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There Are 150 Secret Dog Fighting Rings In Australia, Authorities Suspect

Semen from fighting dogs around the globe is being imported into Australia to secretly breed more animals for combat, experts claim, as authorities crack down on fighting rings operating in the shadows nationwide.

There are at least 150 suspected dog fighting rings in Australia, and the brutal practice is allegedly increasing in popularity despite recent raids in Queensland and South Australia. Now, the Humane Society International is raising awareness of the underground fight clubs, calling on Australians to be aware and report the illicit trade.

Earlier this month a Brisbane magistrate sentenced Jared Nathan Trenear to six months in prison after he plead guilty to charges including dog fighting and depriving the animals of basic care.

Four adult dogs and two litters of puppies were seized from Trenear's home in April 2018. RSPCA prosecutor Adrian Braithwaite said the dogs were found restrained with wire, not provided with suitable bedding and given no access to clean water.

The RSPCA officers also found fighting memorabilia, needles, pain medication and antibiotics on Trenear's property.

Puppies rescued by the RSPCA from Tranear's Queensland property. Photo: AAP.

The RSPCA said the set-up on the property was typical of other dog-fighting breeders, with dogs chained up so that they could see one another but could not physically reach, increasing a drive to want to fight.

Trenear was order by the court to pay $6,388 for the medical treatment of the dogs and has received a lifetime ban from owning either dogs or poultry.

He will be released on parole at the end of this month after serving approximately four weeks in prison.

Daniel Young, an RSPCA animal inspector, said at the time of the sentencing that the case was evidence of a much wider problem of dog fighting in Australia.

Dog and puppies rescued from Tranear's property. Source: AAP Photos.

"Clearly today is a good example that it does exist here in Queensland and people need to be vigilant. It is underground but it is happening," he said.

The first South Australian man charged with dog fighting was sentenced to seven months in prison in 2018 for acts of animal cruelty, including using collars that gave the dogs electric shocks.

Humane Society International's (HSI) senior specialist in global anti-dog fighting, Janette Reever, told 10 daily that the popularity of the practice is increasing due to social media. Trenear was said to have been regularly in touch with dog fighters in the U.S. and Mexico.

HSI suspects at least 150 dog fighting rings operate in Australia, and the number is growing. Fights can have huge prize pools, up to USD$500,000. The organisation claimed dog fighting is closely linked with other illicit trades including drugs, child pornography, weapons, and other violent criminal activity.

Reever also noted that dog fighting is often linked to domestic violence incidences.

Happy Tails Animal Rescue recovered Trixie from a pound in Bundaberg after she sustained severe facial injuries believed to be from being used as bait to train fighting dogs. Photo: AAP.

While the importing of dogs is made difficult by strict requirements from border control in Australia, many of the original dog fighters from the U.S. travelled to Australia and sold dogs to Australian rings.

There is also evidence from dog fighting forums that dogs have been imported into Australia for fighting.

Artificial insemination techniques are also used and the importing of semen from international fighting dogs allows these criminals to bring new fighting dog blood into Australia.

Reever said that female dogs are commonly strapped into breeding stands, otherwise known as "rape stands". Owners will walk male dogs over to the stands to take photos of the dogs mating as evidence of an upcoming breeding pair.

Reever and her HSI colleagues are conducting conferences in NSW and Queensland this week training law enforcement to recognise the signs of a dog fighting ring.

Two dogs attacking each other in a ring. Source: Humane Society International.

Reever said red flags for dog fighting can include "large numbers of American pitbull-type dogs", or dogs with "signs of malnutrition, scarring, injury or wounds" and particularly injuries that suggest dog attack.

"Signs that are consistent with dog fighting include injuries to the face and the front legs... with hog hunting it's more laceration and evisceration whereas with dog fighting it's more puncture wounds," she said.

Reever also stated that in the six or eight weeks in a lead-up to a fight, key dogs will be walked consistently using weights and that can be another indication that the police should become involved.

"Basically, if there's any kind of concern, whether it's dog fighting or animal cruelty, it's just like with a child or concerns with senior citizens -- always, always call law enforcement," she said.

Australian law enforcement officers are being trained by the HSI team to recognise the paraphernalia associated with dog fighting, including the breeding stands, break sticks that are used to loosen a dog's grip on another animal and treadmills for training.

A puppy seized from Tranear's property. Source: AAP Photos.

However, there is some good news -- Reever said that the vast majority of dogs seized from these properties can go on to have happy lives after rehabilitation.

"Every dog is an individual and some of these dogs are so physically or mentally broken down it's not feasible," she said.

"But I've had three dogs who have come off dog fighting properties who have done beautifully."