17 Abusers Plead Guilty Because of Dog DNA Database

Reggie’s brown and white face still bears the scars from his dog-fighting days and his owner says he cowers whenever people get too loud.  She thinks it reminds him of the dog-fighting pits where people wagered on his fate.  Reggie is one of the 400 pit bull dogs rounded up last July in what became the largest dog-fighting raid in U.S. history.  Now his DNA, along with the other dogs, will be used to put his abusers behind bars.


A story from the New York Times revealed how the first dog-fighting DNA database will, “help criminal investigators piece together an abused animal’s history by establishing ties among breeders, owners, pit operators and the animals themselves.”


The database is called Canine CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) and is just like the DNA database used by the FBI for human criminal cases.  It is the joint effort of the American Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Louisiana SPCA, the Humane Society of Missouri and researchers at the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California, Davis.


Everyone involved in the project is optimistic that CODIS will be a powerful tool to stop dog-fighting operations.  Here is the theory behind checking the DNA of fighting dogs.


“People are not generally going to the pound and buying pit bulls to fight – these dogs are from established bloodlines,” said Tim Richey, senior director of field investigations for the ASPCA.  “And if a suspected dog fighter’s animal matches one of those bloodlines that would be a key piece of evidence.”


The illegal world of professional dog-fighting is a multi-million dollar industry and dogs that win fights bring in large cash prizes for their owners.  When a particular dog becomes a champion his puppies can bring in as much as $5,000 each.  This can ultimately turn into hundreds of thousands of dollars for a breeder. 


In their pursuit for a “grand champion” fighter, many of the dogs’ bloodlines are connected.  This fact alone could bring down a dog-fighting operation because it is common for a defendant to plead that he is strictly an enthusiast of pit bulls and isn’t involved in the dog-fighting world.


In the dog-fighting raid from last July the DNA evidence is indicating that defendants knew each other and that some crossed state lines to breed fighting dogs.


Dr. Melinda Merck, a forensic veterinarian for the ASPCA said, “If we find one location where there was a first-generation breeding, we could connect them to different dogs from a different crime scene.”


So far the DNA evidence has led to at least 17 guilty pleas in the multi-state case.


Dr. Merck also said juries expect medical evidence such as DNA in order to reach a verdict.  “Juries want to know that you have evidence you’ve run every possible test.  The DNA is just one more tool in our kit that can bolster our cases,” said Merck.  “I do think it’s something that is going to make the dog-fighting world very nervous.”


Experts also plan to use the database for forensic investigations of blood samples found at dog-fighting sites. It will enable them to prove that specific dogs were present at a fight. 


Dogs that lose fights are often killed and discarded at another a location. The database has the capabilities to place the executed dog at the scene of the illegal fight.  It will also be able to provide information about where the dog was bred and possibly the name of the owner – leading to more convictions.


Of the 400 dogs seized in the large raid nearly 250 have been rehabilitated and placed in new homes.  Reggie’s new owner, Gale Frey, says, “We’re moving forward.  The (dog fight) pit’s in the past.”  Reggie is being trained to work as a therapy dog in St. Louis-area hospitals.



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J. O.
J. O8 years ago

This is great news!

Lynn C.
Past Member 8 years ago

Violence begets violence, as sometimes evinced in the comments. We hopefully can stop the dog fighting some day, but would really like to know how we can heal the emotional-spiritual-mental sickness that is the basis for these kinds of actions.

Beng Kiat Low
low beng kiat8 years ago


Joanne R.
Jo Roberts8 years ago

Anyone who owns a pitbull would know how smart loving and loyal these dogs are in the hands of responsible owners. Anything we can do to stop this tragic abuse is welcomed.

carol w.
carol watson8 years ago

Thank God for CODIS.Perhaps the cowardly bastards will think twice about it now they know they might be caught.I think every prison in the country should have a dog fighting pit, the only difference would be that when the low life animal abusers get caught they should be sent to prison and every day be put in it with the biggest meanest nastiest prisoner, but one who loves animals, and there are prisoners like that who would never harm a child or an animal but are still hardened criminals, and let him do whatever he likes to the scumbag.See how these moorons like it when the table is turned .COWARDS.

Linda B.
Linda B8 years ago

CODIS sounds like a great tool to help end dog fighting. Scientific evidence is very effective in the courtroom. Since this is such an emotion-laden area, 'just the facts' will keep the focus on law-breaking and produce the necessary consequences.

Cheyenne Ziermann

I'm very pleased that they pleaded guilty. These people aren't people - they're cruel, selfish, inhumane, heartless, vulgar, barbarians. They should be locked up for life.

delia h.
delia h.8 years ago

Men & women who are involved in this "industry" are not of the humane race. These people lost this when they decided to get their "highs" & money in tormenting God's creatures. Dog is a man's best friend. So these inhumane creatures - need to be dumped on an island with no food or water. I am sure you would have these creatures turning on one another. Let them eat one another. Some where there is a screw loose. Would you want a neighbor with a screw loose? Yes, they could be your neighbor. Turn these people in --the dogs have no voice. Help the humane society in your community.

Bernice M.
Bernice Muller8 years ago

I truly truly hope so !! and I'm glad most of the voters agree. We CAN make a difference!

April Thompson
April Thompson8 years ago

Anything that can keep these animals from harm, I am for 100 percent!