Page last updated at 12:57 GMT, Friday, 20 April 2007 13:57 UK

Cruel practice that refuses to go away

By Chris Summers
BBC News

A man has been jailed for four months after admitting organising dog fights at his home in Birmingham. He was one of several people arrested during a massive RSPCA operation last year.

A still from the video seized from the house
A seized video showed dogs sparring in a room of the house

Dog fighting was banned in 1835 but it remains an enduring practice that refuses to disappear despite the persistence of the RSPCA and the police.

On Friday Adio Clarke, 28, pleaded guilty to ownership of a dog fighting venue, causing dogs to fight, possession of 11 pitbulls and three cases of causing unnecessary suffering.

RSPCA spokesman Chris Pitt said Clarke had turned his terraced house in the Handsworth district of Birmingham into a venue for dog fighting.

"He had turned one room in the house into a ring simply by removing the furniture. There were bloodstains all over the walls," he said.

Sparring bout

When RSPCA inspectors and the police raided the house they found dog training paraphernalia and a video showing two young dogs attacking each other in a sparring bout.

Clarke's 11 pitbulls were handed over to the RSPCA and destroyed.

One of the rescued pitbulls
It satisfies a rather seedy bloodlust among people who often feel disenfranchised and alienated from society
Dr Elie Godsi

The RSPCA said it was impossible to say how many people were involved in dog fighting across the country but Mr Pitt said: "We believe that there has been an increase in dog fighting across the UK since around 2000."

Dog fighting often goes hand in hand with betting but the RSPCA said that in this case there was no evidence that anyone involved was gambling on the outcome of the fights. They were in it simply for "enjoyment".

Clinical psychologist Dr Elie Godsi said dog fighting attracted a certain kind of person.

"It's about power and control and it appeals to people who feel insecure and insignificant and powerless in their own lives so they take it out on creatures less powerful than them by training them to be aggressive," he told the BBC News website.

"It satisfies a rather seedy bloodlust among people who often feel disenfranchised and alienated from society."

Clandestine and illicit

Dr Godsi said they also get a thrill from the clandestine, illicit nature of dog fighting.

Clarke's home was raided in April 2006 following a joint investigation with West Midlands Police, known as Operation Lace.

It was one of the biggest operations ever undertaken by the RSPCA and involved a tenth of its force of inspectors.

A total of 47 dogs were seized across the city and 10 men were arrested.

One of the seized dogs
The dogs had been trained to be aggressive

The dogs were suffering injuries including a dislocated hip, a tumour, and a swollen rib cage from being kicked.

The RSPCA said at the time that the dogs were so dangerous they could not be re-homed.

Chief Inspector Mike Butcher, of the RSPCA's Special Operations Unit, said the sentence meted out to Clarke sent out a signal to other dogfighters.

Mr Butcher said: "The RSPCA will pursue anyone who is fighting dogs. It is obvious to me that this was part of a large dog fighting enterprise."

Since Clarke's arrested a new Animal Welfare Act has been introduced which increases the maximum sentence available from six months to 51 weeks in jail and raises the maximum fine possible from 5,000 to 20,000.

Several men, who have denied involvement in dog fighting, face trials later this year.

Dog-fighting arena owner jailed
20 Apr 07 |  West Midlands

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