Tyler, Texas (FOX51) — The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was called upon by federal and local authorities to manage the transport and care of 16 more dogs surrendered by two defendants arrested in connection with the second largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history.
After a three-year investigation, 367 dogs were rescued in the multi-state dog fighting case.
Demontt Allen, 37, of Houston was arrested last month on charges of dog fighting. Allen surrendered the dogs who were later transported to a temporary shelter in an undisclosed location where hundreds of other dogs seized in the raid are being cared for by the ASPCA. The ASPCA’s Anti-Cruelty Behavior team has been providing socialization and behavior enrichment for all the dogs since the raid a month ago.
The dogs surrendered are pit bulls mixes, estimated to range in age from one to four years. Many of the dogs appeared emaciated or thin, and some of them exhibited scars and other conditions consistent with dog fighting. Others tested positive for heartworm and they will be treated by the ASPCA medical team.
“Fighting dogs live brutal lives and are viewed as solely a means to financial gain by their owners,” said Tim Rickey, vice president of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response. “The dogs that have been surrendered have been spared a life of suffering. Thanks to the collaboration of numerous agencies involved in the case, these dogs have escaped a grim and violent end.”
Responders from the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States continue to provide veterinary attention and daily care for the dogs seized from multiple properties throughout Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi on August 23. The multi-state raid was the result of a three-year investigation initiated by the Auburn Police. Thirteen individuals were arrested on felony dog fighting charges and if convicted, the defendants could face up to five years in prison, as well as fines and restitution.
Dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Additional illegal activities are often connected with dog fighting, such as drug and weapons violations.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the 30-count federal indictment charges that between 2009 and 2013 multiple individuals, including Allen, conspired to promote and sponsor dog fights and conspired to possess, buy, sell, transport, and deliver dogs that were involved in dog fighting. The indictment further charges individual defendants with promoting or sponsoring a dog fight and with possessing, buying, selling, transporting, and delivering a dog for fighting purposes. Lastly, these defendants were charged with conducting an illegal gambling business.
On Friday, August 23, 2013, agents executed 13 search warrants, 11 in Alabama and two in Georgia. Agents seized 367 pit bull terriers that appeared as if they had been fought multiple times, guns, illegal narcotics, drugs used to treat and train dogs, and other evidence indicative of dog fighting. During the course of this investigation, agents also seized over $500,000 from dog fighters involved in this organization.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, Auburn Police Division, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation requested the assistance of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States to help investigate the dog fighting and take custody of the dogs seized.
“These defendants were betting between $5,000 and $200,000 on one dog fight,” stated U.S. Attorney George L. Beck, Jr. “The number of dogs seized and the amount of money involved in this in case shows how extensive this underworld of dog fighting is. These dog fighters abuse, starve, and kill their dogs for the supposed ‘fun’ of watching and gambling on a dog fight. Their behavior is deplorable, will not be tolerated, and will be punished to the full extent of the law.”
“The sheer number of dogs seized speaks volumes as to the inhumane and violent abuse of animals associated with the illegal practices of drug activity afflicting our communities,” stated Stephen Richardson, FBI Special Agent in Charge, Mobile Division.
“This is a great example of federal, state, and local agencies working together to make communities safer,” stated Paul Register, Auburn Police Division Chief. “It is not just about the egregious act of dog fighting itself, but the other criminal activity that is affiliated with it. It is important that local law enforcement, such as the Auburn Police Division, work together with other agencies to address crimes that affect the entire country.”
“We are committing to eradicating dog fighting in every dark corner where it festers,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS. “This series of raids reminds every dog fighter that they are not beyond the law and their day of reckoning will come.”
“Today, we ended the torture of hundreds of abused and neglected dogs,” said Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA. “Never again will these dogs be forced to fight, live in squalor, or be neglected and deprived of the bare necessities. The ASPCA is extremely grateful to federal and local authorities who pursued this widespread investigation for so long, and we are happy to lend our assistance.”
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of five years for conspiracy to fight dogs, a five-year maximum sentence on each of the 15 dog fighting counts, a five-year maximum for conducting a gambling business, and five-year maximum on the 13 counts of using the telephone to promote gambling. The defendants are also subject to fines and a period of supervised release if convicted.