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National Council raises concerns on dog fights

The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) says they are opposed to pitbull events. This comes after TygerBurger’s article (“Seeing the positives in pitbulls,” 27/2).

Inspector Nadia Hansa of the NSPCA says they are opposed to these events because there are significant welfare concerns in both the activities and training for events at pitbull shows.

“The show events are extreme and push the dogs to their limits. In our experience the owners of the dogs are competitive and adopt a win at all costs attitude,” she says.

According to Hansa, the NSPCA has been monitoring pitbull shows around the country for over four years and continue to have ongoing concerns. Pitbull owners should know that many events are extreme and can cause injury to the dogs.

“The long hang event puts pressure on the dog’s teeth which often lead to broken teeth which in turn leads to infections and pain.” Hansa says the dog’s behaviour is also affected as the events often rely on stimulating the dog’s prey drive making them less reliable around other animals.

“While pitbulls are often bred to be animal aggressive, the shows usually have a high concentration of poorly socialised dogs, which can affect the behaviour of well socialised pitbulls.”

Hansa says the public should know that while the show events are legal, it does not encourage responsible pet ownership.

“Dog fighting and pitbull shows are by no means mutually exclusive and these shows are often used by dog fighters as a meeting place and a cover,” she says.

Hansa says because of the potential for cruelty, the SPCA doesn’t support any competitive animal sports, however they encourage people to interact with and have fun with their dogs which is conducive to the dog’s welfare.

She says although owners often take their dogs to socialise at these events, the dogs are not allowed to socialise because they are mostly animal aggressive. “It is standard show practice to have dogs secured on a lead, collar and backup choke chain. This is not in any way socialisation.”

Hansa says the most questionable training technique is the abusive use of the choke chain while training for weight pulling events. “The dogs pull the cart by being dragged by a choke chain forcing them to learn to either pull the cart or suffer the pain of being choked. This causes dogs to be frantic and panicked whilst pulling the cart.”

The NSPCA has also come across evidence of dogs being trained for long hang with live bait in the form of chickens or wild birds trapped and placed in a small cage above the equipment to stimulate the dog’s prey drive.

“I have also witnessed trainers encouraging their friends to hang the dog by the choke chain whenever the dog lets go of the long hang conveyor belt to teach the dog not to let go,” she says.

Hansa says dogs are not allowed to be chained at these events because the NSPCA is opposed to this. “Chaining does not allow a dog to exhibit natural behaviours and tends to increase aggression in dogs. However, most of these dogs are kept chained at home as they are animal aggressive which is another concern.”

Hansa says pitbulls can compete in any other discipline like any other dog which includes, obedience, agility and flyball. She says these show events are far more extreme on the dog’s physical capabilities and in her experience, the skill level of the handlers is often far lower, which leads to a greater level of abuse.

Hansa says pitbulls benefit from early socialisation and are very responsive to learning obedience through force free training.

She says by training and socialising their dog’s, pitbull owners can control situations better. Pitbulls, like other dogs need to be kept in a way that meets the five freedoms of animal welfare:

.Freedom from hunger and thirst by ready access to fresh water and diet.

.Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.

.Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.

.Freedom to express normal behaviour by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.

.Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

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