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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Thank you, Liz for pointing this out. I live in Georgia and am involved with a animal rescue here. Heartworms and other parasites are a real problem here. Some rescued animals are in too poor health to survive treatment. Shame on people who think the ASPCA deliberates kills rescued animals.


Not to mention Babesia, a blood borne parasite (much like malaria) that is transferred through dog bites. Many fighting dogs end up with it. Lucas (the "champion" Vick fighting dog, kept for life at Best Friends sanctuary) recently died from complications of Babesia. He fought it, and they treated it, since he arrived there several years ago, but it can never be cured. It makes these dogs less desirable and less able to find permanent homes - even as hundreds of thousands of "pit bull" type dogs, abandoned as pets, are euthanized in shelters across the US every year. That, coupled with the time and effort it takes to house, feed, train and rehabilitate these dogs (Vick paid nearly $1 million to those organization who took his 50 dogs), the cost is staggering. These dogs rescued from fighting operations have so many strikes against them, through no fault of their own. Therefore, please do donate to the ASPCA, the HSUS and any rescue organizations that are offering to take these dogs. It saves lives.


The ASPCA often gets the worst of the worst cases; animals that are beyond rehabilitation. Sadly the kindest solution is sometimes euthanasia.

Kristine Kolbus

I would like to think that all these animals will be evaluated properly and some may not be able to be saved but I can assure you going to the rainbow bridge will be better than the life they lived.



Paul Anderson

Disparaging the work of animal rescue organizations is indeed a betrayal. It is an attempt to undermine the important good works of a group. I cannot imagine the sheer numbers of animals that are suffering every day in a world that views four-leggeds as objects to use in any way a person sees fit. My question is, what are YOU doing to save victims of animal cruelty? Do you own a rescue? Do you foster rescues? The reality is that every animal cannot be saved, but every single rescue matters. IMHO

Sherry Stoker

John you just broke my heart today. Is that really the best they could do?
That truly is the ultimate betrayal. I saw that happen on Animal Cops many times and had to stop watching. It doesn't make any sense. I'm so sorry.

Kevin Pritchett

Honored to have read this and proud to be a small part in the process. #stoptheabuseofpits

animal advocate

What is going to happen to the dogs?? Will they be adopted out or killed?


They normally don't adopt out dog aggressive dogs.