San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Animal cruelty

Dog fighting ban moves forward in Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly

Members of the Legislative Assembly’s Agricultural Affairs Commission unanimously approved this week the drafting of new legislation banning dog fights in Costa Rica. The bill now must be approved by a full Assembly.

Bill 18,443 aims to prohibit dog fights across the country, as well as any private or public event that may cause aggression, abuse or injury to canines.

“It’s not just fights [we’re worried about]. We’ve received reports of groups of people who organize races in which dogs are forced to drag chains, tires, anvils and other heavy objects,” Dr. Laura Loaiza, director of the Small Species Wellness Program at the Animal Health Service (SENASA), said.

Johanna Rueda, director of Costa Rica’s American Stafford Association, said the association has received several complaints of “pole jump” competitions, in which dogs are induced to jump and hang on to a piece of meat for several minutes.

The competitions injure dogs’ jaws, legs, joints and hips, including when they release the meat and fall to the floor.

Dog spectacles are often held in public at sites such as La Sabana Park, in western San José, and La Paz Park, south of the capital, Loaiza said.

SENASA is preparing a list of all physical characteristics of dogs that will be regulated and whose owners will be required to obtain dog licenses from that agency.

An earlier version of the bill cited specific dog breeds, but SENASA recommended the list be replaced by a list of physical characteristics, because “it is unfair to label a dog breed as dangerous.”

Owners of dogs with these characteristics will be required to obtain a license from SENASA, as the bill stipulates that breeding, selling and buying them will be prohibited.

Applicants will be required to demonstrate they are apt for owning these types of dogs.

Dog owners found guilty of maltreatment, injuring or causing the death of their animals could face sentences of up to three years in prison, according to the proposed legislation.

Article 16 of the bill states that violators could be fined up to 50 professional base salaries, the equivalent of ₡28 million ($56,200).

The bill also would ban the possession or distribution of material related to dog fights, except when used for educational campaigns.

Other provisions would prohibit the sale, importation and use of substances used for the purpose of increasing a dog’s physical conditions for fighting.

The bill now must be approved in two separate rounds of voting at the Legislative Assembly.

SENASA has a hotline to report dog abuse, at 2260-8300 or by email:

Weight pulling competition

Legislation also punishes mistreatments and injures caused by practices like weight pulling or pole jump competitions. Courtesy of American Stafford Costa Rica

Contact L. Arias at

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