The United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama concluded sentencing today for eight individuals arrested during the second largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history in August 2013. The case was led by the United States Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who requested assistance from the ASPCA and HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) in the removal, transport, sheltering, medical and daily care of the animals seized during the raid. Sentences ranged from six months to eight years—which is the longest prison term ever handed down in a federal dog fighting case.
Throughout the hearing, U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins commented on the extreme cruelty committed both due to dog fighting and the conditions in which these dogs were forced to live. Judge Watkins further reiterated that the federal sentencing guidelines for dog fighting are wholly inadequate to address the seriousness of the crime. He estimated that the defendants had injured or killed between 420 to 640 dogs in the course of this dog fighting operation.
“These dogs lived in deplorable conditions, were emaciated, had parasites, ear infections, eye infections, heartworms, fleas and ticks,” stated U.S. Attorney George L. Beck, Jr. “Their living conditions constituted extraordinary cruelty. These dogs were also made to fight and, if they lost the fight, they were killed. I hope that these sentences demonstrate the seriousness of this crime and will deter others from committing these atrocities.”
Judge Watkins also ordered that after their release from prison, each defendant serve a three-year term of supervised release. While on supervised release, the defendants are prohibited from possessing dogs.
“This is truly a landmark case for the animal welfare community,” said Tim Rickey, Vice President of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response, who testified at the hearings. “We hope this case serves as a precedent for future dog fighting cases and sends a message to dog fighters everywhere that this crime will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
On August 23, 2013, The ASPCA and HSUS assisted the United States Attorney’s Office and FBI in seizing hundreds of dogs in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. Many of the dogs seized during this case have finally moved on to the second chapters of their lives and were placed with various rescue groups across the country to be made available for adoption.
We believe that there will come a time when dog fighting is seen for what it really is: the shameful pastime of cowards. But until that day comes, we will continue to fight for the victims—so that they never have to fight again.
At the request of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina (USASC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the ASPCA is currently on the ground assisting with a federal investigation involving drugs and dog fighting in Columbia, South Carolina.
Earlier today, agents executed a search warrant and seized a dozen dogs from a property in Gaston, South Carolina. Upon arriving at the scene, ASPCA responders found severely emaciated and dehydrated dogs with scars and injuries commonly associated with dog fighting. Some were chained and anchored to car axles. The remains of deceased dogs were also found.
“The truth is that dog fighting happens all over the country, but it’s an underground activity that goes mostly unnoticed by the public,” said Tim Rickey, Vice President of the ASPCA’s Field Investigations and Response Team. “Dog fighting is often linked to other illegal activities including drugs and gambling, and we’re pleased to work alongside state, federal and local law enforcement agencies in ending these dogs’ suffering and seeing justice served.”
Earlier this month, a separate warrant was served for the removal of drugs and 35 dogs from the same property. The Lexington County Animal Shelter provided daily care for the seized dogs until the ASPCA was able to transport the dogs to a temporary shelter in an undisclosed location.
The ASPCA will continue to provide daily care for the dogs at the temporary shelter until custody is determined by the court. PetSmart Charities® is sending supplies such as pet crates, toys and treats to support the rescue operation.
We are committed to helping these dogs heal, both physically and emotionally, but we need your support now more than ever. When you make a gift today, you will help provide these dogs with the urgent care they so desperately need, and you’ll help us continue to rescue victims of animal cruelty across the country.
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.
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.
Berta and Bessie—who were only a year old at the time of their rescue—had been found living in squalor with little-to-no protection from the elements. They wore heavy chains and had no food or fresh water, and they had never been socialized with other people or dogs. In order to help them heal (both physically and emotionally), we sent them to the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in Madison, New Jersey. Over the course of the next year, they learned to trust people, take walks, play with toys, and receive belly rubs. Now these sweet girls just need one last thing: adopters!
Berta: Berta is a lover! She enjoys being touched, pet and cuddled, and will crawl right into your lap if you let her—even if you’ve just met! She loves to play with other dogs, and would do great in a home with a confident dog of similar energy and play style. Berta is a bit nervous walking in busy areas, and is especially nervous around bicycles, so adopters should be willing to work with her to make her comfortable with these things. As a bonus, if you look closely, the dark tan spot over her eye is in the shape of a heart!
Bessie: Bessie is a sweet clown. Though she is a bit shy around new people, she enjoys giving kisses and being pet by friends who have earned her trust. She really comes alive in the presence of another dog, and would do best in a home with at least one other pup. Bessie has played with dogs of all sizes and can adjust her play style to theirs. In addition, she’s earned a reputation as a “tap dancer,” because she gets so excited before walks and play dates that she literally can’t keep her feet on the floor! She is a bit nervous around loud noises, so she will need a patient family that will continue to help her discover the world.
If you are interested in adopting Berta or Bessie, please contact the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center directly via email at [email protected] or call 973-377-5609.