Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Federal Dog Fighting Ring Raid & Rescue Update

Monday, September 14, the Humane Society of Missouri [click to see video] confirmed that guilty pleas have been entered in connection to the July 8, 2009 multi-state federal dog fighting raid that resulted in the rescue of more than 500 fighting dogs. Federal agents made 26 arrests and dogs were rescued in 8 states.

This rescue operation is the largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history. The Humane Society of Missouri participated in the 18-month investigation and led the subsequent rescue and shelter operations, working in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General, the U.S. Marshals Service and the United States Attorney.

Four eastern Missouri men, Robert Hackman of Foley, Teddy Kiriakidis of Leasburg, Ronald Creech of Leslie and Michael Morgan of Hannibal pled guilty today in U.S. District Court in St. Louis to charges connected to the dog fighting raid. Another man arrested in connection with the dog fighting raid, Jack Ruppel of Eldon pled guilty to charges on September 4 in federal court in Jefferson City.

“We can confirm that five of the individuals charged with this gruesome form of animal abuse are being brought to justice,” said Kathy Warnick, president of the Humane Society of Missouri. “Today’s guilty pleas raise awareness that dog fighting is unacceptable, inhumane and illegal and will not be tolerated. The unprecedented scale of this investigation and rescue operation should alert the entire nation to what a horrible crime dog fighting is and what a dangerous and serious affect it can have on animals and communities.”

Warnick continued, “We sincerely hope these guilty pleas will result in sentencing that sends the message that this form of animal abuse will no longer be tolerated. Humane Society of Missouri staff and our many partners have selflessly sacrificed much of their personal lives in the pursuit of this investigation and the care of these dogs. We fervently desire that this historic effort marks the beginning of the end to dog fighting in the United States.”

“This was the largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history, but it will not be the last,” warned Michael Kaste, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in St. Louis. “This case sets precedence for the FBI along with our local, state and federal partners to aggressively root out underground dog fighting rings where people have absolutely no qualms about torturing man’s best friend for money and entertainment.”

Information from a 2008 dog fighting case investigated by members of the Humane Society of Missouri Animal Cruelty Task Force led to the involvement of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Tim Rickey, director of the Humane Society of Missouri’s Animal Cruelty Task Force, and Kyle Held, Humane Society of Missouri animal cruelty investigator, spent countless hours providing consultation and dog rescue services throughout the ensuing multi-state investigation. At times, when other agencies had doubts about continuing the investigation, Rickey’s and Held’s unrelenting commitment to ending dog fighting kept the investigation alive.

On July 8, Rickey and the Humane Society of Missouri Animal Cruelty Task Force coordinated the crime-scene evidence gathering and animal rescue efforts in five states: Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Texas, and Oklahoma. Dogs also were rescued in Nebraska, Arkansas and Mississippi. The multi-location evidence and animal recovery operation required professional animal rescuers and a variety of specialized animal transport vehicles from the Humane Society of Missouri as well as those from the ASPCA and Humane Society of the United States.

“Our rescue team is one of the most experienced and best trained and equipped teams in the country,” said Rickey. “We were able to rescue, document and transport more than 400 dogs from 22 sites in 24 hours. There was simply no way we would leave even one of these dogs behind. We were committed to making sure none would ever be forced to fight again.”

Along with Humane Society of Missouri’s dedicated professional shelter staff, more than 265 volunteers from 22 organizations across the U.S. have given more than 7,600 hours of time to care for these animals. “We are very thankful to every person who has helped us care for these dogs so far,” said Debbie Hill, vice president of Operations for the Humane Society of Missouri and director of the emergency shelter. “It is a tragedy that because of mistreatment by humans for financial gain and so-called sport, many dogs from animal fighting situations may not ever be able to be placed in permanent homes.”

“We are committed to giving dogs who have come from such horrible abuse the absolute best chance for a good life,” said Hill. “We are relying on our fellow rescue groups to help us find permanent placement for as many of these dogs as possible. More animals were rescued from this situation than ever before, more than any one organization can handle alone. We are asking for help from qualified groups of all sizes and all parts of the country.”

You can help:
  • Qualified rescue groups or experienced individuals who are interested in providing permanent homes for the dogs should contact the Humane Society of Missouri, 314-802-5712.
  • Contact your state legislator and let them know you are concerned about the issue of dog fighting in your area.
    If you live in Missouri you can also get involved through the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation.

For Love of a Dog supports the Humane Society of MO and the MO Alliance for Animal Legislation.

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