April 6, 2018

Announcing the 2018 “Champion for Animals” Award Recipients

Bruce Earnest, Steven Stoner, and his dog Trooper

Bruce Earnest, ASPCA Responder Safety Manager and Steven Stoner with his dog, Trooper (dogfighting rescue).

This week, we were proud to announce the recipients of the third annual ASPCA “Champion for Animals” award, a recognition honoring organizations and individuals who have shown outstanding dedication to end dogfighting in their communities. 

This announcement comes just before National Dogfighting Awareness Day on April 8, a day created to highlight the brutality and pervasiveness of dogfighting in America, reveal little-known truths about the blood sport and to encourage animal lovers nationwide to act against this brutal form of animal cruelty.

The 2018 ASPCA “Champion for Animals” recipients are: 

Cedar Bend Humane Society for playing a significant role in helping the ASPCA find safe and loving homes for countless victims of dogfighting, and for educating its community about important animal cruelty issues. As a dedicated ASPCA Response Partner, Cedar Bend has gone above and beyond last year in supporting the ASPCA’s efforts to end dogfighting and help animal victims of cruelty and neglect find the homes they need and deserve.

Kristina Bergman, her dog Pippin, Karla Beckerman, Bruce Earnest, Kristy Gardner, Steven Stoner with his dog, Trooper

(From left) Kristina Bergman with her dog Pippin (dogfighting rescue), Cedar Bend Humane Society co-director Karla Beckerman, ASPCA Responder Safety Manager Bruce Earnest, Cedar Bend Humane Society co-director Kristy Gardner, Steven Stoner with his dog, Trooper (dogfighting rescue).

Detective James Keller of the Jacksonville Police Department for his diligence investigating a dogfighting operation in the Onslow County, North Carolina area. Detective Keller worked in coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies on a case in which 155 dogs were rescued from multiple properties in December 2016. The investigation resulted in the federal indictment of 10 individuals on dogfighting and drug-related charges. Detective Keller continues to investigate dogfighting cases in his community.

Terry Mills, ASPCA Director of Blood Sports and Detective James Keller of the Jacksonville Police Department.

Terry Mills, ASPCA Director of Blood Sports and Detective James Keller of the Jacksonville Police Department. 

The Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Justice Department (ENRD) for their commitment to enforcing the Animal Fighting Prohibition Act, and their increased dedication to prosecuting federal animal fighting cases. Through ENRD’s collaboration with investigatory agents across the Justice Department, 10 individuals have been indicted on federal animal fighting charges and nearly 700 dogs have been rescued from federal dogfighting cases in the last two years. In addition, the number of animal fighting investigations overseen by the Justice Department nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017, and more than 200 federal, state and local investigators have received animal fighting training, ensuring they have the resources needed to properly identify, investigate and prosecute dogfighting throughout the country.

Joseph Poux (ENRD), Varu Chilakamarri (ENRD), Nancy Perry (ASPCA), Jeff Wood (ENRD), Richard Patch (ASPCA), Seth Barsky (ENRD)

From Left: Joseph Poux (ENRD), Varu Chilakamarri (ENRD), Nancy Perry (ASPCA), Jeff Wood (ENRD), Richard Patch (ASPCA), Seth Barsky (ENRD).

“Dogfighting is one of the most heinous forms of animal abuse, forcing dogs to live their entire lives on heavy chains and brutally fight other dogs as dogfighters profit from their torture,” said Stacy Wolf, Senior Vice President of the ASPCA’s Anti-Cruelty Group. “Individuals and organizations recognized for this award have demonstrated steadfast commitment to ending the suffering of these dogs and stamping out this barbaric blood sport. From investigating and prosecuting dogfighting to finding homes for rescued animals, law enforcement, prosecutors and animal welfare agencies have made this issue a priority, sending a clear message that dogfighting will not be tolerated in our country.”

According to a newly released ASPCA national poll measuring the gap between the public’s awareness and understanding of dogfighting and its prevalence in the U.S., 57% of people believe dogfighting never happens in their community, fewer than one-third, 31%, are very confident they would recognize the signs of dogfighting and only 53% reported suspected dogfighting activities to local authorities­—while 25% did nothing. These results show us that days like National Dogfighting Awareness Day, and people like Detective Keller and those working for Cedar Bend and ENRD are still necessary in the education of our communities and critical in the fight to break the chain of violence. 

Since 2010, the ASPCA has assisted with approximately 200 dogfighting cases in at least 24 states, and has impacted nearly 5,000 victims of dogfighting through rescue, consultations and investigations. Despite being a felony in all 50 states, dogfighting continues to be a rampant underground activity, and the ASPCA estimates that there are tens of thousands of dogfighters in the U.S. 

As our work to end dogfighting continues, we are proud to be able to work side-by-side with deeply devoted individuals like those being honored this week. Congratulations to all of our recipients of the ASPCA “Champion for Animals” award.