30 arrested, 450 dogs seized in dog-fighting raids in 8 states
Coordinated raids were conducted early Wednesday in Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa and Mississippi after a year-long probe started at the request of the Humane Society of Missouri.
While the arrests were part of the same overall investigation, those charged were not organized but were part of several unconnected fighting rings, officials say.
In Missouri, where the largest number of dogs were seized, the state’s humane society is sheltering more than 300 dogs, mostly Pit Bull terriers, at a St. Louis shelter, where they will receive medical care and undergo behavior evaluations, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
The raids were coordinated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General, the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Attorney and state highway patrol officers. U.S. attorneys in four districts will try cases separately.
The ASPCA said it is collecting evidence for the prosecution and lending the services of its forensic cruelty-investigation team made up of disaster animal rescuers, field-service investigators and Dr. Melinda Merck, ASPCA’s leading forensic veterinarian. “The ASPCA is determined to protect its nation’s pets from dog fighting and other forms of brutality,” said Ed Sayres, president and CEO.
Like the dogs that were rescued from the dog fighting kennels of former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in 2007, many of which were later adopted, behavioral experts hope many of the dogs in these raids can be rehabilitated and placed safely in homes, said Jordan Crump, HSUS spokesman.
Dog fighting is now a felony in all 50 states, following passage of the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act which became law in 2007. Under its terms, each person charged faces a maximum five years in prison and $250,000 fine.