The Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team assisted authorities in investigations and raids on two separate suspected dogfighting operations in Kalamazoo, Mich. Kalamazoo County Animal Services and Enforcement led the raids, which resulted in the arrest of two alleged dogfighters and the seizure of 46 dogs, some with scarring consistent with dogfighting. The HSUS and local authorities found suspected dogfighting paraphernalia and areas for staged fights on both properties.
"We are pleased that our cooperative efforts in Kalamazoo resulted in the rescue of 46 dogs," said Chris Schindler, manager of animal fighting investigations for The HSUS. "The Humane Society of the United States is proud to assist the dedicated officers with Kalamazoo County Animal Services and Enforcement to crack down on dogfighting in this community."
Steve Lawrence, director of Kalamazoo County Animal Services and Enforcement, said, "Dogfighting is a despicable crime that will not be tolerated in Kalamazoo County. We are grateful for the assistance and expertise of The Humane Society of the United States on this case."
First property: suspected dogfighter's second offense
Authorities have charged Kelvin Thomas, the apparent owner of the operation in Kalamazoo, Mich., who was previously convicted of dogfighting, with multiple counts of dogfighting, possessing animal fighting paraphernalia, and possession of dogs for the purpose of fighting, providing premises for dogfighting, and possession of firearms by a convicted felon. The HSUS assisted the authorities with the seizure of 32 dogs, some with scarring consistent with dogfighting, and suspected dogfighting paraphernalia.
Second property: suspected drugs and dogfighting
The HSUS assisted authorities with the seizure of 14 dogs and suspected dogfighting paraphernalia from a Kalamazoo Township property. Some of the dogs had scarring consistent with dogfighting. Possible dogfighting and drug charges are expected.
The HSUS brought its mobile crime lab and assisted law enforcement in identifying and documenting evidence, as well as coordinating the rescue effort. Kalamazoo Humane Society and Hello Bully, a pit bull rescue organization in Pittsburgh, also assisted in handling and documenting the dogs. Melinda Merck, D.V.M.; Cathy Theisen, D.V.M.; Marianne Tear, L.V.T.; Peggy Heersema, L.V.T.; and Joanne Tricoff, L.V.T., provided veterinary assistance with examining the dogs for evidence of dogfighting. Additional agencies that assisted in these raids include: Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department, Kalamazoo Township Police Department and SWAT.
The HSUS removed the dogs to a temporary shelter and will provide the animals with care and enrichment. It is The HSUS’s policy that all dogs seized from animal fighting operations be treated as individuals. Professionals will individually evaluate all of the dogs rescued from this operation for potential placement with The HSUS's Dogfighting Rescue Coalition placement partners.
The Michigan House of Representatives is currently considering a package of bills that would significantly strengthen penalties for animal fighting:
- S.B. 356 would allow the forfeiture of real property used in the commission of animal fighting.
- S.B. 357 would allow property on which animal fighting is conducted to be declared a nuisance.
- S.B. 358 amends Michigan’s anti-racketeering law to add "A Violation of Section 49, Concerning Animal Fighting" to crimes considered racketeering activity.
- If you live in Michigan, please take action now to support this legislation.
Earlier this year, the Kalamazoo authorities participated in a course in animal cruelty and fighting investigations conducted by Humane Society University, an affiliate of The HSUS. The courses are offered to law enforcement officers throughout the country.
- Dogfighting is a felony in all 50 states.
- Under Michigan law, it is a felony offense to fight animals, to buy, sell or trade them for fighting, to be a spectator at an animal fight, and to possess animal fighting paraphernalia.
- Penalties for violating Michigan’s animal fighting law can include up to four years imprisonment, fines of up to $50,000, and community services. Those convicted may also not own or possess an animal of the same species for five years.
- 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.
- Rescue groups interested in becoming members of The HSUS’s Dogfighting Rescue Coalition should visit humanesociety.org/drc.
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