One of the biggest dogfighting busts ever in the United States proved how important insider information is in cracking animal fighting cases. Federal authorities used information provided by tipsters to make their case against dogfighters in six states and take custody of more than 450 alleged fighting dogs.
The HSUS's animal fighting tip line now covers the entire country. While the tip line started out in Georgia in 2008, the HSUS regularly took in tips and paid out rewards to callers from other states. The necessity of taking the tip line national, to streamline the process for tipsters, was clear.
Thanks to a grant from the Holland M. Ware Foundation, in July 2009 the animal fighting tip line, 877-TIP-HSUS, became a nationwide tip line, fielding calls from across the country and helping the HSUS to stamp out animal fighting everywhere in the nation.
The launch of the nationwide tip line came just one year, nearly to the day, after one of the most satisfying tip-line based busts: that of the notorious dogfighter Al White.
"Calls starting coming in to our Georgia tip line slowly at first," recalls Chris Schindler, the HSUS's manager of animal fighting investigations. "Among all the tips we got in the first few months, Al White's name kept coming up again and again."
Al White was already known to humane investigators, but without enough evidence to make the case against him, a bust wasn't taking shape.
The tip line calls resolved that. Compiling information from a half dozen or so tips, HSUS investigators approached Georgia's Appalachian County District Attorney and secured a search warrant for White's property. And on July 17, 2008, state troopers, animal control officers and HSUS investigators raided his home and rescued 22 fighting dogs. Not long afterward, White found himself sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Although the number of calls fluctuates from week to week (news coverage of a large animal fighting bust often spurs an influx of calls), the types of calls vary—coming from both rural and urban areas, motivated either by a desire to collect reward money or a genuine concern for animal welfare, or both. They can be generally sorted into three categories:
- Citizens concerned about a single neglected and/or injured-looking pit bull-type dog
- Citizens concerned about suspicious activities at a residence where a large number of chained or kenneled pit bull-type dogs are kept
- Citizens with an inside lead on an already notorious dogfighter or cockfighter
Getting the goods on animal fighters
After receiving the tips, it's up to HSUS investigators to compile the information and determine the viability of an animal fighting case. Some cases may require a call to local animal control authorities for a simple welfare check, while others—as in the case against Al White—have the ability to blow the lid off an entire criminal animal-fighting network.
To date, more than 100 rewards have been paid out to tipsters whose information led to the successful prosecution of either dogfighting or cockfighting suspects. That number is sure to keep climbing, to the benefit of animals across the nation.
Helping us catch animal fighters
Reward payouts can add up quickly, but they help keep the public alert to signs of dogfighting or cockfighting. Our supporters help us keep our reward fund stocked so we can offer these vital rewards.
Help put animal abusers behind bard. Donate today to our reward fund