Mirroring a report by ABC News on July 19, ‘Fatal Dog Fights on Rise,’’ the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) reports on July 20 that Casual (Street) Dog Fighting, called “Rolling” is becoming an increasing problem in Ireland.

The discovery last week of an English Bull Terrier (later named Garth) lying by the edge of a park with severe bite wounds on his face, throat and body, apparently the result of a dog fight, heightened the urgency of the ISPCA’s appeal to owners of, especially, any type of Pit Bull, to assure the security and safety of their dogs. 

The two reports from areas thousands of miles apart agree that many of the dogs abducted for street fighting appear to be stolen or abandoned pets.

The ISPCA’s Conor Dowling told TheJournal.ie that Garth’s case is not an isolated one, and explained that there are two forms of dog fighting—organized and impromptu street fights, called “Rolling, with the second becoming a serious problem.

The term “rolling” is used by traditional dog fighters for a test fight—usually between two young dogs or a young dog against a more experienced opponent for a very short period, carefully monitored and stopped before injury occurs. The purpose is to evaluate the potential fighting skills, style and ‘gameness’ (drive to win) at the earliest possible age and decide how much time and training should be invested in the dog.

“Rolling” as casual/street fighting has an entirely different meaning--it is often a fight to death between two dogs badly mismatched in experience, size, weight and age.

Dowling explained that, although all dog fighting is illegal, organized fighting is more closely linked to the criminal community, where the clandestine blood sport events have certain regulations; such as weight classes and rules, which at least provides some opportunity for the animals involved to have a chance to survive.

“But what we’re seeing is people just putting two dogs together that they think will fight. It’s called street fighting or rolling,” he told TheJournal.i.e. “It’s a problem in built-up urban areas and is often linked to gangs. It is used to increase the macho image of someone and has been used to settle gang fights, rather than having two people fight,” Dowling explained.

The ABC report also discusses the same ugly issue of street fighting dogs on the rise, describing that, “There are two main types of dog fighters — street fighters who walk around with their dog looking for impromptu fights and “dog men” who stage fights similar to professional boxing matches.”

There is an addictive element for those who choose to watch dogs fight, often for hours in painful bloody matches.  ABC reports that the attraction crosses all ethnic lines, but the dog of choice is the Pit Bull, which has been bred for centuries to carry the genetics of “gameness,” meaning that it will continue to fight through excruciating pain and to death, because of its desire to win and its loyalty to the master who lingers nearby, crouching over it during its dying breath, urging it to get up and fight more.

However, especially in street fights--where the owner may have recently acquired the dog to provide an opportunity to challenge a rival gang member--when a dog loses it is considered a personal act of disrespect and betrayal. The losing dog fighter either dumps the critically wounded animal to die--often in a visible location--or frequently sets it on fire to burn to death in a public place as a symbol of his disdain and to distance himself from any connection to a loser.

ABC’s Amy Collins depicts how, “The street fighters are the ones most likely to torment, assault and terrorize the dogs to make them mean.”

This separates them in style (not in ruthlessness or brutality) from the traditional ‘dog men,’ who breed certain blood lines known to have the physical characteristics and genetic dog aggression to become champions (winning at least 3 consecutive staged dog fights) and who consider dog fighting a business and the dogs an investment that can win them thousands of gambling dollars per match or per mating.

The ISPCA, however, emphasizes that “the impromptu nature of rolling doesn’t lessen the impact and damage on the dog.”

Conor Dowling also states, “There is certainly anecdotal evidence that people see what they think is a violent dog and steal them.”


Pit bulls fill more than half the spaces in almost any public, and many private, animal shelters in America and are increasingly the most frequent breed relinquished to open-entry facilities—those accepting all unwanted pets.

It would be reasonably expected that animal shelter managers and those who purport to “rescue” this type of dog would be current on the reported trends in treatment of the breed and rise in any form of dog fighting (especially using stolen or otherwise acquired pit bulls in casual/street fights.)

We would also expect these managers to use an abundance of caution regarding the homes in which Pit Bulls are placed, to assure humane treatment, and that a meaningful investment would be required from adopters to indicate commitment to the care and safety of the animal and preventing it from escaping into the streets.   

Yet, at its July 22 meeting, the Los Angeles Board of Animal Services Commissioners’ agenda contains an item proposed by General Manager Brenda Barnette to approve “Use of Petrie Grant for $100 for Adoption of Pit Bulls…over five (5) years of age.” (This is the only item on the agenda that does not provide a board report, but a staff member indicated that this means $100 would be deducted from the adoption fee.) 

The LAAS Petfinder’s site states, “The maximum cost for a Los Angeles City resident to adopt a dog is $122. “ Thus, can we safely assume that under Brenda Barnette’s proposal the maximum cost to take a mature Pit Bull (impossible to tell exact age of a dog without papers from owner) is $22?  That probably is less than the cost of gas to locate one to steal from a yard!

This is the same General Manager who adamantly opposed a motion by a former Commissioner to create a special mandate for spaying and neutering Pit Bulls n Los Angeles because of their statistically high impound rate.

GM Brenda Barnette also attempted to institute a policy of allowing pregnant dogs to have puppies in the shelter so that they could be sold to pet shops. Councilman Paul Koretz (who was on the panel that chose Barnette as “best qualified” for her current position). sent a representative to advise the Commission of his opposition to this proposal.

Koretz,  Chairman of the City Council’s Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee, (formed to usurp oversight of LAAS from the Public Safety Committee) has increasingly found himself cleaning up Barnette’s poor decisions. 

Let’s hope the Commission wisely turns down the request by Brenda Barnette to make Pit Bulls a “steal” from Los Angeles city shelters.  If they don’t, Los Angeles dog lovers must ask Councilman Paul Koretz to show his compassion for the plight of these animals that could fall into the hands of dog fighters or others who enjoy their pain, and again tell GM Brenda Barnette, “NO!”                                   

Sources: The Journal, ABC, Pet Finder