RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Police and prosecutors from across the country are gathered in Raleigh this week to learn how to find and investigate animal fighting rings.
The training is a combined effort among the United States Humane Society, U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. Departments of Justice and Agriculture.
The Wake County Animal Center sees the direct impact of animal fighting in the area. Last year when a Wendell man was charged with felony cruelty to animals and dog fighting, they got the 14 dogs police say he abused.
“Unfortunately we could only place two of the fourteen dogs, because the other 12 were not safe to put into the community,” said Dr. Jennifer Federico, Animal Services director of the center.
Federico says the more training officers and deputies get about animal fighting, the better chance they all have of stopping it.
“They may be in there for something else: drugs, gambling, some other form that got them in the door, and then they notice it,” said Federico.
Evidence from dog and rooster fighting rings was on display for dozens of people in law enforcement to see at the animal fighting investigations training conference at the National Guard Joint Force Headquarters.
“A lot of thoughts being connected in there. People saying, ‘I’ve seen that before, I didn’t know it meant anything,’” said Joseph Poux, deputy chief of the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
Poux says the fighting rings are an entry point for organized crime.
“There’s up to 40,000 people involved with organized animal fighting activities across the country,” Poux said.
“Working in partnership or a combination with federal authorities enables them to be able to go after all of the different people that are involved in the operation, spreading across county lines and state lines,” said Chris Schindler, director of Animal Cruelty and Fighting for the Humane Society of the United States.
Investigators say animal fighting can happen anywhere.
“We’ve had several of these cases in our district, including as close to home as Garner,” said John Bruce, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Bruce says there’s another case in Cumberland County pending trial.
While police train to see the more subtle signs, you can help them by reporting things to your local animal services center like bad smells, multiple dogs on tethers, and excessive barking.
Federico says they would rather have something reported that turns out to be nothing, than miss a real case of abuse.