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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Ruth Caron

What bothers me more is all the know it alls that post about these dogs. We don't know if they will be put down. We don't know the outcome.


Can't stand that they only get 5 years. Treat them like they treated those dogs

Kristine Kolbus

Thanks to all that assisted in this raid.... Humans never cease to amaze me. What is wrong with people?? Karma that is all I can say, you will get yours all of you... And 5 years is not long enough please lets change the laws to be stricter they may think twice about committing such acts.

cathy patula

They should go to prison for longer then 5 year , I think it should be five years for every dog .

vickie forehand

Perhaps putting these people in a pen with rabid dogs taking a few bites out of them might teach them the pain that they are enduring is the same as the pain they inflicted.


I hate that those 10 people only get 5 years in prison for a 3 year long case study. After those 5 years are up, they are all going to do the same thing they were. That isn't going to do anything. And I also hate that many of those dogs will have to be euthanized, but given the lives they have lived, some may well be beyond saving. I volunteered for the ASPCA for quite some time, and I can tell you for fact that they will evaluate and attempt to rehabiliate them to the best of their capabilities, but the sad fact is that many dogs that have known only pain and suffering and fighting their whole lives are more than likely unsavable, mainly because of the aggression issues towards other animals especially cats and smaller dogs, many of which are used as bait for training purposes. And also because of the high possibility of attack on a person or even a small child. Hopefully more will be saved than euthanized, but it's not right to blame the ASPCA when they are forced to make hard decisions involving dogs, especially fighting dogs.


Thank you, Ashley for your post. It really angers me when people think that the ASPCA doesn't try, to their utmost, to save all the animals that they rescue.


Your absolutely right on all you've said. Laws need to be stricter, way too little,only the people can speak up and change that. You know your stuff with the ASPCA,more people should read your comment to understand what the ASPCA is sometimes up against. But every attempt,and i do mean EVERY,,,will be done to save as many as possible,and those that are will be the best vetted,fed,loved on & well taken cared of dogs you could possibly adopt.

Carol McCabe

I think they ought to use the money retrieved in the raid to care for the dogs and the treatments they will need;

Cindy Rock

Thankyou for saving these dear souls. I pray that our nation will elevate the time served to 15 years in prison for this crime. I also will never forgive Michael Vick for his vicious role in the death of many dogs, and feel that all who engage in this activity should have their mugshot publicized. They should lose all protections of civilized society for what they've done. The dogs deserve this much.