NPSOAA Focus on Animal Cruelty and Abuse
Cockfighting 101
Do You Want to Help Animals?
Animal Abuse and Cruelty: The Victims
All About the NPSOAA and the Original NPOAA
Humane Home Pages We Highly Recommend
NPSOAA Products and Training Library
Animal Cruelty Laws - State By State
CASH REWARDS For Solving Animal Cruelty Crimes
Links In Your Interest
Legal Landmarks and Just Good Information
Understanding The Link Between Animal Abuse and Family Violence

Courtesy and May Thanks:
The American Humane Association, 
The Humane Society of The United States,,
American Society For The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,
The New Jersey State SPCA Humane Police,
Because ...Ultimately...
We Are All Working Together Toward a Common Goal.


Welcome to our Animal Abuse and Cruelty Focus web site!

Protecting Animals

The American Humane Association is a well-established animal welfare organization with a reputation of dedicated leadership on the issues that matter. Our goal is to effect change by working with other organizations through cooperation and coalition building. The American Humane Association protects animals through positive advocacy and action.

Anti-Cruelty Laws

What Are Anti-Cruelty Laws?

Designed to protect animals as well as the rest of society from violence, anti-cruelty laws impose penalties on convicted offenders for committing cruel or neglectful actions toward animals and attempt to deter any form of violent behavior by humans.

All states have their own anti-cruelty laws, and many of these laws contain common provisions. For example, most state statutes consider it an act of cruelty to “overdrive, overwork, or work an animal when it is unfit for labor.” Many state statutes prohibit intentional neglect, poisoning, and failure to provide companion animals with adequate food, water, and shelter. Use of the term intentional is common in many states a factor that can make it difficult to prove cruelty in court, especially in cases of neglect.

Most state laws have standard exemptions for accepted veterinary practices, hunting, research, and animal husbandry. Some states exempt animal action that takes place in rodeos and zoos or in “accepted” training practices although the definition of “accepted” is rarely defined. Certain states have more specific statutes addressing issues such as treatment of elephants or the act of ear-cropping.

While these state laws share many commonalities, differences in their scopes exist. Variation occurs mostly in the level of punishment for convicted animal abusers. Some states make aggravated animal cruelty a felony on the first offense, others consider it a misdemeanor until the second or third offense, and still other states consider any incident of animal cruelty a felony.

Another difference in state cruelty laws is that the crime can vary depending on the animal. For example, in some states, animal cruelty to a companion animal such as a dog or cat carries a higher penalty than cruelty to a pet hamster or goat.

Where does American Humane Association stand?

No matter the commonalities or variations of these laws, American Humane firmly believes that cruelty to animals cannot be tolerated. American Humane Association has proven that cruelty to even one living creature often leads to other forms of violent behavior.

Based on this, American Humane asserts that the following provisions should be included in all state animal cruelty laws:

  • First conviction of aggravated animal cruelty is a felony offense;
  • Individuals convicted of aggravated animal cruelty shall receive adequate fines and imprisonment;
  • Individuals convicted of aggravated animal cruelty shall forfeit their animals and have limited or no rights to possess animals in the future;
  • During court proceedings, individuals convicted of aggravated animal cruelty shall immediately relinquish the animal to another caregiver or shall post adequate bond to provide for the care of the animal;
  • Courts shall require individuals convicted of aggravated animal cruelty to participate in psychological or behavioral counseling and/or an animal cruelty prevention program; and
  • No exemptions shall be made for animal training practices.

Courtesy: American Humane Association

How Do I . . . Help an Animal?
  • Your neighbor never seems to feed the poor dog chained in the backyard.
  • The man next door beats his dog whenever it digs a hole in the yard or chews on the lawn furniture.
  • You witness a neighbor's child put his cat in a box and then kick it around the yard.

What Can You Do?

Plenty! There are definite steps you can and should take to end the suffering of the animal.

Step 1: Evaluate the Situation

Many times what appears to be neglect seen from over the neighbor's fence is simply misinterpreted. If you believe the dog is not being fed, or left for hours without water, or has no way to get out of the rain, sun, or wind, look more closely during different times of the day to be sure.

Sometimes the food and water bowls are kept inside an animal's shelter to keep them away from bugs or to prevent them from freezing. Maybe the owner feeds the dog everyday before he goes to work at 3 am when you're asleep, and then takes the bowl back inside. Maybe the pet's shelter is a cleverly disguised dog door into the shed or garage. Perhaps the dog just prefers to be outside no matter what the weather, so you never see him go inside.

If you discover, however, the animal has inadequate shelter from the weather, or doesn't get fed everyday, or doesn't always have water in his bowl, you can be sure this animal is being neglected and needs help. There are also other signs of neglect that you look for.

Abuse, on the other hand, is more immediately recognizable. Choking, setting tails on fire, putting rubber bands around limbs or tails, dunking heads under water, kicking, hitting repeatedly-these are definite acts of abuse.

If you see such a thing, you'll probably be outraged and want to bolt outside to confront the abuser. Avoid that impulse, unless you're positive that a friendly, informal chat will make that person more caring toward his pet. On the other hand, if you can safely take photos or video the incident, do so. This inarguable evidence is invaluable to investigators.

In the case of a child abusing an animal, the parent may simply be unaware of the behavior. But because animal abuse has been linked with other types of abuse in the home -- namely child abuse -- it's often better to let a humane officer investigate. A uniform can command a lot more respect and attention than a good neighbor or friend, and without resulting in a defensive barrier. Plus, many humane officers are trained by American Humane.

Neglect Comes in Many Forms


Not increasing the size of the collar as the dog or cat grows results in this type of injury, and ultimately death if not dealt with.


Not grooming a dog or cat, especially long-haired ones, leads to massive matting that can cause terrible misery and sores.


Mange, caused by tiny parasites, forces pets to suffer from horrendous itching, loss of hair, and possibly sores caused by the scratching and biting of the pet to relieve the incessant irritation. It is easily treated with medicated bathes.


Starvation is not caused only by lack of food, but by improper food, untreated disease, and parasites (like worms).

Step 2: Report It

If you witness neglect or abuse, report it to your local humane officer. A humane officer can be anyone in your area who investigates animal cruelty, such as the humane society's investigator or your city's animal control officer.

If the humane officer agrees that there's the possibility of neglect or abuse, he or she will investigate. If you're worried about being blamed for meddling or about any retaliation against you, tell the humane officer that you wish to remain anonymous.

The humane officer will visit the home and determine the action needed to alleviate the animal's suffering. Usually neglect is caused by owners not understanding their pet's needs, so humane officers spend 90% of their time explaining how to correctly care for pets. Some owners, however, neglect their pets because they simply don't care. When confronted by a humane officer, these owners may decide to relinquish the animals rather than being bothered with properly caring for them.

If the pet is seriously unhealthy or obviously abused, the humane officer may remove the animal to protective care while she investigates. You can help the officer by offering to alert her if the owner gets another pet. Or if charges are brought against the owner, you can offer to testify or sign a complaint, since neglect is difficult to prove. And in the case of violent abuse, witnesses are rare, so you may be the only person who can testify about the incident.

Humane officers try to respond quickly to a complaint, but because of the number of calls they receive daily, they can't always leave their desk the moment you call. If you're concerned for the pet's immediate safety, tell the officer. Don't attempt to remove a pet from a potentially abusive or neglectful environment yourself. Not only is this illegal, but you haven't stopped the owner from getting another pet to abuse or helped turn him into a caring, responsible owner.

Step 3: Understanding The Law

In most states, anti-cruelty laws are pretty vague. They may require adequate shelter, but not be specific about what "adequate" shelter is, so the definition is often left up to the district attorney who may know very little about animals.

The humane officer should be familiar with the local and state laws on animal cruelty. While you may think he's moving slowly on a case, weak animal anti-cruelty laws can slow and hamper his investigations. However, very few states give humane officers any more legal rights than you have. Just like you, they may be ordered off someone's property and charged with trespassing. They can also get sued for libel and slander just like you, which doesn't save the pet and jeopardizes the officer's organization as well.

Fortunately, society has begun to recognize animal abuse as part of the cycle of violence and is calling for stronger penalties against abusers and more powerful enforcement capabilities. As a result, many states have added felony penalties to their anti-cruelty laws, and animal cruelty investigators are being given peace officer status.

If you have any doubts about how the case will progress through your legal system, talk to the humane officer or read the laws yourself. Call the district attorney and find out the definition of words like "adequate" so you can better understand how your state laws protect animals.

Step 4: Help Prevent Abuse

The key to preventing neglect is education. Many owners just aren't aware of how important affection is to a pet or even that a puppy can outgrow her collar.

The key to preventing abuse is stronger anti-cruelty laws -- laws that empower effective enforcement and include harsh penalties. Serious penalties can inhibit cruelty and, with the addition of counseling as a penalty, can stop the incidents from being repeated by offenders.

You can help prevent these cruel acts by informing others about what to do if they see such an act or by helping them to better understand how to train and care for their pets.

To do this you can:

  • Schedule a speaker from your local humane agency to talk at your church or any clubs you belong to. Do the same for any children's groups, like scout groups, day-care centers, and schools.
  • Set up a brown-bag lecture series at your office, conducted by a humane agency, on pet care, basic behavior solutions, and animal welfare issues.
  • Get pet care and behavior pamphlets from your humane agency to distribute to any of your coworkers or friends with new pets.
  • Put together packets of treats and a pet-care book or video to give to friends who've just gotten a new pet. Include spay/neuter information, tags, and a vaccination record book. Obedience lessons make a great gift for a new puppy.
  • Support any initiatives to strengthen your state's anti-cruelty laws.
  • Write to your paper and TV station whenever animal cruelty stories appear. Tell them you support strong penalties for these abusers.
  • Contribute to or volunteer at your local shelter, where they must deal with these appalling situations regularly.

Animal Cruelty Legislation

Thanks to the tireless efforts of animal welfare groups and concerned citizens throughout the country, animal cruelty now carries a felony sentence in 41 states plus the District of Columbia. But we can't stop there -- other states need our help! And American Humane needs your help!

Nine American states still do not have these strong animal cruelty laws. That means in nearly one-fifth of this nation, an animal can be abused, neglected, or left for dead -- with the perpetrator receiving only a mild sentence.

Click Here For State-to-State Animal Cruelty Laws

We urge you to help! If your state is not one of the 41 states that consider animal cruelty a felony, contact your senators and representatives and ask that they introduce legislation that recognizes the seriousness of these cruel act and calls for felony charges, as well as mandatory counseling. 

Cruel acts against animals are not just an animal protection issue. Research confirms a strong correlation between violence toward animals and violence toward humans. And it is widely recognized that perpetrators of violent behavior are more likely to have participated in violent acts against both children and animals.

Parents, community leaders, prosecutors, judges, and other individuals concerned with violence are recognizing the importance of animal cruelty as an indicator of disturbed family relationships and future aggressive behavior toward humans.

Help Put an End to Animal Fighting

When the Animal Welfare Act was passed in 1976, shipping fighting birds to states where cockfighting was legal and exporting fighting birds and dogs remained perfectly within the limits of the law. As a result, cockfighters have been participating in illegal animal fighting for over 20 years, claiming they possess fighting birds for the purpose of transporting them to states that still allow cockfighting.

Closing the loophole 

During last year's legislative session, Congress attempted to close this loophole by including a provision in the Farm Bill to ban interstate shipping and exporting of fighting birds and dogs. While the House and Senate passed duplicate provisions to institute felony-level penalties for violations of the federal animal fighting law, conferees to the Farm Bill weakened the penalty provisions to misdemeanor levels.

In addition, conferees to the Farm Bill delayed the execution of the interstate shipping and exporting ban until May 1, 2003.

New legislation will help!

Animal fighting is cruel and inhumane. Moreover, the practice also leads to the spread of diseases like Exotic Newcastle disease -- a very serious contagious and often fatal viral disease that affects most species of birds.

Now S 736 and HR 1532 have been introduced, which will slowly put an end to illegal animal fighting by making the interstate transportation of animals used for animal fighting a felony under federal law. Additionally, these bills will strengthen current provisions dealing with seizure and disposition of fighting animals and will ban interstate and foreign shipment of specially designed weapons commonly used in cockfighting.

"Forcing animals to fight is a cruel, barbaric practice that has no place in our society. This legislation will help end the practice. It will also slow the spread of diseases, like [Exotic] New Castle disease, which run rampant in part because of the trafficking of abused fighting birds," said Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), a bill cosponsor.

Increased penalties

While the practice of cockfighting is illegal in 48 states and punishable by felony in 28, illegal cockfighting is still a thriving "sport." With above-ground magazines and dozens of websites that advocate cockfighting, it is clear that cockfighters are getting away with this inhumane activity, even where it is against the law. The same goes for dogfighting, which is prohibited in 50 states and a felony in 47.

Currently under federal law, the shipment of animals over state lines for the purpose of animal fighting is punishable only by a misdemeanor with a penalty of less than one year of jail. Due to the weak repercussion one may face for violating a federal animal fighting law, the US Attorney's Office has pursued only three cases of animal fighting since 1976. If this important legislation is passed, stronger federal enforcement will be encouraged, as federal prosecutors are more likely to pursue cases involving felony crimes rather than misdemeanors.

Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) said, "The increased penalties contained in this legislation send a clear message to individuals who exploit animals for sport that such abuse will be met with severe penalties.

"By passing this legislation, we would move one step closer to reducing the occurrences of animal abuse and the incidences of disease associated with this abuse. We do this by ensuring the penalties received from participating in the abuse of animals for sport grossly outweigh any potential profit."

American Humane opposes animal fighting!

American Humane believes this so-called "sport" that pits animals against each other and results in injury or death are contrary to the values of a humane, aware, and caring society. We oppose all animal fighting and call for an immediate end to its legality.

Support legislation to put an end to this practice!

How Can You Help? 

CLICK HERE and Request Details!

Dog Fighting and The Law

* Dogfighting is illegal in all 50 states and a felony offense in 44 states

* Being a spectator at a dog fighting event is illegal in 46 states

* The possession of dogs for fighting purposes is prohibited in 39 states.

Signs of Dogfighting Activity

* Multiple pit bulls in one yard

* Pit bulls with short, cropped ears

* Dogs with scars on head, throat, legs and ears

* Dogs wearing 2-inch-wide collars

* Tires or pieces of leather suspended several feet off the ground from trees, used to exercise dogs

* Treadmills for exercising dogs

* Locked privacy fences

* Dogs leashed with heavy chains to metal posts in the ground

* Dogs being moved from a house frequently in cages

* Dogs and people coming and going frequently from a site

* Dogs forced to pull heavy items such as chains and tire rims to strengthen muscles

Dogfight Ringleader Gets 3-Year Sentence


CHARLOTTE COUNTY -- Evan B. Robinson, convicted in August on five animal-abuse charges, strode into court for his sentencing Monday and flashed a grin to a TV camera before taking his spot next to his attorney.

Facing up to 20 years incarceration, stemming from a videotaped dogfight at his home two years ago, Robinson, 51, was sentenced by Judge Sherra J. Winesett to three years in prison and two more years of probation.

A jury had convicted Robinson of four third-degree felonies, which included animal cruelty, dog fight promotion and managing and operating a dog fighting facility.

Among the courtroom audience members Monday were a couple of dozen animal-rights supporters, including board members from the Animal Welfare League, the shelter that received five of the dogs seized from Robinson's home. A handful of Charlotte County Animal Control officers also attended.

Robinson, in a 17-page letter delivered to the court Monday, said he didn't give anyone permission to fight dogs that day in April two years ago -- the day sheriff's deputies raided his home and found a bloodied fighting pit and spectators fleeing into nearby woods.

In breeding pit bulls, Robinson said in his handwritten letter, "one of the qualities is to see how aggressive your dog wants to be, remembering these are American pit bull terriers.

"To do this, you test your animals against another animal. Not letting them fight, you let them hit each other and then break them. This is called bumping the dogs. This is not fighting; it is only testing them for aggression."

State prosecutor Daniel P. Feinberg scoffed at this notion. He called the videos taken of the fights horrendous, and he called Robinson's letter a veritable "dog-fighting manifesto."

Animal Welfare League board member Carmen C. Connors said the sentence didn't reflect the gravity of Robinson's actions.

"He got off easy," Connors said.

Judge Winesett also ordered Robinson to perform 100 hours of community service and pay an undetermined amount of restitution, which might include the kenneling costs of the dogs seized from Robinson's home.

Also, Robinson, who Feinberg said has previous felony convictions for burglary and attempted drug trafficking, isn't allowed to own a dog until after his probation ends.

Cpl. Rickey Hobbs of the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, which handled the investigation, said busting dog-fighting outfits isn't easy.

"Without having someone, quote, 'on the inside,' you don't know where they are going to be," he said.

The authorities had dropped by Robinson's home on an anonymous tip.

Of the 100 or so people at the house, about 20 were arrested, Feinberg said. Most of those arrested were sentenced to probation or short jail terms.

Stiffest Sentences Ever Imposed in Dogfighting Cases

In July, a Northern California man charged with running a professional-level, illegal dogfighting operation out of his home in Galt, received what is believed to be the longest prison term ever imposed in such a case. Cesar Cerda was sentenced to seven years in state prison by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Peter Mering in exchange for his no-contest plea to 63 felony counts related to dogfighting and other charges. Cerda's wife, Mercedes Ruiz Monterrubio, pleaded no contest to four misdemeanor charges in exchange for a sentence of six months in the county jail.

Working with The HSUS's West Coast Regional Office and the Sacramento County Department of Animal Care and Regulation, Galt police detectives arrested the couple last December on suspicion of running an illegal dogfighting operation. Officers seized 55 pit bull terriers, many of who were heavily scarred from previous fights, along with equipment used to fight dogs, stolen veterinary supplies, and videotapes of dogfights. "Cesar Cerda was a major player," said Eric Sakach, WCRO regional director. "He was totally immersed in the activity. He not only bred, raised, and conditioned his own dogs for the pit, but he also coached others who were new to the game."

Two other men pleaded guilty to charges of burglary and no contest to conspiracy for their roles in the Christmas-morning theft of 18 dogs who were being held as evidence from the Sacramento County Animal Shelter. One received 120 days in the county jail, while the other received two years in state prison. The stolen dogs were recovered.

"In particular, the Sacramento District Attorney's Office and the Galt Police Department are to be commended for the serious attention given to these cases," said Sakach. "Despite better laws and increasing enforcement, the guilty parties frequently avoid more sever penalties. Too often dogfighters and cockfighters receive little more than a slap on the wrist and probation because prosecutors and the courts don't understand the serious nature of these crimes and the level of cruelty involved. These cases will go a long way in changing all that."

"We have done some research, and we believe these sentences are among the toughest in the country," said Sacramento Deputy District Attorney Brian Myers, who prosecuted the cases. "These cases will set a precedent for many other cases to come." HSUS staff worked closely with the district attorney's staff throughout the prosecution and were present at each of the court appearances to answer questions.

Intelligence and evidence gathered by investigators during the Galt case led to additional search warrants being served in February and April in Stanislaus, San Joaquin, and Kern counties in California. WCRO staff assisted law enforcement officers in each of the subsequent cases, which resulted in the seizure of illegal drugs, assault-type weapons, dogfighting paraphernalia, and a combined total of nearly 100 fighting dogs. In Kern County in May, Russ Herren of Tehachapi, California, pleaded guilty to multiple charges related to dogfighting, marijuana cultivation, and possession of weapons by a felon. Herren was sentenced to four years in state prison. Trials are pending in the remaining cases and the investigation is continuing.

The HSUS is a leader in the fight to end animal fighting. HSUS staff have aided in the investigation and prosecution of numerous animal-fighting ventures, and have helped train local law enforcement personnel to successfully investigate such cases. All over the country, HSUS task forces have formed to help stop these brutal events. There are training materials and a video available to any group wishing to learn more. Contact WCRO for more information.

Excerpt from

"Fewer Fighters, More Dogs"

Pueblo, Colorado -- Issuing one of the stiffest sentences yet given to a convicted dogfighter, District Judge Scott Epstein of Pueblo, Colorado, on April 15, 2002 sent Brian Keith Speer to state prison for six years.

Speer, 32, of Colorado Springs, is to serve 18 concurrent three-year sentences for 18 felony counts of animal fighting, plus three more years for his felonious mistreatment of one especially badly injured pit bull terrier found in his possession during a June 2000 raid on his trailer home near Boone.

Speer was convicted on February 11, after a four day jury trial.

"In June 2000," reported Patric Malone of the Pueble Chieftan, "36 adult pit bulls and eight puppies were confiscated" from Speer, almost all of whom were later killed at the Pueble animal control shelter because of aggressive behavior. "Animal control officers also seized performance-enhancing drugs commonly used by breeders who train dogs to fight. Many of the animals had severe wounds at various stages of healing, indicating that they had been involved in fights over an extended span. In addition, officers seized a bloodstained rug that had been taped off into the dimensions of a dogfighting ring. Evidence," Malone wrote, "included a poem Speer wrote about Gatoree, a prize dog of his, dying in his arms after a valiant effort in the ring."

The prosecution indicated that Speer was associated with dogfighters in many other states and possibly in Mexico.

The Speer sentencing came five days after Associate Judge Diane Brunton of Macoupin County, Illinois, ordered accused dogfighter Jeffrey M. Giller to post bond of $90,000 or forfeit 17 pit bull terriers. Arrested on March 28, Giller, 24 was jailed in lieu of posting bail of $300,000 on four counts of felony dogfighting, plus $20,000 bail on misdemeanor charges of domestic violence and aggravated assault.

"Sheriff's deputies noticed the dogs," wrote Robert Goodrich of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "when they went to Giller's property to investigate a domestic violence complaint by a girlfriend."

"These are violent crimes," comented attorney Ledy Van Kavage, representing the Belleville Area Humane Society and the American SPCA. "Dogfighting is a blood sport. Those who do this are usually not nice people. Usually drug crimes and weapons crimes are involved, too."

For example, Tallahassee Democrat staff writer James L. Rosica found in looking up the criminal history of Arthur "Mo Jo" Hutchinson, 45, of Family Circle, Florida, that in addition to the four felony charges of dogfighting, cocaine possession with intent to sell, and possession of drug paraphernalia brought against him in November 2001, Hutchinson had been in trouble since 1975 for possession of a sawed-off shotgun, auto burglary, auto theft, robbery, and aggravated child abuse. He served nine years in state prison on the child abuse charges."








A dramatic rise in illegal dogfighting overwhelms authorities and strikes fear in some neighborhoods

Columbus Dispatch
Sunday, May 5, 2002
NEWS 01A By Kathy Lynn Gray
Dispatch Staff Reporter

Backpacks slung from one shoulder, children jump from the yellow school bus and run to their mothers for welcome-home hugs.

Once again, the cul-de-sac in a middle-class Grove City subdivision seems safe -- an idyllic neighborhood for the 28 youngsters growing up there.

But for six months last winter on Ziner Court, fear hung in the air, brought on by one resident: Timothy Elkins, who has been indicted in Franklin County Common Pleas Court on 21 counts of dogfighting and is set to be arraigned May 20.

Elkins left Ziner Court abruptly after deputy sheriffs knocked down his front door Feb. 22 and raided the home where, authorities say, he was raising, training and breeding more than 20 pit bulls with his girlfriend.

But the ominous influence that his presence exerted on the neighborhood in the short time he lived there illustrates the reach that dogfighting-related activities can have in a community.

Although organized dogfighting is prohibited in all 50 states, the Humane Society of the United States estimates the activity has increased 300 percent in the past 10 years. The estimates are based on the society's database of dogfighters and on increases in the numbers of dogfights reported in the underground publication Sporting Dog Journal.

Animal activists and law-enforcement officials say that pitting dogs against one another in bloody fights has been on the upswing in Ohio. Other illegal activities often accompany it, especially gambling and drug trafficking.

Ohio has a serious problem, said Sandy Rowland, director of the Humane Society's Great Lakes region. Of the 20,000 names of dogfighters the society has collected and verified from across the country, 583 live in Ohio, she said. She suspects more but said that Ohio law enforcement, for the most part, hasn't pursued many dogfighters.

"The problem is getting worse and more ubiquitous," said Tom Skeldon, dog warden in Lucas County in northwest Ohio.

Skeldon, perhaps the most zealous dog warden in the state when it comes to dogfighting, said the practice "has traditionally been under-reported, under-prosecuted and has had very few convictions" nationwide.

Statistics are scant for an illegal activity that stays largely underground. Word of upcoming fights is passed among dog owners and gamblers, and the sight of an unfamiliar face near a fight is enough to shut it down, with participants disappearing in a hurry.

Even law-enforcement officials hesitate to talk about ongoing investigations for fear of tipping off those involved.

Still, officials have taken aim at stopping the practice and cracking down on offenders:

* The Franklin County Sheriff's Office has searched seven properties as part of a nine-month investigation into dogfighting. From those raids, 49 pit bulls have been confiscated, including 20 from Elkins' Ziner Court property. On March 29, a grand jury indicted him on 21 counts of dogfighting and one count of having a criminal tool -- a dog treadmill.

* From 1995 to 2001, the number of criminal charges filed in Franklin County Environmental Court for dog-related incidents such as failure to confine or insure vicious dogs skyrocketed from three to 706. Often the same people who are convicted on these charges are suspected of being part of the world of dogfighting.

* In Licking County, Edward Carter of Columbus was sentenced to three years of probation and prohibited from owning dogs for three years after pleading guilty in February to 15 counts of dogfighting.

* In March, pit bulls were confiscated from the properties of two people suspected of dogfighting in Fairfield County. Last month, Clifford and Lori Browning of Stoutsville were found guilty of failing to confine two pit bulls. Two of the dogs -- those deemed too dangerous to be returned to the Brownings -- are scheduled to be euthanized, but a date has not been set because the owners are appealing the decision. The couple paid $1,000 to retrieve the other dogs.

* In Morrow County, a Marengo woman and an auxiliary deputy sheriff were found guilty of dogfighting in 1998 in a case that involved 34 pit bulls. That case was one of the few where law-enforcement officers raided a dog fight.

* Dogfighters have been charged in the past few months in Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

* An Ohio task force examined the issue of dogfighting for nine months and in mid-April proposed changes to strengthen state law and make the public more aware of the practice.

Signs of trouble

Although dogfighting has long existed in central Ohio, "in the last five or six years, it's become really bad," said Kerry Manion, director of operations at the Capital Area Humane Society and an animal-cruelty investigator for 18 years.

"I'm alarmed at how blatant it's becoming."

Two types exist: amateur and professional.

"Usually, the amateur type involves nothing but ego," said Dan C. Knapp, director of the society. "Someone who wants to look mean and tough gets a pit bull and they fight them on a spontaneous basis."

Columbus Police Officer Matthew Marlette sees many signs of that kind of fighting in the Franklinton area.

"I've seen them where dogs have 20 pounds of chain around their necks to strengthen them," he said, "and I've seen tires hanging in trees for the dogs to jump up and grab them to strengthen them."

Officers sometimes receive reports of street-level dogfighting in empty lots, but the fights are over by the time police arrive, Marlette said.

Organized fighting is more clandestine -- yet so widespread that U.S. dogfighting magazines such as the Sporting Dog Journal carry ads for breeders as far away as Russia, Sweden and Thailand.

Manion likens the secretive nature of dogfighting to the Ku Klux Klan in past years.

Rowland said police usually hear about a dogfight from a disgruntled wife.

One of the few fights busted by the national Humane Society came to light in a call from a woman who said her husband was traveling to a fight in Michigan.

When he arrived at his hotel, he called and told his wife where he was and that he would be led to the fight from there. She informed authorities, and they followed the caravan of participants to the fight.

A 'family event'

Knapp, hired by the Capital Area Humane Society in December, became familiar with professional dogfighting during his 15 years as director of a dog shelter and a humane society in California.

"Dogfighting is a family event," often held in a large warehouse, he said. "Children watch, and there can be concession stands at one end, gambling somewhere else, and over in this corner they'll be selling cocaine and crack."

According to the Franklin County prosecutor's office, no one has been found guilty of dogfighting here in recent memory.

But it's a myth, say animal activists, that most dogfighting takes place on rural back roads.

"Definitely, there's a larger problem here with dogfighting than in other places," said Craig Turk, assistant director at the Franklin County Animal Shelter.

For nearly a year, the sheriff's special-investigations unit has been tracking local dog breeders and fighters, trying to get on the inside of the closed society.

Prosecuting dogfighters is difficult because it's underground: No one is admitted to a fight unless known to the organizers or accompanied by a known dogfighter, said Chief Deputy Steve Martin, who's heading the investigation.

It took the department months to gather enough evidence to search the homes of several suspected dog breeders and fighters. Only one of them -- Elkins -- has been indicted on dogfighting charges.

Franklin County deputy dog warden Erin Frost sees the sad results of dogfighting: emaciated pit bulls chained to large cement blocks behind huge backyard fences without food or water, shivering in their short-haired coats in winter and panting in the heat of summer.

"On chains on a cement slab -- that does not say pets to me," Frost said. "Any breeder of a dog would not keep them in this manner."

That's what Frost, a warden for two years, saw Feb. 22 at Elkins' Grove City home. A brown privacy fence surrounded the back yard of the house at the end of the street.

The dogs she found there had scars on their ears, faces and front legs, she said.

"It seemed apparent they'd been fighting."

Nine were chained to concrete blocks; 11 others were in the basement and garage. Another dog was found at the home of one of Elkins' relatives.

Dogs are "more like property" to dogfighters, Turk said. "A lot of people use them as tools rather than pets."

Used up, tossed out

Amy Jennings said she and other Franklin County deputy wardens come across dogs used for fighting about once a week. They pick up about 150 pit bulls a month.

The dogs are "just tossed" when they're too injured or otherwise no longer good for fighting, she said.

Most pit bulls used for fighting are found in poorer neighborhoods but occasionally in more affluent areas, as with the Elkins case, she said.

Often along with the dogs, Jennings finds trash cans full of vitamins, "doggie drugs" and fighting equipment:

* Treadmills, either homemade or purchased, are used to strengthen dogs for battle. A dog is hooked into the treadmill with a harness and forced to run on its revolving belt.

* A cat mill resembles a maypole. Two stiff wires run off either side of the pole. The dog is attached to the end of one wire. A cat or other small animal is strapped to the end of the other, and the dog chases it around the pole. After training, the dog often is allowed to maul its prey.

* A fighting pit is generally 14 to 24 feet square with a border of wood about 2 feet high. That's where the dogs face off and fight, surrounded by owners and spectators.

A duplex that Elkins recently owned at 2368 S. 5th St. on the South Side had a fighting pit in the basement, according to a family living in one side of the house in March. In the side and back yards, pit bulls had been chained to posts cemented into the ground, said the renter, who identified himself only as Mark.

"We heard that plenty of people used to come and watch the dogfights here on Saturday and Sunday nights," he said.

"We found four dead dogs on the property and there were six live ones here when we moved in. They were skinny, skinny, skinny. You could see their bones."

On the unoccupied side of the double, something akin to a large aquarium on legs stood in the front room. Mark said it was a breeding container, used because pit bulls often have to be held while breeding so they don't tear each other apart.

A pile of papers Mark found in the house included charts of dog lineages, detailed directions on how to prepare a dog for a fight, receipts for the purchases and sales of pit bulls, snapshots of pit bulls, and information from Web sites about steroids.

By late April, both sides of the double were vacant, but the yard remained littered with dog equipment -- fat metal chains, plywood doghouses with chewed doors, scattered metal dog bowls, white-plastic barrel doghouses. The remains of a 5-foot privacy fence were stacked in a corner, and a sign on the door of one unit ordered trespassers to stay away.

Blood everywhere

Connie Cordial knows well the effect that pit-bull breeders can have on a neighborhood.

For nearly two years, pit bulls barked day and night next door to her house in the Riverbend subdivision on the West Side. Worse than the barking was the snarling and snapping when dogs escaped their cages and attacked one another in spontaneous fights.

"You could hear the dog screams all over the neighborhood," Cordial said. "Fights would break out, and there'd be blood everywhere. I'd just shake all over when it would start."

The dogs -- as many as 15 at a time -- lived in the back yard next to her house on Ripplebrook Road. Her neighbor's son and girlfriend, Demetri Jackson and Latisha Britton, bred and sold the dogs for $250 each from January 2000 until October 2001.

Although Cordial and other neighbors repeatedly complained about the dogs to police and the Humane Society, nothing happened until another neighbor videotaped five of the pit bulls ganging up on a weaker dog and mauling it. When police came to investigate, they found the dog in a crate, nearly dead and covered with blood. The dog had died by the next morning.

Jackson and Britton were found guilty of animal cruelty in Environmental Court and ordered to clean up the yard, then move. Britton had previously been found guilty of 32 other dog-related charges in the court, including failure to confine, insure and license pit bulls.

Pit bulls as neighbors

On Ziner Court, fear set in after Elkins moved in with Christel Chenoweth, who owned the house with her estranged husband, Max.

Elkins and his pit bulls showed up around October 2001.

Neighbors say that one of Max and Christel's three towheaded young daughters would proudly walk one of the pit-bull puppies around the cul-de-sac on a leash. Once the Ziner Court mothers realized that the pup was a pit bull, they warned their children to run inside when any of the dogs came out.

"You just knew something weird was up," neighbor Jessica Morin said. "We all knew they were selling pit-bull puppies. Several neighbors called the dog warden."

Rumors spread from neighbor to neighbor about the goings-on at the Elkins house. Cars filled with people stopped at the house at all hours of the day and night, neighbors said. A passenger would hop out, run to the door, collect something, then jump back in the car.

On Feb. 22, armed SWAT officers moved in, knocking down the front door and searching the house, yard and garage. Animal-control officers filled five vans with Elkins' pit bulls, including two pregnant females. Deputies took out a long list of items, including a canine treadmill, canine vaccine, syringes, a computer and 11 DVDs about dogs.

In the midst of the raid, the yellow school bus pulled up and dropped off the children of Ziner Court.

Eventually, Elkins and Chenoweth were brought out of the house in handcuffs. They were later released; investigators would not say why.

Days later, Elkins disappeared from the house. Within a few weeks, Chenoweth, who worked as an exotic dancer, also had moved out, leaving the house empty except for a small cat that lurks around the front door.

In April, Elkins was sent to federal prison for a year on a counterfeiting charge unrelated to dogfighting. Neighbors said Chenoweth is living with a sister, and her children are with their father.

"We're awfully glad that it's over," said Emma Ingram, who lives with her son and his family in one of the neighboring houses.

"Neighborhood children play outside all the time, and I was so afraid. Anything can set a pit bull off."


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*Approximately 800,000 dog bites and 500,000 cat bites are reported annually!
*Over 130 disease-causing microbes have been isolated from dog and cat bite wounds. Bacteria in the saliva can cause infections such as Pasteurella, Streptoccal, Staphyloccal, and even Capnocyto-phaga which can lead to Septicemia, or blood poisoning which, in some people can be fatal!
Available For Law Enforcement Officers, Humane Police and Anyone who works with or around animals:


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U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Regulations (Standards - 29 CFR)
Hand Protection. - 1910.138 
• Part Number: 1910
• Part Title: Occupational Safety and Health Standards
• Subpart: I
• Subpart Title: Personal Protective Equipment
• Standard Number: 1910.138
• Title: Hand Protection.

General requirements. Employers shall select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when employees' hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption of harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes.
Selection. Employers shall base the selection of the appropriate hand protection on an evaluation of the performance characteristics of the hand protection relative to the task(s) to be performed, conditions present, duration of use, and the hazards and potential hazards identified.

[59 FR 16362, April 6, 1994]

Isn't it about time you had a pair of GAUNTLET Protective Gloves and Liners as a part of your required on-the-job equipment?

The TRUTH About Pit Bulls!

National Police and Security Officers Association of America
Post Office Box 663
South Plainfield, NJ 07080-0663