Unsung Heroes in Major U.S. Dog-fighting Bust
March 20, 2008

News outlets across the nation were abuzz this past February when it was announced that Pima County Sheriff deputies and the FBI executed a major raid on one of the largest fight-dog operations in the United States, seizing at least 150 dogs and making three arrests of dog breeders suspected of links to organized dog-fighting operations across the nation. Not as well publicized, much of the information enabling the arrests originated in Burbank, Illinois and was collected and pursued by the Chicago Police Department’s Animal Crimes Unit.

Mid-July last year, the Burbank Police Department stopped a vehicle carrying seven dogs on South Cicero Avenue. Without an animal expert on staff, Burbank reached out to Chicago’s Animal Crimes Unit. When James Conlan and Thomas Barker responded to the scene, they immediately recognized that further investigation was needed. They secured felony charges against the driver and passenger, Brian Baley and Tony Self, well-known and trusted couriers of specially bred dogs for the dog-fighting community, who were held without bond at the Cook County Jail.

After skillful interrogations by the Cook County Sheriff’s police, Brian Degenhardt, and James Conlan at Cook County Jail, it was evident that the Burbank PD has unwittingly uncovered a nation-wide dogtrafficking transportation system. Baley would pick up dogs from O’Hare Airport and house them in southside safe houses. He also made frequent trips to New York’s LaGuardia Airport. After funds were received for the dogs, he would personally deliver them to the residence of a well-know dog-fighter in Pima County Arizona.

Conlan and Degenhardt made contact with the Pima County Sheriff’s office, providing information with sufficient probable cause that they could initiate their own surveillance. The Pima County Sheriff detective was able to execute two search warrants.
The Raid

On February 19, a coordinated effort by SWAT team, Animal Control, and the FBI raided four separate properties simultaneously in Tucson, Arizona. Six people were arrested and indicted on a total of 69 felony and misdemeanor counts, allegedly operating the dog-fighting ring for the past eight years in Pima County. The primary culprit, Mahlon Patrick, had been involved in dog-fighting since the 70s and was known worldwide for originating two blood lines, going by the names Tombstone and Bolio. Regarded as one of the top three breeders of fighting dogs in the country, his dogs ranged in price from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars.

All total, law enforcement recovered more than 150 dogs, $10,000 in cash, and 60 firearms, varying from revolvers to assault-type guns. Investigators also suspect ties to organized crime.
The Victims

At least ten of the dogs required immediate medical attention for foot infections resulting from standing in their own waste and others showed signs of fighting, including scars on their faces, necks and front legs, signs of a poorly healed broken jaw, and missing teeth. One timid neutered male dog with substantial scarring licked investigators hands when they approached his kennel, which showed signs that bebe pellets were fired at him to torment the poor pup. Dog-fighting paraphernalia, such as a rape-stand and training equipment such as treadmills, were also confiscated.
Related Posts:

* Maddie’s Fund Awards Grant to Purdue and PAWS Chicago
* Angel Tales is now Online!
* Chicagoans of the Year 2007
* What your Dog’s Body Language is Saying about your Family Pack Dynamic
* The Story of Michael Vick

The Story of Michael Vick
Dog Fighting Exposed
November 8, 2007 · Filed Under General News · Comments (0)
Michael Vick and his legal team.

Michael Vick and his legal team.

2001 was a banner year for Michael Vick. The Atlanta Falcons drafted him as the first overall pick in the NFL draft that April and things were only getting better. On May 9, he signed a six-year contract worth $62 million and received a signing bonus of $3 million.

The next month, in June of 2001, Vick spent $34,000, presumably from his generous signing bonus, acquiring property in Smithfield, Virginia on Moonlight Road. This property became the main staging area for housing and training pitbulls, as well as a hosting site for dog fights. He also began collecting pit bull adults and puppies for the fighting operation, importing them from North Carolina, New York, and other locations in Virginia. Soon after, he established “Bad Newz Kennels.”

At least four cooperating witnesses provided investigators with information on Vick and his compatriots in Bad Newz Kennels. It was common practice to “test,” determining which dogs were the good fighters and executing those who did not perform. Dogs who lost matches also usually lost their lives, either in the pit or at the hand of their angry sponsors who had bet money on bloody victory. Shooting, hanging, electrocuting, drowning and slamming bodies to the ground were all common methods of killing by Vick and his three co-defendants.

It is estimated that between 20,000 and 40,000 people participate in the multi-billion dollar dog-fighting industry. Hundreds of people attend fights, with the average purse size at $10,000. Days or weeks after these fights, often in abandoned buildings, dead dog carcasses are found burned, skinned or hung. The brutality of the industry is unparalleled.

Vick often played host at Moonlight Road to regular dogfights and “Grand Champion Fights,” which meant each dog was fighting for his fifth consecutive win. Fighters came from various places in Virginia, as well as Alabama, New York, New Jersey, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Maryland. Bad Newz Kennels also sponsored their dogs in fights in North Carolina, South Carolina, and New Jersey. The winners would walk away with purses that ranged from $2,000 to $26,000, even more according to anonymous dogfighters who spoke with journalists after the story broke. They claim Vick was a “heavyweight,” betting $40,000 or more on some fights.

When Vick’s Smithfield property was raided this year, authorities found bloodstained carpet and dog-fighting paraphernalia, including a dog-fighting pit, a “rape stand” used to strap down females for breeding, a “break” or “parting” stick used to pry open fighting dogs’ mouths during fights, treadmills and “slat mills” used to condition dogs for the fight, and buried car axles that dogs could be chained to without getting tangled. Sixty-six dogs, most American Pit Bull Terriers, were also confiscated, some showing scars and injuries related to dog fighting. Carcasses were found buried across the property.

For six years, Vick ran an inter-state dog-fighting ring, and it all caught up with him this year when he was convicted of federal felony charges. The government charged Vick and his codefendants with accounts of killing dogs, as well as frequently transporting them across state lines after purchases and to get to fights.

Entering a guilty plea on August 27, he is awaiting sentencing on December 10, expected to be between one and five years. (It is presumed that Vick pled guilty to prevent the horrific details of his actions going public.) Most of his product endorsements were suspended or terminated by the end of August, and he was suspended from the NFL. On September 25, a Virginia grand jury in Surry County indicted Vick for two additional felony counts under state law: for beating and killing an animal and for dog-fighting charges. If convicted of these state charges, Vick faces a sentence of up to 40 years.

In 2004, Vick signed a 10-year contract extension for $130 million, the most lucrative in the history of the NFL. The Falcons have already recovered $19.9 million of the $37 million in bonuses paid to Vick under terms of his contract extension. He also may be banned from the NFL permanently, since NFL rules do not permit any form of gambling and Vick admitted to funding the gambling side of his group’s dogfighting operation. Michael Vick has lost millions, his freedom, his career, his reputation and his future. Cruelty certainly doesn’t pay.
Related Posts:

* Maddie’s Fund Awards Grant to Purdue and PAWS Chicago
* Angel Tales is now Online!
* Unsung Heroes in Major U.S. Dog-fighting Bust
* Chicagoans of the Year 2007
* What your Dog’s Body Language is Saying about your Family Pack Dynamic

New Illinois Dog Fighting Legislation
September 11, 2007 · Filed Under Advocacy · Comments (0)

2007 brought forth important new legislation aimed at stopping violence to animals, especially in the form of animal fighting.

The most important legislation for high-profile cases such as Michael Vick and several recent Cook County arrests is the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act. Passed with strong bipartisan support and signed into law by President Bush on May 3, 2007, it makes interstate commerce, import or export related to animal fighting (dog fighting and cock fighting in particular) a federal felony offense. Each violation may result in up to three years in a federal prison and a fine up to $250,000. Criminals who engage in dog fighting and cockfighting should find it much more difficult to continue their activities and outfit their enterprise across state lines.

The State of Illinois also added several important statutes to its already strong laws. Most important in light of the new federal law is that, as of August 30, 2007, any form of animal fighting (such as cockfighting) is a felony, which is already the case with dog fighting. In addition, as of January 1, 2008, state law gives judges explicit authority to include animals in orders of protection. The petitioner may be given exclusive custody and care of the animal and the respondent may be ordered to stay away from the animal.
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