July 7, 2011
20 Fighting Dogs Rescued in Indiana
Raid underscores need to strengthen Indiana laws
Experts from The Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team assisted the Lake County sheriff’s department and Lake County Animal Control in a Gary, Indiana dogfighting raid resulting in four arrests and the seizure of 20 dogs and suspected dogfighting paraphernalia.
Brandon J. Peterson, Sammie J. Jones, Clifton Harris, and Willie Hargrove were each arrested and charged with promoting animal fighting, a class D felony in Indiana. These charges carry a penalty of up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
“We are happy we could work in cooperation with The Humane Society of the United States to rescue these poor animals,” said Lake County Sheriff John A. Buncich. “We hope this raid helps to put a stop to dogfighting and we are thankful a member of our community called our tip line to report this illegal activity.”
The HSUS’ Animal Rescue Team acted as the lead animal agency and was on hand to identify and document evidence at the scene and coordinate the rescue effort. The animal rescue team is transporting the dogs to an undisclosed location where they will be cared for and provided with enrichment.
"Dogfighting is a barbaric and inhumane practice and we commend the Lake County sheriff’s department for their action today," said Chris Schindler, manager of animal fighting investigations for The HSUS.
While Indiana's animal fighting laws are relatively strong, the state still lags behind many others. For the past several legislative sessions, bills to strengthen the animals fighting laws have died, never having received a hearing.
"I am grateful to Sheriff Bucich and the Lake County sheriff’s department for their efforts today to make our streets safer," said Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond. “Clearly dogfighting is an issue in Indiana and it is imperative that the legislature take action to strengthen our laws."
The HSUS Animal Rescue Team was assisted by Casa Del Toro Pit Bull Rescue, which was on the scene to assist with removing the rescued dogs and will provide ongoing enrichment while they are held as evidence. Other participating groups included The Monroe County Humane Association, Honey Creek Animal Hospital, Indiana Gaming Commission Gaming Control Division, and Heartland Animal Rescue.
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. The HSUS asks anyone with information about animal fighting criminals to call 877-TIP-HSUS (877-847-4787). Tipsters' identities are protected.
- Dogfighting is a felony in all 50 states.
- It is a Class D felony to own, possess, keep, or train a dog for the purpose of dogfighting in Indiana.
- Those involved in illegal dogfighting can receive up to three years in prison, a fine of no more than $10,000, or both.
- 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.
- A Chicago Police Department study showed that 65 percent of people charged with animal abuse crimes—including dogfighting—were also charged with violent crimes against people.