Earlier last week, the ASPCA announced the launch of the nation's first criminal dog fighting DNA database, known as the Canine CODIS (Combined DNA Index System). Similar to the FBI's human CODIS—a computerized archive that stores the DNA profiles of criminal offenders and crime scene evidence—the Canine CODIS contains the individual DNA profiles of dogs who have been seized during dog fighting investigations and from samples collected at suspected dog fighting venues. This new, state-of-the-art system will provide an essential tool for law enforcement to prosecute dog fighting cases nationwide.
"Dog fighting is a multi-million dollar criminal enterprise that contributes to the cruel treatment and deaths of thousands of dogs nationwide every year," says Tim Rickey, the ASPCA's Senior Director of Field Investigations and Response. "This database is a vital component in the fight against animal cruelty and will allow us to strengthen cases against animal abusers and seek justice for their victims."
During an investigation, seized dogs will have their cheeks swabbed, and their DNA will be searched against the Canine CODIS database. Matching results will help law enforcement agencies identify relationships between dogs, and enable investigators to establish connections between breeders, trainers and dog fighters.
"Juries expect forensic science to support the evidence that's presented to them, and animal cruelty cases are no exception," says ASPCA Forensic Veterinarian Dr. Melinda Merck, who testifies in animal cruelty cases around the country. "This database breaks new ground in supplying that evidence for dog fighting investigations."
The ASPCA worked in conjunction with the Humane Society of Missouri (HSMO) and the Louisiana SPCA (LA/SPCA) to develop the Canine CODIS. The system will be maintained at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) Veterinary Genetics Laboratory.
On June 8, Staten Island, NY, resident Joedennys Malave was arrested and charged with 10 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty. The 30-year-old is accused of starving his 6-year-old Pit Bull, Beauty, and her nine newborn pups.
The initial investigation began on May 9, when a neighbor reported seeing Malave walking an extremely thin dog outside of his New Brighton home. ASPCA Special Investigator Mark MacDonald responded to the scene, where he discovered 10 severely emaciated dogs living inside a large cage—all were in dire need of medical attention.
The animals were rushed to ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, where three of the nine puppies received immediate intensive intervention. All of the pups required hourly bottle feedings. Veterinarians performed additional tests to determine whether the dogs' condition was due to neglect or illness. The final report concluded that malnourishment was to blame—all muscle and fat had been exhausted.
"Unfortunately, we see far too many Pit Bulls being abused and neglected by their owners," says Stacy Wolf, Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel of the Humane Law Enforcement Department. "Our goal is twofold—holding perpetrators accountable for their cruel and callous acts and, when we can, giving the animal victims a second chance at a better life in a new home."
In tribute to the characters from Disney's Beauty and the Beast, ASPCA hospital staffers named the now-thriving pups Lefou, Rose, Juliet, Fifi, Belle, Lumiere, Philippe, Chip and Mrs. Potts. The pups will undergo further rehabilitation before being placed up for adoption. Malave is scheduled to be arraigned on July 8.
If you know of an animal whose health is being compromised by neglect or abuse, please report it. Visit our Report Cruelty FAQ to learn how to report cruelty in your neighborhood.
On Friday morning, June 4, the ASPCA proudly unveiled our first-ever Animal Rescue Transport Trailer at a ceremony in New York City’s famed Times Square. The custom-built, two-piece, 60-foot-long vehicle can accommodate up to 60 animals and was designed to increase the ability of our Field Investigations and Response Team to deploy to emergency situations across the country. In addition to animal and equipment transport, the new vehicle will enable technical animal rescue, crime scene investigation, forensic analysis and disaster response functions.
“In the past four months alone, the ASPCA has rescued animals from puppy mills, hoarding situations and Tennessee flood zones,” says Tim Rickey, Senior Director of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response. “In every situation, time was of the essence. Our new vehicle is a vital resource in accelerating our response time, and will allow us to assist more animals who are stranded or in need of temporary shelter. In any of these cases, the ASPCA is ready to respond.”
The Animal Rescue Transport Trailer was made possible with funds generously donated by the Silberstein Foundation of New York and the Grousbeck Family Foundation of California. It will be based in Missouri, where it is headed this week.
On June 1, the ASPCA joined a coalition of animal welfare advocates, veterinarians, family farmers and environmental organizations in support of a citizen-backed ballot initiative to help prevent cruel factory farming practices in the state of Ohio. The coalition, Ohioans for Humane Farms, is asking the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to implement minimum care standards, including the humane euthanasia of sick and injured animals, a prohibition of cruel confinement practices, and the prevention of sick and injured animals from entering the food supply. Similar laws have already been enacted in Michigan, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine and Oregon.
On June 7, the ASPCA announced a $5,000 grant awarded to the equine rescue group Speak Up for Horses. The funding was gifted to assist with the care and placement of 48 severely neglected horses seized by local law authorities during a cruelty raid in Breckenridge County, Kentucky.
In April 2009, authorities discovered 11 dead horses and another 48 starving on a Breckenridge County farm. After the conviction of the farm owner, the horses were slated for auction and possible slaughter. Fortunately, with the support of Breckenridge County Executive Judge Ray Powers, Speak Up for Horses was able to acquire the animals and begin the slow process of rehabilitation. Speak Up for Horses supports the rescue of slaughter-bound horses and partners with a variety of equine organizations to rescue at-risk equines.
“Caring for 48 neglected horses is extremely rewarding, but also challenging,” says Shelly Price, Board Secretary of Speak Up for Horses. “It is imperative for us to give these horses humane care and ensure that they live out their lives in peaceful retirement. Without the ASPCA's support, this would not have been possible.”
Of the original 48 rescued, more than 30 have been placed in new homes, where an additional 10 foals have been born. The remaining 16 horses are currently receiving additional training to increase their opportunities for adoption.
“The sad reality is that abandoned and neglected horses often end up at auctions, or even worse, slaughterhouses, where their lives come to a brutal end,” says Jacque Schultz, Senior Director of Community Initiatives for the ASPCA. “Speak Up for Horses has been instrumental in rescuing at-risk horses while increasing awareness about equine welfare."