Nearly 100 dogs are receiving much-needed care after the dismantling of a widespread dog-fighting operation that spanned three states.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), in coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office and the Henry County Sherriff’s Office, led a highly coordinated raid on properties in Kansas, Missouri, and northern Texas over the weekend.
Two men have been arrested and charged with one count each of buying, selling, delivering or transporting animals for participation in an animal-fighting venture, according to FOX 4 News out of Kansas City. Pete Davis, Jr., 38, and Melvin Robinson, 41, both of Kansas City, Kansas, owned upwards of 60 to 70 Pit Bulls as part of their alleged fighting operation. Investigators claim the men stored the dogs at a farm property in rural Harrison County, Missouri, and at their homes in Kansas City. When it was time for a fight, Davis and Robinson transported the dogs to locations as far away as Dallas, Texas.
The federal investigation against Davis and Robinson stems back to November, 2012, when it was discovered that Robinson would cruelly train the dogs on his property using a treadmill, weights and live chickens as bait. Last Friday, investigators put a tail on the men as they drove to a location near Tyler, Texas for a fight. According to reports, Davis and Robinson bragged about placing bets of as much as $20,000 to $30,000 on their prized dog, referring to the blood sport as a “dog show.”
The pair could serve as much as five years in prison and have to pay a fine as high as $250,000 if convicted.
The rescued dogs, most of them American Pit Bull Terriers and other “bully breed” variations, have been transported to a temporary shelter and are currently receiving veterinary treatment from the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Medical Director Dr. Sarah Kirk. Six chickens were also removed from one of the locations and are being looked after as well.
The ASPCA Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) team is working with the FBI to collect as much forensic evidence as possible from the raided sites.
The CSI team will also be collecting DNA samples from the seized dogs as part of a program called Canine CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), which is the first national dog-fighting DNA database. The goal of Canine CODIS is to create a pool of information about the relationships between dogs used in different dog-fighting operations. This will allow officials to identify specific dogs from samples taken at fight locations and also help investigators expand their search to people responsible for breeding dogs used in dog-fighting operations.
“Dog fighting is not a sport — it’s a crime,” U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom stated at a press conference after the raid. “Federal law prohibits cruelty to animals on the level of the events that are alleged in these charges.”
ASPCA Vice President Tim Rickey tells the San Francisco Chronicle that dogfighting and cockfighting are a huge problem nationwide. He says that, frustratingly, not much has changed since the organization participated in the largest dogfighting bust in U.S. history in July 2009, when over 400 dogs were rescued in an eight-state raid.
“The situation has not changed. We do not feel like there has been any decline in animal fights,” Rickey says. “There is better awareness, but there continues to be a lack of enforcement because they’re very difficult to investigate.”