Dogfighting in the Heartland

Dogfighting in the Heartland
By: Ryan Tate

SIKESTON, Mo. - Dogfighting has been in the news a lot the past few days, especially with the indictment of Atlanta Falcons Quaterback Michael Vick.

Police recently busted dogfighting rings in Illinois, Texas, and Florida.

The indictment accuses Vick and three co-defendants of sponsoring a brutal dogfighting operation on property owned by Vick in Richmond, Virginia in which some dogs fought to the death.  The indictment also claims the losing dogs were sometimes killed by hanging, shooting, drowning or electrocution.

Lanette Baker has worked for the Sikeston Humane Society for two years, but said she has already seen the effects of dogfighting.
"They come in batches. We may have a week in which three, four, five dogs come in with what looks like they've been in a fight," Baker said.
Dogfighting in the Heartland is something that some Humane Society volunteers and employees say they see the effects of throughout the year, but investigators have a hard time making arrests on it.
According to Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle, in the 20 years he has tried cases, not one dogfighting case has crossed his desk. 
The Paducah-McCracken County Animal Control officer said he has not seen any arrests by police, but expects it would happen if they could catch a dogfighting ring. 
In Jackson County, the animal control officer has been there for 25 years, and said there has never been an organized dogfighting group arrested.
"It is really difficult to prove. They are excellent at hiding it. They have done it long enough to know the ins and outs of the system," Requi Salter of the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri said. 
"You would need people to infiltrate it," Baker said.
The animal control officer in Cape Girardeau said law enforcement writing tickets for little things against people they suspect of dogfighting helps to get them out of the area.

In Illinois, anyone in possession of dogfighting items are subject to arrest.

In Missouri, any person knowingly attending dogfighting matches are subject to a misdemeanor.