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Sunday Special » Kaleidoscope

Posted at: Jun 24, 2018, 12:58 AM; last updated: Jun 24, 2018, 12:58 AM (IST)

It’s a dog’s life

The banned ‘blood sport’ of dog fights, which was once a part of the rural culture, is now spreading its roots in the entire region

Archit Watts in Muktsar

POSTERS of a dog fight, scheduled to be organised in the Moga district, recently went viral on social media drawing attention to how the illegal sport is being held openly. The event could not take place after the Union Minister, Maneka Gandhi, intervened and a case was registered. The organisers, however, remain unidentified.

The barbaric ‘blood sport’ of dog fights, once a part of the rural culture, has quietly spread its roots from Punjab to the National Capital Region, Haryana, parts of UP and Himachal Pradesh. Muktsar, Fazilka, Bathinda, Moga, Ropar and Patiala are its hotbeds. Some villages on the border of Haryana and Rajasthan, too, have become notorious for dog fights. The Surewala village in Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan is said to be the hub of this illegal activity, where almost every house owner breeds these ferocious dogs. Pitbull, bulldog, Pakistani bully, rottweiler and bulter are the main breeds that take part in the competition. Two dogs of the same breed are engaged in the fight. 

“A pitbull is brought to a ring when it turns  one-and-a-half while a bulldog is ready to fight at two years old,” says a dog breeder. 

It’s almost a silent fight as dogs don’t bark much while fighting. Owners often clip ears of the dogs, and even chop off their tails. This is to ensure that the dogs don’t become an easy target during the fight. Many of those who come here to watch the event pay in lakhs to buy these strong dogs. Some of these canines are even imported and cost between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 7 lakh.

Training in terror

These dogs are trained for duels with  ducks and fowls and small animals such as puppies and rabbits. Training regiment for a fighter dog includes making him pull tyres, run on a treadmill, and at times, even swim. The dogs are put through a grilling exercise routine till they are exhausted. They are beating  up, punishing and even starved to test their endurance.

The fights are held in a ring. Its  radius is usually 40 feet. Ropes are used to define the boundary of the ring. Sometimes, tables are tilted  for creating the boundary. Matting is also done. A participant dog has an attendant  inside the ring. The fight usually ends when one of the contestant fails to scratch, dies or jumps out of the ring. At times, the fight lasts for 50 minutes. The dogs, at times, run into spectators  watching the fight, leading to panic. “We know of affluent people who even kill their pets after they lose,” says one of the spectators.

The fight club

“The combats are usually held in secluded and rural areas. Nearly 20 to 25 fights take place turn by turn there. Those who can afford it organise fights at their farmhouses. The dogs are often brought to the ring in cages and pick-up vans. Since the canines are prone to heatstroke, the fights are held during winter,” says a person, who was earlier involved in this illegal activity.

Most fights can be watched free of cost though some charge an entry fee. The fights are often held between 4am and 5am and last for nearly two hours.

Sometimes, these are held at night as well. Special timings are slotted to dodge the police. Lovers of the sport from all over the country visit Punjab and bet on their favourite contenders. The number of spectators usually goes up to 200.

The health of these dogs is taken very seriously. Special care is taken to maintain their calcium and phosphorus levels. A pitbull eats nearly 1 kg raw meat in a day, besides eggs, milk and high protein diet. “The dogs are fed raw meat or chicken so that they develop a taste for blood. During the fight, a dog is not allowed to drink water. Some are even given hormone injections and drugs,” says a dog breeder. 

Let sleeping dogs lie

Planning and organising takes place via social media. The message of time and venue of the fight is circulated on WhatsApp and other social media platforms. The police have failed to check this illegal activity. So much so that animal rights’ activists have often alleged that a nexus exists between the organisers and the police. This despite the fact that in 2014, the Supreme Court had passed an order banning all animal fights. This blood sport attracts provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

The role of police in keeping a check on this illegal activity has always remained under a cloud. For instance, this reporter, too, had informed the police in January that a dogfight was being held in the Lambi area of Muktsar district. The cops from the Lambi police station took nearly an hour to cover a seven-km distance. No arrests could be made and only some vehicles were found parked in a secluded area. In February this year, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh had assured Maneka Gandhi of a detailed inquiry into the growing menace of dog fights and betting in the state yet nothing seems to have been done. 

“Since many influential people are involved, the police rarely takes any action. No arrests have been made in the recent case in Moga despite the fact that the phone numbers of the organisers were displayed on the poster,” said NG Jayasimha, managing director of the Humane Society International (HSI), an animal welfare NGO.

The race to be the best

Like dog fights, dog racing was an integral part of rural fairs like Kila Raipur Games. A race was organised in February this year at the event in Ludhiana district. The organisers, however, face problems in getting permission to organise the event. This time too, the dog race  got clearance from the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) just a day before the event. Further, the National Livestock Championship, which is mostly organised by the state government in Muktsar district, has also removed the dog race event from its list.

For fame’s sake

The betting amount sometimes reaches between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 20 lakh. However, majority of people do it for fame, not money. Dog lovers often bring their female dogs to cross with the winner. “Warrior” dog in Haryana is known as the champion of the area. ‘Sheru’ from the Muktsar area, too, has also established his name in this field. 

“These are very aggressive dogs and people shell out a lot for them. Ferociousness is their quality. Even if the fights cannot be banned, rules should be framed and fights should be held under expert supervision. Dog races should also be allowed. If horse race and betting is allowed, why has the government banned dog fights, dog racing, bullock cart races, which have been part of our rural culture?” says Dr Parminder Singh Channi, Deputy Director (retd), Animal Husbandry Department, Punjab.

So when Diljit Dosanjh’s sings “Rakhe fight nu vi pitbull chaar ni”(Owned four pitbulls for a fight) from his song “Pitbull,” why would the young not visit a dog fights.

Official speak

"We recently received one complaint of such an event being organised in Moga. Immediate action was taken. We have written to Deputy Commissioners and Deputy Directors in all districts to take immediate action if any such complaint comes" Amarjeet Singh, Director, Animal husbandry department, Punjab

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