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ASPCA Forensic Veterinarian Adds Dimension to Major Dog Fighting Raid In Southern U.S.

Remarkable Inter-Agency Collaboration With Louisiana SPCA and Other Animal Agencies Assists DEA In Handling Animal Elements of Major Drug Bust
April 25, 2007

NEW YORK, April 25, 2007—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) is extremely proud to be part of a team of animal welfare agencies, led by the Louisiana SPCA (LA/SPCA), which participated in a major planned raid of a drug trafficking organization by federal authorities yesterday, to manage the dog fighting elements of the case.

The raid took place simultaneously in Pass Christian, Miss., and St. Bernard Parish, La., and resulted in 45 dogs (44 American Pit Bull Terriers and one Chihuahua) being seized for examination and evidence. Dr. Melinda Merck, forensic veterinarian with the ASPCA, and the premier “Animal CSI” in the country, was part of the elite team of animal welfare professionals involved. The team included staff from the LA/SPCA, the St. Charles Parish Humane Society/Animal Control and the Humane Society of South Mississippi.

“I must commend the entire team as to the way they handled this case,” said Dr. Merck. “It was energizing to be in the company of such complete professionals, whose extensive experience clearly was an asset in handling a case of such massive proportions.”

Dr. Merck, who uses her forensic abilities as well as veterinary training to “sweep” a crime scene and provide evidence and explanations to investigators, is currently documenting the medical condition of all the animals seized, and will spend several days with the team preparing evidence.

“This is one of the most complete examples of a dog fighting operation that I’ve ever seen,” said Dr. Merck. “Not only are many of the dogs scarred or wounded, the sites were loaded with dog fighting paraphernalia, such as weighing scales (for before a fight); treadmills (to prepare dogs for fights); chains and weights (to condition the dogs); dog fighting journals—you name it, it was there.”

The investigators also found several burn sites on the property in Mississippi, one of which contained bones from multiple dogs. They also exhumed one dead dog from another grave site, whose remains will be examined.

“It took us 12 hours just to process the scene,” said Dr. Merck, “and it will take a while to sift through the evidence. In examining the live dogs, there are clear signs that these puppies and dogs were being kept in extremely neglectful conditions, to say the least—they are thin, and very little dog food was found on the premises.”

“I am very appreciative of the Louisiana SPCA inviting our involvement in this case,” said Ed Sayres, president & CEO of the ASPCA. “The field of veterinary forensics has unique applications, both in the prosecution of animal cruelty, as well as in raising awareness of the link between animal and human cruelty. It is extremely exciting that, through the skills of someone like Dr. Merck, the ASPCA is at the forefront of this new dimension in animal welfare—which I believe will ultimately bring us one step closer to being a ‘humane community.’”