Is Watching Dog Fights Legal? The Facts You Need to Know


Dog fighting is a cruel blood sport in which two dogs are placed in a fighting pit to viciously attack each other for the entertainment of spectators and the purpose of gambling. It involves training dogs to fight one another as a spectator “sport”. This barbaric activity has a long history, with evidence of dog fights dating back thousands of years to ancient Roman times.

Dogs used for fighting are normally of the pit bull type, and often specifically bred for aggression and stamina. They undergo harsh training and conditioning regimens to maximize their potential for violence in the fighting pit. Handlers use a variety of techniques to encourage attacks, including starving dogs, beating them, and using live bait like cats or other small animals. The fights continue until one or both dogs are too injured to continue. These contests often result in severe injuries, blood loss, prolonged suffering, and death for the dogs forced to participate.

While largely illegal today, dog fighting persists as an underground activity and continues to bring immense animal suffering. However, greater awareness and law enforcement efforts in recent decades have led to progress in curbing this inhumane blood sport.

Legality of Dog Fighting

Dog fighting is illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the United States. The federal Animal Welfare Act makes it unlawful for any person to knowingly sponsor or exhibit an animal in an animal fighting venture. The act also prohibits the buying, selling, delivery or transportation of animals for participation in animal fighting. Violations are felonies and can result in fines of up to $250,000 and up to 5 years in prison (

two pit bulls staring at each other

Additionally, dog fighting is banned in most countries around the world. The World Health Organization classifies dogfighting as a reportable offense. The animal protection organization, World Animal Protection, indicates that dog fighting is illegal in most countries in Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, and Australasia. However, dog fighting remains legal and widely practiced in some Asian and Latin American countries like Japan, Honduras, Peru and Bolivia (

While most developed countries have comprehensive laws banning the practice, enforcement continues to be a challenge. However, the tide is turning and more countries are taking active measures to crack down on dog fighting rings and those involved.

Attending Dog Fights

Attending a dog fight as a spectator is illegal in all 50 states. Montana was the last state to specifically outlaw attendance at dogfights, doing so in 2015 ( Prior to 2015, Montana was the only state that did not have laws prohibiting spectators at dog fights. Now all states recognize attending a dog fight as a criminal activity.

In most states, attending a dogfight is a felony offense. Sentences for spectators generally range from 1-5 years in prison and fines up to $50,000 depending on the state. Several states also add additional penalties if a minor is present at the dogfight. Attending dog fights is considered a severe crime because the presence of spectators fuels the continued underground existence of dogfighting rings and industries. Spectators provide profit, encourage gambling, and advance animal cruelty.

Promoting Dog Fights

Promoting or facilitating dog fights in any way is illegal across the United States. The federal Animal Welfare Act makes it unlawful for any person to knowingly sponsor, participate in, transport animals for participation in, or sell an animal for participation in a dog fight. It also prohibits the use of the postal service or other interstate instrumentality for promoting or furthering a dog fight in the U.S. (

Most states also have laws prohibiting the promotion of dog fighting. For example, in Texas it is illegal to cause a dog to fight with another dog, to train or transport dogs for the purpose of dog fighting, or to allow property under one’s control to be used for dog fighting ( Merely spectating at a dog fight is enough to be charged with promoting the activity in many jurisdictions.

Penalties for promoting dog fights depend on the state but are generally felony charges. In Florida, promoting dogfighting or baiting is a third-degree felony with up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine ( The penalties aim to deter people from participating in any capacity and shut down dog fighting operations.

a pit bull with numerous scars and injuries

Betting on Dog Fights

Betting on dog fights is illegal in all 50 states. Most states have felony laws prohibiting gambling on animal fighting. For example, in Texas it is a felony to make or accept a bet on the outcome of a dog fight, punishable by 2-10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine (source). In California, betting on an animal fight is a felony punishable by 16 months to 3 years in prison (source).

Law enforcement officials indicate that illegal gambling is rampant at dog fights. Thousands of dollars are often wagered on a single match. This profitability makes dog fighting an attractive part of organized crime operations. Betting on dog fights and operating gambling operations around them are felonies in all 50 states because animal cruelty and gambling laws aim to eliminate the financial incentives that fuel these events (source).

Exceptions and Loopholes

There are a few potential exceptions and loopholes when it comes to laws banning dog fights in the United States. The main federal law, the Animal Welfare Act, has been criticized for containing exceptions that essentially allow certain forms of animal fighting to persist. For example, the Act exempts hunting, fishing, and activities where the animal is not transported across state lines.

According to a 2015 law review article, some scholars argue that these exemptions create a legal loophole that enables cruel practices like hog-dog fighting to continue in certain areas [1]. Hog-dog fighting involves pitting dogs against hogs and falls under the hunting exemption in some states.

Additionally, some states have exceptions for activities involving fowl, such as cockfighting. Until recently, cockfighting was legal in U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and Guam with betting on the fights permitted [2]. However, new federal legislation has aimed to close this loophole and ban the practice.

While the main loopholes pertain to certain activities like hog-dog fighting and cockfighting, the laws generally provide no exceptions for dog fighting itself across the United States. Attending, promoting, financing, and transporting dogs for fighting is illegal nationwide under both federal and state laws.


Penalties for organizing, attending, or gambling on dog fights vary by state but are generally felony offenses. Dogfighting itself is a felony offense in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Penalties can include:

Organizing or promoting dog fights: Felony conviction ranging from 1 to 10 years in jail, fines up to $50,000 or more, asset forfeiture, and a felony record. Some states increase penalties if it involves a minor. For example, in Florida it’s a third-degree felony but escalates to a second-degree felony if someone under 16 is involved (source).

Attending a dog fight: Up to 5 years in prison, fines up to $15,000 or more. Some states like Texas include attending dog fights under their dogfighting prohibitions, while others have specific laws against being a spectator. In Florida, attending a dogfight is a third-degree felony (source).

Gambling on dog fights: Felony conviction with possible jail time and fines. For example, in Virginia betting on a dogfight can lead to up to 5 years in prison and fines up to $2,500 (source).

Additionally, assets connected with dogfighting can be seized, including property, vehicles, cash, and the dogs themselves. Upon conviction, individuals may also be prohibited from owning dogs for a period of time.

police officer with a pit bull on a leash

Reporting Dog Fights

If you suspect dog fighting is occurring in your area, it’s important to report it to stop the cruelty and criminal activity. There are several ways to report suspected dog fighting:

Call 911 and report it to the police. Be ready to provide detailed information like the location, date, time, and description of what you witnessed. According to the Humane Society of the United States, “If you suspect animal fighting in your own neighborhood, alert local law enforcement.”

File a report at your local police station. Provide them with any evidence or information you may have about the dog fighting. The more details you can give, the better. As Humane Decisions advises, “Visit your local police department and file a report, or call 9-1-1 and report the cruelty and crime.”

Contact animal control authorities in your area and report your suspicions. They work closely with law enforcement on animal cruelty issues.

person filing an animal cruelty report
Report online if your local humane society or SPCA has an animal cruelty reporting form. Some organizations allow anonymous reporting.

Contact animal welfare organizations involved in fighting dog fighting, such as the ASPCA, to provide information. They work with law enforcement to investigate and build cases.

Efforts to End Dog Fighting

There are many advocacy and law enforcement efforts underway to end the cruel practice of dog fighting. Animal welfare organizations like the ASPCA and Humane Society have campaigns dedicated to raising awareness and pushing for stronger laws against dog fighting. They work to educate the public on identifying and reporting suspected dog fighting operations.

Law enforcement agencies have also prioritized cracking down on dog fighting rings. Multi-agency task forces work to infiltrate and shut down these operations, rescue abused animals, and prosecute offenders. For example, the Los Angeles County Task Force on Animal Cruelty includes the LA County District Attorney’s Office, multiple police departments, animal control, and the ASPCA (1).

Advocacy organizations recommend community members take actions like calling local law enforcement and animal control immediately if they suspect dog fighting activities in their area (2). Detailed tips sheets empower the public to take a stand against this illegal bloodsport.




In summary, dog fighting is illegal throughout most of the United States, with only a couple of exceptions. Attending, hosting, promoting, and betting on dog fights is prohibited in all 50 states. While there are some loopholes in certain states regarding possession and training of fighting dogs, the fights themselves remain completely banned and criminalized. The penalties for being involved with dog fighting range from fines and jail time to felony convictions, depending on the state and severity of the offense.

Laws banning dog fighting aim to prevent the exploitation, abuse, and deaths of countless dogs forced to fight solely for entertainment and gambling purposes. By making the practice illegal and imposing harsh punishments, lawmakers hope to deter people from taking part in this cruel bloodsport. While underground dog fighting still persists, the bans have reduced its prevalence and limited the public’s exposure or temptation to attend such events. Continued enforcement and public advocacy against dog fighting will hopefully end it altogether, and ensure no dogs suffer for such unnecessary violence.

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