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June 2, 2011

Ohio Man Charged with Felony Dogfighting

Local and national humane societies work together to secure Grand Jury indictment

A Grand Jury has charged an Ohio man with three counts of felony dogfighting after a nine-month investigation and joint legal action by the Jefferson County Humane Society and The Humane Society of the United States. Ohio attorney Jeff Holland presented the case against Sherman Bell to the Jefferson County Grand Jury pursuant to a unique provision of Ohio law, which allows local humane societies to bring criminal charges directly against animal abusers. This is the first time Ohio’s special private prosecution statute has been applied to dogfighting.                                                                                      

“The Grand Jury’s indictment of Bell marks the culmination of an extensive investigative and legal effort by HSUS, undertaken in partnership with the Jefferson County Humane Society,” said Chris Schindler, manager of animal fighting investigations for The HSUS. “Our priority is to rescue animals from this cruel bloodsport, but The HSUS also works tirelessly to ensure that those that engage in animal fighting are held legally accountable."

The Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team conducted an extensive investigation of Bell’s operation, and assisted the Jefferson County Humane Society’s dogfighting raid in August 2010. Shortly thereafter, HSUS’ legal team set to work with the local humane society and Ohio attorney Jeff Holland to file criminal charges under Ohio code section 2931.18, which allows a humane society to employ an attorney to prosecute violations of law relating to cruelty to animals or children.

During the raid in 2010, authorities found suspected dogfighting paraphernalia on Bell’s property and seized 200 dogs along with 300 other animals such as reptiles, chickens, roosters, boars and a variety of exotic birds in terrible condition. The animals were discovered by local officials when they arrived on Bell’s property to carry out an arrest warrant for drug and weapons charges. The Jefferson County Humane Society also plans to file 18 counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals for the mistreatment of the dogs, reptiles and a cat found on the property. 

Following the 2010 raid, The HSUS led the rescue effort to remove all dogs from the property and set up an emergency shelter for their care. The rescue team also assisted in caring for other animals on site and placing them into foster care and permanent homes.

More than 150 dogs from the operation were placed with rescue groups and shelters across the country in several states including California, Maine, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania. 

Facts

  • The HSUS offers rewards of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person involved in illegal animal fighting. Anyone with information about animal fighting criminals is asked to call 877-TIP-HSUS (877-847-4787). Tipsters' identities are protected.
  • The HSUS' policy is that dogs seized in raids be evaluated for adoption suitability.
  •  It is a felony to own, possess, keep or train a dog for the purpose of dogfighting in Ohio.
  • The HSUS estimates that 40,000 people follow organized dogfighting circuits across the U.S. while an additional 100,000 meet on neighborhood streets, alleys and hideaways. 

*Video from the Ohio raid and current information on the rescued dogs available upon request.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.  

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