The Humane Society of Marion County, Florida

Humane Education

Animal Welfare

What is Animal Cruelty?

Animal cruelty encompasses a range of behaviors harmful to animals, from neglect to malicious killing. Most cases investigated are found to be unintentional neglect that can be resolved through education and support. Intentional cruelty, or abuse, is knowingly depriving an animal of food, water, shelter, socialization, or veterinary care or maliciously torturing, maiming, mutilating, or killing an animal.

Why is it a Concern?

All animal cruelty is a concern because it is wrong to inflict suffering on any living creature. Intentional cruelty is a concern because it is a sign of psychological distress and often indicates that an individual has already experienced violence or may be predisposed to committing acts of violence.

Is there any connection between animal cruelty and human violence?

Absolutely. Many studies in psychology, sociology, and criminology during the last 25 years have demonstrated that violent offenders frequently have a childhood and adolescent history of severe and repeated animal cruelty. The FBI had recognized the connection since the 1970s when its analysis of the lives of serial killers suggested that most had killed or tortured animals as children. Other research has shown consistent patterns of animal cruelty among perpetrators of more common forms of violence, including child abuse, spouse abuse, and elder abuse. The American Psychiatric Association considers animal cruelty one of the diagnostic criteria of conduct disorder.

Why would anyone be cruel to animals?

There can be many reasons. Like any other form of violence, animal cruelty is often committed by a person who feels powerless, unnoticed, and under the control of others. The motive may be to shock, threaten, intimidate, or offend others or demonstrate rejection of society’s rules. Some who are cruel to animals copy things they have seen or done to them. Others see harming an animal as a safe way to get revenge on someone who cares about that animal.


You are the eyes and ears of animals being abused. Some are tied out with no shelter, food or water, and sometimes left abandoned to die. Dogs that are tied out or confined in a pen require a dog house. Livestock requires shade trees.

The Culture of Dog-Fighting

A Culture of Crime

Originating in the Roman coliseums, sanctioned by the aristocracy, embraced by medieval gentry, and promoted throughout Colonial and Victorian times, dogfighting is a sadistic contest staged solely for the spectators’ entertainment and profit. Make no mistake: This “sport,” outlawed in the United States since the 1860s, is, in fact, a felony crime. The secretive, clandestine nature of dogfighting and its relationship to other crimes and community violence have become increasingly difficult to ignore. It is estimated that no less than 40,000 dogfighters in the United States are operating on local, national, and even international levels. The vast majority are involved in organized crime, racketeering, drug use and distribution, gang activity, and violence against humans. To maintain and grow the “sport,” professional fighters breed generations of skilled “game dogs” and command enormous stud fees for champions. They even publish trade journals and websites for dogfighting “enthusiasts” that provide information on the winners and losers of recent fights and advertisements for training equipment and puppies. One of these journals alone circulates over 10,000 copies worldwide. The essential logistics of a dogfight practically guarantee the presence of criminal elements. The fights are generally set in remote or abandoned barns, garages, or warehouses. Refreshments, entertainment, and gambling are provided as a carnival-like backdrop for the bloody main event. Drug dealers distribute their illicit merchandise, wagers are made, weapons are present but concealed, and the dogs mutilate each other in a bloody frenzy as crowds cheer on. Gambling intrinsic to dogfights magnifies the already violent atmosphere, so it is common for human violence to break out among the usually armed gamblers as betting debts are collected and paid. Those involved in dogfighting go to great lengths to avoid detection by law enforcement. Although incidents of ad-hoc street fighting are increasing, dog-fighting is rarely a spur-of-the-moment act; it is deliberate and cruel practice.

A Culture of Cruelty
The methods used to train a dog for “gameness” may vary, but there is little doubt about its inhumanity. Depending on the level and experience of the dogfighter/owner, “training” typically includes:

  1. Heavy chains are wrapped around the dogs’ necks to build neck and upper body strength.
  2. Additional weights were added to the chains and dangled from the dogs’ necks.
  3. Treadmills are used to increase endurance.
  4. Smaller “bait” animals are restrained or confined to an area and chased and mauled by the dogs. Once the exercise sessions are over, the dogs are usually rewarded with the bait. These “bait” animals are typically stolen pets or animals obtained through “free to good home” advertisements.

To round out the training, dogs are pitted against more muscular, more experienced dogs to test their “gameness” and resolve in the face of exhaustion and impending defeat. If the dog passes this test, it is considered ready to fight. Once in the fighting ring, both combatants are not uncommon to be critically wounded, often with massive bleeding, ruptured lungs, broken bones, and other life-threatening injuries. Generally, the loser of a match dies from injuries or is killed. When dogs are killed after a game, it is not done by humane euthanasia methods. Typically the animals are shot, beaten, or tortured. Those who survive the match generally never see a veterinarian, regardless of the extent of injuries. Countless dogs die of blood loss, shock, dehydration, exhaustion, infection hours or even days after the fight. Fight dogs are often neglected and abused from the outset, spending their lives alone on chains or in cages. They only know the attention of a human when they are being trained to fight, and they only see the company of other animals in the context of being introduced to kill them. To say that dog-fighting is a profound form of animal abuse and cruelty would be an understatement.

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