Dog fighting raid's littlest victim

The nation's two largest animal welfare organizations, working with federal and state law enforcement in four states carried out the second largest dog fighting bust in U.S. history last week.

The ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States swooped in on multiple properties in Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Georgia seizing 367 dogs.When it was over 10 suspects were arrested and indicted on felony dog fighting charges. Federal and local officials also seized firearms and drugs, as well as more than $500,000 in cash from dog fighting gambling activities that took place over the course of the three-year-long investigation.

The ASPCA reported the dogs, ranged in age from just several days to 10-12 year and had been left to suffer in extreme heat without fresh water or food. Many were emaciated with scars and wounds consistent with dog fighting, and some were tethered by chains and cables that were attached to cinder blocks and car tires.

The case received considerable media attention, as well it should, so we didn't rush to duplicate it here. But this picture stopped me cold today. Here is the dog fighting's most innocent face, snatched from a certain horrific life at the end of an unmerciful chain.

Click here to see the "after" picture of the baby pup.

Tim Rickey, vice president of the ASPCA’s Field Investigations & Response Team, filed a first-person account on the ASPCA blog today.

Here's what he saw:

When I first walked on the property, I stared across the yard and saw more than 100 dogs, most of them tied to heavy log chains, anchored to dilapidated dog houses. The dogs ranged from old to young, living on a worn dirt ring that likely had seen generations of dogs come and go to a sad fate.

Most were chained nose-to-nose to their neighbors to ensure continuous arousal.

I first thought of what a grim fate many of these dogs would have met without our intervention that day. But as I looked at a young, weeks-old puppy with one glance, and an aging, 10-year-old senior with another, my thoughts quickly turned to the long, lonely and painful journey of a fighting dog’s life.

This cycle begins with being chained at such an early age with little to no positive human or animal interaction. The burden continues with heavy chains, often with additional weights, to drag around their entire lives. The constant noise, arousal and anxiousness push them towards aggression to or from their yard mates. If they don't respond, their life may end quickly, but if they do, they have sealed their fate of a long, torturous life.

Their only reprieve from the chain is death or brief release to be tested against another dog, eventually going back to the chain with little attention to their wounds. What follows is weeks of intense training and significant human interaction with the person who will commit the ultimate betrayal and force them into a barbaric battle for entertainment and profit. If they survive, they go back again to the chain: A vicious cycle that could go on for years until these dogs finally have no value or fight left in them and are discarded.

Check in with HSUS  or the ASPCA for more news. Follow the conversation on Twitter using hashtag #367rescue.