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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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Sharon

Thank, Steve for posting the names. I agree with all the other people who feel that 5 years is too short a prison sentence. It is a fact that individuals who engage in cruelty to animals are at much higher risk of engaging in violence toward humans. The people charged with these crimes toward the rescued dogs should have at least 10 year prison sentences.

Jeannine

The oldest dog was about 12 yrs - that's the sentence the criminals should get - in DOG yrs - that would be about 90 yrs and much more appropriate for these monsters!!!

Stacey Alleman

I have, and still do, live in a state where pits are still fighting. Louisiana is a beautiful state, filled with SADLY uneducated people, as many states. Yet, here fighting is a family bond activity. Ive encountered somewhere in the range of 500 pit bulls and pit mixes over my 13 years of rescue. I always question myself as to how long this sport of intense insanity will continue to go on, fighting pit bulls. Yes i to have my own personal favorites that have rescued m. On days I dont wish to continue
I was so overwhelmed to see a dog fight club of this size...truely sadden. I hope I will one day awake to a word where pit fighting is abolished This I pray! A lonely THANK YOU...to the ones that stopped the pain for these dogs...if only their owners could have every day their dog spent chained in heat, DONE TO THEM ten fold....every round of baiting their dog ws forced to endure, done to the owner, every meal missed to make a weight, done to the owner....every scare the dog carries, a mark burned into their owners body for the world to see the pain they caused an animal.....

Sharon

Stacey, I am a native Southerner and have lived in Georgia most of my life. Sadly, there is still dogfighting here also. But I think it not because of lack of education. Rather, it is a lack of compassion - which must begin in people's hearts when they are children.

mel

It took you 3 yrs of investigation?!! Now all these ppl are only getting 5 yrs. Rediculas!!

Janie Gutierrez

If they kill an animal, they should get what a human being gets for killing another human being. Their acts lead to dead. It should be an eye for an eye. It is inhumane to do such atrocious acts. They should get life in prison although they would only create another burden to society. They should get the lethal injection in my opinion.

Deb M

I have donated $18 per month to the ASPCA for many years now and I am so proud to know what the ASPCA and HSUS have done to help save these babies from their horrible fate. Thank you!!

Pissed

I've had over 15 calls from ASPCA requesting money - I've asked REPEATEDLY that they stop calling. They persist. My financial contributions to ASPCA have now STOPPED. I call this harassment.

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