On July 8, 2009 more than 500 Pit bull dogs were rescued during the largest multi-state federal dog fighting raid in U.S. history. The raid by federal agents and several animal welfare organizations ran across 8 states and led to the arrest of 26 individuals. All of the dogs were sent to a temporary sanctuary which is being managed by the Humane Society of Missouri (HSMO).
Now more than 2 months after their rescue, the U.S. District Courts are preparing to make a ruling regarding the future for each of these dogs. This will happen within the next 1-3 weeks.
The plan for a multi-state raid occurred after members of the Humane Society of Missouri Animal Cruelty Task Force conducted an investigation about a dog fighting case in 2008. That led to involvement by the FBI. Tim Rickey and Kyle Held from HSMO spent countless hours researching and organizing the large scale raid. They collected evidence and recruited other animal welfare groups to participate.
“At times, when other agencies had doubts about continuing the investigation, Rickey’s and Held’s unrelenting commitment to ending dog fighting kept the investigation alive,” stated in a HSMO press release.
Currently there are 407 dogs and more than 100 puppies at the shelter. “We were expecting to rescue between 200 – 300 dogs, but more dogs kept coming,” said Jean Jay PR Director for HSMO. “They live in individual cages which are separated by a sheet of plywood. The plywood allows the dogs, which were bred for their aggression, to have only limited visual contact with each other.
Each dog is walked on a regular basis by staff and volunteers. Jay explained that the dogs are easily handled on a leash and are “typically friendly toward people.” However, through breeding and training the majority are “dog aggressive.” She reported that even the youngest puppies are showing tendencies toward some aggression.
More than 265 volunteers from 22 animal welfare organizations have helped with the effort. The latest organization to send in a team is the American Humane Association.
Tracy Reis, program manager described a typical day like this, “We begin at 8 a.m. when feeding and watering are the priority. Cages are cleaned; the dogs are walked and socialized. By the afternoon, we take our first break for lunch. Each dog’s behavior is monitored and recorded. The highlight of each dog’s day is when peanut butter-filled toys are given to them before dinner. After 5:30 p.m., once all of the dogs are comfortable, we go back to the hotel to sleep before beginning again the next day.”
“This temporary shelter is one of the best run that I’ve ever seen. The area is organized, secure and very clean,” said Reis. “The HSMO staff is outstanding.”
The dogs seized in the raid were found with numerous scars. Some were malnourished and others had missing limbs. Jean Jay admitted that some dogs had to be “humanely euthanized” because of medical reasons, but did not have the exact numbers.
WHERE WE STAND TODAY
The future of the pits is very uncertain. In an unprecedented effort, animal behavior experts from the HSMO and the ASPCA have evaluated each dog to determine its “suitability for possible placement with rescue groups or individual adopters.”
The District Courts now have the report for every dog at the sanctuary and will soon deliver a sentence for each one of them. Jean Jay is hesitant to even predict how many will be saved from a death sentence.
“We hope to place as many as possible with rescue groups that will either keep the dogs at their sanctuary or work with them so they can be adopted,” said Jay.
HSMO is optimistically looking for rescue groups or trained individuals to take custody of some of the dogs after the court rulings. They ask that any interested organizations contact them at: www.hsmo.org
“We are committed to giving dogs who have come from such horrible abuse the absolute best chance for a good life,” said Debbie Hill from HSMO. We are relying on our fellow rescue groups to help us find permanent placement for as many of these dogs as possible.”
The Pit bull dogs are safe in their temporary home for now. Sadly for many of them, the past 2 1/2 months will be the best part of their life. If you know a rescue group or trained individual willing to accept one or two of the dogs, please get in touch with HSMO.
Humane Society of Missouri