Dog fighting is 'rife' across Devon despite being illegal for 200 years, shocking RSPCA report shows

Dog fighting has been illegal for almost 200 years according to the RSPCA. Credit: PA Images

The RSPCA has said counties in the South West - particularly Devon - are hotspots for dog fighting and the figures are growing, according to RSPCA figures.

Despite the pandemic lockdowns, 77 cases of dog fighting have been tackled by the RSPCA in the west of England since 2019, with 22 occuring in Devon.

RSPCA dog fighting expert and Special Operations Unit (SOU) chief inspector Ian Muttitt said: “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.”

Dog fighting was outlawed in England in 1835 but still goes on today. For the last four decades the RSPCA’s SOU have been investigating reports, rescuing dogs and prosecuting perpetrators.

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

In total the RSPCA’s SOU have investigated 1,156 incidents of dog fighting across England and Wales since 2019.

The north of England has been revealed as the worst region between 2019-2023, with the South of England (224 investigations), the Midlands (212 investigations), the East of England (98 investigations) and the West (77 investigations) following closely behind. 

Ian said: “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 and treated well, but those who refuse to fight or lose are often abandoned or killed. 

Overall the crime 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.

The charity has dealt with 155 incidents this so far this year but there are concerns these numbers will rise.

The RSPCA are urging the public to be their eyes and ears and to report anything suspicious to them.

Anyone who is concerned about the welfare of an animal or suspects dog fighting may be taking place should call the RSPCA animal cruelty line on 0300 1234 999. They are being asked not to approach people themselves.