Four defendants pleaded guilty after being charged with federal crimes relating to their involvement in a dog fighting ring in multiple states.
Odell S. Anderson Sr. pleaded guilty to one point of conspiracy to violate animal fighting bans under the Animal Welfare Act and one point of inducing a minor to participate in an animal fighting company, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). . Emmanuel A. Powe Sr. pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges on May 10, while Chester A. Moody Jr. and Carlos L. Harvey pleaded guilty on April 28.
“The provisions of the Animal Welfare Act are designed to protect animals from illegal fighting, which often leads to other forms of criminal activity,” said Bethanne M. Dinkins, special envoy for the US Department of Agriculture General (USDA-OIG), said in an explanation.
“Together with the Department of Justice, animal fighting is an investigative priority for the USDA-OIG and we will work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and support the prosecution of those who participate in animal fights,” added Dinkins.
Dog fighting is a crime in every state. Dogs are conditioned and trained for a brutal fight with each other, which often leads to the death of the dogs forced to participate due to injuries. The spectators of the underground events often engage in illegal gambling, and drug sales are also common.
The dog fighting network, in which the four defendants were involved, reportedly operated in New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia between April 2013 and July 11, 2018. The defendants, and unnamed co-conspirators, were allegedly involved in virtually all aspects of the company, including breeding the dogs, training them, and organizing the illegal events.
Four defendants pleaded guilty to charges of participating in a dog fighting ring in several states, the Justice Department said Tuesday. This undated file photo shows two dogs engaged in a playful fight that has nothing to do with the illegal business.
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Authorities highlighted a special “two card” dog fighting event that took place on April 3, 2016. The defendants met in a Walmart parking lot in King George, Virginia, before heading to another location for the event, where two separate pairs of dogs fought each other. For weeks, the dogs were exposed to grueling exercise routines that may include the use of items such as treadmills and heavy chains. At least one of the dogs died from injuries sustained in the fighting.
“Organized dogfights – whether professional, amateur, or street fighter – have no place in our society,” said Jean E. Williams, Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Dog fighting is an extremely violent and mysterious animal abuse endeavor.”
“Dog fights are utterly unbearable and subject defenseless animals to inhumane treatment and abuse,” added the acting US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Raj Parekh. “We have to protect these animals and take care of them – and we must not violently incite them against one another for profit reasons. Those who participate in this unfortunate behavior will be brought to justice to the full extent of the law. “
The defendants, all between 40 and 50 years of age, face up to five years in prison and a US $ 250,000 fine for conspiracy charges. Anderson could face an additional three years and another $ 250,000 fine for taking a minor to a dog fighting event.
The case was prosecuted as part of a major federal police effort to combat dog fighting known as Operation Grand Champion, where “Grand Champion” is the nickname people involved in dog fighting use to denote dogs with five or more combat victories to describe.
The surviving dogs used in the fighting were rescued by federal agencies. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other groups helped care for the dogs after they were taken into custody.
Newsweek has asked HSUS for a comment.