Back in March 2011 a sophisticated dog fighting operation in the Antelope Valley was busted thanks to an anonymous caller to LA’s dogfighting tip-line: 1-877-NO2FITE. 14 dogs were seized from the property along with a trove of evidence chronicling a fighting ring that had been active for nearly 20 years.
Thanks to great work by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department and District Attorney the primary suspect has been sentenced on 31 counts and reports today to serve a one year jail term with no possibility of early release (Historically, such a crime would have resulted in a much longer sentence in state prison rather than a year in county jail, but that is no longer possible due to new California sentencing guidelines under AB 109).
At a press conference yesterday, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley and Law Enforcement Specialist Eric Sakach of the Humane Society of the United States made it clear why aggressive investigation and prosecution of animal fighting crimes are so important. Dogfighters (and cockfighters) are often involved in organized crime that goes well beyond animal cruelty – gambling, racketeering, drugs, guns, and gangs generally come with the territory. And a study by the Chicago police department shows that 2/3 of dogfighters have also committed violent crimes against humans.
We are very fortunate here in Los Angeles that our law enforcement and prosecution agencies take these crimes seriously – and that we have a dedicated tip-line. 1-877-NO2FITE is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English and Spanish. Tipsters with information that leads to the arrest or conviction of someone involved in animal fighting are eligible for a $5,000 reward – like the one paid in this case.
And what about the dogs? It’s a mixed story. As soon as we heard about the bust, the team at Found Animals went into overdrive. We contacted groups all over the country with experience evaluating and placing fight bust dogs and reached out to our partners at the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control where the dogs were being held. To their credit, the LA DACC ensured that all of the dogs seized in this case received individual behavioral evaluations. That in itself is a victory for which we are grateful. All dogs deserve to be treated as individuals and not condemned because of their breed, appearance or background.
Some of the dogs in this group, including puppies, had evaluations that made them eligible for rescue and others did not. Unfortunately, some of the dogs who were eligible for rescue were mistakenly euthanized due to a miscommunication within the shelter system. This is tragic, but we appreciate that LA DACC admitted the mistake and took actions internally to investigate and remedy the issue. Today, there are two surviving dogs – both fantastic examples of why we should never stereotype or discriminate.
Found Animals pulled Star, an adult female, and transported her to the amazing folks at BAD RAP in Oakland. She is the first adult fight bust dog that LA DACC has ever released to rescue and certainly lived up to her name.
I had the pleasure of visiting her at the BAD RAP rescue barn in November where this dog social and cat tolerant gal was at the center of a happy pack. My favorite Star story from her months with BAD RAP is this hilarious post about her adventures in saving a baby squirrel – good girl! Star went to her permanent adoptive home around Christmas and is now enjoying life as a pampered house dog. You can read more about Star’s happy ending here on the BAD RAP blog.
The other survivor, now named Guinness, was just a puppy at the time of the bust. Karma Rescue generously stepped forward to help place him and within a few weeks he had a new home in Santa Monica. Now almost a year old, attended Thursday’s press conference and showed off his gentlemanly behavior and love of people. He was the star of the show and darling of the photographers, easily upstaging all of the human guests.
Of course we all wish that more dogs from this case could have had happy endings. But two is more than none. Two is progress, and for that we celebrate.