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.