13 Tips to Protect Your Pet From Being a Bait Victim

Bait dogs are used to train fighting dogs to death

Spaniels, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, and Golden Retrievers are some breeds used in blood sports. Criminals aren’t bothered about the breed or age of your dog. Cats, puppies and kittens are used as live bait too.  How can you keep your pet safe? And what is the animal bait victim?

Bait is an animal that tests a fighting dog’s ability and instinct to fight in blood sports. The bait animal may have its mouth taped, teeth ground down, legs tied together and chained so it cannot fight back. The bait victim will be mauled and killed for training purposes. 

Never advertise your pet as free to a good home or price cheaply – post-Christmas, criminals will hunt for unwanted pets online.   Or leave an older pet outside a shop, as these dogs are prime targets.

Be vigilant at home, take extra precautions with home security, be observant of criminal house markings, and keep your dog safe by walking with anti-theft dog leads and collars. Distraction theft is common or stolen when a dog is out of sight of an owner. Change your dog walking routine and times. Join a dog walking group or walk with a friend or family member. Remember – when a dog is stolen, the thief will not know if the dog is neutered, spayed or how old. If the purpose of stealing a dog is to breed from or resell, an old dog is worthless to the criminal. Therefore, an old dog is probably abandoned. A criminal will most likely not have compassion or care about the dog’s fate. However, if the purpose of stealing an old dog is for baiting, a criminal doesn’t care. After all, an old dog will not fight back.

Lucky was 21 years old when she was stolen from a relation’s back garden around Christmas. Images revealed she looked much younger than she was so she could have been stolen for breeding. The thieves dumped Lucky, and an elderly gentleman found her and gave her a home. The owner’s story about Lucky’s disappearance was printed in a local paper, and the finder happened to read it. Lucky was reunited with her family. Poppy’s Pets has an extra column in an East Yorkshire newspaper and frequently includes the faces of the missing, and we are now listed as a ‘Helper’ on DogLost with a clickable link to this website.

Sussex Police started Operation Collar to take steps against dog theft. Unfortunately, other counties have yet to follow this example.

Fighting dogs are commonly known as Pit Bulls and include the following breeds:

  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • American Pit Bull Terriers
  • American Bull Dogs

A Staffordshire Bull Terrier called Zeena, a pet, run off and fell into the wrong hands. She was subjected to horrendous violence and forced to fight for her life in a dog fighting ring. Four years later, she was found on the streets quite far from home and treated at a veterinary practice.

What is dog fighting?

Dog fighting began when the Romans invaded Britain in 43 AD, arriving with fighting dogs for blood sports.  Today it continues as an inhumane, brutal sport in which two dogs fight each other, causing catastrophic injuries or death.  The sport is for monetary gain among spectators and is provided for entertainment. 

Is dog fighting blood sport legal?

The sport was banned in England in 1835.  Today, under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2006 (Scotland) and section 8 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (England and Wales), forcing animals to fight one another is an offence.  However, the sport secretly continues, held by sick people in society, so it has become an animal welfare issue for all animals concerned.

What is animal bait?

The animal bait is a family pet stolen from your home, back garden, on a walk, outside a shop, picked up as a stray, or advertised online, or even theft from an animal rescue. It means an innocent, happy animal used to love, kindness, wonderful homelife, warmth, and food suddenly finds themselves in hell.

The RSPCA lost one of their Staffy’s – someone wanted to adopt a dog and took it for a walk and he never returned. I don’t know the fate of this dog, and like everyone, I hope he stole the Staffy because he couldn’t afford adoption fees. But Staffys are popular in dog fighting rings.

The animals used for bait are dogs, cats, puppies, kittens, ponies, sheep, or rabbits. It doesn’t matter if the bait dog is bigger than the fighting dog. The larger family pet dog will be declawed, teeth ground down to the gum and its muzzle, sometimes legs, bound with tape. Bigger dogs cannot be allowed to injure a fighting dog.

The purpose of using animal bait is to test the fighting dog’s endurance and instinct. They will fight to the death. After all, it’s how the fighting dog has been brutally trained.

A family pet, the bait, is often electrocuted, stabbed and prodded in the ring, terrified, urinating in fear, is submissive, and ultimately, suffers unimaginable pain as they are used to train the fighting dog, like Haddie.

Haddie’s life has transformed; you can follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

The story of Staffy Zeena

Zeena the staffy used as bait in dog fighting
Zeena escaped from her home in 2014.

“She was found a significant distance from her last registered home, and the surmise is that she was found by an unscrupulous person and brutalised horrifically.”

Inspector Scargill – RSPCA Birmingham

In 2014, a sweet-natured Staffordshire Bull Terrier called Zeena escaped from home.  Four years later, she was found, and her owners traced from her microchip. Vets diagnosed her as a ‘bait dog’ because of her extensive wounds. Zeena spent a long time in a veterinary hospital, with wounds consisting of a fresh bite to her neck, a punctured eye, and a leg wound down to the bone. Because of her ordeal, this once-happy family pet became submissive, vulnerable, and terrified of men.

Zeena’s owners kept her microchip details up-to-date and were reunited with her family, but unfortunately, Zeena died of her wounds.

How can I protect my pets from being stolen?

Dogs caged ready to be used as bait in dog fighting
A caged dog ready to be used as bait

“Though not all dogs are stolen to be bait there is a percentage that fuels the horrific so-called sport of dogfighting.”

The Dog Listener

Not every stolen or lost pet is used as bait, but when a pet goes missing or is advertised online, we will never know their fate unless released, picked up by good people and reunited from the microchip. A pet can be stolen for several reasons – to resell, puppy or kitten farming, abuse, fight, or bait.  Or found as a stray, not reported to the Dog Warden, and instead, given a home by the finder. 

These criminals will steal any breed, any age, and any size:

  • Spaniels
  • Pomerians
  • Chihuahuas

The video below relates to dogs stolen to resell but as the interview is with dog nappers, I think beneficial to watch.

Watch the Video: The gangs that steal your puppies

It is essential never to risk their fate or believe it will never happen to you. One point to remember if a dog goes missing and the reason is to use it as bait, death can occur on the same day.

No animal deserves a horrendous death.

What should we do to protect our pets?

“Yeah, where’s the owner? You’ve got to keep your eyes on your at all times. Don’t just let your dog run ahead of you and run around a cornerbefore you because when it happens we might be there.”

Dog Thief Criminal interviewed with Crimewave

The above quote came from a criminal who steals dogs for profit in sales, but the same mindset will exist in criminals who steal for bloodsports and profiteering. Thieves are confident and will go to extreme lengths for pet theft.

1 – Keep your dog in your sight. As the statement states, a dog’s owner risks losing their companion when out of sight on a walk. Distraction theft is likely or a physical attack to steal a dog. Whilst allowing a dog to run free is an enrichment, the possible outcome might push you into a hellish nightmare and, and for your dog, a horrendous death. Dog walking gear is available today, designed with stainless steel wire threaded through, combination locks and carabiners. PawAid has a lead handle with a built-in siren and emergency lights, and investing in a personal alarm is also recommended.

2 – Cats roam freely, but catios and cat-proofing a garden presents a certain safety. However, thieves can cut through the wire, so speak to a professional installer. Sussex Police recommend the following for dog kennels, and the same can be applied to catios and used as preventative methods with entry into the garden. The idea is to make the criminal’s task as difficult as possible.

3 – Criminals interviewed admit that pet theft is a low-risk crime because of the lack in our Policing system and sentencing. Selling a dog is highly profitable, especially during the lockdown.

It takes seconds for a thief to untie a dog left outside a shop or school and walk off with it. Bait isn’t the only reason thieves steal a dog alone along the high street or smash and grab from a vehicle. Torture by sadistic people is another. We read the warnings on social media, but there needs to be more coverage in hardcopy print for those offline, so this is another article I plan for the East Yorkshire newspaper. So – never leave a dog outside a shop or in the car. If you insist on leaving a dog tied up outside a shop, invest in a lead with stainless steel wire inside and double ended with combination locks.

4 – Worryingly, we must be with our dogs in the garden, especially at night. First, dogs may escape a garden because they are stressed in a new home environment or lack of enrichment and stimulation. Because of this, a dog may seek ways to escape for enrichment and mental stimulation elsewhere. A dog is then in danger of being picked up by bad people, which happened to runaway Zeena. Or with an unlocked gate, it is easy for strangers to walk into a garden, entice a dog with treats and then that’s it, the dog is gone, which happened to Billy. Invest in motion sensor lights, multi-lock the back gate and, and a security camera. And keep your dog on a short lead during night toileting. If deciding to walk alone in the early hours, keep your dog on a lead. Eco’s owner walked her at 2 am off-lead, and she disappeared. Her owner remembers hearing tongue clicking. The ending is happy as the owners stole her back.

5 – Be wary of strangers asking questions and if you do chat, ensure they know your dog is neutered or spayed. Never give too much information away; be careful of being followed or vehicles moving slowly past you. Avoid putting your dog’s name on the collar or tag, and instead, put your surname. A dog may go to the person calling its name.

Vary your walking route and times, join a walking group or walk with a friend. Too many dogs have gone missing with the dog walker, left in a van during hot weather, or stolen from the van because unattended. Ensure your dog is walked as a 1-1 and kept on-lead in busy, well-lit areas. And again, invest in anti-theft leads, collars, harnesses and alarms.

Find a dog walker, boarding, doggy day care, and home visits.

6– Secure your back gate or kennel with an alarmed padlock with a built-in sensor that activates if tampered with. The padlock alarm will react from vibration or when tampered with, and the siren range is between 110dBs to 120dBS which equals a power saw and thunderclap. It is easy for a thief to open an unlocked gate and entice your dog to them with treats. Sussex Police suggest installing multiple locks in kennels, and I think multiple alarms are a good idea, too. I bought an interior shed alarm from Neighbourhood Watch, Hull. Its strobe light shows it has been activated, and you can mount it to the inside of the door and the loop on a nail on the door. If the door is forced open, the 143 dBs siren will trigger the pin has been pulled.

7 – Include deterrents in your garden: high fences but include a 45-angle topper to make it hard for criminals to access the garden. To disguise the arched fencing, plant a few climbers. Plant prickly hedges in the ground or tubs along fence bases. Be aware that thieves will attempt to lift your dog over the fence. Use anti-theft paint with visible signage at night and fence top spikes (it’s a legal requirement to have signage). Install CCTV – Ring sells remote access outdoor security cameras with motion sensor security lights and sirens. Compatible with Alexa and Smart devices for remote access.

All act as a deterrent to thieves. However, in the case of Missy and Biscuit, CCTV was unplugged outside, and dognappers scaled several hedges, fences and two gates. The dogs were quietened by food. As a dog owner, it is vital to re-think and look at how criminals can access your garden or home, and the tools used at their disposal.

Watch the Video: An ex-burglar gives tips to keep your home safe. These tips can be implemented to keep your pets safe.

Humberside Police recommend for home security:

8 What about the stranger at the door? If someone offers work, this could be someone checking out the family pet.

9 Look for chalk marks or cable ties outside your property.  Two items have been discredited as ‘marks’:

  • Plastic bags tied high up in trees outside the homes of family dogs
  • Coloured stickers attached to gates – red for a big dog, yellow for a medium-sized dog and pink for a small dog

Watch the Video: Chalk markings (starts at about 4mins)

10 Keep microchip details up to date and add a secondary contact. Pet Database offers a free service for updating contact details and activating a lost pet service. If a pet is missing, the chip can still be transferred to this Government approved database. If, like Zeena, a stolen dog is released, picked up, and taken to a vet, then as long as the chip is registered with contact details in the database, the pet and owner will be reunited.

Unfortunately, thieves carry microchip scanners and slit the back of the pet’s neck to slide the chip out. I doubt this would be done if a dog was stolen for bait, but if for selling, it would and another chip inserted. Dogs stolen in Europe and smuggled into the UK have the European chips removed, a new British chip inserted and sold as British dogs. European breeds fetch around £250. The same breed in the UK can sell for thousands because of demand.

11 Take photographs of your pet: markings, missing limbs, teeth extractions, a tattoo. Include photos of you both together at home and in the local area. Obviously, these won’t stop a dog from being stolen, but they will help with identification to reunite you. Consider Smart Snout, DNA Protected and a tattoo.

12 GPS trackers are useful to see where your cat or dog travels, and if unfortunate that either goes missing, the tracker will give a last location where thieves removed the collar. There’s a device for you too.

  • Tractive GPS Cat Tracker has a location history accessed via an app or website
  • Use TabCat‘s handset to lead you to the homing tag
  • Tractive GPS Dog Tracker works along the same lines as the feline version
  • A dog walking camera clips to a jacket or belt, giving 360 minutes of loop recording and the option to take a snapshot. If a dog goes missing on a walk, the camera may capture vital evidence (eg car registration, facial) and could lead to the recovery of your dog and others.

13 Because of the cost of living crisis, pets are being surrendered to rescues, but most are full. Those I regard as not really animal lovers threaten euthanasia or dump pets or actually do abandon them. Others advertise a pet online for free or cheaply.  These pets are very likely to be collected by a criminal into a bloodspot. And in recent months, I have seen pets up for rehoming on Facebook. Criminals also check online post-Christmas because that’s when pets are given away for free.

Sadly, pets are being taken to vets to be euthanised because they cannot afford to feed them. It reminds me of the domestic pet cull in 1939 (it involved big-name charities).

Dogs Trust’s 2023 petition to have the VAT removed from pet food was declined by the Chancellor.

Real-life stories

1- A group of kittens were purchased cheaply online and used as live bait.  That well-dressed, polite stranger who loves animals can really be a bloodsport criminal.

2 – Police recovered the bodies of two medium-sized dogs – one was a Golden Retriever. Both had died from extensive injuries caused by baiting, and their legs and mouths were taped together. Both dogs were microchipped with the original owner’s details and contacted. The owners had given their dogs away for free online. They thought the dogs were in a loving home but instead had subjected each dog to a horrific death.

Related questions:

Who do I report a suspected dog fighting ring to?

The League Against Cruel Sports supports and gives invaluable advice to professionals.  For veterinarians, diagrams show common injuries that may be consistent with dog fighting. All injuries must be recorded. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons sets out client confidentially unless concerns about animal welfare and/or public interest.

What happens to pets who survive dog fighting?

We’ve already touched on how criminals remove a pet’s ability to fight back and protect itself. Of course, puppies, kittens, and rabbits don’t stand a chance. I remember reading about a traumatised sheep found near a rescue with injuries consisting of being a bait victim. And another story about a stolen dog put in the ring to fight – the dog survived and became a therapy dog.

The link below shows dogs that survived, each a Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

When dogs have served their purpose, like Zeena, they are either released, die from injuries, especially if unable to fight back, or killed by dogs or humans.

Can a fighting dog or bait victim be rehomed?

The above link explains the outcome of each dog and the answer is yes, and each are lucky to be given a chance of life. Fighting dogs brutalised to fight tend to be euthanised. Always remember, the fighting dog was not born into this world to fight. The dog was born (or stolen as a puppy) into the wrong life and in the wrong hands.

Do criminals keep female dogs and cats?

Litters from unspayed female dogs are trained to be fighting dogs and one example of training is head slamming. Criminals are known to keep colonies of feral cats and their kittens used as bait.

Poppy’s Pets has a column in the Withernsea District & Community News


The reason I write and make YouTube videos is to help you and your pets from my experiences, and to take you through a journey of Green Living from worm composting and bokashi.

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