Last week, we told you about our massive dog fighting bustthat spanned multiple states and resulted in the removal of 367 dogs and puppies. We gave you an inside look with our on-the-scene video, and now we have a first-person account from the rescue. Below is a guest blog by Tim Rickey, Vice President of the ASPCA’s Field Investigations & Response Team, reflecting on what he found during the raid and the terrible fate of dog fighting victims.
When I first walked on the property, I stared across the yard and saw more than 100 dogs, most of them tied to heavy log chains, anchored to dilapidated dog houses. The dogs ranged from old to young, living on a worn dirt ring that likely had seen generations of dogs come and go to a sad fate.
Most were chained nose-to-nose to their neighbors to ensure continuous arousal.
I first thought of what a grim fate many of these dogs would have met without our intervention that day. But as I looked at a young, weeks-old puppy with one glance, and an aging, 10-year-old senior with another, my thoughts quickly turned to the long, lonely and painful journey of a fighting dog’s life.
This cycle begins with being chained at such an early age with little to no positive human or animal interaction. The burden continues with heavy chains, often with additional weights, to drag around their entire lives. The constant noise, arousal and anxiousness push them towards aggression to or from their yard mates. If they don't respond, their life may end quickly, but if they do, they have sealed their fate of a long, torturous life.
Their only reprieve from the chain is death or brief release to be tested against another dog, eventually going back to the chain with little attention to their wounds. What follows is weeks of intense training and significant human interaction with the person who will commit the ultimate betrayal and force them into a barbaric battle for entertainment and profit. If they survive, they go back again to the chain: A vicious cycle that could go on for years until these dogs finally have no value or fight left in them and are discarded.
Our responders are still on the ground, so please stay tuned to aspcarescue.org for more news to come. Follow the conversation on Twitter using hashtag #367rescue.
As many of you know, last weekend the ASPCA and responders from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) removed more than 360 dogs from dog fighting properties in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Texas. Many are emaciated, with scars and wounds consistent with dog fighting. They’re spending their first days learning what it’s like to receive adequate care.
The dogs and puppies are safe now. They’ll never suffer in extreme heat without access to water. They’ll never be chained to cinder blocks and car tires again. And they’ll never be forced to fight.
Right now, the ASPCA is providing shelter, veterinary care, healthy food and much-needed attention and affection to hundreds of dogs and puppies. Our work is far from over. It’s a massive undertaking that will require months of food and supplies and man hours to ensure these dogs get the best possible care. Veterinary professionals, behavior professionals and so many others will be involved.
Please take a moment to watch and share our rescue video. You’ll see some of the dogs we rescued, as well as the real conditions these dogs were forced to endure.
We’re happy to report that these dogs are undergoing veterinary care and behavioral assessments, and for the first time, will begin to experience life without being forced to fight.
The atrocities of dog fighting are never easy for us to stomach. Many of the dogs we rescued in the raid had been forced to wear heavy collars. As ASPCA responders worked to remove the collars, they came to an especially tiny pup. The metal buckle on his collar had rusted and could not be undone. Even bolt cutters could not cut through the metal, and eventually, the collar had to be gently cut open with a knife. Finally, this small pup was free from the burden of the rusted collar that he should never have been forced to wear.
With your support, we’ll continue to provide the rescued dogs with the extensive attention they so desperately need. Stay tuned to aspcarescue.org for more news to come. Follow the conversation on Twitter using hashtag #367rescue.
Some good news on a topic laden with horror: Last Friday, the ASPCA helped end the torture of hundreds of abused dogs in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Texas and brought to justice those who—for profit and perverse pleasure—betrayed and defiled the trust that connects humans and animals.
In an operation that involved 16 animal welfare organizations, including The Humane Society of the United States, as well as at least 10 federal and state law enforcement agencies, 367 dogs across multiple locations in the Southeast were seized in the second-largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history.
I spent several years overseeing the ASPCA’s anti-cruelty group, where I witnessed or heard first-hand accounts of unspeakable acts of cruelty, but rarely have I encountered suffering of this size and scope. Dogs ranging in age from several days to 12 years were found emaciated and bearing typical scars of dog fighting, and left to suffer in extreme heat with no visible fresh water or food. Some were tethered by chains and cables to cinder blocks and car tires. Remains of dead animals were also discovered where the dogs were housed and allegedly fought.
These are the tell-tale signs of the horrors of dog fighting, the ultimate betrayal of the unique relationship that exists between humans and animals. Manipulating a dog’s intense desire to please its owner, perpetuating a life of chronic and acute physical and psychological pain, is the most horrific form of animal abuse.
The only consolation to this tragedy was the fact that, for the long-suffering animals who survived, lives of brutal torture and neglect had come to an end, and days of medical care and attention were about to start. Never again would they be forced to fight, live in squalor, or be neglected and deprived of bare necessities. No animal on earth—much less those often described as "man's best friend"—should have to endure such brutality at the hand of man.
As part of our raid, which we assisted at the request of the United States Attorney’s Office and the FBI, federal and local officials also seized firearms, drugs, and over $500,000 in cash from dog fighting gambling activities. All of these efforts were the result of a three-year investigation initiated by the Auburn Police.
Ten suspects were arrested and indicted on felony dog fighting charges. If convicted, they could each face up to five years in prison.
I believe these atrocities and the subsequent results will have positive and practical reverberations that will make a difference. The raid elevates the issue of dog fighting -- a reprehensible and vile activity – to people who will not only be appalled, but moved to share news and information, and fight for common-sense legislation. Dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, but that doesn’t seem to stop the atrocity. Earlier this year, the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act was reintroduced in the U.S. Congress, which would make it a federal offense to attend an organized animal fight and impose additional penalties for bringing a minor to a fight, expanding the implications of participation in this terrible crime.
I'm very proud that we saved these animals, and the unprecedented ways we did. This is not the last dog fighting ring we'll break up, but you can be sure we'll be working hard until the day we can finally say it is.
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.