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April 29, 2011

ASPCA Assists Feds in Major Dog Fighting, Gang Bust

The ASPCA is in rural Virginia this week after helping authorities remove 41 dogs, 13 of them puppies, from an alleged dog fighting ring run by gang members.

On April 20, nine responders from the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response (FIR) Team arrived on a Nathalie, Virginia, property to help federal and local authorities remove 32 Pit Bulls and nine Beagles—many bearing scars consistent with dog fighting—as well as process evidence and transport the animals to a new location.

The dogs, who did not have access to clean water, appeared thin and were plagued with skin problems and other medical conditions. Several were tethered with heavy chains to objects outside a rundown trailer home.

While conducting a yearlong drug and firearm investigation of known gang members, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) discovered that its targets were also allegedly involved in dog fighting. An agent contacted the ASPCA for help.

“Other illegal activities are often associated with dog fighting,” says ASPCA Senior Director of Field Investigations and Response Tim Rickey, “and our goal is to help law enforcement agencies tackle other serious crimes while also saving animal victims.”

As a result of this multifaceted investigation, four suspects, ranging in age from 23 to 60, are facing federal and state charges related to dog fighting, firearms, conspiracy and drugs.

As for the animal victims, they were triaged by the ASPCA and Dr. Rachel Touroo of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and are currently being behaviorally evaluated by the ASPCA’s Dr. Pamela Reid and her team.

Meanwhile, evidence collected will be entered into the Canine CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), the nation’s first criminal dog fighting DNA database, and the ASPCA will continue to work with law enforcement on this case.

“Organized dog fighting is a brutal form of animal abuse,” says ASPCA Animal Fighting Specialist Terry Mills, “and we are determined to protect our nation’s animals from this form of cruelty.”
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