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!
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.
At the request of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (Virginia ABC), the ASPCA is assisting with the forensic evidence collection, removal, transport and sheltering of more than 550 birds, many allegedly used for fighting, from three properties near Pound, Virginia.
The seizure was the result of a comprehensive investigation on the illegal manufacture, transportation and distribution of untaxed distilled spirits, illegal cockfighting, and cruelty to animals, according to the Virginia ABC, which set the investigation in motion.
“Cockfighting is a violent blood sport that results in a tragic outcome for these victimized birds,” said Tim Rickey, Vice President of the ASPCA’s Field Investigations & Response Team. “We’re grateful to the local authorities for pursuing this case and sending a message that cockfighting will not be tolerated in our country.”
A search warrant was executed over the weekend to remove the birds from the three properties, and the ASPCA established a temporary shelter at an undisclosed location, where the birds will be cared for and housed by veterinarians and skilled animal handlers. More than 80 ASPCA responders are working to support state, local and federal law enforcement agencies with the operation.
Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states. In Virginia, cockfighting, possession of a fighting bird, attending a cockfight, and possession of cockfighting paraphernalia may be punishable as felonies, with each charge carrying a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a maximum fine of $2,500.
Pictured at right: One of dozens of dogs rescued from a dog fighting bust in the Bronx in 2012.
At the request of the Buffalo Police Department and the SPCA Serving Erie County, the ASPCA is on the ground in Buffalo, New York assisting in a multi-site dog fighting raid.
This morning, eight search warrants were executed at several sites in the Buffalo area. In addition to evidence collection, the ASPCA’s Field Investigations and Response team is assisting in the seizure of at least 20 dogs from several properties, where they were allegedly being housed and fought. Investigators report that many of the dogs exhibited scars and wounds consistent with fighting, and some appeared to be emaciated and in poor health.
“Dog fighting is a national epidemic, and we are grateful for local authorities in actively pursuing the case and seeking justice for these innocent victims who were forced to live in deplorable conditions and subjected to horrific abuse,” said Tim Rickey, Vice President of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response.
The dogs seized during the raid will be cared for by the SPCA Serving Erie County.
In the last month alone, the ASPCA also assisted local and federal authorities in dog fighting cases in Dover, Delaware and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states, and we are working hard to put an end to this brutal blood sport.
Please visit aspca.org/dogfighting for more information on the ASPCA’s efforts to tackle dog fighting and what the public can do to help.
When Vivian adopted Blue from the Humane Society of Southern Arizona (HSSA), she knew nothing of the horrors the nine-month-old pup had endured at the hands of dog fighters. One of 77 dogs rescued in a multi-state dog fighting raid in March 2013, Blue was chained to a stake in the ground, exposed and shivering in blizzard-like conditions, when the ASPCA rescued him. For today’s special video Happy Tail, we traveled to Tucson to catch up with Vivian and Blue.
Vivian W. grew up in New York with all kinds of pets: cats, birds, even rodents. But she never had a dog. When she moved to Arizona last year, she decided that pit bull adoption was at the top of her priority list. On her second day in Tucson, she adopted Blue.
“It was love at first sight,” says Vivian, recalling the moment she met Blue. After spotting his picture online, she was drawn to his striking blue eye (for which he is named), but knew nothing of his past. As she later came to learn, Blue was rescued by the ASPCA in a massive dog fighting raid. He was emaciated and weighed just 30 pounds when he first arrived at the shelter.
After his adoption, Blue settled in with Vivian quickly. He now devotes his time to the finer things in life: “He loves people, as well as car rides and his rope toy—that’s his favorite,” says Vivian. He is never far from her side, especially when she’s sleeping or cooking, and has even taken a liking to olives, which grow on the many trees that dot their property.
“He seems to have forgotten about everything that happened, which is more than we can really ask for,” she adds.
Blue’s happiness is a testament to his resilient spirit. In many ways, he represents the thousands of dogs who have been rescued from abuse and who refuse to be defined by their traumatic past. Blue never gave up, just as we will never give up our commitment to ending dog fighting. In fact, April 8 marked our first annual National Dog Fighting Awareness Day, a day created to spread knowledge and understanding of dog fighting and to encourage animal lovers to take action against this barbaric practice.
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—for dogs like Blue—so that they never have to fight again.