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An illegal sport is any sport that is illegal in one or more jurisdictions due to the violent or dangerous nature of the sport. Some illegal sports, such as BASE jumping or elevator surfing, is argued to be purely adventurous. A counterargument is that the possibility of loss of life, rescues, and medical care that may be required for participants of these sports can end up costing the general public. Other more well-known illegal sports, such as cockfighting and dogfighting, are barred on the basis of animal abuse.
Illegal sports are controversial due to the dangerous aspects attributed to them and the pain they can inflict on humans and/or animals. They also are controversial due to the perceived nature of some of them-notably dogfighting-as being savage sports.
Cockfighting is a gambling and spectator sport where roosters fight, frequently to the death, in rings. Often, sharp implements are attached to the legs of these typically non-violent birds, inflicting massive injuries and pain. The birds used for cockfighting sometimes are given stimulant drugs to enhance their fighting ability and make them more aggressive.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, cockfighting is illegal (at least a misdemeanor) in all 50 US states. It is classified as a felony in 39 states. Notable states that have less severe laws are Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho, and Mississippi (misdemeanor punishment for cockfighting; no punishment for possessing cock or being a spectator); South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and Kentucky (misdemeanor punishment for cockfighting, no punishment for possessing cocks, misdemeanor punishment for being a spectator).
Governor Frank Keating of Oklahoma said when outlawing cockfighting in his state that "Cockfighting is cruel, it promotes illegal gambling and it is simply embarrassing to Oklahoma to be seen as one of only a tiny handful of locations outside of the third world where this activity is legal." Since there is no reliable data on the status of cockfighting in the third world, it is assumed that cockfighting is largely legal, unpopular, or laws against it are unenforced amongst these nations.
Dog fighting is a practice, illegal in many jurisdictions, where two dogs, often a pit bull breed, are put into an area to fight and sometimes kill each other. Dog fighting has been reported as far back as 43 A.D. when the Romans invaded Britain. Both sides employed fighting dogs, and out of their wartime use grew a sport, which achieved great popularity, particular in Britain and later the United States.
Dogfighting can involve high stakes, and carries with it the same sociological dangers of other gambling, and particularly illegal gambling, activities.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals focuses heavily on the issue on dog fighting. There are various levels of dog fighting. There is “street” level, which means that the dogfights are informal because strict rules and regulations are absent from the matches. Another level is “hobbyists”, which are fights that are formally organized. They are mainly scheduled for income and speculators. The final level of dog fighting is “professional.” At the professional level, owners usually have more that fifty fighting dogs and carefully examine the specific breed, lineage, and winning history of each dog.
Dog fighting is illegal in every U.S. state and in many countries around the world (Britain, where it was quite popular, banned it as far back as the 1830s), although enforcement in other countries is frequently lax or nonexistent. Dog fighting is a felony in all states except Idaho and Wyoming, where it's a misdemeanor. It is a felony to possess dogs for fighting except in the states of New York, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
BASE jumping involves four categories of fixed objects from which one can jump: buildings, antennae, spans (bridges), and earth (cliffs). BASE jumping has been practiced since at least the 1970s, and has continued to gain popularity since then. It is an extreme sport that combines the skills of skydiving and jumping off of very high, but fixed, objects. Jumps can be made as low as 300 feet above ground. BASE jumping is technically not an illegal sport, but the aspect that makes it illegal is that many jumpers will trespass onto private property in order to reach their desired altitude.
Today, BASE jumping is accepted in many countries. As of February 2011, there have been 161 deaths associated with the sport worldwide. Five of them have been in Yosemite National Park in the United States, where BASE jumping is now banned. Similar issues have prompted American authorities to make the activity directly illegal in other parts of the nation, including New York City.
Elevator surfing is an activity popular on college campuses and in residential buildings. Participants in this sport gain access to the top of the elevator car and "surf" it while it goes up and down in between floors. Some even attempt to jump from elevator car to elevator car while the cars are in motion. It is highly dangerous and many deaths have been accounted for due to this activity, causing many jurisdictions around the world to outlaw it. Many of those who die from elevator surfing fall off the top of the elevator car, are struck by the counterweight, or are crushed somewhere between the elevator car and the elevator shaft. First brought to the public spotlight in the late 1980s, the deaths associated with elevator surfing reached 14 in the New York metropolitan area by 1991. According to media outlets in the early 1990s, elevator surfing was described as "a fairly common activity", especially in college campuses. Since there are no official statistics kept on this dangerous activity, an official worldwide or U.S. count of deaths attributed to this sport is not available.
Street racing is the frequently illegal racing of motor vehicles on public roads and highways. These high-speed races, usually with untrained drivers, can result in fatal crashes that have the capacity to inflict damage on innocent people not participating in the race. Private drag strips have been set up for people, at their own risk, to legally race on. In 2006, California state highway patrol issued 697 citations for "speed contests". There is no official statistic kept on street racing deaths. Street racing can become an addicting habit for many drivers.
Train surfing is riding or climbing ("surfing") on the outside of a moving train, usually subways. This activity is illegal in many countries and is prohibited by administrative law. Several have died as a result.
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