The perpetrators involved in the second-largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history are finally facing justice.
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama concluded sentencing on Wednesday after a total of 367 dogs were rescued during a raid in August 2013 in Alabama and Georgia by the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office.
Eight people who were involved in the dog fighting ring are now facing jail time, six of them for over a year, according to a joint press release from the ASPCA and HSUS. The sentences range from two months to eight years - the longest sentence ever handed down for a federal dog fighting case. Authorities estimated that the defendants had injured or killed between 420 to 640 dogs over the course of their dog fighting operation.
The recipient of the record-breaking sentence is a 50-year-old Alabama man named Donnie Anderson, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy, sponsoring dog fights, possessing a fighting dog and operating an illegal gambling business. All eight defendants are prohibited from owning dogs for two to three years after their release. They also may have to pay restitution to the ASPCA and HSUS, both organizations which helped cover the cost of caring for the seized dogs.
U.S. Attorney George L. Beck, Jr. said in a statement provided to ASPCA:
"These dogs lived in deplorable conditions that constituted extraordinary cruelty. They were made to fight and if they lost, they were killed. In addition to the brutality experienced by the dogs, these events attracted drugs dealers and illegal gambling. It was not uncommon for large amounts of cash, often between twenty and two-hundred thousand dollars, to change hands. The prospect of huge profits made these fights even more popular and provided a venue for other criminal activity. I hope that these sentences demonstrate the seriousness of this crime and will deter others from committing these atrocities."
During the hearing, U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins further noted that the federal sentencing guidelines for dog fighting are not adequate to address how serious it is.
The historic case is the second measure this year to prove a heightened commitment to ending dog fighting, which is considered a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Farm Bill, signed earlier this year by President Obama, made it a federal offense to attend an organized animal fight, and also imposed additional penalties for bringing a minor to a fight.