Church leaders at St Mary’s in Mirfield believe that pitbull terriers are being taken to the churchyard where they are being abused by their owners, who train them to fight other dogs.
Dogs have been spotted tied by their necks to rope, which is run over a plank of wood wedged between trees. The ropes are pulled so the dogs are lifted off the ground by their necks.
The method is used to strengthen the dogs’ necks.
Tim Grace, of the Friends of St Mary’s Church Parish, has witnessed such incidents.
He said: “I have seen dogs up the trees. I saw a dog being coaxed with a branch on a tree. A number of people have seen the same.”
Mr Grace added that the dogs were causing a lot of damage to the trees, with bark being rubbed off.
It is believed that two trees will die once the colder winter weather kicks in.
“That’s the real tragedy,” said Mirfield town councillor David Pinder.
He said that some dog walkers were staying away from the church because of the “fighting dogs”.
“Apparently this is used to strengthen their neck muscles, but the dogs claw at the trees as they thrash around,” he said.
St Mary’s Church has been investigating damage to the trees over the past year and had wondered if badgers were the cause.
But the mystery was solved after sightings of the pitbulls and their owners up trees.
Church warden Ruth Edwards said: “We’re very concerned because at least six trees are being destroyed. Dangerous dogs are being let off leads in the graveyard, it’s consecrated land.”
Ravensthorpe Residents’ Action Group also raised the issue of dog fighting during its May meeting.
They reported that there had been an incident on the Spen Valley Greenway.
Coun Pinder added that the dogs were being trained for illegal fights which he claims take place in a quarry in Ravensthorpe.
Insp Jenny Thompson, of the Dewsbury and Mirfield NPT, said: “This is not an issue we are currently aware of at the NPT but I would ask anyone who does have information about this kind of offending to contact us.”
Leanne Plumtree, from the RSPCA, said: “Dog fighting is an barbaric ‘sport’ which causes an enormous amount of suffering to the animals involved.
“Dog fighting is illegal and if found guilty those responsible face a possible prison sentence.
“Anyone with any information about dog fighting should contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.”
You can call the police on 101 or CrimeStoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.