A defendant may therefore commit the offense of animal fighting by planning and promoting an animal fight, even if no harm has yet come to an animal. Conversely, the cruelty to animals statute requires the actual infliction of cruelty, and no such completed act is required to prove a violation of the prohibition against animal fighting. Nevertheless, each crime requires proof of an element which the other does not. The Federal Animal Welfare Act prohibits the interstate transportation of dogs for fighting purposes.
A pending federal bill, S. The Act would amend the United States Code, making it a crime for any person to knowingly sponsor or exhibit an animal in an animal fighting venture if any animal in the venture was moved in interstate or foreign commerce. Additionally, it would be unlawful for any person to knowingly sell, buy, transport, or deliver, or receive for purposes of transportation, in interstate or foreign commerce, any dog or other animal for purposes of having the dog or other animal participate in an animal fighting venture. Finally, it would be a crime for any person to knowingly use the mail service of the United States Postal Service or any instrumentality of interstate commerce for commercial speech promoting an animal fighting venture except as performed outside the limits of the states of the United States.
Penalties for violations of the Act would include a fine, up to two years imprisonment, or both. The Act would repeal any conflicting provisions of the Animal Welfare Act. See Sec. Law enforcement agents may encounter suspicious activity as a result of a citizen complaint, an unrelated investigation, a deliberate investigation or completely by chance. Field agents must be trained to recognize the indicators of potential dogfighting activity. It is extremely common for agents to come across any or all of the following, often in plain view, when there is a presence of dogfighting:.
Multiple dogs are generally housed in one location. More sophisticated operations may look more like a kennel; in fact many individuals who breed and fight dogs do so under the auspices of a kennel to deflect suspicion. Less sophisticated dog-fighters, especially the urban street fighters generally have several dogs chained in back-yards, often behind privacy fences, or in basements or garages.
Dogs that have been fought have fresh wounds or scars, in various stages of healing, on the head, chest and legs. They will often lead you to other dog-fighters and to multiple locations where dogs are kept and fought.
Dog-fighters move their dogs frequently, so it is important for law enforcement to pay close attention to whether a suspect has multiple residences, including out-of-state. Detailed records should be kept of the individuals that come and go from suspicious locations. Surveillance is especially important on nights and weekends, when large numbers of dog-fighters may come together. Dogs may be fought or trained in basements, garages, barns, and vacant buildings, so spatters of blood on any interior walls or floors should be closely documented.
Dogs are often trained outside, so agents should watch for blood spattered outside, especially near training equipment.
Lima, Ohio - Infant victim was mauled by the family dog as she sat on a swing at her grandmother's house. Since I spoke up my mind everyone started to be really mean to me and I left the group afterwards. Killed by his grandfather's dog when it escaped its enclosure. They will appear dead. The 1st dog smallest of the 3 let go of the poodle for 1 second while attempting to get a better hold.
When live animals are used as bait, there are generally remains of the animals on site. Agents should look for patches of fur, bones, or decomposed bodies. Investigators should be trained to recognize these, as they would be quickly overlooked by the untrained eye. Adult pit bulls frequently appearing and disappearing from a certain location with no explanation may be involved in fighting.
Dog-fighters are increasingly utilizing digital cameras, so when possible, computers should be checked for digital evidence. So, a thorough search should probe both computer files and the internet history. The newspaper can also be utilized to identify potential breeding and selling of fighting dogs.
Generally, a search warrant is required to seize the animals or to enter private property to gather photographic or physical evidence. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
To obtain a valid warrant, the investigating officer must present specific facts to justify the issuance of a warrant. If the warrant is based upon information provided by witnesses or informants, the investigating officer should be very specific with the details, including:. Otherwise valid prosecutions are often challenged based on the validity of the search warrant, so it is imperative to be very accurate with the description and to include a description of all buildings to be searched if there are multiple buildings on the premises.
A thorough description should include the following details:. Note: You must have probable cause for each separate building to be searched. Most jurisdictions have specific requirements for the time period within which a search must be executed once a warrant is signed. Some jurisdictions require the presence of a veterinarian during the execution of a search warrant, [ 77 ] so agents should ensure the presence of a veterinarian where practical or necessary. Under no circumstances should unarmed humane agents execute a warrant alone. Animal control officers and humane agents are simply not equipped to deal with the high caliber crimes and criminals involved with dogfighting.
A search warrant may not always be necessary to investigate suspicious activity and to seize dogfighting implements. In the context of dogfighting, there are three scenarios that occur frequently:. It is surprisingly common to get valid consent from individuals in urban areas to conduct wellness checks of dogs, even in homes where dogfighting regularly occurs.
One reason may be that among urban dogfighters, the dogs are routinely housed by individuals other than the actual owner. In rural areas and among higher level serious and professional dogfighters it is much more difficult to obtain valid consent to search property or to see the dogs. Furthermore, the investigating officer must be careful that the consent actually be valid.
In Minter-Smith v. State , [ 79 ] the court reversed a dogfighting and drug conviction because the evidence was obtained illegally through an invalid consent to search. In that case, the police told a young woman that resided in the home that "we need to treat the house as a crime scene and we need to look in the house for evidence. Typically, the dogs and paraphernalia can be moved within a matter of minutes once the suspects have reason to believe that they are under investigation.
The plain view doctrine allows police to seize contraband in plain view when 1 the seizing officer is in a location he has a legal right to be; 2 the incriminating character of the evidence is immediately apparent; and 3 the seizing officer has a lawful right of access to the object. It is extremely important that agents are trained to readily identify dogfighting paraphernalia and other signs of dogfighting, so that they can legally seize such items under the plain view doctrine. State , [ 85 ] the court reversed a dogfighting and drug conviction because the evidence, which was obtained without a warrant, was not legally seized under the plain view doctrine.
The State was unable to show that a broomstick with bite marks and an exacto knife with a heavily taped handle were immediately recognizable as dogfighting paraphernalia, in order to satisfy the second prong of the test. In that case, the investigating officers could not readily identify the incriminating nature of the seized items; rather an expert later confirmed that they were in fact implements utilized for dogfighting. The whole site should be videotaped or photographed prior to removing animals and other evidence.
Dogs : The dogs are both abused animals and extremely valuable evidence of dogfighting; in many cases, they may be stolen property as well. This is extremely common, generally destroys a case, and is fatal for the dogs. Dogs that are left behind are moved or destroyed, as would be any other evidence like drugs or weapons left behind at a crime scene.
Dogs should always be confiscated pursuant to a valid warrant or without a warrant under the exigent circumstances exception. General impound photos should be shot from the front and each side of every dog.
Careful attention should be paid to identifying all injuries that are consistent with dogfighting, such as bite wounds, lacerations and scars. Injuries and markings should be individually documented and photographed. It is useful for agents to utilize standardized checklists and diagrams. The following information should be recorded for each animal:.
The dogs should be thoroughly examined by a veterinarian that is familiar with diagnosing injuries that are consistent with animal fighting.
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The veterinarian will likely need to testify in court and should be prepared to qualify a diagnosis that the animals were victims of animal fighting. Detailed daily medical records should be kept of the animals from the time of confiscation through the duration of the impoundments. Fighting dogs must not be housed together and should be kept under extremely tight security.
It is not uncommon for fighting dogs to be stolen from shelters once they have been confiscated. Dead animals must be documented and confiscated in the same manner as the live ones. The examining veterinarian must perform a necropsy on all deceased animals and the bodies should be preserved for trial.
Other Dogfighting Evidence : All other evidence must be carefully documented with detailed descriptions. The following drugs, supplements and veterinary supplies are used by dog-fighters although they have legitimate uses as well and may be encountered during a search:. The courts have found the following types of evidence sufficient to support a conviction of dogfighting:. Sometimes, particularly in circumstances where the fighters are especially sophisticated and elusive, the investigating officers are unable to gather sufficient evidence to charge the suspect with dogfighting.
As a practical matter, it is often difficult for investigators to gather evidence and conduct surveillance over a long period of time, when suspects move frequently and keep the animals in multiple locations. Lack of other evidence notwithstanding, fighting dogs are generally kept in egregious conditions and are often in need of medical treatment.
Where there is insufficient evidence to charge an individual with dogfighting, and the circumstances warrant immediate action rather than long-term surveillance, the prosecution should bring appropriate cruelty or neglect charges. In Stephens v. Charges were not brought for dogfighting; however, the defendant was sentenced to 6 months for each of the 17 counts days incarceration and the remainder probation.
Sometimes, the evidence of peripheral criminal activities such as drug distribution or gambling is so overwhelming that it is simply more efficient to prosecute the dogfighters for those crimes. In People v. Lee, et al. Each defendant was sentenced to a prison term of 30 to 60 years for their involvement with drug distribution; as such, the dogfighting charges were ultimately unnecessary for the apprehension of the criminals.
If asked, dogfighters will typically deny ownership of the fighting dogs. Establishing ownership is further complicated by the fact that the dogs are generally not licensed.
Most jurisdictions have statutes that encompass all levels of participation in dogfighting, so failure to establish ownership is generally not a bar to a successful dogfighting prosecution. Many statutes simply prohibit "causing or allowing a dog to fight another dog for sport or gaming purposes. In Rogers v. Under Texas law, [ ] "[a] person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly uses or permits another to use any real estate, building, room, tent, arena, or other property for dog fighting.
The relevant legal issue was whether the property was hers, not whether the dogs were, or whether she had caused them to fight. Once the dogs have been confiscated, several legal and constitutional issues arise regarding their post-confiscation care and custody. Generally, there is a significant amount of time between the seizure of the dogs and the disposition of the criminal charges against the defendant. It is exceedingly difficult for animal shelters to house large numbers of confiscated dogs pending a trial.