The RSPCA has warned that dog fighting is once again on the rise in England and Wales, and released a list of hotspots where incidents take place.

Despite the pandemic lockdowns, 1,156 cases of dog fighting have been tackled by the RSPCA since 2019. 

The RSPCA recently launched its Cancel Out Cruelty Campaign, to raise funds to help its frontline rescue teams continue to save animals from cruelty and abuse and to raise awareness about how to stop cruelty to animals for good.

RSPCA dog fighting expert and Special Operations Unit (SOU) chief inspector Ian Muttitt said: "Sadly we're back seeing pre-pandemic levels of dog fighting incidents.

"An average of 19 incidents were being investigated every month in 2019 and that has risen to a shocking 31 a month so far this year.

"Our figures show that in the past four years, the RSPCA has uncovered and dealt with 1,156 incidents of dog fighting in England and Wales. The north of England is the worst region for it, with 42% of the incidents occurring there. 

"It's staggering that something which has been illegal for almost 200 years, which most people would consider consigned to history, is still so rife."

"Each year, these reports of cruelty reach its terrible annual peak in the summer months." Ian continued. "Around this time of year nationally we receive a report of an animal being beaten on average every hour of every day. 

"We don't know why reports of animal cruelty peak in the summer months although things like animal abuse being more visible as people are outdoors more and the cost of living crisis could be major factors.

"Dog fighting, which is connected to organised crime, is just one of the many acts of cruelty we see every year. The RSPCA is the only charity rescuing animals and investigating cruelty in England and Wales with a team of frontline rescue officers, specialist vet teams and a network of animal care centres and branches working tirelessly to save animals and provide rehabilitation to animal victims.

"Together, we believe we can and will cancel out cruelty to animals by replacing violence with kindness. We're urging people to donate to our Cancel Out Cruelty campaign, every donation will help animals."

Dog fighting was outlawed in England and Wales in 1835 but still goes on today. 

Sadly, many of the dogs used by dog fighters are never found and those who are rescued are often identified as banned breeds under the Dangerous Dogs Act and cannot legally be rehomed. 

The top 5 hotspot counties in England between 2019-2023 are:

  • London has been revealed as the worst hotspot for dog fighting with 91 incidents
  • Greater Manchester (82 investigations)
  • West Yorkshire (69 investigations)
  • West Midlands (59 incidents)
  • Lancashire (56) follows closely behind. 

Ian said: "These five areas are the worst hotspots for dog fighting across England and Wales. The dog fighting world is a dark and secretive place. It could be happening in an inner-city warehouse next door to your office or on a rural farm in your quiet village. 

"Signs of dog fighting can vary but if you notice a dog with lots of scars on its face, front legs, hind legs and thighs, or with puncture wounds and mangled ears - this could be a sign of dog fighting and should be reported to the RSPCA or the police. Other suspicious activity includes dogs being hidden away in outbuildings or kennels of sight and not exercised in public.

"Dogs who win fights are prized but those who refuse to fight or lose are often abandoned or barbarically killed. 

"Overall dog fighting in England and Wales has increased since 2019, jumping from a total number of 232 incidents investigated by the RSPCA in 2019 to 355 in 2022. We've dealt with 155 incidents this year, but we're only six months into the year, so we're concerned we will see this number steadily rise."

The RSPCA is urging the public to be their eyes and ears and to report anything suspicious to them. Anyone who's concerned about the welfare of an animal or suspects dog fighting may be taking place should visit our website to find out how to report cruelty.