Although dog fighting and cockfighting--collectively known as blood sports--are illegal in the U.S., people continue to participate in this brutal sport for entertainment. Animal fighting is one of the most horrific forms of animal cruelty, and perhaps the ultimate betrayal of the human-animal bond.
According to a recent poll conducted by the ASPCA, one in every 10 Americans suspects that someone they know is involved in organized animal fighting, a notable statistic considering that animal fighting is an underground activity. Organized animal fighting often times leads to serious crimes such as narcotics and weapons possession, prostitution, and other illegal activities. The findings confirm the correlation, noting that more than half--51 percent--of respondents are aware of the connection between organized animal fighting and other serious crimes.
To increase our efforts in combating blood sports, the ASPCA recently appointed Terry Mills as our animal fighting specialist to provide training for law enforcement officials. Having a dedicated person in this role will help law enforcement and humane officials collaborate with each other to detect and spearhead animal fighting investigations and prevent further instances of animal cruelty. Eighty-one percent of the general population believes more resources are necessary to stop animal fighting, particularly training for law enforcement, and Mills is a valuable resource given his background in undercover work.
Mills is widely known in the animal welfare community for his work with the Missouri State Highway Patrol on the federal dog fighting raid in 2009, which covered eight states and resulted in 26 arrests along with the seizure of more than 400 dogs. Mills spent 18 months as an undercover officer, gained access to the underground world of organized dog fighting and collected extensive evidence prior that helped eliminate one of the largest dog fighting operations in U.S. history. He also earned the ASPCA "Law Enforcement Officer of the Year" award in October 2009.
In 2010, the ASPCA's Field Investigations and Response team participated in one of Florida's largest cockfighting seizures involving more than 650 fighting roosters. One of the suspects was not only charged with animal fighting and cruelty, but also for drug possession. In another case, through tips from the public, what started as a single dog fighting investigation in Georgia led to multiple raids over several days, revealing a close-knit network of dogfighters that the ASPCA disrupted before these dogs met their horrific end. The public remains one of the ASPCA's most valuable assets in fighting blood sports and should never be afraid to speak out and notify their local law enforcement officials.
Tackling blood sports resonates with the ASPCA's very mission to prevent cruelty to animals--not just the animals that are neglected, abused and tortured, but animals that are forced to act against their natural instincts and fight each other for mankind's selfish amusement. With the expansion of the ASPCA's blood sports unit and an increased awareness of the issue, we hope to not only protect more animals, but also to help protect people from other serious crimes.