August 26, 2009
Animal Fighting Rewards Program a Rousing Success
Fifty rewards paid; more than 2,000 animals saved
by Ariana Huemer
When it comes to busting animal fighters, tips from the public can make all the difference.
It was 2:30 a.m. on May 23 when the call came into the Lombard Police Department about an alleged dogfight in progress.
Officer Chris Bakken took the call, and when he and his partners arrived on the scene in a suburban Chicago backyard, they found two pit bulls locked in battle. A group of men surrounded the dogs, egging them on.
Quick Action Saves Lives
"I, along with several other officers, arrived at the scene," recalls Officer Bakken. "At this time, the dogs were still fighting and we also observed the crowd shouting words of encouragement to the dogs. No one lifted a finger to stop the fight and the dogs were obviously injured."
Lombard's police officers wasted no time. They arrested and levied various dogfighting charges against everyone present and ushered the injured dogs to a veterinarian. As of August, one of the main individuals arrested has pled guilty and received an 18-month prison sentence, while the cases against the others remain pending.
The individuals who first reported the crime also got their due: a $5,000 reward from The HSUS' animal fighting reward program.
Marking A Milestone
As the 50th animal-fighting case that was successfully prosecuted as a result of our animal-fighting reward program, the Lombard case marks a milestone in The HSUS' campaign to end dogfighting.
Since The HSUS expanded the reward program almost two years year ago—first by increasing the reward money (thanks to a grant from the Holland M. Ware Foundation) and then by establishing a national, toll-free animal fighting tip line—the number of arrests and convictions of animal fighters has more than doubled nationally.
The establishment of The HSUS' new, nationwide animal-fighting tipline has made reporting animal fighting easier than ever. Thanks to information provided by tipsters, The HSUS has facilitated the rescue of over 2,000 animals from dogfighting and cockfighting operations.
Further, The HSUS has paid out close to $160,000 in reward money to tipsters and has spent more than $100,000 on the care of animals seized from animal fighting operations, thanks to funding from the Ware Animal Fighting Rescue Fund.
The Lombard case is also a good example both of how the public can play a role in ending the cruelty of animal fighting and of the heroic nature of ordinary citizens who step forward to stop dogfighting.
"They could have chosen to call anonymously and just left the area, but instead stood by as we arrived and allowed us to interview them," says Officer Bakken. "They said they would do whatever it took to see the participants punished. Without their call, this fight could have gone unnoticed and the well being of the dogs would have been in jeopardy."
Stopping Suffering and Saving Lives
Officer Bakken's words are something of an understatement. People who report animal fighting save the lives of not only the animals in the immediate situation, but also of untold numbers who would have otherwise been tormented or killed down the line, had the animal abusers not been stopped.
Law enforcement and animal protection groups rely on the public to be their eyes and ears. Animals rely on the public to be their voices. With the HSUS' animal fighting tip line and our highly active rewards program, it's a snap for the public to step up and take action to stop the scourge of illegal animal fighting, one community at a time.
Ariana Huemer is cruelty case manager for The Humane Society of the United States.