Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dog Fighting Ring Busted Bred In Rural Missouri - Fight In Urban Illinois

ST. LOUIS MO (KTVI-FOX2now.com) - It appears St. Louis is the center of the largest dog fighting ring ever busted in the U.S. The Humane Society of Missouri has 378 dogs in its custody, including 50 puppies. An estimated 30 people were arrested in five states, including Missouri and Illinois.

What federal agents describe happening to the dogs is nothing less than horrifying. Piitbulls were bred and trained in rural Missouri kennels, then forced to fight on the streets of Illinois in fierce bloody battles. And if they couldn't win or seemed week the dogs would be shot, their carcasses burned.

"It's worse than cruel. I can't put it into words," says Randy Grim of Stray Rescue St. Louis. His agency has rescued hundreds of dogs over the years from fighting rings. Many came from the same streets where the raids were focused Tuesday.

The raids reached across several states. On 71st Street in East St. Louis, agents removed an undisclosed number of dogs from what they called "deplorable conditions" inside. And on Highway 79 in Foley, Missouri, they raided a home with a fireworks stand in front of it, and what agents say was a kennel behind it.

"The humane society was there," says Foley resident Marie Coyne. "There was a big truck and a big van. Big long truck, air conditioned, I guess for the dogs. And they were coming in taking the dogs out. And searching the home.

The kennel in Foley was called the "Shake Rattle and Roll". There were other raids in other rural Missouri towns like Dittmer, Richwoods, and Hannibal. Federal indictments say those were the places where pitbulls were born and bred and trained. And in places like Lakewood Place in Alorton and 50th Street in Washington Park, the indictments say pitbulls fought.

"When I saw the address I about died!" says Grim. He took in a dog he named Bill and one he named Nick from the 50th Street site about two months ago.

"If I hadn't rescued Bill he would've been in this roundup," he says.

In Missouri agents made five arrests: Bob Hackman of Foley, Michael Morgan of Hannibal, Teddy Kiriakidis of Leasburg, Ronald Creach of Leslie and Jack Ruppel of Eldon. Each faces felony charges. They are accused of breeding the dogs.

Illinois saw five arrests as well: William Berry of Lebanon, Derrick Courtland of Cahokia, John Bacon of East St. Louis, Julius Jackson of East St. Louis, and Joseph Addison of East St. Louis. They allegedly organized the fights, sold tickets and cheered them on. They too face felony charges.

There were also arrests and raids in Iowa, Texas, and Oklahoma.

"We sincerely hope that this is going to help put an end to organized dog fighting in the United States," says Kathy Warnick, Missouri Humane Society President. "This type of vicious blood sport will not be tolerated in our society."

Grim hopes it helps curb a problem he's been trying to shed light on for years.

"They weren't born mean," says Grim. "The people up for indictment made them mean. They are the disgrace to society.

The Humane Society is not disclosing where the dogs are being kept. Each will undergo an evaluation to see if they can be rehabilitated and put up for adoption. The Humane Society is asking for the public to help. They need donations of blankets, towels, sheets, dog toys and fans. Donations can be dropped off at the site at 1201 Macklind in West St. Louis.

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