It's often said that Britain is a nation of animal-lovers. Right now, though, we are badly failing man's best friend.
The League Against Cruel Sports has recently received a worrying number of phone calls to our Animal Crimewatch hotline about dog-fighting. People have been reporting sightings of dog-fights in urban parks, and voicing concern that pets may have been stolen to be used by dog fighters.
A year ago, the League published the first ever national report into dog-fighting in Britain. Researched by experts from Middlesex University, it revealed that dog-fighting is now taking place in towns and cities across the UK.
From major fights run by organised crime gangs, to impromptu 'street rolls' involving local youths, the picture painted was shocking. The appalling cruelty to the dogs during training and the fights, and the callous way losing dogs were killed, made for disturbing reading.
The League launched an investigation to look further into the issue. They found an underground market in fighting dogs being offered for sale, and also discovered dogs like Cupcake who had fallen victims to dog fighting. Cupcake was picked up by a dog warden with injuries believed to be consistent with dog fighting.
She was found with missing and broken teeth believed to have been removed (potentially to stop her from defending herself against other dogs or damaged through trying to escape) and she had sustained multiple facial and abdominal scarring. It is clear she had also been severely overbred, forced to breed litter after litter of pups destined for a life that wouldn't bare thinking about.
The League is helping Cupcake and a number of other dogs like her recover from their physical and psychological scars.
In many countries, dog-fighting is regarded as a serious crime. In the US, for instance, it is now classified as a 'Grade A felony' - the top of the range. One of the reasons is that dog-fighters are commonly involved in a range of other serious and violent crimes, such as gun-smuggling, drugs crime and even child pornography.
In France, you can get a two-year jail term. In Germany the maximum sentence is three years. In Northern Ireland, the law was recently changed to increase the penalty to five years behind bars
In the rest of the UK, shockingly, the most you are likely to get is a paltry six months in prison - and this is rarely applied. Instead, it is common for courts to ban people convicted of cruelty from keeping animals.
Yet this is not just pathetic - it is pointless. There is no national register of those given a ban. A convicted criminal who recently walked free having been found guilty of one of the most shocking cruelty cases ever to come before the courts, was recently found to be in possession of dogs in spite of a ban.
The League is calling for tougher sentences for dog-fighting, a national register of convicted animal abusers, and for dog-fighting to be made a recordable offence. Not only will this mean the government is required to gather data on dog-fighting, it will encourage more resources to be invested in investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators.
The League is backing the bills being brought before Parliament on February 24 by Conservative MP Kevin Foster and Labour MP Anna Turley, both of which call for longer jail terms.
Please write to or phone your MP asking them to vote for these bills. Go along to their local surgery to tell them your views. If they're unable to attend Parliament that day, then ask them to write to the Minister to convey their support for a change in the law.
If you haven't already please also sign the League's petition calling for tougher sentencing for perpetrators of this cruel activity.
Let's stop failing man's best friend, and make February 24 the day when we start getting justice for them. If we really are a nation of animal lovers, then it's time we stood up for them.
And make sure the time fits the crime.