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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Kevin Pritchett

Another thing: I want to see newspapers across the South pick this up and run with it. At this point, disappointed in the lack of journalistic bite (do not pardon the pun) on the story. It needs high visibility and public awareness to sustain the fight...#367rescus


I agree, Kevin. I live in Atlanta and as far as i know, there has been NO coverage of this rescue.

Kevin Pritchett

Edit. Should have read #367rescue


The ultimate betrayal is killing the rescued dogs and fundraising for their care.


They will not kill them, some may be too sick or too aggressive to be adopted and will need to be put down, that is the most humane thing they can do.

Any dog that can be rescued likely will be, and if there is extra money raised it will go to other rescues.


What groups are going to be managing finding foster homes and such? I am in Atlanta and looking for a new foster.


Liz, I live in Atlanta also and am involved with Angels Among Us Pet Rescue. You might check them out.

Gail Avery

How about using the $500,000.00 that was seized to help all these dogs. Surely, that makes the most sense. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah took in many Michael Vick dogs and turned their lives around so they could be adopted. There are no hopeless cases. Your article says 'dogs up to 12 years old', well, that sounds about right for sentencing of these vile humans. 12 years each, now that's fair! Well, maybe not for the dogs that lost there lives, no punishment will ever be fair for the humans that killed them.

Kim Navarro

I agree with you. The 500,000 should be used in the rehabilitating of the dogs. Many wonderful dogs could be saved instead of put down.


I'm assuming they will be checking for microchips...
Did they find any other breeds aside from pit bulls?
I have a couple of dogs that went missing in AL....