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Incorporating The Ranger's Blog


Fighting dogs are destroying our urban trees

Matthew Chatfield
Latest posts by Matthew Chatfield (see all)

Dogs bred to fight, and dogs taught to attack people, are a serious problem in this country. It’s even attracting the attention of legislators. Earlier this year in a debate in the House of Lords, Lord Redesdale said:

This is an animal welfare problem and a growing social problem. Intimidation by dogs is now seen as an anti-social behaviour issue.

Dog with muzzle

Dog fighting is a serious issue in urban areas – a BBC report described how

Young men openly parade their illegal pit bull terriers saying how police cannot tell the difference – while the police with stretched resources can only play a limited role in tackling the problem.

What the Ranger didn’t realise is how this problem is affecting the urban forest. Remarkably, a growing number of casualties in the dog wars appear to be trees. It seems that a common way to train dogs to be aggressive and increase their strength involves setting the dog against trees. Needless to say the trees often come off the worse from such encounters. Last month the London Tree Officers Association published results of a survey of its members. All respondents cited dog damage to trees as a ‘major concern’. Campaigner Meg Howarth, who organised an event in September to highlight the issue – Bark to Bark – agreed. She said: “There is a myth that it is only urban males on estates, but that’s not true. It’s a much more complex problem.” According to LTOA chairman Oliver Stutter, the problem is enormous in his borough of Southwark. “We’ve lost entire estates of mature trees,” he revealed. “Hopefully the survey will lead to more collaborative working and action.”

Dog damage to tulip tree 

Tulip tree in the entrance to Abney Park Cemetery, Hackney.
© Russell Miller

This poor tulip tree was photographed in Hackney by local environmentalist Russell Miller. Russell remarks:

It is one of hundreds of trees damaged by Staffs type dogs. The tree will probably die because the dog has almost ring barked the tree. This means the roots can no longer be fed sugars by the leaves so they will die. If you have a Staffs or similar dog please don’t let it destroy trees.

It’s surprising sometimes how the complex and and sometimes conflicting activities that take place in our urban spaces can interact. Everyone knows that dogs have a traditional way of expressing themselves against trees, but this is one unwelcome side-effect of dog abuse that I don’t think anyone anticipated.

More information and references: see the LTOA information page and downloadable literature

Matthew Chatfield

Uncooperative crusty. Unofficial Isle of Wight cultural ambassador. Conservation, countryside and the environment, with extra stuff about spiders.

9 thoughts on “Fighting dogs are destroying our urban trees

  • Joleah

    im just amazed at the stupidity of people. really training fighting dogs with trees….come on now….ugh just so moronic

  • Holly

    This is the stupidest report. Really fighting dogs? People really need to think before they post online. DOGS of any kind did not do that. What a “fighting dog” could do to a tree and a regular dog are the same things as well for those uneducated on dog on tree attacks…. LOL Yeah you hear how stupid that sounds.. Dogs attacking trees OH MY!

    Also what the majority of you people would think is a fighting dog is not, what you think is training for a fighting dog is not, and I doubt you know much of anything that is actually true about the APBT OR any of the mixed bred dogs that get labeled “pitbull” ( which is no actual breed of dog just a group that LOOK a certain way, but share no actual temperament traits.).

  • pit lover

    Wow. Are you people really that stupid? That is in no way a dog.
    Isn’t it called Bear country, perhaps maybe it was a …gasp… BEAR?

    • Are you for real!? Bears in the UK, let alone London!?

    • Londoner

      Hahahaha moron. Bear country. England?? Which fairy tales have you been reading?!!!

  • Pit lover

    I can’t believe you guys bought this crap. These assholes are blaming pit type dogs for trees being clawed and debarked by bear and deer. Look at the pictures people. That is not damaged caused by a dog. This is a classic case of something got destroyed let’s blame a pit. No one even saw any dogs around where this happened people saw messed up trees and assumed that’s what it was. I can’t believe they’d even print this crap. I can’t believe people would actually believe that anyone would use a tree to train a dog to fight. It doesn’t even make any sense. And as for the rope toy in the tree. It’s called a spring pole and it’s used for play and exercise and play, it is not a fighting tool nor does it build aggression. I wish they’d quit with these stupid stories trying to make our dogs look bad.

  • Galligirl

    I feel bad for the dogs as well as the trees. Raised in a loving home, properly cared for and never abused, Staffs are often sweeter and gentler than most other breeds. My own doesn’t even destroy her own toys. I think if people were more aware of what was going on in their own neighborhood and willing to report it immediately when they find something fishy going on (ie, dog fighting), we could prevent damage to our neighborhoods, society, and an innocent breed of dog.

  • Nuteater

    Years ago in that leafy London suburb of Barnet we put in some luvverly play equipment in a luvverly park. Not the usual boring stuff, but challenging stuff from Richter
    Within a few days the local yobs had used the equipment to train their fighting dogs…

    But people who get a kick out of cruelty aren’t easily stopped, sadly.

  • People who get a kick out of dog fighting are sick! It is cruel. There are just no two ways about it. It is a sad statement about human entertainment.

    Why can’t people just enjoy peace and quiet. You know, real peace and quiet.



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