Real-life issue: Dogfighting
The film features flashbacks from each of the main characters’ lives, but none as heartbreaking as De Niro’s. Dogs used for dogfights are often bred to be fighters -with their biological parents having been in the ring as well. They are left isolated, unsocialized, and injected with anabolic steroids or given narcotic drugs to increase their aggression. Dogs that are found to be losers in the ring, being deemed useless, are then abandoned or killed.
Tens of thousands of Americans reportedly participate in dogfighting, as reported by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In 2012, more than 260 pit bulls and mixed-breed dogs were saved from a dogfighting arena in the Philippine city of San Pablo. Twenty of the pit bulls had to be euthanized, while others were sick or injured, with ripped ears and tongues, based on a 2012 news article published by Rappler. As of 2017, 88 of these Laguna pit bulls remained under the care of Compassion and Responsibility for Animals (CARA), just waiting to be adopted, as seen on Help Save the Pit Bulls website.