Dogfighting is a growing business, and to combat it the state is encouraging people who suspect it's happening to contact a new tip line.
The Illinois State's Attorney's office and the Humane Society of the United States have teamed up and are offering up to a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved with animal fighting, including dogfighting and cockfighting.
"Animal fighting is a cruel, violent crime that occurs too frequently," Attorney General Lisa Madigan said. "Studies show that youth who engage in animal fighting become immune to the violence and often go on to commit violent crimes."
It's hoped that the funds, made possible through a grant by the Holland M. Ware Charitable Foundation, are an incentive for those with information to come forward.
"We hope that this significant financial reward will drive dogfighting out of the shadows," Madigan said.
The U.S. Humane Society is also helping train Chicago police officers to recognize the signs of dogfighting and is working with rescued dogs to help them lead lives away from the pit.
Earlier this month, a raid on a basement in Englewood turned up a dogfight in progress, and more than 50 people were arrested, including the three men suspected of organizing the bout.
Dogfighting and cockfighting are both Class 4 felonies in Illinois, punishable by one to three years in prison and/or a maximum $50,000 fine.
Attending a fight isn't a crime, however, a fact that authorities hope to change.
"The spectator part of it is an absolute joke," Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said. "There's no disincentive right now whatsoever."
It's estimated that 100,000 people are involved in dogfighting nationwide.
Anyone with information about dogfighting is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 800-535-STOP.