MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Eight people arrested in August 2013 as part of a massive, multi-state dog fighting raid are being given historic prison sentences for their roles in the crime, according to United States Attorney George Beck, Jr's office.
The U.S. Attorney's office, FBI, Auburn Police Department and numerous other agencies investigated the case, which officials say involved the second largest dog fighting case in U.S. history. On August 23, 2013, hundreds of dogs were seized in Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. Along with the animals, authorities found guns, drugs and a half million dollars in cash from the gambling activities of the fights.
"This is truly a landmark case for the animal welfare community," said Tim Rickey, vice president of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response, who testified at the hearings. "We hope this case serves as a precedent for future dog fighting cases and sends a message to dog fighters everywhere that this crime will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
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The sentences, between six months and eight years, are historic. Eight years is the longest prison term ever issued in a federal dog fighting case.
"We are proud to have been involved in this case from the start," said Chris Schindler, manager of animal fighting investigations for The HSUS, who also testified at the hearings, "and we owe our immense gratitude to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the FBI, and the Auburn Police Department for their unwavering dedication to seeing justice served for more than 400 innocent dogs."
In the hearing, U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins called the federal guidelines for dog fighting inadequate in relation to the seriousness of the crime, estimating between 420- and 600 dogs were killed or injured in the operation.
Sentenced in the case were:
After each person's prison sentence ends, U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins ordered them to serve a 2-3 year term of supervised release during which time they cannot possess dogs. They'll also face a restitution hearing where they may be ordered to pay the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and The Humane Society of the United States for the costs involved in caring for the dogs.
Dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.