Home News Stories 2009 July Five-State Dog Fighting Ring Busted
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Five-State Dog Fighting Ring Busted

Canine Cruelty
Five-State Dog Fighting Ring Busted


FBI agents helped bust the largest dog fighting operation ever seen in the U.S.
FBI agents helped bust the largest dog fighting operation ever seen in the U.S. Stock photo.

A year-long investigation by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies has resulted in the arrests of approximately 30 people across five states in what officials are calling the largest dog fighting operation ever seen in the U.S.

In addition to the arrests, about 350 dogs—mostly pit bull terriers—were seized during early-morning raids yesterday in Missouri, Texas, Illinois, Iowa, and Oklahoma and will be cared for by local humane societies. Those arrested for their involvement face felony charges that carry maximum sentences of five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.

“Forcing a dog to fight to its death is not a sport,” said John Gillies, special agent in charge of our St. Louis office. The FBI played a significant role in the multi-agency investigation that in the Eastern District of Missouri resulted in the arrests of five men and the seizure of more than 150 dogs at a variety of dog fighting locations. “There is nothing respectable about encouraging two animals to torture and dismember each other,” Gillies said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General headed the investigation, and our St. Louis office was involved from start to finish. “This was a criminal enterprise,” said one of our agents there. “It involved illegal drugs given to the dogs and also money laundering from wagering that took place at the dog fights.”

According to the indictments, the defendants acquired, bred, and trained pit bull dogs for the purpose of fighting. The defendants denied the dogs adequate medical treatment as a result of injuries suffered after the fights, and they “routinely” destroyed dogs—sometimes by electrocution—that became severely injured after fighting.

In Kansas City, Missouri, defendants allegedly constructed fighting pits for the dog fights, were timekeepers and referees during the fights, and placed wagers on the outcomes. The fights were often so violent and bloody that some of the defendants were designated as “sponge men”—they provided sponges to the dogs’ handlers to wipe blood from their dogs or to cool them down during the fight.

After a set of fights last April, the indictment says, one of the defendants used a .22-caliber rifle to shoot and kill two dogs who fought but didn’t perform up to his expectations. The dogs were shot in the head twice, then placed in plastic containers outside the garage where the fights had taken place.

Thanks to a 2007 federal law championed by animal welfare organizations, dog fighting is banned throughout the country and is a felony in all 50 states.

“Dog fighting is an illegal and despicable practice,” our agent in St. Louis said. “We are very pleased with the outcome of the investigation and the way our law enforcement partners worked together.”

- St. Louis press release
- Kansas City press release
- Springfield press release
- Dallas press release