IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM AND DEVELOPING LEGAL INITIATIVES TO REDUCE ITS EFFECTS
The illegal activities most often linked to organized crime do not immediately suggest crimes such as dogfighting as the most serious of crimes conducted by such groups; however, dogfighting is not only a seriously dangerous operation, but it is associated with a variety of peripheral crimes that serve to supplement the malevolent nature of organized crime. Dogfighting is not limited to the brutal contests between vicious canines, but raises various issues related to the individuals who manage the dogfight itself, the spectators, trainers, and gamblers. Members of organized criminal groups, such as gangs, often engage in dogfighting, and the vicious fights often act as a facilitator to the group’s many criminal activities. For these reasons, it is important to examine the issue of dogfighting as an extensive problem linked to organized crime that affects all levels of criminal behavior—both on a state and federal level. This paper will begin its focus with the origins of dogfighting, its increased domestic and international popularity, its sociological implications and link to organized crime, and will move to explore the legality of dogfighting, including associated crimes, its state and federal legislation concerning dogfighting, and suggestions of more effective enforcement efforts to address the problem in the United States. The main initiative of this article is to identify how organized crime is affected by dogfighting and the legal status of the practice, in order to develop better policies to help reduce and eliminate the serious effects of this blood sport. By first becoming aware of the scope and gravity of this crime, we can begin to grasp how serious a problem dogfighting is and create and implement policies to address it.
II. HISTORY OF DOGFIGHTING
While there has been increased awareness of the pervasive problem of dogfighting in the recent times, the practice can be traced back to nineteenth century England, in which dogfighting became popular as a result of a prohibition on animal baiting.1 Baiting was a medieval practice in which dogs were forced to fight other animals, including bears and bulls, but it was ultimately outlawed in England by Parliament’s passing of the Humane Act of 1835.2 A result of this ban on baiting, people began to pit dogs against one another, and the practice became very popular in England as well as in the United States.3 Breeders in the United States began to crossbreed “the British lines” of bulldogs and terriers in order to maximize the aggressiveness of the fighting dogs.4 Even though the sport was becoming increasingly popular among the public, legislators recognized its cruel nature, and by the 1860s, dogfighting had become banned by predominate number of states across the country.5 Despite many states proscribing dogfighting, it continued to be supported by various public officials, including police officers and certain political figures.6 This support allowed the sport to flourish throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, with even prominent, high profile groups, such as the United Kennel Club, advocating and creating rules, providing referees, and an organizational framework for the game.7 However, as society grew more concerned of the immoral and inhumane nature of dogfighting, by the 1940s many people spoke out against it, and these prominent officials and groups disassociated themselves with the activity.8
By 1976, every state had passed statutes outlawing dogfighting; nevertheless, this did not effectively address the problem, as the enforcement of such laws was still not consistent, nor successful.9 As dogfighting became pushed underground, various secondary crimes—such as gambling and drug trafficking increased accordingly.10 Furthermore, despite its illegalization, dogfighting continued to thrive in the…