This morning, at properties in five states as far afield as New Jersey and New Mexico, The HSUS assisted federal law enforcement agents in rescuing 66 dogs from a suspected dogfighting ring. Nine people have been charged with participating in an interstate dogfighting conspiracy. The news is breaking now, and authorities are withholding some information because the investigation is ongoing and other perpetrators may be brought to justice.
The case was called “Operation Grand Champion,” and was led by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of New Jersey. This is a major salvo and part of a coordinated effort across numerous federal judicial districts to combat organized dogfighting.
My colleague Chris Schindler, director of animal crimes for The HSUS, was on the scene at one location with our Animal Rescue Team. “These dogs are finally free from their lives inside dark crates or at the end of heavy chains,” Schindler told me. “Most importantly, they will never again have to fight to the death. We are incredibly encouraged by the federal government’s dedication to this case and to eradicating dogfighting nationwide. We are grateful to all the agencies involved that made these rescues possible.”
The HSUS assisted law enforcement in identifying dogfighting evidence and coordinating the rescue effort. We are working with St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in New Jersey to help remove the dogs and transport them to safety. The dogs will be held at a temporary shelter in an undisclosed location, where they will receive needed veterinary care and enrichment. It is The HSUS’s policy that dogs seized from animal fighting operations be treated as individuals and evaluated for potential placement with HSUS Dogfighting Rescue Coalition emergency placement partners.
The federal Animal Welfare Act makes it a felony punishable by up to five years in prison to fight dogs or to possess, train, sell, buy, deliver, receive, or transport dogs intended for use in dogfighting, and The HSUS played the leading role in driving the enactment of the strong federal anti-animal fighting standards under which such crimes are now prosecuted. In fact, over the last decade and a half, we’ve worked with our allies in Congress to upgrade the federal animal fighting statute four times, addressing not only possession and training of fighting dogs but also making it a federal crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fight. We are grateful to see federal law enforcement officials putting these laws to work and protecting dogs from this kind of staged, intentional cruelty. We will keep you posted and share more information as it’s available.