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ASPCA Assists State, Federal Agencies in Removal of 41 Dogs from Dog Fighting Operation in Halifax County, Va.

ASPCA dispatches field investigators, forensic evidence teams, animal behavior experts to crime scene
April 21, 2011

Halifax, Va.--Under the authority of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the United States Attorney's Office, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), in conjunction with Halifax County Animal Control and Campbell County Animal Control, assisted in the rescue, veterinary care, and forensics evidence collection of 41 dogs associated with dog fighting operations in Halifax, Va.

A search warrant was executed Wednesday morning for the removal of the dogs on the property, approximately 36 miles northeast of Danville. The ATF contacted the ASPCA for assistance in the investigation. Upon arriving at the scene, ASPCA responders discovered many of the dogs exhibited scars consistent with fighting dogs. Tim Rickey, senior director of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response, reported that the majority of the dogs were pit bull or pit mixes; roughly a third are puppies. The dogs did not have access to clean water and appear to be underweight and have skin problems, among other medical conditions.

The dogs were seized by the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team and transferred to an undisclosed location where they will be triaged by Dr. Rachel Touroo with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Once the animals are triaged, they will be behaviorally evaluated by a team led by Dr. Pamela Reid, vice president of the ASPCA's Animal Behavior Center and leading expert in the evaluation and rehabilitation of fighting dogs.

In addition to removing the animals and collecting evidence for the prosecution of the criminal case, the ASPCA will also collect DNA samples from the dogs and submit them to Canine CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), the nation's first criminal dog-fighting DNA database, which will help law enforcement agencies to identify relationships between dogs, enabling investigators to establish connections between breeders, trainers and dog fighting operators.

"Additional tools such as Canine CODIS will help animal welfare and law enforcement professionals with dog fighting investigations using 21st century technology," said Tim Rickey. "Other illegal activities are often associated with dog fighting, and our goal is to help law enforcement agencies tackle other serious crimes while also saving animal victims."

ASPCA animal fighting specialist Terry Mills added, "Organized dog fighting is a brutal form of animal abuse where dogs are exploited and forced to fight as their owners profit from their torture, and we are determined to protect our nation's animals from this form of cruelty."

In December 2010, the ASPCA established its Blood Sport unit to investigate dog fighting and cockfighting, across the country. Dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.