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.
The August 2013 raid spanned Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia, and after ASPCA responders provided veterinary care and behavior enrichment to the dogs, many of the dogs went to ASPCA partner organizations to find loving homes.
Buddy, who was just a puppy at the time of his rescue, was transported to the Charleston Animal Society, an ASPCA Partnership graduate agency. He was then placed with a foster parent, Michele W., who described this adorable pup as a “love bug” who quickly learned to get along with his foster parent’s four resident dogs.
Soon after, Buddy was adopted by Nicole M. and Andrew M., and it was love at first sight.
Nicole reports that Buddy is their constant companion. He loves to snuggle and play outside, and he bonded quickly with their resident dog, Cinnamon.
We could not be more pleased to share this happy ending to Buddy’s story. The ASPCA has designated April 8 as National Dog Fighting Awareness Day (NDFAD) to shed light on stories like Buddy’s and to encourage animal lovers across the country to take action against this brutal form of cruelty. Get involved by joining our NDFAD Google Hangout on April 8.
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The ASPCA is currently on the ground assisting the Milwaukee Police Department and the District Attorney of Milwaukee County with a multi-site dog fighting raid in the City of Milwaukee. Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission is transporting, sheltering and caring for the dogs.
Today, eight search warrants were executed at eight crime scenes, where 23 suspected fighting dogs were seized. Investigators also discovered blood on basement walls as well as other evidence of dog fighting, including treadmills, wound treatment supplies and muscle building supplements.
Experts from the ASPCA Field Investigations & Response (FIR) team are on hand to assist with evidence collection and documentation. The ASPCA has been assisting local authorities with this dog fighting investigation for nearly a year.
Dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The ASPCA is committed to eradicating the blood sport. We have designated April 8 as the first National Dog Fighting Awareness Day to advance the conversation about dog fighting, and to encourage animal lovers across the country to take action against this brutal form of cruelty.
Earlier this week, we told you about our support of a massive cockfighting bust that spanned three counties in New York State. At the request of the New York State Attorney General's Office, the ASPCA is still on the ground at an Ulster County farm, assisting with the removal, transport and sheltering of as many as 4,000 fighting roosters.
While our responders establish a temporary shelter, where the birds will be cared for and housed pending court disposition, law enforcement officers have arrested three individuals associated with the farm, where birds allegedly destined for cockfights, were bred and trained. The owner of the property was apprehended in south Florida, and according to investigators and an article in the New York Times, has operated an extensive cockfighting pipeline for years.
Several other arrests were made on Saturday night when investigators busted a cockfight in Queens and raided a pet shop in Brooklyn. Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states. In New York, cockfighting and possession of a fighting bird at a cockfighting location are felonies, with each charge carrying a maximum penalty of four years in jail and a maximum fine of $25,000.
This past weekend, I had the privilege to be among the ASPCA team assisting New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and New York State's Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) in the execution of the largest cockfighting takedown in New York State history, and among the largest in United States history.
The ASPCA's Field Investigations and Response team is leading the removal of the animals, as well as identifying and documenting forensic evidence. We also established a temporary shelter at an undisclosed location to house and care for the animals.
On Saturday night, I was at the gruesome scene of the raided cockfights in Queens, New York, where we removed 65 birds. The basement was small and dirty, and seemed permanently haunted by the atrocities it had housed for many years. This cockfighting ring had been holding bimonthly events there since May. That same night, another 50 birds were removed from a Brooklyn pet shop.
The massive show of force on display was awe-inspiring. That the state committed such intense resources sends a strong message to the entire bloodsport industry about the appropriate seriousness with which it considers these crimes.
As horrific as these scenes get, it's important for those of us in animal advocacy to see with our own eyes the depth of man's cruelty towards defenseless animals. No one falls into cockfighting or just shows up at a cockfight by chance. Whether you're participating, refereeing, or just watching, it's a malicious, unconscionable, criminal act.
I knew there were only two reasons for cockfighting: sadism and greed. But as I stood in that dank Queens subterranean room, surrounded by a palpable atmosphere of death and suffering, I realized the two are linked at their core. The greed is inherently sadistic; the sadism is fed and magnified by greed.
Owners and spectators placed bets on the outcomes of the fights, with individual wagers reaching $10,000. These fights, which began in the evening and lasted into early morning hours, pitted dozens of roosters against one another in battles to the death. Often in such cases, the roosters are injected or fed drugs to enhance their performance, mutilated without anesthesia, and forced to wear sharp weapons intended to inflict maximum injury in the pit. Injuries we see include punctured lungs, broken bones, and pierced eyes. Win or lose, the inevitable result is agonizing death.
On Sunday morning, OCTF investigators, with the help of the Ulster County Sheriff's Office, State Police and other local law enforcement, raided a 90-acre farm in Plattekill. There, the ASPCA recovered approximately 4,000 more birds, belonging to rooster owners from all over the Northeast, including New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
These arrests and the enormous number of animal seized should open some eyes to the modern face of this abhorrent crime; it's both more prevalent and more savage than most dare to think.
While there are obvious differences between roosters and more typical companion animals, let there be no mistake in our position, or weakening of our resolve: Cockfighting is a very serious crime, and an example of animal cruelty at its most heinous and deplorable. No animal should be forced to fight for human amusement and profit.
It's encouraging to know that most people agree on this issue, and stand united to ending the brutality, whether it takes place on a rural farm, a city pet shop, a residential basement, or anywhere else.
Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states, and punishable as a felony in 40 states. The possession of birds for fighting is prohibited in 38 states, and being a spectator is illegal in 43 states.
We were happy to see that the Farm Bill signed by President Obama last week includes a measure to strengthen federal animal fighting laws by making attending an animal fight a federal offense. It also imposes additional penalties for bringing a child to an animal fight.
Still, while this weekend's efforts removed thousands of roosters and hens from cruel abuse, there are many thousands of animals out there suffering the same sad fate.
The ASPCA will continue to partner with law enforcement, champion anti-cruelty legislation, and be present on the front lines to ensure that we're doing all we can to end the brutality, including prosecuting participants to the fullest extent of the law.
Doing less would not only leave animals unprotected, but would signal to society that certain forms of abject cruelty are conscionable, that we don't care about desensitizing our society—and our children— to despicable animal abuse.
We can't let that happen, and this strong collaborative act of investigation, intervention and enforcement is a loud step toward our shared goal of wiping out cockfighting in this country. You can help us take the next step by sharing this story with friends, neighbors, colleagues, and state or federal representatives.