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Two KCK men charged in three-state dogfighting case

March 25, 2013

By TONY RIZZO

The Kansas City Star

Federal prosecutors have charged two Kansas City, Kan., men with participating in a three-state Midwest dogfighting ring that was broken up Saturday at a fight in Texas.  Federal officials have broken up a three-state dogfighting ring that they say trained some dogs on treadmills in Kansas City, Kan. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom (center) spoke about the charges during a press conference Monday at the federal courthouse in Kansas City, Kan.

Federal officials have broken up a three-state Midwest dog-fighting ring that they say trained some dogs on treadmills in Kansas City, Kan.  Authorities seized 71 dogs, most of them pit bulls, over the weekend in Kansas, Missouri and Texas, said Barry Grissom, the U.S. attorney for Kansas.  Among the sites searched were a Kansas City, Kan., residence — where some dogs allegedly were trained using treadmills and caged chickens — and a northern Missouri farm owned by one of the suspects, authorities said.

Pete Davis Jr., 38, and Melvin L. Robinson, 41, are charged in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., with transporting dogs in interstate commerce to participate in animal fighting. If convicted, each man faces up to five years in federal prison.  The two men owned as many as 60 dogs that were kept mainly at the farm in Harrison County, Mo., where fights were held on Sundays, according to court documents unsealed Monday.

Medical teams from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are caring for the seized dogs and six rescued chickens , authorities said Monday.  Staff from Wayside Waifs in Kansas City and Great Plains SPCA in Merriam are helping with operations to care for the animals in a temporary shelter, ASPCA officials said.

“Dogfighting is not a sport. It is a crime,” Grissom said at a Monday afternoon news conference.  The charges and animal rescues were the result of a five-month investigation by federal, state and local law enforcement officers and the ASPCA, Grissom said. He said that partnership showed that authorities take the crime very seriously.

“We hope this will send a message,” Grissom said. “This kind of behavior has to stop.”

According to the allegations, Robinson used treadmills and weights to train the dogs, which sometimes killed chickens in the exercises.  A plywood box kept the dogs on the treadmills and Robinson allegedly would place a harnesses on the dogs and chain the harnesses to the treadmills for hours at a time.  Davis, Robinson and a third person allegedly removed two dead dogs from the farm this month and disposed of them in Kansas.  Witnesses told investigators that Robinson and Davis discussed traveling to Texas in late March for a large “dog show,” which is code for dogfight, federal investigators said.  Robinson and Davis also talked about plans to wager $20,000 to $30,000 on the fights, according to the documents.

On Friday, law enforcement officers followed the pair and several other people traveling in a three-vehicle convoy through Oklahoma and into Texas to a location near Tyler.  At Monday’s news conference, authorities said about 30 people were attending the fight Saturday night in a wooded area when police moved in.  One of the Kansas City, Kan., men was arrested there, but authorities did not say which one.  The other man turned himself in to authorities in Kansas.  Many people attending the fight fled when police arrived. “Like cockroaches when the lights are turned on,” Grissom said.

A similar joint investigation in 2009 that centered on northwest Missouri broke the largest U.S. dogfighting ring, involving more than 400 dogs. Though the case announced Monday was not as large, it still was a significant operation, said Tim Rickey, the vice president of the ASCPA’s field investigations and response team.

Rickey said the animals’ health is being assessed while they are held as evidence in the criminal cases.  The goal is to rehabilitate as many of the dogs as possible and prepare them for adoption, he said.  “In our eyes,these dogs have suffered tremendously as a result of this for-profit crime,” he said. “We want to give these dogs a second chance.”  Despite the disruption of two major operations in the area since 2009, dogfighting remains prevalent, Rickey said.  “My goal — our goal — is to put an end to this brutal and barbaric industry,” he said.

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To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to trizzo@kcstar.com.

 

Topeka Approves Animal Ordinance

By Tim Hrenchir – Sep 28, 2010

Topeka’s governing body decided without objection Tuesday evening to make changes to city rules for stray cats and dangerous dogs that supporters described as being groundbreaking and progressive.

Mayor Bill Bunten and eight city council members voted 9-0, with Councilman John Alcala being absent because of back problems, to pass a 39-page ordinance amending rules regarding animal control and animal cruelty to enhance public safety, protect animals and save taxpayer dollars.

The ordinance does away with the city’s breed-specific rules requiring owners to obtain special licenses and to implant microchips in any dogs that have the appearance and characteristics of being predominantly of any of three types of pit bull dog.

It also allows feral cats to roam free, provided local volunteers have had them vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and an ear cropped for identification. The change was promoted as being a more humane alternative to current practices, which generally result in stray cats being euthanized after being picked up by city animal control officers.

The ordinance was crafted through a team effort involving Councilwoman Karen Hiller, city staff members and a committee of eight citizens who have an interest in animal-related matters. Committee members were among nine people who spoke before the council about the proposal Tuesday, with each expressing support for it.

“This is a groundbreaking ordinance, and it’s going to revolutionize animal welfare in the city of Topeka,” said committee member Mike Bauman, president of the Friends of Hill’s Bark Park organization.

The committee also included University of Kansas law student Katie Bray Barnett, whom Hiller said is nationally recognized as an expert on animal control legislation. Barnett, a graduate of Topeka West High School, said the ordinance before the governing body Tuesday had garnered national attention and was being considered as a potential model ordinance by officials in Ellis, Kan.; Ogden, Utah; Toledo, Ohio; and Douglasville, Ga. Councilwoman Sylvia Ortiz said she had been contacted by a Denver City Council member about the ordinance.

Ruth Tessendorf, president of the Topeka Kennel Club, told governing body members Tuesday’s vote was also being watched by a boxer dog group, which was considering holding a show next year at the Kansas Expocentre but wouldn’t be willing to do that if the city kept in place its breed-specific rules for pit bulls.

The passage of Tuesday’s ordinance overturns rules banning the ownership, keeping or harboring of pit bulls that haven’t been licensed with the city and implanted with a microchip. The city had been requiring itself to confine dogs suspects of being pit bulls until any charges against their owners are resolved in Topeka Municipal Court. Assistant city attorney Kyle Smith estimated the passage of Tuesday’s ordinance would save the city $30,000 a year it spends to confine suspected pit bulls at the Helping Hands Humane Society.

The ordinance also changes city cat licensing rules to make it clear that licenses aren’t required for feral cats that show a straight-line cutting of the tip of their left ear to show they have been spayed or neutered and vaccinated.

Smith said the ordinance sanctions a process used successfully in other communities where volunteer groups — not at taxpayer expense — trap feral cats, spay or neuter and vaccinate them, then release them in their original locations after cropping an ear to identify them.

Tuesday’s speakers included Carol Westerdale, founder and director of Save Our Shelter Animals, who said her nonprofit group has operated a trap-neuter-return program for feral cats here since last year and recently received a $10,000 grant from Petco.

The ordinance approved Tuesday also replaces the city’s vicious animals ordinance with a similar but broader “dangerous dogs” ordinance regarding dogs that have shown inappropriate aggressive behavior.

It replaces city rules that allowed for dogs to be tethered outdoors for as long as an hour at a time and as much as three hours a day by allowing dog owners unlimited supervised tethering but reducing unsupervised tethering of dogs to 15 minutes

Ortiz voted in favor of the ordinance Tuesday after she voted against recommending its passage at a Sept. 21 meeting of the council’s public health and safety committee.

Ortiz said Tuesday she hadn’t been willing to support the ordinance at that time because some of her questions about it hadn’t been answered, but she felt comfortable supporting the ordinance after those questions were answered.

The measure approved Tuesday makes no changes to licensing fees for cats and dogs.

Tim Hrenchir can be reached at (785) 295-1184 or tim.hrenchir@cjonline.com.

Special thanks to Katie Bray Barnett of Game Dog Guardian for were dedication and commitment to this ordinance, and to Michelle Davis of Kansas City Dog Advocates, for her support.