News Item | PAWS Chicago

Dog Fighting: A Ring of Violence

by Jaclene Tetzlaff | Nov 01, 2010

On September 23, we watched in horror as reports showed the day care house that was raided for a dog fighting ring in Maywood. Dogs used for fighting were being kept behind closed doors throughout the house and in the garage while children played on the swing set in the yard. What kind of people would be so heartless? What kind of parents would just leave their child in a place without thoroughly inspecting it first? What kind of people conduct these vicious dog fighting rings?

Three people were arrested and nine dogs underwent surgery and rehabilitation after the Cook County Sheriff’s Department Animal Crimes Unit raided this west suburban dog fighting operation. Police found a dog with its eye ripped out, a dog with a leg twisted backward and a dog with its lower extremities nearly ripped off its body. 

Investigators learned dogs used in this operation were also housed nearby in the home of an ex-con who was released from prison on a drug conviction in 2006. He was cited by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s office for being a felon in possession of an unneutered or unspayed dog. 

According to Sergeant Mark George, neglect, drugs, guns and animal cruelty are usually associated. Sgt. George is on the Chicago Police Department’s Animal Crime Team of Gang Investigations. He says that among the dog fighters they’ve arrested, at least 75% have a history of domestic violence and gang activity. That’s why the Animal Crime Team is part of the Gang Investigations Unit. “These people are de-sensitized to this because they grew up with abuse and cruelty – they think it’s the norm. It’s a complete ring of violence.” The problematic environments he’s seen are appalling and upsetting. “They abuse the dogs and then throw them away like a Dixie Cup.” 

Sergeant George is on a multijurisdictional team comprised of the Chicago Police Department, the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, and the USDA. “Dog fighting rings have gotten very organized,” Sergeant George explains. “They’ve scattered to the suburbs and rural areas where it is more difficult to detect their activity. Kankakee, Crete, Joliet, as well as Indiana and Wisconsin are areas of high activity.” There are no outsiders at these dog fights. They are secretive, underground, and spread by word-of-mouth only. There is a location scout, an event organizer, and a referee. All get a cut of the profits.

Due to the spread of these dog fighting rings, the multi-jurisdictional team must work together in order to accomplish an effective raid. City, County, State, and Federal guidelines are followed to ensure arrests and convictions. The team exchanges information, gets a search warrant, and all go in together. “Chicago Police are trained to recognize evidence of dog fighting and what to look for. An officer may be at a scene for a different reason. But if an officer sees dog fighting evidence, that officer will report it, and we will follow up on it.” 

On August 9, a late night raid in Hopkins Park led to the arrest of seven individuals when the Animal Crimes Unit stopped a dog fight in progress. Officers surrounded a Kankakee County farm after developing information during a two month-long investigation that led them to the date, time and location of the dog fight. Seven people were arrested, including a man who brought his five-year-old daughter to the dog fight. 

More than 40 officers from several agencies worked together to secure the scene. Nine severely scarred pit bulls and $20,000 in cash were seized. “The investigative efforts put forth by the officers of the Animal Crimes Unit not only protects the dogs subjected to this torture, but also innocent children forced to witness this violence,” stated Sheriff Tom Dart. “It is something that no child should ever witness.” 

A raid like this shows how all crime units and agencies come together to secure a scene. Sheriff Dart commended officers from the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, Hostage Barricade and Terrorist Team and Helicopter Unit, Illinois State Police and their SWAT team, the Kankakee County Sheriff, the Chicago Police Department, and the USDA.

What Can You Do? 

 

  • Be aware of it. 

“We must address it. Don’t turn a blind eye – report it,” says Sgt. George. “Our job is law enforcement. We want to get the bad guys.” If you have any information about dog fighting, you are urged to: 

 

  • Call 911 or contact: 

Cook County Sheriff’s office:

phone: (708) 865-4720 

email: Cookcountysheriff.org 

Chicago Police Sergeant Mark George 

phone: (312) 746-7141 

email: mark.george@ chicagopolice.org.