A three-year intensive investigation in Lee County, Alabama, initiated by the Auburn Police into allegations of dog fighting, culminated in Friday's rescue of 367 dogs and the arrest of ten suspects. Believed to be the second largest state dog fighting raid in United States history, the U.S. Attorney's Office, and Federal Bureau of Investigation were assisted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, (ASPCA), and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
According to the HSUS, 13 search warrants were executed Friday and served at various locations in Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama. Authorities seized firearms, drugs, and $500,000 in cash. The suspects have been charged with felony dog fighting. If found guilty, they face up to five years in prison, fines, and rehabilitation costs for the dogs.
During this massive rescue of the dogs, of which all have survived, the animals are currently being assessed and cared for at temporary emergency shelters. Dogs range from a few days old to adult dogs as old as 12.
Many of the dogs were kept in yards tethered by heavy chains with minimum protection from the heat of the day or inclement weather. Some exhibited wounds and scars consistent with dog fighting. Most had little food or water; one mother dog was trying to feed her six puppies with no food or water in an area filled with trash and feces.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS, warned all dog fighters their days are numbered:
"This series of raids reminds every dogfighter that they are not beyond the law and their day of reckoning will come..."
Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA stated:
"Never again will these dogs be forced to fight, live in squalor, or be neglected and deprived of the bare necessities..."
Auburn Police Department Chief Paul Register thanked the many agencies assisting the ASPCA and the HSUS who will be providing assistance in the care of the dogs.
Dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states. Please support the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act which would make it a federal offense to attend an animal fight and would also impose additional penalties for an adult bringing a minor to a fight.
The Al.com reports the future of the dogs is still uncertain, but they will require veterinary care for months to come. Tim Rickey, vice president of field investigations and response for the ASPCA stated:
"The ASPCA is determined to treating all of the dogs as individuals. A rehabilitation and behavioral plan will be drafted for each one. Some of them will be able to be rehabbed and some that won’t. Our goal is to have these dogs placed into a home where they can actually enjoy being a dog,”
The dogs' rehabilitation will take an extensive amount of time. Let's hope most will survive and find loving homes of their own.
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