfighting are pit bulls, which are not considered a specific breed but are rather a mix of breeds, the most predominant being the American Staffordshire terrier. Because pit bulls are extremely loyal to their owners and have powerful, muscular bodies and strong jaws, they can be bred and trained to exhibit aggressive behavior toward other dogs, although all pit bulls are not necessarily aggressive by nature. Fights typically go on for hours, sometimes to the death. Generally, a fight goes on until a dog gives up or an owner concedes defeat. Dogs that survive the fights frequently die hours or days later because of shock, blood loss, or infection. Bets placed in the range of $10,000 to $50,000 are typical during a dogfight.

Fighting dogs are judged on their gameness, which is determined by a dog's willingness and eagerness to fight and its reluctance to yield or back down during the fight. Selective breeding and grueling, cruel training methods are used to enhance gameness. Fighting dogs are usually drugged with steroids and other stimulants to enhance their aggression.

The article "They Don't Eat Quiche, But They Like Dogfighting" (WAGER: Weekly Addiction Gambling Education Report, December 13, 2000) discusses research findings on the cultural aspects of dogfighting in the southern United States. Researchers interviewed thirty-one men involved in dogfighting in Louisiana and Mississippi. They found that dogfighting was closely associated with the men's need to assert their masculinity. A "game" dog brought the owner status and prestige among other dog owners. Any dog showing cowardice or a willingness to quit reflected poorly on its owner's masculinity and was killed.

Fighting dogs are often trained on treadmills or devices called catmills. A catmill holds an animal, such as a cat, rabbit, or small dog, just out of reach of the training dog while it runs. Police report that these bait animals are often pets stolen from local neighborhoods and are usually killed during the training. Mild-tempered pit bulls that show no fighting inclinations are also used as bait dogs. Maryann Mott reports in "U.S. Dog-Fighting Rings Stealing Pets for 'Bait'" (National Geographic News, February 18, 2004) that pet theft by dogfighting rings was on the rise in the United States.

Dogfighting is illegal in all fifty states. (See Table 6.6.) It is a felony in forty-eight states and a misdemeanor in two others. Even being a spectator at a dogfight is a felony in some states. Possession of a dog for fighting is illegal in forty-seven states.

Animal welfare groups and police departments across the United States want to strengthen state and federal laws to make possession of a fighting dog a felony in every state. They also ask major newspapers not to accept advertisements selling dogs that use descriptive words such as game dog or game bred, as these terms imply that the dog is intended for fighting. The HSUS asks people to notify the organization whenever such ads appear in their local newspapers.

The article "Police Seize 36 Pit Bulls in Dog-Fighting Bust" (Charlotte Observer, January 22, 2007) provides an estimate from the North Carolina program manager for the HSUS that as many as fifty thousand people around the United States were dog fighters. In "Blood Sport: A Dramatic Rise in Illegal Dogfighting Overwhelms Authorities and Strikes Fear in Some Neighborhoods" (Columbus Dispatch, May 5, 2002), Kathy Lynn Gray reports that incidents increased by approximately 300% between 1992 and 2002. Law enforcement and animal control officers across the country report huge increases in the number of pit bulls they have confiscated in recent years. One county in Ohio seized nearly two thousand pit bulls in 2002. More than half of the dogs showed injuries or scars typical of fighting dogs.

The article "Dogs' Blood Brings Big Bucks" (ABCNews.com, January 28, 2003) reports on the growing concern of police in dealing with organized dogfights. The report describes a raid at a Columbus, Ohio, auto body shop in which forty people were arrested and nearly $25,000 in cash was confiscated, along with some handguns and drugs. The spectators had come from as far away as Alabama to see the fight. Police believe that dogfighting has changed from a small-time rural activity to a well-organized business that advertises over the Internet. They are increasingly concerned about the number of drug dealers and gang members they see involved in dogfighting and the large amounts of money that are bet.

The HSUS reports in "Busts Rout Out Dogfighters in Texas and Florida" (January 14, 2005, http://www.hsus.org/hsus_field/animal_fighting_the_final_round/busts_rout _out_dogfighters_in_texas_and_florida.html) that in January 2005 Texas authorities uncovered the largest dogfighting event in state history. A raid in Bexar County resulted in the arrest of more than twenty-five people and seizure of ninety pit bulls. Texas authorities received tips about the dogfight from the HSUS. HSUS activists monitor Web sites and magazines devoted to game dogs and alert police when they believe a dogfight is going to take place.

In 2006 the HSUS successfully convinced many national retailers to stop selling the DVD Hood Fights, Vol. 2: The Art of the Pit, which allegedly shows violent and bloody scenes from staged pit bull fights. According to "'Hood Fights II' Down for the Count" (July 7, 2006, http://www.hsus.org/hsus_field/animal_fighting_the_final_round/recent_activities/hood_fights_ii_pulled.html), the HSUS notes that major companies including Circuit City, Best Buy, and Netflix dropped the DVDs after learning that the videos may violate federal law. The Punishing Depictions of Animal Cruelty law prohibits the "depiction of animal cruelty with the intention of placing that depiction in interstate or foreign commerce for commercial gain." The HSUS notes that it has contacted legal authorities in Texas, the state where the DVD was produced, about prosecuting the producers under federal law.

Federal Legislation against Animal Fighting

In late 2006 Congress considered, but did not act on, legislation that would strengthen existing animal fighting laws. The Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act (H.R. 817) would make it a federal felony to move fighting animals across state lines to engage in fights, as well as increase the exhibition or sponsoring of such fights from a misdemeanor to a felony if the animals were transported across state lines. The law would also prohibit selling, transporting, buying, or delivery of any instrument (such as knives and blades) used in cockfighting across state or international borders.

TABLE 6.6
Summary of dog fighting laws, by state, 2004
State Dogfighting: on the law books Dogfighting: a felony or a misdemeanor Loophole: possession of dogs for fighting Loophole: being a spectator at a dogfight
aThese states do not have felony or misdemeanor offenses per se, but rather have felony and misdemeanor equivalent penalties.
bA repeated offense can trigger a felony prosecution.
Source: "Dogfighting: State Laws," in Dogfighting: State Laws, Humane Society of the United States, April 2004, http://files.hsus.org/web-files/PDF/dogfighting_statelaws.pdf (accessed January 3, 2007)
Alabama § 3-1-29 Felony Felony Felony
Alaska § 11.61.145 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
Arizona § 13-2910.01 to 02 Felony Felony Felony
Arkansas § 5-62-120 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
California § 597.5 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
Colorado § 18-9-204 Felony Felony Felony
Connecticut § 53-247 Felony Felony Felony
Delaware § 1326 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
Florida § 828.122 Felony Felony Felony
Georgia § 16-12-37 Felony Legal Legal
Hawaii § 711-1109.3 Felony Felony Legal
Idaho § 25-3507 Misdemeanor Legal Misdemeanor
Illinois 510 ILCS 5/26-5 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
Indiana § 35-46-3-4 to 9.5 Felony Misdemeanor Misdemeanor
Iowa § 717D.1 to 6 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
Kansas § 21-4315 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
Kentucky § 525.125 to 130 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
Louisiana 14:102.5 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
Mainea 17 MRS § 1033 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
Maryland Art. 27 § 59 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
Massachusetts Ch. 272 § 94 to 95 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
Michigan § 28.244 Felony Felony Felony
Minnesota § 343.31 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
Mississippi § 97-41-19 Felony Felony Felony
Missouri § 578.025 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
Montana § 45-8-210 Felony Felony Felony
Nebraska § 28-1005 Felony Felony Felony
Nevada § 574.070 Felony Legal Felonyb
New Hampshire § 644:8-a Felony Felony Felony
New Jerseya § 4:22-24 Felony Felony Felony
New Mexico § 30-18-9 Felony Felony Felony
New York Agr & M § 351 Felony Misdemeanor Misdemeanor
North Carolina § 14-362.2 Felony Felony Felony
North Dakota § 36-21.1-07 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
Ohio § 955.15 to 16 Felony Felony Felony
Oklahoma 21 § 1694 to 1699.1 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
Oregon § 167.365 Felony Felony Felony
Pennsylvania 18 Pa.C.S.§ 5511 Felony Felony Felony
Rhode Island § 4-1-9 to 13 Felony Felony Felony
South Carolina § 16-27-10 to 80 Felony Felony Felonyb
South Dakota § 40-1-9 to 10.1 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
Tennessee § 39-14-203 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
Texas § 42.10 Felony Misdemeanor Misdemeanor
Utah § 76-9-301.1 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
Vermont 13 VSA § 352 Felony Felony Felony
Virginia § 3.1-796.124 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
Washington § 16.52.117 Felony Misdemeanor Misdemeanor
West Virginia § 61-8-19 to 19a Felony Misdemeanor Misdemeanor
Wisconsin § 951.08 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
Wyoming § 6-3-203 Misdemeanor Misdemeanor Misdemeanor
50 Illegal 48 Felony 41 Felony 20 Felony
0 Legal 2 Misdemeanor 6 Misdemeanor 28 Misdemeanor
3 Legal 2 Legal
Washington, DC Ch. 106 Felony Felony Misdemeanor
American Samoa Legal Legal Legal Legal
Guam § 34205 Violation Legal Legal
Puerto Rico 15 LPRA § 235 Felony Legal Misdemeanor
Virgin Islands 19 VIC § 2613a Felony Felony Felony

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