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ASPCA Forensic Veterinarian Aids in Major Dog Fighting Raid in Georgia

Nation’s First Humane Organization Assists HSUS and Other Animal Agencies in Investigation
July 3, 2008

NEW YORK, July 3, 2008—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today announced that it was part of a team of animal welfare agencies, led by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), as well as the Madison County, Ga. Sheriff’s Department and Madison County Animal Control, which participated in a major planned raid of “Shake Down Kennels,” an alleged dogfighting operation in Danielsville, Ga. Johnny Johnson, the alleged owner, was arrested and charged with felony dogfighting.

“The ASPCA isproud to assist HSUS in their raid of this illegal dogfighting ring,” said ASPCA President & CEO Ed Sayres. “Dr. Merck is the nation’s premiere “Animal CSI” and adding her invaluable knowledge of veterinary forensics to the crucial investigation work done by HSUS and participating agencies makes for a tremendous combination.”

The raid took place in Madison County, Ga. and resulted in seven dogs being seized for examination and evidence, as well as dogfighting paraphernalia. Dr. Melinda Merck, ASPCA’s senior director of Veterinary Forensics, and Felicia Earley, an anti-cruelty veterinary assistant with the ASPCA, were part of the elite team of animal welfare professionals involved. The ASPCA’s Mobile Animal Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Unit, was also on-site to allow Dr. Merck to examine and care for any victims immediately, as well as gather and process all of the forensic evidence right at the scene. A “forensics first,” the mobile unit is specially-designed vehicle outfitted with state-of-the-art forensics tools as well as medical equipment tailored for animal patients.

“It was a privilege being able to be a part of this organized and thorough investigation,” said Dr. Merck. “Dogfighting cases are very complex and it sometimes takes multiple resources in order to effectively bring them down. This collaborative effort is a shining example of our ongoing fight against animal cruelty.”

Today’s raid marks the first Ga. dogfighting bust since the May 10 passage of new legislation signed by Governor Sonny Purdue, which strengthened the state's dogfighting law, making it a felony to own, possess, train, transport or sell a dog for the purpose of dogfighting. Those involved in illegal dogfighting, as Johnson is alleged, can receive one to five years in prison, a minimum fine of $5,000 or both.

For more information about the ASPCA’s fight against animal cruelty, visit http://www.fightcruelty.org/. For more information about the ASPCA’s programs and services, visit http://www.aspca.org/.