Illegal Animal Fighting Law Enforcement Primer From the HSUS Final Round
DOG FIGHTING• (1) Formal agreement months in advance Size of bet depends on whether dogs are champions or if owners are prominent (2) Informal Side Bets Usually continue throughout the match
COCKFIGHTING• (1) Pay a predetermined entry fee• (2) Side bets as with dog fighting• (3) Lottery based on a number randomly given to the cock fighter when he/she pays
Raffles Winners can receive cash,cockfighting paraphernalia, guns, or animals as prizes
Enforcement of Animal Fighting Laws• You need a lot of law enforcement personnel on the scene. – Detain and arrest – Preserve evidence (and later present it)
GUIDELINES!• (1) Arrest only if there is no reasonable doubt. – You will come upon a scene with dozens of individuals present.
GUIDELINES!• (2) Photograph each suspect arrested with a number and with the arresting officer. – The arresting officer may later have to testify in court.
GUIDELINES!• (3) Be sure officer’s report includes what the suspect was doing and where the suspect was.• (4) Videotape the scene.
GUIDELINES!• (5) When questioning persons on the scene, stick with general on the scene questioning, otherwise you need to provide Miranda warnings. – If you progress beyond general questioning without Miranda warnings and there appears to be a restraint on freedom of the suspect, the statements may be thrown out in court.
What are some “on the scene” questions?• (1) Why are you here? – Think about this. If they are out in a remote location, why would they be there other than to view or participate in a fight?
What are some “on the scene” questions?• (2) How did you get here? Who did you come with? How were you going to leave? – This can establish a relationship of a suspect to others who are present.
GUIDELINES!• (3) What did you see? How long did you see this? – This can establish duration of presence.
Promoters• Makes the arrangements• Usually owns location• Finds referees• Supplies pit, wash tubs, scales• Collects admission fees• Arrange for vendors, food and liquor sales, gambling• Monitor police scanners• May hire armed guards
Handlers• Handles animals during the fight• If not the owner, usually gets a percentage of the bet if the animal wins
Referee• Needs to be well versed in the rules• Maybe someone whose name is famous in dog fighting circles• Travel expenses, meals, lodging and fight fee are taken care of by promoter• May get as much as $500-$1000 per day if a major fight or convention
Spectators• Why? – To gamble – “Support” a friend, spouse or relative – Enter an animal – Just for the fun of it… – Any age, sex, race, socioeconomic status
Profile of a Dogfighter• Serious (professional)• Hobbyists• Street Fighters
Professional• Can be national or even international• Featured in underground publications• Know strategies of humane organizations and law enforcement techniques• High stakes matches with established bloodlines
Hobbyists• Emphasis on gambling than continuing “game” bloodlines through selective breeding• Dogs of average ability• Idea is to regain purchase price of the dog(s) by winning matches
Street Fighters• Ownership of pit bulls and mixes has increased among juveniles and gang members• Dogs are frequently stolen or obtained from local shelters that have less than rigorous adoption policies• Can happen in public parks, playgrounds, back alleys• Why is this group hard to apprehend?
Behavior of Fighting Dogs• Aggression against other dogs and animals – Not natural! – “Totally abnormal from an evolutionary standpoint as it requires suppression of an animal’s instinct for self-preservation” – A dog’s natural instinct to back down in a fight once an opponent withdraws has been suppressed through years of breeding with the ultimate goal of creating dogs who will fight to the death.
Dog Communication• For example, rolling over to expose the underbelly is usually a way dogs say “ok let’s stop this banter”. – Fighting dogs will continue attacking other dogs who do this.
Fighting Dogs• Lack of uniform standards of temperament• Lack of natural “back down” inhibition to aggression• Strength and tenacity• Failure to show warning signs of attack• Best course of action for law enforcement or animal control: proceed with great caution
Schooling, Training and Conditioning• Extensive culling only keeps puppies who show aggressive behavior – 16-18 months pass – If they survive this they become “schooled”.
Game Test• Younger dog is pitted against a larger, rougher dog until totally exhausted – Younger dog then must go to a fresh dog – the idea being fight more than one dog in succession – This test shows the dog’s level of “gameness” or genetically programmed behavior
The Keep Designed to build strength,endurance, and cardiovascular fitness
The Keep: Training• Daily log: body weight, food and water, drugs and vitamins and exercise• Treadmills – 2 types – Slat mills: running surface is wooden slats – Carpet mills: running surface made of carpet
Vitamins, Drugs, and Veterinary Supplies Page 15
The Fight• Most occur on Friday or Saturday nights• If a big gathering (“convention”) with several matches, it may occur on a holiday so out of towners can attend and out of state license plates are not considered suspect. – Pit sites are frequently moved • Southern Climates – wooded areas • Colder climates- barns and sheds • Basements or garages
The Fight• Police scanners and cellular phones are used as security precautions• Escape routes are usually identified• Usually a “social hour” or two prior to the match so newcomers can be scrutinized
The Fight• Before the pit, dogs are weighed• Handlers wash and examine opponent’s dog with referee supervising – There may be poison or caustic substances which is cheating.
The FightA pit usuallymeasures 14-20square feet andhas walls 24-36inches high. Itcan be made ofwood, hay, orother makeshiftmaterials.
Why would local trophy companies be a good source of investigative information? Award or trophies are sometimes given for “Best in Show” or “Gamest of Show”
Investigative Techniques• Dogfighting is a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. – From The Peta Files, March 2008: As of this week, when Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal signed legislation to make dogfighting a felony in his state (following Idaho’s similar decision last week), every state in the U.S. considers participating in dogfighting to be a felony offense. A huge thank you to the governors of both of these states for taking this compassionate step forward.
If you’re going to bring these people down, what would be critical? AN INFORMANT
Dog fightersFraternity type atmosphereFear of retaliation to discourage informantsDouble life: legitimate activities or legal dog shows
Investigative Techniques• Dogfighters often keep evidence on the property where dogs are confined and in homes. – So how do you get probable cause for a search warrant? • Surveillance • First hand testimony
Underground Dog Fighting Publications• Good source for investigators – Some difficult to get because they require a sponsor to get a subscription • Include fight reports, advertisements from “proven” stock, dogs for match (fighting), and paraphernalia Sporting Dog Journal
Why are weight pulling contests a good place for investigators to attend?
Multijurisdictional Task Force• Humane societies, animal control, law enforcement – See the ASPCA’s guide to creating a such task force (thank you Robin!)
Street Fighting-ON THE RISE-PERPS CAN LEAVE SCENE PRETTY EASILY
STREET FIGHTING• With these street fights you often have rival gangs meeting in school yards, parks, woods, abandoned buildings• The dogs may involve breeds other than pit bulls• Includes attacks against stray or stolen cats and dogs
STREET FIGHTING• Law enforcement will rarely just come upon this• Usually requires a report from someone in the neighborhood – People need to know their reports will be taken seriously.
Combating Street Fighting• Participants may be breaking other local or state laws such as: – Licensing and rabies laws • In New York State (Article 7 of Ag. & Mkts.), all dogs over the age of 4 months – § 109. Licensing of dogs required; rabies vaccination required. 1. (a) The owner of any dog reaching the age of four months shall immediately make application for a dog license.
Combating Street Fighting• Participants may be breaking other local or state laws such as: – Dangerous Dog Laws • (NY Agriculture and Markets Law, Article 7, Sec. 123) • Hearing process
Combating Street Fighting• Participants may be breaking other local or state laws such as: – Chaining Laws/Ordinances • Tethering banned in many states and communities in U.S.
Combating Street Fighting• Participants may be breaking other local or state laws such as: – Laws that define dangerous dogs as “deadly weapons” or “dangerous instruments” • Charges can range from assault to murder if someone uses their dog to threaten, injure or kill others
“Street fighters are, by definition, irresponsible dog owners. Any effort to increase enforcement of laws that hold owners responsible for the actions of their animals can be effective in controlling this growing problem.” The Humane Society of the United States
Confiscation, Identification, and Disposition of Fighting Dogs Dogs in such cases must be treated as abused animals who must be removed for their protection and as evidence in a criminal case.
Confiscation, Identification, • All dogs in as evidenceand Disposition of FightingDogs should be photographed and identified. – Chain of custody – Liability of shelter
Section 373 (6) (b) (2)• If the court orders the posting of a security, the security shall be posted with the clerk of the court within five business days of the hearing provided for in subparagraph one of this paragraph. The court may order the immediate forfeiture of the seized animal to the impounding organization if the person ordered to post the security fails to do so. Any animal forfeited shall be made available for adoption or euthanized subject to subdivision seven-a of section one hundred seventeen of this chapter or section three hundred seventy-four of this article.
If a fight is in progress…• Law enforcement team leader should instruct whoever is with the dogs in the ring to separate the dogs and go to opposite corners of the pit.• Or, in the alternative, the entry team can be followed by two dog control officers or anyone who is experienced with controlling dogs
Confiscation, Identification, and Disposition of Fighting Dogs• A detailed record of each animal’s condition as originally found is a must. – This should occur as soon as possible after the site has been secured. Additional photographs should be taken as necessary to clearly show injuries and markings.
Confiscation, Identification, and Disposition of Fighting Dogs• Use colored film.• HSUS recommends a diagram of each animal to include breed, sex, color, weight and any distinguishing features. Appendix IV.
Confiscation, Identification, and Disposition of Fighting Dogs• Create a file for each animal. – Include photographs, diagrams, medical records and any pertinent information – DUPLICATE the files and pictures. Keep the originals in a safe place.
If suspects are being held at the scene• Take caution NOT to ask suspects to identify or claim ownership of the dogs. – This could be considered a violation of their 4th Amendment rights if suspect is not given Miranda warnings.
Confiscation, Identification, and Disposition of Fighting Dogs• Transport and house separately• Carcasses of dead dogs should be preserved as evidence for trial.• Bring severely injured dogs directly to vet – A DETAILED RECORD OF ALL INJURIES SHOULD BE DOCUMENTED BY THE EXAMINING VET
Humane Society of the United States ANIMAL FIGHTING RESOURCES (FROM ANIMAL SHELTERING)
Now what? What do we do with the animals? HSUS position PRIOR TO THE VICK CASE
SEARCH WARRANTSFor information on search warrants, click here and scroll down to the four part search warrant presentation.