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!
A sign on the door of the house reportedly read “Premises is perilous to life,” and it was not a joke or an exaggeration. When the ASPCA and the NYPD entered the Queens home on Thursday, July 31, what we found was horrific—and heartbreaking.
Multiple dogs, many of whom were emaciated, scarred, and wearing heavy chains, were found without access to food or water. A bloody treadmill—a tool used to train dogs for fighting—weighted harnesses, steroids, syringes and other dog fighting paraphernalia were found in the home. At least one dog had deep scratch marks raked across its face.
Uniformed NYPD patrol officers from the 113th Precinct responded immediately to a complaint of dog fighting, called the ASPCA helpline, and less than 24 hours later both the NYPD and ASPCA—with the assistance of NYPD’s newly appointed Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad—were able to mobilize resources. Siblings Addison Holder, 44, and Keisha Hall, 33, are currently facing charges of animal fighting, unauthorized practice of veterinary medicine and felony drug possession, and are each being held on $100,000 bail. A third defendant was arrested on Wednesday, August 6.
The ASPCA has taken custody of the 20 canine victims found in the home. They are now receiving food, water, enrichment and love—many for the first time in their lives.
“Organized dog fighting is a brutal form of animal abuse where dogs are exploited and forced to fight as their owners profit from their torture,” says Matthew Bershadker, President and CEO of the ASPCA. “Through our partnership, the ASPCA and the NYPD are determined to protect New York City’s animals from this form of cruelty and bring their abusers to justice.”
You may have seen this photo before. It was taken last August at the scene of a dog fighting raid, and it has been used in ASPCA advertisements all around the Internet and on TV. It can be hard to look at—a small, vulnerable puppy tied to a heavy chain, alone and cowering in fear. With just the quick snap of a camera, this single moment captured so much about the fatal sport of dog fighting, and this puppy became the face of abused animals everywhere.
But Timmy’s story doesn’t end there. This sweet puppy was placed in foster homes that helped train him to become a well-adjusted pet. His final foster parents, Brian and Nadine DeCicco, just couldn’t give the little pup up and adopted him this past May. “We didn’t have any concerns about bringing a dog who had been associated with fighting into our home,” says Brian. “We’ve both had dogs our whole lives and know that they can reflect the way they are treated. Both of our previous dogs were pit mixes and they are just so unbelievably affectionate.”
Timmy now lives with Brian and Nadine in Maryland, where he is safe, happy and well-fed. “These dogs show amazing resiliency and forgiveness after being treated so poorly. They just want to be loved,” says Brian. Timmy spends his days snuggling with his family, snoozing in his “pita pocket” bed, playing tug-of-war with the neighbor’s Mastiff, and letting out his puppy energy—energy that at one time was restricted to a heavy collar and chain.
It’s hard to believe that Timmy is the same dog from that first photo. Fortunately, he will never have to worry about growing up to become a fighting dog, like so many generations of dogs tied to that very same chain before him.
After delivering Mabel at the Great Plains SPCA, our team headed to Lincoln, Nebraska to deliver Iso to his temporary home at the Capital Humane Society. Iso enjoyed a bowl of kibble al fresco before arriving at the shelter, where he settled down in the grass to relax with his new human friends. Iso is a happy dog who loves to make canine buddies, and his favorite activity is to settle into your lap! If you would like to adopt Iso, please contact the Capital Humane Society.
For our last stop, our team traveled nearly 500 miles to Longmont, Colorado, a town outside of Denver. On the morning of the Fourth of July, the last of the #FreedomDogs, Wickham and Fitz, arrived at the Longmont Humane Society. There, both dogs will receive behavioral enrichment to gain confidence. Our transport team saw firsthand how these dogs began to come out of their shells along the ride. By the end of the road trip, Wickham showed his silly, playful personality and Fitz greeted us with eager tail wags. Follow Longmont Humane for updates on their progress.
While the trip is over, the journey for these dogs continues as they wait to find loving homes. Check out our #FreedomDogs hashtag and Facebook album to view photos and updates from the transport, and stay tuned for news to come as Nightwing, Valentino, Mabel, Iso, Wickham and Fitz find their forever homes.
After driving more than 900 miles from our starting point, the team made its first stop at the Humane Society of Tulsa in Oklahoma, where we delivered two dogs, Nightwing and Valentino, to be made ready for adoption. Nightwing was a bit nervous upon arrival, but once our team placed him in the shelter’s play area, it was clear that he felt right at home. Valentino also settled in just fine.
If you’re in the Tulsa area and are interested in adopting Nightwing or Valentino, please contact the Humane Society of Tulsa. Nightwing would love to be your wingman for the day or night and won’t leave your side. He’s known to be a skilled snuggler. Valentino has a kind heart and adopters are sure to fall in love with him! He’s been trained to sit, lay, roll over and spin in circles.
Next, the team drove 250 miles to the Great Plains SPCA’s campus in Independence, Missouri, where Mabel will wait to find her new home. Mabel was thrilled to arrive at Great Plains SPCA, and rolled around in the grass to show her excitement. Our team reports that Mabel is a petite and friendly dog who loves attention. If you’re interested in adopting Mabel, please contact Great Plains SPCA.
We’ve still got two stops to go on our transport! You can follow the journey on the ASPCA Blog, our Instagram feed and by searching the hashtag #FreedomDogs on your social media channels.