In connection with what is believed to be the largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history, the Humane Society of Missouri, working in cooperation with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the United States Department of Agriculture's Office of the Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Marshals Service and the United States Attorney, is coordinating the rescue and sheltering of dogs associated with multiple suspected organized dog fighting operations. Early Wednesday morning, officers from multiple federal and state law enforcement agencies made arrests and seized dogs in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Texas and Oklahoma. Investigators from the Humane Society of Missouri Animal Cruelty Task Force provided the information that led to the investigation.
Under contract with the USDA's Office of the Inspector General, the Humane Society of Missouri Animal Cruelty Task Force, working with partners from the ASPCA and Humane Society of the United States, is coordinating the multi-location effort to safely remove, transport and shelter the dogs. All pit bulls seized in Missouri and Illinois will be taken to a secure facility where the Humane Society of Missouri will conduct triage of each animal, document any evidence of dog fighting and oversee care for and shelter of the animals. All animals will receive a complete veterinary examination and necessary on-going veterinary care. The dogs will be cared for by the Humane Society of Missouri and its partners until final disposition by the United States District Court.
"The Humane Society of Missouri is vehemently opposed to this heinous blood sport. The way animals used in dog fighting are abused, at the hands of people for profit, is absolutely abhorrent," said Kathy Warnick, president of the Humane Society of Missouri. "We are grateful to the state and federal agencies for aggressively pursuing this investigation and bringing to justice those who perpetuate the systematic torture of dogs for sport and profit. Dog fighting is happening in every community in our state, right under our noses. Hopefully, public awareness and outrage will bring an end to this cruel and heinous form of animal abuse."
The multi-location rescue and transport operation required the training and experience of professional animal handlers from the various animal welfare organizations in addition to a variety of specialized animal transport vehicles. "Dog fighting is dangerous business -- for dogs and for people," says Tim Rickey, director of the Humane Society of Missouri's Animal Cruelty Task Force. "The rescue teams in action today are comprised of seasoned animal handling experts. Together with our ASPCA and HSUS partners, our Animal Cruelty Task Force is the most experienced and best trained and equipped team in the country. We are very gratified with today's rescue; it sends a significant message that this form of animal abuse will no longer be tolerated. We hope it leads to many other such operations to bring an end to dog fighting in the United States."
This week's rescue and the resulting sheltering operation are also the largest in scope undertaken by the Humane Society of Missouri in the organization's history, according to a Thursday morning news release. To keep the animals separate from the rest of the shelter population, the dogs are not being housed in any of the Humane Society of Missouri permanent locations but rather in an off-site temporary facility.
While they are being cared for, each dog will be evaluated by animal behavior experts from the Humane Society of Missouri and other organizations to determine their suitability for possible placement with rescue groups or individual adopters. The Humane Society of Missouri will make recommendations about each animal to the U.S. District Court which will make the final decision for each animal.
"We are committed to giving dogs who have come from such horrible abuse the absolute best chance for a good life," said Debbie Hill, vice president of Operations for the Humane Society of Missouri and director of the temporary shelter. "It is a tragedy that because of mistreatment by humans for financial gain and so-called sport, many dogs used in animal fighting may not ever be able to be placed in a home situation."
The Humane Society of Missouri says it would welcome help as it shelters the rescued dogs that were seized in the raids.
The dogs are mostly American Pit Bull Terriers and will be housed, cared for and evaluated at an undisclosed emergency shelter in St. Louis.
The Humane Society says it welcomes donations of sheets, towels, blankets, shredded newspapers and sturdy toys to its St. Louis headquarters, as well as donations to its fund for investigating animal cruelty. Further information may be obtained by contacting the Missouri Humane Society at 314-951-1542.