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The role of social media in promoting organised dog fighting

02 October 2021
11 mins read
Volume 12 · Issue 8



Organised dog fighting is a criminal activity in most developed countries. However, despite this, its occurrence continues. As with many underground activities, social media is likely to play a critical role in promoting organised dog fighting.


The study aim was to review video content on three social media platforms to look for evidence of organised dog fighting.


A content review of three social media platforms (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram) was conducted. Videos suggestive of organised dog fighting were categorised as: i) fights involving physical contact; ii) intimidation; iii) promotion of dog fights and iv) hypothetical ‘match-ups’. Information collected included video information (title, author, date posted, URL), content description (video description, breed description) and popularity of the video (number of likes, views and comments).


Fifty-eight incidents were identified (YouTube: n=27, Instagram: n=18, Facebook: n=13). On YouTube, 17 videos (63.0%) were fights involving physical contact, five (18.5%) were hypothetical ‘match-ups’, four (14.8%) were a promotion of dog fights, and one (3.7%) was a video of images of an organised dog fight. On Facebook and Instagram, all videos were fights involving physical contact. Where breed information was available, the dogs were largely described as pit bulls (YouTube: 51.9%; Instagram: 66.7%). These videos varied in their numbers of views (mean: YouTube: 682 856.0, Instagram: 773.6), comments (mean: YouTube: 319.5, Facebook: 10.3; Instagram: 0.6) and likes (mean: YouTube: 4868.4, Facebook: 434.8).


More vigilance by social media platforms and their users to monitor, remove and report such footage is essential, especially where videos breach animal welfare rules and regulations. Further research into other online platforms or different formats through which dog fighting and/or promotion may occur, and the education of social media users to recognise signs that videos may be promoting organised dog fighting, would be of value.

Dog fighting is defined as ‘an act of combat between two dogs for the entertainment and financial profit of spectators’ (Atkinson, 2008: 12). Organised dog fighting is deemed a criminal activity in the majority of developed countries. Despite this, organised dog fighting continues to occur in many developed (e.g. UK, USA, Italy, Australia, Japan) and less developed (e.g. Afghanistan, Pakistan) countries (At-kinson, 2008; Harding, 2012; Kavesh, 2019). For example, dog fighting is suggested to be widespread in the USA, both currently and in the past (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 2018; ASPCA, 2020), where previous estimates have suggested there are 40 000 active professional dog fighters (Gibson, 2005). In England and Wales, a total of 4855 complaints about organised dog fighting were made to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) between 2006 and 2015, involving 12 213 dogs and 137 prosecuted cases (Lawson, 2017). More than 9000 reports about organised dog fighting were also received by the RSPCA between 2015 and 2020 (RSPCA, 2021). Milroy et al (2018) recently conducted a survey of 264 veterinarians and 159 veterinary nurses in the UK and found that 14.4% of respondents suspected a single or multiple incidents of dog fighting in cases presented to their veterinary practices over a 1-year period. Since dog fighters do not typically bring their dogs in for veterinary treatment for fear of being reported to law enforcement (Touroo and Reisman, 2018), this figure is likely an underestimate of the actual numbers of organised dog fighting.

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