Discussion: Dog Fights Breaking Out in Shelters

A worker at the DeKalb Co Animal Shelter in Georgia was seen on video repeatedly striking a dog with what appears to be a metal bowl.  There were reportedly three dogs in the cage, it was feeding time and a fight had broken out.  Although it’s not shown on the portion of the video released to the media, the worker also reportedly kicked the dog later.

That man, Calvin Battle, 26, was arrested and charged with one count of misdemeanor cruelty to animals.

Police said it was a sergeant in the Animal Cruelty Unit who saw Battle, on video, inside the DeKalb County shelter Wednesday morning repeatedly beat the dog.

Battle worked for LifeLine Animal Project, an organization contracted to manage DeKalb County Animal Services.

Rebecca Guinn, executive director for Lifeline, told the local news that Mr. Battle will be fired.  Police are investigating to determine if he was involved in any additional incidents.  The three dogs in the cage have been taken to a vet for examination.

Anytime multiple dogs are placed in the same cage at a shelter, there is the possibility of fighting.  Shelter environments are extremely stressful for dogs and living in a very small space with other dogs may increase the anxiety level for some individuals.  Feeding is a common catalyst for dog fights.  What should shelter workers do if a fight breaks out?

“They’re supposed to use a hose actually to separate the dogs. They’re supposed to use water, call for help,” Guinn said.

Has anyone ever successfully stopped a dog fight with water?  As far as calling for help, there is clearly another person standing behind Mr. Battle in the video.  What could that person have done to help stop the fight?

Let me be clear:  I am in no way encouraging anyone to beat dogs with metal bowls or any other implement.  I am hoping to have a discussion on how shelter workers can manage dog fights in general and specifically, how this incident involving three dogs and two humans at feeding time could have possibly been handled differently or potentially prevented altogether.  Please weigh in with your thoughts.

(Thank you Clarice for the links.)

14 thoughts on “Discussion: Dog Fights Breaking Out in Shelters

  1. You can use water to break up dog fights but I don’t believe it is a good option in a small environment like a dog kennel. I also have to question to keep 3 dogs constantly together in a small kennel since the dog pack dynamic changes with more than 2 dogs. Food guarding is common in dogs and becomes even more an issue in a small environment. The goal should be not to kennel dogs together that are guarding food.
    The proper way to break up a dog fight between 2 dogs is to pick up the aggressor on his back legs and remove him from the area. Breaking up a dog fight where more than 2 dogs are involved is a bit tricky and for safety reason requires a second person but the technique is the same.
    Water can be used, as example, in a outside area with dogs in a play group. Here the dogs have a chance to separate them self from each other after being sprayed with water.

  2. Agreed. Keeping three dogs in such a small space, especially if they are strangers to each other, under such stressful circumstances is asking for trouble. It is also one more dog than two people can handle at any given moment.

    That said, two people, four hands. One hand to open the cage, three to place food down simultaneously. Of course, that requires thinking ahead…

    1. Unfortunately, though, that also requires dogs who eat at the same speed. If one of the dogs is a faster eater, he may finish and then go after the other dogs’ food, causing a fight.

  3. I think the dogs should be separated for feeding, which would prevent a fight in the first place. Whenever I have a new foster dog in my home I ALWAYS feed that dog in a crate until I get a sense of how it is around other dogs when food is present.

  4. Having been in a very similar situation several times I can most certainly attest to the effectiveness of water hoses breaking up dog fights. The problem with this scenario is the proximity of the dogs to each other. Once the dogs stop fighting, they are still in a 4×8 kennel with the trigger right there. Most likely they will start fighting again. If it were me, and I had a metal bowl in my hand I would most certainly use it in an attempt to snap the dog out of drive an safely remove a party. In fact, I had to do this at my own home with my personal dog. The fact I the matter is that the dogs and your safety trump everything else and one well aimed bonk on the head with the back side of a metal bowl is without question going to do less damage than the dogs will certainly do to each other. It seems like a management issue. If you need to house two dogs in the same kennel, come feeding time one should be walked while the other fed and then flip flop them. That’s not a hard concept. I mean, who would put there two personal animals in a kennel together and feed them both at the same time and expect them not to mince words with each other? It’s a rare thing and two weird dogs for that to be okay.

  5. Someone reminded me of something this past week. Sometimes a dog is a dog is a dog. This means that it is up to us humans to do whatever it takes to remove all stimulus that would cause the dogs to fight. Food aggression, three dogs being confined to a small little cage (I know myself if I were confined to a small cage with two of my best friends for days on end there might be a fight and we humans can say you are bothering me, you are annoying the shit out of me) It just takes a little common sense. I know when I had three dogs (they all lived together and got along) I never fed them close to each other always separated. My dogs have all been rescues and each one had their own issues but the one thing they all had in common was being hungry and going without food. So why would I create a scenario that would or could start something amongst the dogs. People who are the ones with the brain, common sense and logic? I often wonder if humans have forgotten that they are the ones who are suppose to have a brain.
    I don’t believe there is ever a need to stop a dog fight using abuse especially when the fight most definitely I assume could of been prevented in the first place.

  6. First of all, obviously, the most important thing is to prevent fights from breaking out in the first place. Knowing your dogs, not setting them up for resource guarding, recognizing warning signs before they lash out, yada yada. However, sometimes it happens. Getting something between the dogs is always great — trash can lids, boards, etc are always nice. Shake cans, air horns, water can all work too — depending on the dogs and how far things progress. Recognizing and reacting quickly is essential. If it does get to the point where you have to physically handle the dog, Peter is 100% correct in the approach. Pick them up by the back legs and separate the aggressing dog.

  7. Is there some overriding reason to feed the dogs all together in the cage? Could someone leash two and lead them off in separate directions to feed them out of each others way?
    Better to avoid the fight then have to break it up but I’ve heard grabbing the back legs and doing a kind of reverse wheel barrel works. Only dog fights I’ve had to break up, and they were over food, I used leash distraction…yelled Walk? while holding a leash. This broke their focus but I was probably just lucky.

  8. I know shelter environments are difficult at best but three dogs in a cage eating together is quite simply a fight waiting to happen.

    Also, the water and grabbing the back legs suggestions don’t always work. and did nothing to put a dent in the fight I had to break up between my two pit bulls. When they grabbed onto each others faces the only thing that would work is something like a break stick. Whether or not people consider this fighting “paraphernalia”, the fact is that nothing gets them to let go faster than getting in that space at the back of their jaw. These should only be used by someone you knows how to use them and not on other breeds of dogs.

    Another thought for dealing with pit bull type dogs that was suggested to me by a police officer who actively rescues and fosters pitt bull is if you have a couple of people there is to grab and hold their heads to prevent shaking, because thats what inflicts the worst damage

    Something to try when tension is building or theyre just starting to scuffle is a mini boat horn. You can buy them on Amazon for $10 and they fit in the palm of your hand. One squeeze on that and the most obnoxious sound in the world will definitely get their attention long enough to separate

  9. I’m about two days late here comment wise, but I’ve worked in two shelters that provided no training to employees regarding breaking up fights. Volunteers were told to never get involved in a fight due to “liability” and.. leave the dogs until they can find a staff member. I’ve had to run into some very serious fights alone that got a minute to build momentum.

    Barring the obvious fact it’s a terrible idea to house 3 dogs in one kennel in a stressful shelter situation, especially when resources are involved, shelters really need to not set their employees and dogs up for failure with zero fight stopping education. Water and yelling will break up posturing and scraps that aren’t very serious. Some places have “fight kits” with things like air horns and citronella spray. If the dogs involved in the fight mean business, you need to physically get in and separate them. The “wheel barrow” method is the safest for you and the dog, especially if there are two employees. Grab the offender by the hind legs and wheel barrow backwards, do your best to avoid redirects by continuous movement away from the fight. If the employee knew this, he could have implemented the wheel barrow rather than believing he’d have to physically hit the dog to stop the fight.

  10. Quite a few people posted comments on the link of the TV site. Apparently Mr. Battle has quite an arrest record- so the woman from Lifeline LIED!!
    This POS and his boyfriend have 5 dogs and people are calling for a home investigation.

Leave a Reply