There were 61 arrests for dogfighting and related offences in 1990, 42 in 1991, and 10 in 1992. There have been no arrests at all for dogfighting this year.
Last week's case followed a raid by the RSPCA and police on a dogfight in Humberside last November. Stephen Brown, of Preston, Lancashire, was jailed at Sproatley Magistrates' Court, Humberside, and banned from owning a dog for life after admitting two charges relating to organising the dogfight and one each of attending the fight, owning an unlicensed pit-bull terrier and being in charge of a dog when disqualified.
Two other men were given conditional discharges but ordered to pay costs of pounds 359 for attending the fight. Five more will go to court in September.
Mike Butcher of the RSPCA, who was involved in the raid, is convinced that dogfighting has not died down. He said: 'These men call themselves 'Dog Men'. Dogfights are the most important thing in their lives.'
Police and the RSPCA have failed to break into many dogfights to make arrests because of the increasingly furtive way in which dogs are being bred and the fights held. A police spokeswoman said: 'Our dog specialists say dogfighting is being driven underground because of the large numbers of pit-bulls seized since the Act came into effect.' But there may still be as many as 4,000 unlicensed dogs although only a small minority of owners put them in fights.
Don Balfour, head of the RSPCA special operations unit responsible for stopping dogfighting, said: 'We want to catch all of them, but we can't because their arrangements are so haphazard.' Owners of unlicensed pit-bull terriers caught entering their dogs in fights would face not only charges over the fights but also a fine for possession of an illegal dog: hence the increased security surrounding dogfighting, which carries a maximum penalty of up to six months' jail or a pounds 2,000 fine. But dogfighting continues because of the money involved, with bets of four-figure sums on winning dogs common.
The Dangerous Dogs Act calls for the licensing and muzzling in public places of dogs that are pit- bull 'type', the most common sort of dog used for fighting.
John Bryant of the League Against Cruel Sports said: 'During the last couple of years dogfighting has either been very much reduced, which I doubt, or has been driven deeper underground.'