The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) announced the first recipients of the "ASPCA Champion for Animals" award, coinciding with National Dog Fighting Awareness Day (April 8). National Dog Fighting Awareness Day was created to shine a light on the brutality and pervasiveness of dog fighting in America. The honored groups and individuals have shown strong dedication to ending dog fighting in their communities.
The Walton County Sheriff's Office and Walton County Animal Control for their investigation of a Freeport, Fla. dog fighting case in 2015. Working together, these agencies utilized advanced investigative techniques over the course of several months to rescue seven dogs from a fighting operation and charge their owner with a felony count of dog fighting and felony animal cruelty.
Senior investigator Holly Wagner, Richland County Sheriff's Department, for investigating more than four dog fighting rings in 2015 alone and forming an animal cruelty task force in Richland County, S.C. Late last year, Wagner was assigned to the FBI Violent Crimes and Gang Task Force based in Columbia, S.C. to help the agency pursue dog fighting. She also trains other South Carolina law enforcement officers how to recognize animal cruelty.
Florida assistant state attorneys Jamie McManus and Ryan Williams for their ongoing prosecution of 18 defendants arrested in Apopka, Fla., after the Apopka Police Department raided a dog fight in progress in 2014. As a result of this case, 32 dogs were rescued and those arrested have been sentenced to up to one year in prison and have been banned from owning animals.
"Given the extreme brutality associated with dog fighting — and the number of dog fighting cases we've seen in recent years — we believe it's important to recognize those who have helped us lead the fight against it," said Stacy Wolf, senior vice president of the ASPCA's Anti-Cruelty Group. "Dog fighting is happening more often and closer than most Americans know. Our hope is that law enforcement nationwide will match the tireless efforts of our award recipients."
A 2015 ASPCA poll revealed that Although half (50%) of law enforcement officers nationwide say they encounter dog fighting in their line of work, only 23% said their department has the necessary resources and training to effectively investigate dog fighting cases in their community. Since 2010, the ASPCA has worked with law enforcement on more than 100 dog fighting cases, including a case in Columbus, Ohio this week that resulted in the seizure of 45 dogs.
Earlier this year, the ASPCA collected nearly 50,000 comments from members of the public urging the U.S. Sentencing Commission to crack down on animal fighting by increasing the maximum sentence for federally convicted dog fighters from three to five years. For more information on the ASPCA's efforts to tackle dog fighting and what the public can do to help, visit www.aspca.org/dogfighting.
Founded in 1866, and celebrating its 150th birthday this year, the ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is the first animal welfare organization in North America and serves as a voice for animals. More than two million supporters strong, the ASPCA's mission is to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States. As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, the ASPCA is a national leader in the areas of anti-cruelty, community outreach and animal health services. For more information, visit www.ASPCA.org, and follow the ASPCA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.