After a three-year investigation initiated by the Auburn Police, 13 search warrants were executed Friday morning, Aug. 23, throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Texas. Ten suspects were arrested and indicted on felony dog fighting charges. Federal and local officials also seized firearms and drugs, as well as more than $500,000 in cash from dog fighting gambling activities that took place over the course of the investigation.
The dogs, ranging in age from just several days to 10-12 years, had been left to suffer in extreme heat with no visible fresh water or food. Many are emaciated with scars and wounds consistent with dog fighting, and some were tethered by chains and cables that were attached to cinder blocks and car tires.
ASPCA responders and responders from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) helped manage the removal and transport of the dogs to temporary emergency shelters in undisclosed locations, where responders are providing veterinary care and behavior enrichment. Responders also assisted authorities with collecting forensic evidence to be submitted for prosecution.
Other animal welfare groups assisting with the operation include Florida State Animal Response Coalition and Sumter Disaster Animal Response Team (Bushnell, Fla.); University of Florida (Gainesville); Humane Society of South Mississippi (Gulfport); International Fund for Animal Welfare (Yarmouth Port, Mass.); Asheville Humane Society (Asheville, N.C.); Charleston Animal Society (Charleston, S.C.); Louisiana SPCA (New Orleans); American Humane Association (Washington, D.C.); Greater Birmingham Humane Society (Birmingham, Ala.); Atlanta Humane Society (Atlanta, Ga.); PetSmart Charities (Phoenix, Ariz.); Code 3 Associates (Longmont, Colo.); and Montgomery Humane Society (Montgomery, Ala.).
Our responders are still on the ground, and we’ll provide updates as the case unfolds. Stay tuned to aspcarescue.org for more news to come. Follow the conversation on Twitter using hashtag #367rescue.
Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives passed a modified Farm Bill that will affect animals in two distinct ways. On the plus side, the bill contains an important provision to strengthen laws against animal fighting. The provision, included through the leadership of Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Tom Marino (R-PA), would make attending an animal fight a federal offense and impose additional penalties for bringing a child to an animal fight. This provision is similar to the Animal Fighting SpectatorProhibition Act (S. 666/H.R. 366), standalone legislation with strong bipartisan support from 154 cosponsors in the House.
The ASPCA applauds Representatives McGovern and Marino for their continued leadership in strengthening laws to combat animal fighting and protect public safety.
On the negative side, the House-passed Farm Bill includes a provision introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) that would weaken state animal cruelty laws across the country. This dangerous provision would prevent states from passing their own laws regarding the production of “agricultural products”—a term so broad that it could include farm animals and dogs in puppy mills. As a result, improved animal welfare standards at the state level could be negated if this provision is enacted.
The House Farm Bill must now be reconciled with the Senate-passed version. The Senate bill, passed last month, contains similar animal fighting language but does not contain the dangerous King provision. The ASPCA continues to work with Congress to make sure that the final Farm Bill eventually presented to the President includes the best possible protections for animals. Join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade to learn how you can help!
These dogs’ lives were very different just one year ago. On June 21, 2012, we found them living in the dark, dirty basement of a six-story apartment building complete with a makeshift fighting arena, dog treadmills and a shopping cart full of raw chicken parts.
For months, ASPCA responders provided the dogs with extensive socialization, a healthy diet, medical care and exercise at a temporary shelter. Our goal was to prepare the dogs for adoption into loving homes, and give them a second chance to enjoy the rest of their lives free of pain and suffering. We’ve told you some of their stories. Watch the whole story and an interview with Unicorn’s adoring pet parents:
The Bronx dogs’ owner, Raul Sanchez, who pleaded guilty to dog fighting earlier this year, was sentenced to one to three years for animal fighting, one year for animal cruelty and one year for criminal possession of a weapon.
In March, the ASPCA assisted local law enforcement, the FBI and the Missouri State Highway Patrol in a multistate dog fighting investigation that resulted in the seizure of nearly 100 animals from multiple locations in Missouri, Kansas and Texas. Since then, an ASPCA team has been working around the clock to care for the rescued animals. We’ve also been fighting for justice.
That’s why we’re pleased that yesterday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas, Pete Davis Jr., 38, and Melvin Robinson, 42, each pleaded guilty to one count of transporting dogs to participate in animal fighting. The charges carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 9. Charges for a defendant in Texas are pending.
As a result of the hearing, dogs seized from the defendants’ properties in Missouri will be signed over to the ASPCA. We will explore placement options with various rescue groups. Dogs placed with ASPCA response partner shelters after this hearing will be the second group from the case to be placed for adoption.