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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Strong Federal Law Brings the Hammer Down on Dogfighters

Yesterday’s coordinated dogfighting raids across eight states vividly demonstrate why we worked so vigorously and for so long to pass a federal law making animal fighting a felony crime.

Pitbull credit HSUS
The largest one-day string of raids in U.S. history
occurred yesterday across eight states.

Dogfighting is an offense without borders. And that means federal law enforcement leadership is needed to cut this sickness out of our society. Starting before dawn yesterday, that’s just what we got—the largest one-day string of raids in U.S. history.

The whole brutal subculture of organized dogfighting was stunned when federal agents and task forces of state and local authorities, backed by experts from The Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society of Missouri, and other concerned organizations, swept through Texas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, Nebraska and—at the very heart of things—Missouri.

Dogs—more than 450—who were destined to fight to the death in the bloody pit were saved and taken to emergency shelters. The flagrant disregard that dogfighters routinely show for society’s norms was replaced by the snap of handcuffs and the slap of 30 or so arrest warrants. And, a jolt of fear was sent coursing through the remainder of this sordid underground of organized crime. The Texas indictment that led to nine of the arrests was stark and ringing in its language. It charged the defendants with: “conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States.

If you know much about dogfighting, as I do, you understand that its devotees rely upon a well-developed communications network. Yesterday, the urgent message that pulsed from one fighting kennel to another was as plain as the glint of a G-man’s badge: “Dogfighters, your days are numbered.”

So, let me say thanks. Thanks to all of you who supported the Humane Society Legislative Fund in our campaign to pass the 2007 bill that made these raids possible—and the 2008 follow-up that means dogfighters face a well deserved five years in the lock-up. A tip of my hat to each of you. Your phone calls, your emails, your letters, your door-to-door lobbying efforts paid off big time. Thanks, too, to U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), John Ensign (R-Nev.), and John Kerry (D-Mass.); Representatives Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), and Betty Sutton (D-Ohio); and Senate and House Judiciary Chairmen Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.); all of whom championed this fight in Congress and worked with their colleagues and leadership to get the job done.

Thanks to all who have supported our efforts
to crack down on dogfighting.

Thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General whose agents led the raids. Thanks to the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the state and local officers who joined in making ours a better country yesterday. Thanks to the U.S. attorneys, who were willing to make this series of raids a priority because they know what a wellspring of horror dogfighting is for animals, people, and entire communities. Thanks to our colleagues at the Humane Society of Missouri whose investigation set off the chain of events. They led the way yesterday for a constellation of humane organizations that committed resources, expertise, volunteers and energy—including United Animal Nations, the ASPCA, and PetSmart Charities. The HSUS acted as lead animal welfare agency in the rescues in Texas and Oklahoma and assisted the HSMO with the rescues conducted in Missouri and Illinois. But there is plenty of credit to share.

Let’s not forget one important group. After all, humane organizations don’t get taxpayers to cover the tens of thousands of dollars expended and weeks of planning that went into yesterday’s raids. That means that millions of rank-and-file Americans who send donations to HSUS and other animal welfare groups deserve, as much as any of us, the nation’s gratitude. And when you donate to HSLF, you help make sure the nation’s animal protection laws have teeth. Friends, please take a bow.

Thanks to all of you, there are dogs who sleep tonight in safer places.

And for those suffering animals still trapped in the grim clutch of the dogfighters, we’ll get there as soon as we can and we won’t rest along the way.


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