Companion Animal Law Blog

Bringing together those whose lives and livelihoods revolve around companion animals


Wonderful Week for the Animals, Part Three: Busted! Again! Dog Fighting Operation Shut Down in Gary, Indiana

What a great week last week was for the animals! The first post in this series covered Tuesday’s landmark indictment, with felony animal cruelty charges against four lab employees for heinous acts against lab animals. The second post described Thursday’s proposed comprehensive federal legislation to better the conditions of egg-laying hens and mandate honest egg labeling, thanks to tenacious efforts of agricultural animal welfare advocates.

Part Three involves yet another dog fighting bust last Thursday, July 7, 2011 – this time in Gary, Indiana.  In April of this year, law enforcement broke up a dog fighting ring in Halifax County, Virginia.

Law enforcement received an anonymous tip about an alleged dog fighting ring, and obtained a search warrant. A local news report said that the tip came from a person who had been to dog fights there, but started to feel guilty after working with pit bulls with Animal Control, and decided to turn the culprits in.

The search revealed a fighting area and dog fighting paraphernalia, including “breaking sticks” to pry the dogs’ jaws open and a treadmill to condition the dogs. Officers also found twenty kenneled dogs, including young puppies. The dogs had injuries consistent with dog fighting. Reports indicated that one dog was missing a large part of his lip, and another dog was missing an entire ear.

The raid let to arrests for four men – Brandon Peterson, Sammy Jones, Clifton Harris and Willie Hargrove. The four have been charged with felony dog fighting. In Indiana, that crime carries up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Representatives from the Humane Society of the United States were on hand to take the dogs to a safe and undisclosed place pending trial. The dogs will be evaluated, with the hopes of rehabilitating them.

As noted by HSUS and the Gary, Indiana Community website, the effort was made possible by collaboration with local law enforcement, HSUS, and several other local organizations, including Casa Del Toro Pit Bull Rescue, the Monroe County Humane Association, Honey Creek Animal Hospital, the Indiana Gaming Commission’s Gaming Control Division and Heartland Animal Rescue.

Law enforcement took the time to swab the breaking sticks and other evidence for blood, in order to link the paraphernalia to the dogs. But the blood can also be submitted to the country’s first dog fighting DNA database, Canine CODIS (Combined DNA Index System). The University of California, Davis, Veterinary Genetics Laboratory maintains the Canine CODIS, and reports that it was established by the ASPCA, the Humane Society of Missouri and the Louisiana SPCA.

This case is yet another example of great collaboration on a local and national level to achieve great results – not the least of which is the safety and comfort of the 20 dogs, who no longer need to fight, or live in fear of losing a fight or acting as bait.