Concerns over possible dog-fighting gangs secretly operating in the Boston and South Holland area have been raised by an animal charity.
The Lincolnshire charity, which did not want to be named, contacted The Standard with their concerns after taking in a dog which had been used in dog-fighting.
The cruel activity sees groups goading dogs to fight for ‘entertainment’. The animals are left with horrendous injuries, with some losing dogs being killed by the owner.
The charity said the dog now in their care had been kept for use as a ‘bait dog’ - chained up for a training fighter dog to attack.
A spokesman said: “It’s a horrendously cruel activity. They are usually staffy-type dogs used for fighting - but bait dogs can be any breed. Often dogfighters will pick a friendly, placid dog that won’t fight back.”
People are being warned not to advertise their dogs as ‘free to a good home’ – as dog-fighters could be trawling the internet and free ads to pick up dogs to use in fights.
Shelley Wooding from Jerry Green Dog Rescue, said: “We strongly advise people not to sell their dog through local advertising or on the internet. Using a reputable dog rescue charity means any dogs that need rehoming are treated properly and matched with the best possible new owner.”
Jenni John from the Algarkirk rescue centre added: “We want dog owners to be extra vigilant about this, especially with dog thefts being on the increase.”
She also warned for people to report any suspicious-looking vans picking up strays, adding: “The official dog warden would have a well-signed van, but if anyone has any doubts they should report it to the police and council straight away.”
A spokesman for the League Against Cruel Sports told The Standard: “It’s a problem up and down the country and it’s on the increase. From lads with status dogs to huge underground dog-fighting gangs connected to organised crime – it’s a big problem.”
Dogfighting was outlawed in 1835 and any involvement in the cruel sport carries a fine of up to £20,000 and up to 51 weeks in prison.
Lincolnshire Police wildlife crime officer PC Dave Brennan said: “This is an abhorrent crime against animals and the courts are now taking an extreme view of the offences and deal with them stringently. The offences can be easily proven and there is rarely a defence.”
“Quite often the perpetrators will train their dogs on treadmills so they are not seen in public. The dogs are rarely taken to the vets as this would arouse suspicion. The owners of the dogs will often treat their own animals.”
Some even inject their dogs with steroids and train them by goading them to attack tree trunks, stripping off the bark to strenghten their jaws. Dog walkers are asked to be vigilent of trees damaged this way - and of suspicious groups congregating in barns, warehouses, industrial units and disused buildings.
PC Brennan said: “This is certainly an underworld type offence and it wont be publicised locally. The advertising will likely be done on internet forums, via phone, or word-of-mouth. It is thankfully a rare occurence in Lincolnshire although we do get incidents crop up on the odd occasion. These will be dealt with robustly.”
To report dogfighting call the police by dialling 101 or the League Against Cruel Sport’s confidential number 01483 361108.