The ASPCA, in conjunction with the New York Police Department (NYPD) Vice Enforcement Division and Bronx District Attorney's Office, assisted last week in the seizure of 50 canine victims of a dog fighting operation in the Bronx. Many of the dogs, ranging in age from 12 weeks to five years, had injuries indicative of fighting, where both physical and psychological trauma are often repeatedly inflicted.
The NYPD came to us for help months ago. They were investigating an underground dog fighting ring in New York City, and they knew that we have a Blood Sports department with responders trained to help law enforcement with investigations involving animals. We immediately offered our resources to help bring down the perpetrators, assess the seized dogs, and help law enforcement gather canine DNA evidence to be used at trial.
Since the arrest and subsequent conviction of football player Michael Vick for dog fighting approximately five years ago, many Americans have a peripheral understanding of the crime. While this bust took place in the Bronx, dog fighting is not just an urban problem. Dog fighting is widespread, occurring in rural and urban communities throughout the country. You may not see it or know about it because professional dogfighters are savvy -- they are largely criminals who know how to keep the fights hidden from law enforcement and the public. In this case, the dogs were living in a windowless basement of a six-story apartment building with a makeshift arena that could hold approximately 100 spectators.
Dog fighting is cruel and vicious, where the animals are tortured to fight and win for their masters and can suffer forever after the fights are over.
While these 50 dogs will never fight again, our goal is to ensure that dog fighting is eliminated across the country. We are working toward that goal on several fronts. First, our Blood Sports Unit provides (free of charge) specialized training, consultation and resources to law enforcement nationwide. We have also partnered with other groups to create Canine CODIS, a DNA database to help law enforcement investigate and prosecute dog fighting cases. By identifying a dog's DNA, we hope to trace the reach of a dog fighting operation and help prosecutors to build better cases.
Our Government Relations team is fighting weaknesses in federal dog fighting laws by urging Congress to support The Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, which would make it a federal offense to attend an organized animal fight and would impose additional penalties for bringing a minor to a dog fight. Last week, thanks to the leadership of Senators Blumenthal and Vitter, the U.S. Senate approved this measure as an amendment to the Senate's Farm Bill on a vote of 88 to 11. The bill must still be passed by the U.S. House, and you can help us in our lobbying effort by joining the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade at www.aspca.org.
Cracking the seedy and cruel underground world of dog fighting is not going to be easy, but we are in this fight for the long haul. If you see signs that dog fighting may be occurring where you live, please report them to the police at once.