A Dogfighting Bust With A Mostly Happy Ending

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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.

pit bull licks owners face

Guiness at the Press Conference

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.

D.A. and Press at Dogfight press conference

Press Conference 1.26.12

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.

annie mclaughlin

Saying a bittersweet goodbye to Star – bound for Bad Rap

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.

aimee gilbreath

Star flourishing at Bad Rap

Pitbull kisses other pitbull

With her BFF Jondi

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.

pitbull with owner

Guiness & Mum

black pitbull

Guiness all grown up

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.

girl with pitbull in a pink sweater

Star & Aimee


12 Responses

  1. Tina says:

    Not surprising that a mistake was made. I have been to the Castaic Shelter, which is fairly decent, and had one of the workers asking me which kennel the dog needed to go back in to. He was trying to put in back in with another dog that was aggressive and clearly labeled that it needed to be alone. I don’t think they hire the sharpest tacks in the world. Why was the law changed to reduce jail time for these horrible offenders to only serve 1 year in county jail? They’ll only become repeat offenders with so little time in the slammer. I work in a school in Sylmar and I can strongly suggest time be spent rounding up the fighting rings down here and all the breeding that goes on just because people won’t spay. I hear some awful stories, about horses too but I can’ confirm any locations or I would call. They warn eachother to be quiet before that info is shared. I keep trying to educate and listen for infor to help but please try to send people into the area. Employees adopt as many strays as we can from around here but some of these families let their pets have litter after litter and try to make money off the pups as well.The kittens are even less fortunate. I often cry thinking about what little I hear.

  2. Stella says:

    I agree with Chris that this is fantastic in taking these dogs away from a horrible life. How sad that you suffice to stat a miscommunication caused 12 dogs including puppies, per your story who were euthanized! I do hope you find out who made that call and die th t person. Not only that. Bar that person from working with animals again!

  3. Darlene says:

    Thank God!!!! What these babies endured for years….and thank you to their saviors!!!! You all are pawsome!!!!!

  4. ZFoxy says:

    Well, I live in the Antelope Valley and I can tell ya that a “miscommunication” is very likely. The shelter they most likely used Lancaster Shelter is the same one that I got my dog from and they are extremely disorganized, and that’s with ALL of their dogs. Any given day you can check their website and they have numerous dogs listed as certain breeds that they couldn’t possibly be! Like a very clear hound being listed as a German Shepherd. My dog was listed as a Kelpie and he’s a Border Collie…

    They do have employees that do care for the dogs being brought in, but honestly with the horrifically high volume that they get in every day it’s not really a shock that they euthanized first and inquired about later. Yes that shelter has a very bad history of that too.

    But I do give them some slack, they get LOTS of Pits in our local shelter and there isn’t really a breed discrimination towards them (they aren’t euthanized any quicker than the chihuahua beside them)And with so many pits which are very likely to be placed in the same kennels or very close to each other. It wouldn’t be much to accidentally take that fawn pit female who has only been in the shelter for a day over the very similar looking fawn pit female who has been sitting for the past two weeks.

  5. I managed an animal shelter in a small town. I can see how this “miscommunication” happened. It’s been a standing “rule” that Bull Terriers and Bull Terrier mixes are put down if not claimed by owners. The “no kill” shelters have other rules I’ve heard, but the city and county shelters mostly go by the “rule”. Whomever was responsible for this “miscommunication” should lose their job. No excuses. Thank goodness that there are people like Aimee to help them!

  6. suzanne says:

    another animal control failure. As usual, the dogs lose.

  7. Donna says:

    We’re so very grateful to Aimee and the Found Animals angels for believing in these dogs and going the distance to help them land on their feet. It feels like we just ran an emotional marathon together … Can we collapse now? :-)

  8. Jeremy says:

    First I’d like to say fantastic awesome job for the work you all did. Bur second as I was reading I got alittle disturb by Cali law that basically just gives these jerks a slap on the wrist now go serve your year in county and don’t do it again little jimmy and sally that is BS in my book they should get life just like you or I would if we killed another human being cause pittys animals in general are living things just like we are.

  9. Hailey says:

    I love hearing stories like this. I have so much respect and gratitude for the people that help to save these animals from careless and cruel owners. Thank you for spreading the word.

  10. Luisa Muniz says:

    GOD Bless all Organizations for Rescuing the Animals and Caring for TheM. I always Pray for Cruelty to stop. And I pray that all get caught and be punish for this and People sshould report any cruelty going on. We are their VOICE andand When we can Donate some Money to help out. It can be Ttwo or three or more, any amount adds up and counts. GOD BLBLESS.

  11. Jane says:

    Awesome job!

  12. Chris says:

    I would first like to say BRAVO & THANKS to all those involved in busting this disgusting dog fighting ring….PLEASE MAKE AN EXAMPLE OF THE LOW LIFE’S WHO THINK ITS IS OK TO HAVE/RAISE DOGS FOR THEIR DISGUSTING FETISH AND IDIOTIC FAVORITE PAST TIME….Second – how the hell did all those dogs get euthanized – please don’t insult the intelligence of all the people who read this article by saying “MISCOMMUNICATION”…..that is a cop out – you know and I know it….this isn’t the first time that animals have been euthanized when they shouldn’t have been….SOMEONE NEEDS TO BE MADE ACCOUNTABLE FOR THIS TRAGEDY…FIRST THESE ANIMALS ARE LET DOWN BY THE PEOPLE WHO GET THEIR JOLLIES BY PUTTING THESE INNOCENT DOGS AGAINST OTHER FIGHTING DOGS TO MAKE MONEY THEN TO HAVE THEM UNNECESSARILY PUT TO SLEEP IS ANOTHER LET DOWN TO THESE WRONGFULLY LABELED “BAD BREED”….JUSTICE NEEDS TO BE SERVED ON BOTH COUNTS FOR THESE ANIMALS….