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Earlier this year, a 2-year old Kelpie-cross was found lying next to a busy road in Western Sydney. Her muzzle was taped shut, she had deep wounds across her body, no collar and no microchip. She was thought to be a victim of dogfighting - an illegal bloodsport still occurring across Australia. But how prevalent is dog fighting and what can you do to help?

Find out more about dog fighting in Australia and how you can make a difference.

Shocked, starving, scared: Australia's dog fighting rings

Earlier this year, a 2-year old Kelpie-cross was found lying next to a busy road in Western Sydney. Her muzzle was taped shut, she had deep wounds across her body, no collar and no microchip. While passers-by did their best to get her to the vet, she died in agony on the way (1).

Immediately, speculation was rife. Was she another victim of dog fighting - a cruel blood sport known to occur behind closed doors across Australia? Reports provided to Emma Hurst MP and the Animal Welfare League suggested she was, but with dog fighting illegal under NSW law, how was this cruelty still occurring in our communities?

What is dog fighting?

Dog fighting is the practice of pitting one dog against another for entertainment and betting purposes, usually to the point of death. Fighting dogs are often a type of Staffordshire Terrier or Pitbull Terrier. They are cruelly trained  and kept to make them aggressive for the purpose of fighting (2).



History of dog fighting

Dog fighting has a long history. When the Romans invaded England in 43AD, both sides had fighting dogs for use in war. Dogs were cross-bred and used for entertainment back in Rome’s Colosseum where they were made to fight against elephants, lions and all manner of animals (3).

In medieval England, dogs were pitted against chained bulls or bears in fighting rings for entertainment. This continued right up to the 19th century when dog fighting, and bull and bear ‘baiting’ were banned. Although illegal, it was more difficult to enforce the ban on dog-on-dog fighting as a purpose-built ring was not required, and the sport flourished. Dogs were also brought to the US in the 19th century, and a culture of dog fighting took off there (4).   

Today, whilst dog fighting is outlawed in most countries including all states and territories in Australia (5), it continues to be widely practiced either openly or secretly in parts of the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Asia (6).

Dog fighting in Australia

In Australia, it’s estimated there are at least 150 illegal dog fighting rings (7), with reports of stings on illegal dog fighting occurring multiple times each year.

Here in NSW dog fighting rings have been exposed in the Hunter Valley - where participants would use generators to power lights and set up temporary fencing to create a fighting ring in remote bush locations around Oyster Cove, near Anna Bay (8) - and Sydney (9).

More recently exposés of South Australian, Queensland and national dog fighting rings - where puppies were slaughtered if they didn’t ‘make the cut’ - have shown that dog fighting is a brutal and growing problem in Australia (10).

Cruelty and suffering to dogs

Dogs kept for fighting are chained, beaten and deprived of food and water to make them aggressive. Weights can be placed around their necks to build up their muscular strength or they might have electric shock collars forced on them. They are coerced to run on treadmills for exercise, and can be injected with steroids or cocaine to ‘improve’ their performance (11).

Owners might cut off the tails or ears of dogs at home to prevent other dogs latching on to them during fights. This also means the dogs’ fear is not visible in the form of twitching ears or tails raised or sunk between their legs (12).

Fights might be set up in basements or warehouses in cities, or in remote properties or fighting pits in the bush (13). Big money changes hands as gambling takes place during fights and the stakes for owners are high (14). Dogs often fight until the death, or there is serious injury.

Owners will deny animals veterinary care for their injuries or administer it themselves using crude equipment.  A South Australian man who was charged over organised dog fighting and sentenced to 7 months’ gaol, was found to have prescription drugs, local anaesthetic and a staple gun in his home, thought to be for treatment of his dogs’ injuries (15).



Societal consequences of dog fighting

The problem of dog fighting decimates the lives of dogs and impacts the broader community. Dog fighting is associated with illegal drugs trade, weapons trade and child pornography. In the US, many notable cases against dogfighting have come about due to investigations into the drugs trade (16).

For these reasons, it is particularly difficult to investigate dog fighting and people are generally reluctant to come forward to report suspicions.

Dogs can also be stolen from loving homes to be taken into dog fighting or smaller dogs or cats can be used as ‘bait’ for training of fighting dogs (17, 18).

People can unknowingly support dog fighters by giving away animals. In Queensland, a dog owner unable to care for her puppy gave her away for free on social media. A couple of weeks later the puppy was dumped at an animal shelter with serious facial injuries, consistent with being used as a bait dog to train fighting dogs (19).

Research in the United States also finds that children can be made to witness vicious dog fights at an early age and grow up conditioned to such violence, increasing the risk of engagement in criminal activity (20).

What you can do

Dog fighting is a longstanding and cruel practice, but there are ways to help eliminate it.

Report any suspicions of dog fighting to the NSW Police, Animal Welfare League or RSPCA Inspectorate. Possible signs of dogs kept for dog fighting could include dogs with cropped ears, multiple scars or kept on heavy chains.

Do not give away any animals for free. You could unknowingly be giving away your animal to a life of suffering in dog fighting or as a bait animal. If you find yourself in the situation where you cannot care for animals, it is always best to contact a respected animal shelter for information and advice.

Encourage classified advertisement websites to update their policies to ban ads offering free dogs or cats.

Oppose all forms of animals in entertainment. Whether it’s rodeos, circuses, dolphinariums or other forms of using animals to entertain us, animals should be respected for their own sake and allowed to perform their natural behaviours.

And finally, help us make a difference by joining the Animal Justice Party NSW, and be part of a growing political force that is fighting for animals.

Written by: Jacqui Mills


  1. Disgusting’: Fears of illegal dog fighting rings in Sydney’s West, Penrith Press, 17 July 2020, 
  2. Sydney veterinary emergency and specialists, Dog fighting in Australia is a real threat,
  3. A history of dog fighting, NPR, 19 July 2007,,years%20of%20warfare%20that%20followed.
  4. Gibson, H, Detailed discussion of dog fighting, Animal Legal and Historical Center, 2005,
  5. Is dog fighting legal in Australia? RSPCA Knowledge Base,
  6. A history of dog fighting, NPR.
  7. Sydney veterinary emergency and specialists, Dog fighting in Australia is a real threat.
  8. Anti-dog-fighting campaigner reveals what goes on inside underground dog-fighting rings,, 2 July 2014,
  9. Dog fighting enterprise busted after man who culled pitbull puppies jailed, 7 News, 20 November 2019,
  10. Dog fighting enterprise busted after man who culled pitbull puppies jailed, 7 News.
  11. Gibson, H, Detailed discussion of dog fighting.
  12. A closer look at dog fighting, ASPCA,
  13. Page, D, Underground dog-fighting ring operating in Port Stephens, Newcastle Herald, 1 July 2014,
  14. Cunningham, R, Australia’s hidden dogfighting problem, Humane Society International Australia, 25 July 2019,
  15. Dog fight organiser found with electric shock collars jailed for ‘abhorrent’ acts of cruelty, ABC News, 17 April 2018,
  16. Cunningham, R, Australia’s hidden dogfighting problem.
  17. Fears family pet taken for dogfighting, Newcastle Herald, 19 January 2015,
  18. Sydney veterinary emergency and specialists, Dog fighting in Australia is a real threat.
  19. Puppy’s fate leads to social media warning, SBS News, 19 July 2018,
  20. Gibson, H, Detailed discussion of dog fighting.


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