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More than 400 dogs seized in multistate raid on dogfighting rings

July 13, 2009 | 11:20 am

A pit bull seized in the multi-state raid on dogfighting rings

The Humane Society of Missouri says more than 400 dogs were seized last week as part of what's being called the largest coordinated raid on dogfighting rings in American history. Rescuers say dogs from Missouri, Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa and Mississippi were taken from owners who subjected them to unspeakable cruelty. Dogs that didn't fight well enough, they say, were shot, their bodies sometimes burned in barrels or thrown into rivers. Federal and state authorities, in addition to animal rescue groups, participated in the raid.

Many of those arrested in the raids appeared to live seemingly normal lives apart from their alleged ties to the shady world of dogfighting. One man arrested in Texas is a Little League coach; two men arrested in Missouri were a registered nurse and a teacher in a state-run school for the disabled, the Associated Press reported.

"The Humane Society of Missouri provided initial information that led to the investigation. During the course of the investigation they also cared for animals involved when possible, and they are presently designated to provide continuing care for the seized dogs," said Michael Reap, acting U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Missouri. 

The Humane Society of Missouri says it is housing most of the seized dogs -- mostly pit bulls -- in a temporary facility to keep them separate from other rescued animals. According to the group, animal behaviorists will evaluate each dog and make recommendations to the U.S. District Court on their chances for rehabilitation. 

"We are committed to giving dogs who have come from such horrible abuse the absolute best chance for a good life," Debbie Hill, the group's vice president of operations and the temporary shelter's director, said of the task at hand. "It is a tragedy that because of mistreatment by humans for financial gain and so-called sport, many dogs used in animal fighting may not ever be able to be placed in a home situation."

But there's good news for the animals as well. Janell Matthies with the Sacremento-based group United Animal Nations, which is helping to provide medical care for the seized dogs, told the Associated Press that rescuers are "seeing a lot of tail wags." Rescue groups in Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Iowa are also housing some of the seized dogs.

Across the U.S., animal advocates are calling the raids a victory for animals. The ASPCA has taken the opportunity to remind California animal lovers that an anti-dogfighting bill, A.B. 242, would benefit from constituent support. (The bill was scheduled for a state Senate committee hearing July 9, but that was postponed amid ongoing state budget concerns.) 

For his part, Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States says that each dogfighting raid brings the U.S. "one step closer to ending this cruel bloodsport."

RELATED:
Michael Vick to work with Humane Society on its campaign against dogfighting
Supreme Court to hear case on dogfighting and freedom of speech
Sports Illustrated features Michael Vick's pit bulls

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A dog stands chained before being removed by animal rescuers in St. Louis. Credit: Emily Rasinski / Associated Press

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