U.S. Department of Justice Cops Office, ASPCA Release Toolkit to Combat Dogfighting

<p>New guide offers best practices for police, prosecutors, animal control, and veterinary professionals</p>
December 12, 2011

Washington, D.C.-The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Policing Services (the COPS Office) has partnered with the ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) to develop the first-ever toolkit aimed at assisting law enforcement agencies in addressing dogfighting. The resource, a 96-page, illustrated manual, is available free of charge from the Justice Department to law enforcement agencies, investigators, prosecutors, animal control officers, veterinarians and interested community partners.

The Dogfighting Toolkit for Law Enforcement is a collection of resources designed to provide local law enforcement agencies and their partners with the necessary tools to deal with dogfighting in their communities. The toolkit includes details of best practices on addressing the issue, along with a quick reference card, a prosecutor's guide to dogfighting cases, a community action guide, an FAQ for animal shelters and veterinarians, and access to a no-cost, online training course entitled "Combating Dogfighting."

"Dogfighting is a heinous crime with terrible consequences," said Bernard Melekian, director of the COPS Office. "This toolkit gives law enforcement an opportunity to develop strategies to address a malicious crime, and provides prosecutors, professionals, and community members guidance on how they can assist in helping put an end to dogfighting."

"The ASPCA is pleased to jointly launch this comprehensive toolkit with the Department of Justice that will help law enforcement across the country tackle this ruthless crime that has become both an animal welfare and public safety issue," added Dr. Randall Lockwood, senior vice president of ASPCA Forensic Sciences and Anti-Cruelty Projects. "Dogfighting is often associated with other illegal activity such as drugs and weapons, and we hope our toolkit will help law enforcement and other agencies actively investigate, prosecute and eradicate dogfighting in America."

Dogfighting is a multi-million dollar criminal enterprise, which has challenged law enforcement agencies for nearly 150 years. Coordination of police, prosecutors, animal care and control, veterinary professionals, and others is essential for the successful investigation of dogfighting within any community.

Historically, dogfighting activities have remained underground and participants in this crime were rarely held accountable. Laws addressing dogfighting and animal cruelty in general were usually weak and poorly enforced. In the last decade, however, this trend has begun to change. Once just a misdemeanor, dogfighting can now carry felony penalties in all 50 states. Legislators, law enforcement agencies, and the public have recognized that animal cruelty and dogfighting often include participants and spectators who have been, or will be involved in, other serious crimes.

The COPS Office is a federal agency responsible for advancing community policing nationwide. Since 1995, COPS has awarded over $13 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to more than 13,000 state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of approximately 120,000 officers and provide a variety of knowledge resource products including publications, training, technical assistance, conferences, and webcasts.

For additional information about the Dogfighting Toolkit for Law Enforcement, and to view a list of municipalities that received grants, visit the COPS Office website at www.cops.usdoj.gov.