The United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama concluded restitution hearings on Friday for individuals who pleaded guilty to dog fighting in the second largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history in August 2013. U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins ordered the defendants collectively responsible for $1,987,411.95—the largest ever ordered in a federal dogfighting case.
The restitution is to be allocated between the ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) and The Humane Society of the United States, who were called in on the case by the United States Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The organizations assisted in the removal, transport, sheltering, medical and daily care of the animals seized during the raid, and estimate that they cumulatively spent approximately $5.5 million on the case. So far, the judge has determined that the HSUS is owed about $230,000 and the ASPCA is owed about $1.7 million. Most of the defendants are on payment plans that begin after their prison sentences are completed, and it is unlikely that the full amount owed will ever be repaid.
“These dog fighters abused, starved and killed their dogs for the supposed ‘fun’ of watching and gambling on a dogfight,” stated George Beck, U.S. Attorney for the middle district of Alabama. “We would like to thank the HSUS and the ASPCA for taking care of these sick, wounded and abused dogs for such an extended period of time. Because the HSUS and the ASPCA took such care of these dogs, most were able to be placed in rescues or homes, where they are now safe from the horrible lives they previously had to endure.”
“Once again, the court has demonstrated how seriously it takes dogfighting—this time by ordering the guilty parties to pay a record amount in restitution,” said Chris Schindler, manager of animal fighting investigations for the HSUS, who testified at the hearings. “The dogs rescued in this case suffered physically and emotionally and required untold hours of medical care and enrichment with professional staff. It’s only fair that the individuals who treated them so poorly should be held responsible for the cost of that care.”
“This has been a groundbreaking case in terms of both sentences handed down by the court and the restitution ordered by the court,” said Tim Rickey, vice president of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response, who also testified at the hearings. “We are pleased to see the Department of Justice recognize the perverse and monstrous nature of dog fighting and hold these criminals responsible for the suffering and death they’ve inflicted on hundreds of dogs.”
On Aug. 23, 2013, the HSUS and ASPCA assisted the United States Attorney’s Office and FBI in seizing hundreds of dogs in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. Federal and local officials also seized firearms and drugs, as well as more than $500,000 in cash from dog fighting gambling activities. The ASPCA and the HSUS assisted authorities with collecting forensic evidence and testified to the gruesome cruelty committed. Many of the dogs seized during this case have finally moved on to the second chapters of their lives and were placed with various rescue groups across the country to be made available for adoption.
Dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Last year, the Farm Bill was signed by President Obama, making it a federal offense to attend an organized animal fight and imposing additional penalties for bringing a minor to a fight. The HSUS and ASPCA advocate strengthening federal and state animal fighting statutes, and regularly assist local, state and federal authorities on dog fighting investigations and raids across the country.
- Media Relations