The Ultimate Betrayal

Monday, August 26, 2013 - 5:45pm
puppy behind fence

By ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker

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.

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Nicole Hilaire

I cannot believe that the max penalty is only 5 years! It should be much longer! I hope they add animal cruelty charges and other charges to them so that they can stay in jail longer!

Jacqueline Parker

I completely agree. It shoud be 367 years, or life, or death for that matter, for the 367 rescued! And during their sentence, they should endure every aspect of pain, torture, neglect, and cruelty each dog faced.

carla brown

i too believe in stiffer penalties. but why the hell should my taxes go into feeding and housing these creeps when they do sweet f.a. in the jails. Let us get them slaving in jobs that are dangerous to one's health (like some type of chemical company) instead of having these creeps sit in a jail for 23 hours daily. that is not enough of a punishment to me. just saying is all.

jackie f

I agree, 5 years is a joke!!!!!!!!

If the penalty for dog fighting were harsher-we might get their attention!!

Patty Miller

Do they even end up serving the 5 years? I think they should have to really feel the pain. Obviously the sentences are to lax if the dog fighting ring continues. Confiscate the property. Stiffer fines, no less than 100K for the owners and attendees AND jail time. Our laws are too lenient and until they make it hurt in the pocket book and put them in a cage for a good amount of time. we will continue to hear of this type of cruel activity!

John Sibley

The ultimate betrayal is killing the victims of cruelty, as the ASPCA often does - most recently killing 1/3 of the victims of a Bronx dogfighting bust. Do you intend to do better under your tenure?


Not all animals can be saved, especially if they have been outside in the South, there are likely many that have heart worms or other disease and will not be able to live through treatments.

Ruth Caron

Heartworms is treatable


Every dog is different. Some dogs have permenant damage to their hearts if the case is severe enough, so no, they aren't always treatable. Also, a dog's heartworm treatment (in the south where most things are lower priced) can cost AT LEAST $500.


but not always successfully. the aspca has a tough job to do...try not to many dogs have you saved?