The number of brutal illegal dog fights are increasing in Derbyshire, according to new RSPCA statistics.
The figures show 131 reports of illegal dog fights in the county from 2015 to 2018.
There were 29 incidents in 2015, 34 in 2016, 33 in 2017, 35 in 2018.
Across England Wales, there have been almost 8,000 reports in the past four years.
The dogs forced into fighting suffer horrific injuries and often die as a result of the attacks.
Dog fighting was outlawed in England in 1835.
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The new figures were released as part of Dog Fighting Awareness Day - an American awareness day that the RSPCA believes should be extended to the UK where dog fighting is still ‘rife’.
The RSPCA has been the lead organisation tackling dog fighting for the last four decades.
In 2015, there were 2,128 complaints to the RSPCA over dog fighting, 2,045 in 2016, 1,898 in 2017 and 1,583 in 2018.
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RSPCA dog fighting expert, Mike Butcher, said: “Our figures show that in the past four years the RSPCA has received 7,915 reports of dog fighting incidents. While it’s promising to see that these figures are dropping year on year, it’s still staggering that something which has been illegal for almost 200 years and a bloody pastime which most people would consider consigned to history is still so rife.”
Across the boarder in Nottinghamshire, there have been 148 reports of illegal dog fighting reported to the RSPCA - 40 in 2015, 37 in 2016, 41 in 2017 and 30 in 2018.
While in South Yorkshire there have been 248 reports - 86 in 2015, 72 in 2016, 66 in 2017 and 55 in 2018.
According to the animal charity, League Against Cruel Sports, there are three different 'levels' of dog fighting:
Level One - street rolls: Dogs are forced into spontaneous fights in urban parks and housing estates without much planning, rules or specific training.
Level Two - hobbyist: Often these people aspire to be professional dog fighters. Many are affiliations to gangs and have criminal convictions for other offences. These fights involve more ‘rules’ and formalised training regimes.
Level Three – professional: Professional dog fighters are part of sophisticated dog fighting rings operating in the UK and worldwide with links to other serious crimes. Strict training regimes and rules apply and large sums of cash are wagered on the outcome of fights that typically last from 30 minutes to two hours.
Mr Butcher added: "The dog fighting world is a dark and frightening place. But it could be happening in an inner-city warehouse next door to your office or on a rural farm in your quiet village.
“We’d urge the public to be our eyes and ears and report anything suspicious to us to investigate. If you’re concerned about the welfare of an animal or suspect dog fighting may be taking place please call our 24-hour cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.
“Dog fighting is serious, organised animal cruelty and we would not want anyone to put themselves at risk with the sort of people who are involved in such a violent pastime.”
If you would like to make a donation to the RSPCA, click here www.rspca.org.uk/give.