THERE were 168 reports of dog fighting in Sussex over the past four years.

The new figures, which reveal the extent of the “serious, organised and cruel” practice, have been released by the RSPCA.

The charity’s chief inspector Mike Butcher said: “It’s 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.”

Dog fighting was outlawed in England in 1835.

But dogs are still trained to fight and pitted against each other with the aim of inflicting as much damage as possible.

In some cases, the fights take place in public places and people film them on their mobile phones.

Those found guilty of the offence of animal cruelty can be jailed for up to five years.

Despite this, there were 42 reports of the banned practice in Sussex last year.

In 2017 there were 40 reports, in 2016 there were 31 and in 2015 there were 55.

The charity says that many dogs used by dog fighters are never found.

It adds that of those rescued, many are found to be banned breeds under the Dangerous Dogs Act and cannot legally be rehomed.

Mr Butcher said: “Dogs who win fights are prized and are often treated like kings.

“But those who refuse to fight or lose are often abandoned or barbarically killed.

“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.”

The figures, which are broken down by counties, show dog fighting complaints are falling nationally.

The RSPCA says it received almost 8,000 reports in the past four years, but the number is falling.

In 2015, the charity received 2,128 complaints.

That number fell to 1,583 in 2018.

These figures have been released to the public for Dog Fighting Awareness Day.

Mr Butcher said: “Our figures show that in the past four years the RSPCA has received 7,915 reports of dog fighting incidents.

“But it’s promising to see that these figures are dropping year on year.

“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.”

But the charity is urging the public to be its “eyes and ears” and report any suspicious to them to investigate.

If you are concerned about the welfare of any animal or suspect dog fighting is taking place, ring the charity’s 24-hour cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.

To help the RSPCA continue investigating dog fighting and other animal cruelty, you can donate by visiting

The most dog fighting reports were received in the Greater London area – 653.

There were 456 reports in the West Midlands and 380 in Greater Manchester.