An animal protection group in Ontario is asking the public to help put an end to dogfighting, saying animals involved in the highly secretive blood sport live horrible lives and are subjected to heinous acts of cruelty.

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which is involved in a court battle about the future of 21 alleged fighting dogs seized late last year, has launched a public awareness campaign using the Twitter hashtag .EndDogFighting.

Connie Mallory, chief inspector with the OSPCA, said the alleged dogfighting ring was brought to light after tips from the public.

"Dogfighting is highly secretive," she said.

"It's very much underground for the most part and it is associated with other criminal activities, and we need help."

Last week, the society destroyed two dogs seized last year from an alleged dogfighting ring in Lanark, Ont., due to continued dangerous behaviour.

The dogs were among a dozen animals seized last May during a joint investigation with the provincial police.

The other 10 dogs will continue to be rehabilitated by the OSPCA and other qualified organizations, Mallory said.

Once that process is complete, she said, the society will find them new homes outside Ontario, where pit bulls are banned.

Dogs seized across Ontario

The OSPCA said Eric Fleming, 31, of Lanark, is charged under the Criminal Code with encouraging, aiding and assisting with the fighting or baiting of animals, and is awaiting trial.

Fleming has already pleaded guilty to one count of owning a prohibited animal and one count of failure to sterilize an animal under the Dog Owners' Liability Act. He's been sentenced to two years probation and is banned from owning animals for two years.

Mallory said she wants the public to keep their eyes and ears open and to call police if they see dogs with scars on their faces and legs or if they hear dogs barking, but never see them. Other signs of dogfighting rings include dogs with needlessly heavy chains.

The society, a charity with police powers that enforces the province's animal cruelty laws, raided a rural property last October near Chatham, Ont., and seized 31 dogs.

Court documents show two confidential informants helped lead police to the property after hearing many dogs barking at odd hours.

Application to euthanize

The OSPCA has come under fire, however, for its court application to euthanize the 21 dogs. At least three lawyers representing animal rights and rescue groups are hoping to intervene in the case in an effort to save the animals. And hockey personality Don Cherry has publicly voiced his disapproval of the society's application.

The OSPCA has already destroyed three of those dogs for medical reasons, but it requires the court's approval to euthanize 21 dogs for behavioural reasons.

"Dogs that are trained for dogfighting live horrible, horrible lives," Mallory said.

"They're subjected to heinous acts of cruelty, forced to fight other dogs and are trained to do only that."

The American SPCA, which evaluated the Chatham dogs' behaviour, said they are some of the worst dogs they have ever seen, Mallory said.