ASPCA Forensic Veterinarian Aids in Latest Dog Fighting Raid in Georgia

Nation’s First Humane Organization Assists HSUS and Other Animal Agencies in Investigation
August 22, 2008

NEW YORK, August 22, 2008 - The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today announced that it was again part of a team of animal welfare agencies, led by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), as well as the Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s office and Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson, which participated in yesterday’s planned raid of an alleged dogfighting operation in Georgia. Gerald Holcomb, who has reportedly been involved in dogfighting since the 1960s, was arrested and charged with felony dogfighting, possession of a firearm and possession of marijuana.

“The ASPCA is proud to assist HSUS in the raid of yet another illegal dogfighting ring,” said ASPCA President & CEO Ed Sayres. “We are sending a clear message to dogfighters that by combining both our thorough investigative work and advanced veterinary forensics capabilities, they will eventually run out of places to hide.”

The raid took place near Ellijay, Ga. and resulted in 11 dogs being seized along with suspected dogfighting paraphernalia. Several dogs had scars consistent with dogfighting according to the investigators on the scene. Dr. Melinda Merck, ASPCA’s senior director of Veterinary Forensics, and Felicia Earley, an anti-cruelty veterinary assistant with the ASPCA, were part of the elite team of animal welfare professionals involved. The ASPCA’s Mobile Animal Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Unit, was also on-site to allow Dr. Merck to examine and care for any victims immediately, as well as gather and process all of the forensic evidence right at the scene. A “forensics first,” the mobile unit is specially-designed vehicle outfitted with state-of-the-art forensics tools as well as medical equipment tailored for animal patients.

“I am glad to be able to lend my expertise in processing the forensic evidence in this case and examining the animal victims,” said Dr. Merck. “The mistreatment that these dogs are experiencing is so horrific and while it is a long process if we want to eradicate animal cruelty, we need to continue bringing down these offenders one by one.”

Today’s raid marks the fourth Ga. dogfighting bust since the May 10 passage of new legislation signed by Governor Sonny Purdue, which strengthened the state's dogfighting law, making it a felony to own, possess, train, transport or sell a dog for the purpose of dogfighting. Holcomb could receive one to five years in prison and a minimum fine of $5,000 or both if convicted.

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