The United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama concluded sentencing today for eight individuals arrested during the second largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history in August 2013. The case was led by the United States Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who requested assistance from the ASPCA and HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) in the removal, transport, sheltering, medical and daily care of the animals seized during the raid. Sentences ranged from six months to eight years—which is the longest prison term ever handed down in a federal dog fighting case.
Throughout the hearing, U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins commented on the extreme cruelty committed both due to dog fighting and the conditions in which these dogs were forced to live. Judge Watkins further reiterated that the federal sentencing guidelines for dog fighting are wholly inadequate to address the seriousness of the crime. He estimated that the defendants had injured or killed between 420 to 640 dogs in the course of this dog fighting operation.
“These dogs lived in deplorable conditions, were emaciated, had parasites, ear infections, eye infections, heartworms, fleas and ticks,” stated U.S. Attorney George L. Beck, Jr. “Their living conditions constituted extraordinary cruelty. These dogs were also made to fight and, if they lost the fight, they were killed. I hope that these sentences demonstrate the seriousness of this crime and will deter others from committing these atrocities.”
Judge Watkins also ordered that after their release from prison, each defendant serve a three-year term of supervised release. While on supervised release, the defendants are prohibited from possessing dogs.
“This is truly a landmark case for the animal welfare community,” said Tim Rickey, Vice President of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response, who testified at the hearings. “We hope this case serves as a precedent for future dog fighting cases and sends a message to dog fighters everywhere that this crime will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
On August 23, 2013, The ASPCA and HSUS assisted the United States Attorney’s Office and FBI in seizing hundreds of dogs in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. Many of the dogs seized during this case have finally moved on to the second chapters of their lives and were placed with various rescue groups across the country to be made available for adoption.
We believe that there will come a time when dog fighting is seen for what it really is: the shameful pastime of cowards. But until that day comes, we will continue to fight for the victims—so that they never have to fight again.
At the request of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina (USASC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the ASPCA is currently on the ground assisting with a federal investigation involving drugs and dog fighting in Columbia, South Carolina.
Earlier today, agents executed a search warrant and seized a dozen dogs from a property in Gaston, South Carolina. Upon arriving at the scene, ASPCA responders found severely emaciated and dehydrated dogs with scars and injuries commonly associated with dog fighting. Some were chained and anchored to car axles. The remains of deceased dogs were also found.
“The truth is that dog fighting happens all over the country, but it’s an underground activity that goes mostly unnoticed by the public,” said Tim Rickey, Vice President of the ASPCA’s Field Investigations and Response Team. “Dog fighting is often linked to other illegal activities including drugs and gambling, and we’re pleased to work alongside state, federal and local law enforcement agencies in ending these dogs’ suffering and seeing justice served.”
Earlier this month, a separate warrant was served for the removal of drugs and 35 dogs from the same property. The Lexington County Animal Shelter provided daily care for the seized dogs until the ASPCA was able to transport the dogs to a temporary shelter in an undisclosed location.
The ASPCA will continue to provide daily care for the dogs at the temporary shelter until custody is determined by the court. PetSmart Charities® is sending supplies such as pet crates, toys and treats to support the rescue operation.
We are committed to helping these dogs heal, both physically and emotionally, but we need your support now more than ever. When you make a gift today, you will help provide these dogs with the urgent care they so desperately need, and you’ll help us continue to rescue victims of animal cruelty across the country.
Berta and Bessie—who were only a year old at the time of their rescue—had been found living in squalor with little-to-no protection from the elements. They wore heavy chains and had no food or fresh water, and they had never been socialized with other people or dogs. In order to help them heal (both physically and emotionally), we sent them to the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in Madison, New Jersey. Over the course of the next year, they learned to trust people, take walks, play with toys, and receive belly rubs. Now these sweet girls just need one last thing: adopters!
Berta: Berta is a lover! She enjoys being touched, pet and cuddled, and will crawl right into your lap if you let her—even if you’ve just met! She loves to play with other dogs, and would do great in a home with a confident dog of similar energy and play style. Berta is a bit nervous walking in busy areas, and is especially nervous around bicycles, so adopters should be willing to work with her to make her comfortable with these things. As a bonus, if you look closely, the dark tan spot over her eye is in the shape of a heart!
Bessie: Bessie is a sweet clown. Though she is a bit shy around new people, she enjoys giving kisses and being pet by friends who have earned her trust. She really comes alive in the presence of another dog, and would do best in a home with at least one other pup. Bessie has played with dogs of all sizes and can adjust her play style to theirs. In addition, she’s earned a reputation as a “tap dancer,” because she gets so excited before walks and play dates that she literally can’t keep her feet on the floor! She is a bit nervous around loud noises, so she will need a patient family that will continue to help her discover the world.
If you are interested in adopting Berta or Bessie, please contact the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center directly via email at [email protected] or call 973-377-5609.
It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since more than 300 dogs were rescued from lives of misery and horror in one of the largest federal dog fighting busts in U.S. history. The August 2013 raid spanned Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Texas, and resulted in ten arrests and the rescue of 367 dogs, ranging in age from just several days to 10-12 years.
The dogs were left to suffer in extreme heat, with no visible fresh water or food, and some were tethered by chains and cables attached to cinder blocks and car tires.
What a difference a year makes. Thanks in large part to the incredible efforts of countless organizations* and volunteers, many of the dogs are now enjoying carefree lives of comfort in the loving arms of families who adore them. We’ve told you some of their stories (who can forget Timmy, the poster pup?) but to mark the one-year anniversary of the dogs’ freedom, we have a few more updates complete with adorable photos. Please enjoy and share these inspiring happy tails using the hashtag #367rescue.
Arabelle Sharon N. was volunteering with Plenty of Pit Bulls in Gainesville, Florida, when she heard about Arabelle, a senior dog and one of several who had been used as a breeder. “I have a soft spot for the seniors and couldn’t wait to meet her,” Sharon says. “It was love at first sight for both of us. I spent some time with her in her kennel and when I got up to leave, she got up and barked as if to say, ‘please don’t go.’” It was the first time since the rescue that anyone had heard Arabelle bark. This lucky lady adores her new family, including her canine siblings, and loves life and everything it has to offer her. Sharon adds: “From the moment we arrived at the house, it was as if she had been waiting her whole life for a home of her own.”
Hope (FKA Mabel) Mabel was one of six dogs recently transported to the Great Plains SPCA in Merriam, Kansas to find her forever home. Mabel’s stay at Great Plains SPCA didn’t last long—three days after her arrival, Lisa G. saw Mabel on the local news station and immediately contacted the shelter expressing interest in adopting the rambunctious pooch. When Lisa saw that Mabel’s shelter ID collar read “923,” she smiled. It was the same as her birthday, 9/23. “It was meant to be,” says Lisa. “We just love her to pieces.”Mabel, now renamed Hope, spends her time with her canine sister, Jasmine, who was a rescued bait dog from a separate dog fighting case, and two human siblings along with Lisa and her husband.
Abby Abby was 3-months-old when Tamara H. became her foster parent through Charleston Animal Society (CAS) last October. Tamara was told that Abby came from a cruelty case, but that the specifics couldn’t be disclosed. She knew it was likely a dog fighting case. Although Tamara already had two dogs—a Chow-Shepherd mix and a hound—and hadn’t planned on adopting another, she knew soon after bringing Abby home that she wouldn’t be able to give her back. When CAS contacted Tamara to ask if she would like to keep Abby or bring her back to CAS to be made available for adoption, Tamara came in immediately to sign the adoption papers and make her forever home official.
* We want to extend a special thanks to the many volunteers and organizations (listed below) that have partnered with us over the past year, especially those agencies that have adopted out more than 10 dogs from the case: Thank you, Humane Society of Calvert County, Charleston Animal Society, Humane Society of Pinellas, Plenty of Pitbulls and Atlanta Humane Society!
A sign on the door of the house reportedly read “Premises is perilous to life,” and it was not a joke or an exaggeration. When the ASPCA and the NYPD entered the Queens home on Thursday, July 31, what we found was horrific—and heartbreaking.
Multiple dogs, many of whom were emaciated, scarred, and wearing heavy chains, were found without access to food or water. A bloody treadmill—a tool used to train dogs for fighting—weighted harnesses, steroids, syringes and other dog fighting paraphernalia were found in the home. At least one dog had deep scratch marks raked across its face.
Uniformed NYPD patrol officers from the 113th Precinct responded immediately to a complaint of dog fighting, called the ASPCA helpline, and less than 24 hours later both the NYPD and ASPCA—with the assistance of NYPD’s newly appointed Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad—were able to mobilize resources. Siblings Addison Holder, 44, and Keisha Hall, 33, are currently facing charges of animal fighting, unauthorized practice of veterinary medicine and felony drug possession, and are each being held on $100,000 bail. A third defendant was arrested on Wednesday, August 6.
The ASPCA has taken custody of the 20 canine victims found in the home. They are now receiving food, water, enrichment and love—many for the first time in their lives.
“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,” says Matthew Bershadker, President and CEO of the ASPCA. “Through our partnership, the ASPCA and the NYPD are determined to protect New York City’s animals from this form of cruelty and bring their abusers to justice.”