Dogfighting Doesn’t Pay in Peoria or Kalamazoo or Anywhere Else Any Longer

By on February 18, 2016 with 12 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

It was a bitterly cold day in Kalamazoo, Michigan, yesterday when HSUS experts and local law enforcement authorities arrived at the property of a previously convicted dogfighter, Kelvin Eric Thomas. The HSUS was instrumental in Thomas’s arrest just three years back, rescuing 32 dogs from his property. This time round, Kalamazoo law enforcement officials found dogfighting paraphernalia and 10 dogs— seven pitbull-type dogs and three Doberman pinschers – freezing in inadequate, barrel-type homes sitting on snow-covered ground, and whelping pens. The dogs were underweight, shaking in the cold, and without access to fresh water.

“The dogs were on the same chains and even the same whelping pens that we rescued dogs from in 2012,” said Janette Reever, manager of animal fighting rescue at The HSUS, who was on the scene to provide her expertise and who also assisted with the previous rescue on Thomas’s property.

After his first arrest, Thomas had pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing fighting dogs and equipment and was sentenced to complete 160 hours of community service. He was also ordered to not own or possess dogs or dogfighting equipment on his property for two years. He had not heeded the message. But if Thomas thought his life of crime would go unnoticed, he had another thing coming.

Kalamazoo law enforcement officers who arrested him yesterday had gone through The HSUS’s Animal Cruelty & Fighting Investigations training, which provided them with invaluable information to identify and investigate the dogfighting operation, and to make their case against him. The training is provided free to law enforcement officers investigating dogfighting, cockfighting, and other animal cruelty crimes, and thousands of officers nationwide have attended workshops where they learn, among other things, how to investigate a cruelty complaint, how to collect evidence, and how to apply local and state laws on animal cruelty.

Thomas now faces a new, more stern legal environment since his arrest. Two years ago, The HSUS worked to upgrade the state’s anti-dogfighting law to make it among the toughest in the nation. Given his rap sheet, and the new tough standards in the law, Thomas is unlikely to stage a third act of dogfighting ever again.

Because the FBI has started tracking animal abuse since Thomas was last arrested, the agency will now have a record of his crimes.  Even if he moves, once he’s done with a likely prison term, there will be an electronic record of his misdeeds.

Meanwhile, the dogs seized from Thomas have been taken to the Kalamazoo County Animal Services and Enforcement shelter where they will be vetted and cared for. Dr. Pamela Graves, a Michigan member of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, assisted at the scene with evidence collection and examining the dogs.

Jill Fritz, our Michigan senior state director, was also at the scene. She recalls how the dogs reacted when they saw their rescuers, as if they knew help had finally arrived. “All of the dogs were very friendly and wagged their tails excitedly when we approached them, and clearly welcomed any affection,” Jill said.

The Michigan legislature is now considering HB 4765 which would allow the adoption of dogs seized from fighting cases. The dogs did nothing to invite their fate, and they deserve a second chance. So far so good on the bill; it’s passed the House Criminal Justice Committee and is awaiting action on the House floor.

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  1. nancy shafer says:

    I am glad to hear that low life was arrested…its too bad that he can not be placed in a cage with some wild animals that need to eat and watch him beg for help and ask for mercy. This sort of person needs to really pay dearly for his horrific crime of dog fighting I can’t find any compassion for someone that does such a horrific deed and the faster he is put away the better it will be for society. Lacking any humanity is a red flag because if one harms dogs what would they do to a child…..

  2. Mary says:

    Well done, Mr Pacelle & the entire HSUS crew, well done.

  3. judith west says:

    i hope someone can wake up kentucky we need help with animal abuse and animal fighting nothing seems to work with our legisature

    • David Bernazani says:

      Judith, if you are a resident of Kentucky you already have an advantage to help make change. Join with the Kentucky HSUS and help spread the word before the next elections as to who will (and who won’t) promise to enact tougher laws against dog fighting and horse soring. Call your state reps and demand action, and ask everyone you know to do the same.
      Kentucky is in need of some reforms, and you as a resident deserve them– but you have to fight for them! Thanks for caring.

  4. sharon vandam says:

    Thank you Mr. Pacelle, HSUS team, Michigan law enforcement! THANK YOU! I am so glad to know that justice will be served on this repeat offender! Any chance the state can make them register like sex offenders & child abusers?
    Thank you for saving their lives, they deserve a second chance at a real life with a loving family.

  5. Sally Palmer says:

    I am so glad that all of your vision is becoming clearer and clearer to more and more people. It means that human beings are being saved as well as animals. I wish Mr. Thomas could see what we see and be saved as well.

  6. MCG says:

    The punishment for his first arrest is a disgrace. More dogs suffered at the hands of the lawmakers and judge that yreated his heinous crime like jaywalking. Thank God for HSUS in trying to force these souless “authorities” to grow a pair.

  7. debbie wright says:

    I hope the dogs were scanned for microchips as some may be other people’s pets. Thanks to all who were involved in this rescue. Awesome job!

  8. Julie Wall says:

    My question do you HB 4765 has not passed so are you legally allowed to rehome those dogs from the fighting bust?

  9. Cynda Douglas, Terry, Mt. says:

    I can’t believe that the US House would do this. I sure would like to know what each gained from it, politically or in their wallets. We need to clean out our government, apparently, and start over. I am shocked. I thought these issues were as good as done. I am sooooo angry! And crushed.

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