In May, the ASPCA assisted in the rescue, removal and sheltering of more than 550 birds from properties associated with cockfighting in Virginia. Five people charged in conjunction with the case have now received sentencing, and today we have an update on their status.
On Thursday, a federal judge sentenced Kentucky man Walter Stumbo, 51, to 18 months in prison. His wife, Sonya Stumbo, 51, and their son, Joshua Stumbo, 33, each received ten months. Sonya Stumbo was convicted at trial and the other two pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including possession of an animal for use in animal fighting.
In addition, Wesley Robinson, 57, and his son Jonathan Robinson, 33, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to operate an illegal gambling enterprise and illegally conducting cockfights; one count of transporting fighting roosters across state lines; one count of transporting bird fighting knives across state lines; and one count of illegally distributing oxycodone.
On August 27, Wesley Robinson was sentenced to six months in prison. On October 8, Jonathan Robinson was sentenced to join his father in prison for a sentence of one year and one day.
“The cruel and inhumane practice of cockfighting has no place in civilized society and is against federal law,” U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said in a written statement. “We will vigorously investigate and prosecute individuals who attend, facilitate, or profit from the misery inflicted on animals during these barbaric fights.”
In the aftermath of the raid, the ASPCA has learned more about the illegal cockfighting operation. Known as the “Big Blue” Cock Fighting Pit, the enterprise in McDowell, Kentucky, featured arena-style seating, multiple fighting pits and a restaurant. The Robinsons reportedly brought the birds from Wise County, Virginia, to Big Blue on weekends, and spectators allegedly travelled from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, and other states to attend fights at Big Blue.
“Big Blue” had approximately 5,000 members. Entrance fees ranged from $250 to $2,500, and over $90,000 in cash was seized at the Stumbo’s home.
On September 18, the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Team assisted in the rescue of over a dozen dogs from a poorly ventilated mobile home in Madison, Wisconsin. The dogs were found living amongst feces, trash, and rotting food, and many exhibited signs of dehydration and neglect.
After their rescue, the dogs were transported to a temporary shelter established by the ASPCA where they received medical care and behavior assessments. Additionally, ASPCA behaviorists provided enrichment and socialization to reduce stress and improve mental health. Nine of the dogs will now be transferred to Dane County Humane Society in Madison, Wisconsin to be made available for adoption.
“Today is a big step forward for these dogs,” said Jessica Rushin, Senior Partnerships Manager for ASPCA Field Investigations and Response. “We hope the residents of Madison will open up their homes to give these animals a chance to be someone’s pet.”
The remaining dogs will require behavioral rehabilitation for extreme fear and undersocialization. They will be transported to the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in Madison, New Jersey, where animal behavior experts will provide ongoing treatment to improve their well-being and help them become suitable for adoption. “Our goal is to help these dogs overcome their fears and become ready for the next chapter of their lives,” said Kristen Collins, Director of the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center.
If you are interested in adopting one of the nine dogs at Dane County Humane Society, visit www.giveshelter.org/adopt for more information.
Guest blog by Deborah Press, ASPCA Senior Manager of Regulatory Affairs
Today the ASPCA and the nation’s most capable and caring hearts and minds—from the Department of Justice, the FBI, USDA, and other organizations—met to problem solve around the future of animals rescued from fighting operations. The ASPCA and its government partners came together under the auspices of the Department of Justice’s Animal Cruelty Working Group, to ensure that the process for seizing animals used in these heinous crimes is as smooth and efficient as possible so that more animals can be saved.
The ASPCA regularly works side by side with federal, state and local law enforcement to save animals from cruelty and build criminal cases against abusers. When the ASPCA assists law enforcement in animal fighting raids, the animals are held in limbo as evidence—for over a year sometimes—while prosecutors and law enforcement agencies pursue cases against accused animal fighters. As a result, the animals must stay in temporary shelters and cannot begin their new lives in forever homes.
Animal fighting victims aren’t like other criminal evidence that can be warehoused in storage lockers for years at a time. These animals have delicate behavioral needs, and even with the best staff behaviorists in the country tending to them, rescued dogs often deteriorate psychologically after many months caged in a temporary shelter environment to the point where they cannot be adopted.
We are grateful to our partners for all of the work they do to stamp out animal fighting and for throwing their expertise and passion for animals into this important cooperative conversation.
At the request of the Indiana Gaming Commission Gaming Control Division, the ASPCA is assisting in the removal of more than 15 animals, including birds and dogs, from properties associated with cockfighting in Fayette and Henry Counties, Indiana.
The investigation began as a cockfighting investigation, and search warrants were executed Thursday morning for the seizure of roosters. The remaining animals were subsequently surrendered. Without access to proper food or water, many of the animals appeared to be malnourished and suffering from medical issues.
The ASPCA is assisting with intake and removal, and will transport the animals to a temporary shelter established by the Johnson County Animal Control, where they will receive medical exams and veterinary care. Our cockfighting experts are also guiding evidence collection to identify tools, drugs and other paraphernalia used in cockfighting. The animals will remain at the temporary shelter until custody is determined.
“We’re pleased to work with local authorities in removing these animals from a cruel situation,” said Kathryn Destreza, Investigations Director of the ASPCA Field Investigations & Response’s team, “sending a message that cockfighting and other crimes against animals will not be tolerated in this community or anywhere in the country.”
Cockfighting continues to be an insidious problem in the United States. Though it is illegal in every state, this brutal blood sport has been found in all types of communities and amongst all sorts of people. The ASPCA is dedicated to helping its victims and ending the cruel practice altogether.
It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since more than 300 dogs were rescued from lives of misery and horror in one of the largest federal dog fighting busts in U.S. history. The August 2013 raid spanned Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Texas, and resulted in ten arrests and the rescue of 367 dogs, ranging in age from just several days to 10-12 years.
The dogs were left to suffer in extreme heat, with no visible fresh water or food, and some were tethered by chains and cables attached to cinder blocks and car tires.
What a difference a year makes. Thanks in large part to the incredible efforts of countless organizations* and volunteers, many of the dogs are now enjoying carefree lives of comfort in the loving arms of families who adore them. We’ve told you some of their stories (who can forget Timmy, the poster pup?) but to mark the one-year anniversary of the dogs’ freedom, we have a few more updates complete with adorable photos. Please enjoy and share these inspiring happy tails using the hashtag #367rescue.
Arabelle Sharon N. was volunteering with Plenty of Pit Bulls in Gainesville, Florida, when she heard about Arabelle, a senior dog and one of several who had been used as a breeder. “I have a soft spot for the seniors and couldn’t wait to meet her,” Sharon says. “It was love at first sight for both of us. I spent some time with her in her kennel and when I got up to leave, she got up and barked as if to say, ‘please don’t go.’” It was the first time since the rescue that anyone had heard Arabelle bark. This lucky lady adores her new family, including her canine siblings, and loves life and everything it has to offer her. Sharon adds: “From the moment we arrived at the house, it was as if she had been waiting her whole life for a home of her own.”
Hope (FKA Mabel) Mabel was one of six dogs recently transported to the Great Plains SPCA in Merriam, Kansas to find her forever home. Mabel’s stay at Great Plains SPCA didn’t last long—three days after her arrival, Lisa G. saw Mabel on the local news station and immediately contacted the shelter expressing interest in adopting the rambunctious pooch. When Lisa saw that Mabel’s shelter ID collar read “923,” she smiled. It was the same as her birthday, 9/23. “It was meant to be,” says Lisa. “We just love her to pieces.”Mabel, now renamed Hope, spends her time with her canine sister, Jasmine, who was a rescued bait dog from a separate dog fighting case, and two human siblings along with Lisa and her husband.
Abby Abby was 3-months-old when Tamara H. became her foster parent through Charleston Animal Society (CAS) last October. Tamara was told that Abby came from a cruelty case, but that the specifics couldn’t be disclosed. She knew it was likely a dog fighting case. Although Tamara already had two dogs—a Chow-Shepherd mix and a hound—and hadn’t planned on adopting another, she knew soon after bringing Abby home that she wouldn’t be able to give her back. When CAS contacted Tamara to ask if she would like to keep Abby or bring her back to CAS to be made available for adoption, Tamara came in immediately to sign the adoption papers and make her forever home official.
* We want to extend a special thanks to the many volunteers and organizations (listed below) that have partnered with us over the past year, especially those agencies that have adopted out more than 10 dogs from the case: Thank you, Humane Society of Calvert County, Charleston Animal Society, Humane Society of Pinellas, Plenty of Pitbulls and Atlanta Humane Society!