LONDON, Sep 20 (Reuters) Ten people were convicted today over one of the biggest dog fights ever uncovered in Britain, prompting warnings from animal welfare experts that the illegal sport may be growing in popularity.
It brings to 26 the total number convicted in connection with the ''sadistic'' fight, in which two pit bull terriers were forced to attack each other in a carpeted pit.
The dogs suffered horrific injuries during the fight, which lasted at least 1-3/4 hours, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) said.
One of them, called Bullet, died soon after the fight. The second dog, Elvis, was put to sleep two days later.
Police made so many arrests that they had to flag down a double-decker bus to take the suspects to the police station.
''This was one of the longest, most brutal and most highly attended dog fights we have ever come across,'' said RSPCA Chief Inspector Ian Briggs. ''If we are entering a new era of dogfighting, then we need to stamp it out fast.'' The dogs were heard to squeal in pain during video evidence shown at Birmingham magistrates' court. Some people left court because they were so distressed.
Judge Kal Qureshi said: ''The event itself is best described as ... sadistic. It involved inflicting unimaginable pain without any pity for the animals.'' The fight took place in February 2006 at the back of a kitchenware shop in Birmingham. Police were alerted when a witness called the Crimestoppers hotline.
A makeshift fighting pit had been built using kitchen cabinets, with carpet on the floor to stop the dogs slipping.
Officers found buckets of bloody water, sticks to force the dogs' jaws apart and first-aid kits to treat wounds.
The RSPCA said there was evidence that dog-fighting is making a comeback across the country.
''Having 26 people arrested at one fight has not happened since the late 1980s,'' Briggs said. ''(It) shows how depressingly popular dogfighting has become again in our major cities, despite being banned almost 200 years ago.'' Nineteen of those convicted have been fined between 500 pounds and 1,400 pounds for attending a dogfight.
Seven others have been bailed on other charges for sentencing on October. 18. All the men are from the West Midlands.
REUTERS GT RK2107