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Frequently Asked Questions: Dogfighting

Is Dogfighting Illegal?
Yes, dogfighting is a felony in every state and a federal felony.

Is being a spectator at a dog fight a crime?

Yes. California Penal Code section 597.5(b) makes it a crime to knowingly be present at a dog fight as a spectator OR to knowingly be present in a place where preparations for a fight are being made. The penalty is up to one year in county jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

Is dog fighting a felony?

Someone Someone can be charged with felony dog fighting if they do any of the following:

    * Owns;
    * Possesses;
    * Keeps;
    * Trains any dog with the intent that the dog will be used in a dog fight;
    * Allows any of the above to be done on any premises under his/her charge or control; or
    * Aids or abets any of the above.

California Penal Code section 597.5 is a felony. It carries a penalty of up to three years in state prison, a fine of up to $50,000, or both.
Additional criminal charges could be for intentional cruelty, animal neglect (e.g.: in instances where dogs have been injured in a fight and not taken for medical treatment or where any of the dogs at the scene are simply neglected (untreated skin conditions, underweight, ear infections, severe flea infestation, etc.). It is also possible to charge for Practicing Veterinary Medicine Without a License.

How Does Dogfighting Affect People?

Dogfighting not only hurts animals but also endangers a community’s safety.  Illegal drugs and firearms are commonly found at the scene of animal fighting events.  Young children brought to matches are desensitized to violence and taught that cruelty is acceptable. Evidence shows that those who commit dog fighting crimes and other forms of animal abuse are more likely to be violent toward people.

What Happens in a Dogfight?

Dogs, usually pit bulls, are bred and trained to fight each other to the death or until one dog can’t continue – all for the amusement of spectators and the profits from high-stakes gambling.  Fights can last for hours, as the dogs are trained to continue even after suffering serious wounds.  Dogs who can’t fight are abandoned or mercilessly killed by electrocution or gunshot.

Does My Community Have Dogfighting?

Dogfighting is pervasive and can take place in any community.  Some signs include:

  • A large number of pit bulls held in one location, especially multiple dogs who are chained and seem un-socialized
  • Dogs with scars on their faces, front legs, hind ends and thighs
  • Dogfighting training equipment such as treadmills and tires hanging from trees
  • Many people visit a location at odd hours

What Can You Do?

  • If you see any suspicious activity related to animal abuse of dog fighting, report it to the local law enforcement.
  •  If you witness a dogfight in progress, call the police immediately.
  • If you suspect dogfighting in your neighborhood, call the Humane Society of the United States tip line at 1-877-TIP-HSUS   1-877-847-4787. HSUS will pay YOU up to $5,000 for information leading to arrest and conviction of a dog fighter
  • Callers wishing to remain anonymous may also call: WE – TIP at 1-800-78-CRIME (1-800-782-7463). WE-TIP will up to $1,000 Reward.


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It is the mission of the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office to represent the interests of the people in the criminal justice system, as mandated by California State law. The San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office serves the residents of San Bernardino County by: seeking the truth, protecting the innocent; holding the guilty accountable; preserving the dignity of victims and their families; and, ensuring that justice is done while always maintaining the highest ethical standards.

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