HumaneSociety.org - Authorities seized dogs and dogfighting paraphernalia from the property of a previously convicted dogfighter in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Kalamazoo County Animal Services and Enforcement discovered that the suspect, Kelvin Eric Thomas, had allegedly resumed breeding dogs for the purpose of fighting, and called the Humane Society of the United States to assist with the case. Seven pit bull-type dogs and three Doberman pinschers were removed from the property.
In 2012, the HSUS assisted in the seizure of 32 dogs and other evidence from Thomas’ property. Thomas pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing fighting dogs and equipment and was sentenced to complete 160 hours of community service. He was also ordered to not own or possess dogs or dogfighting equipment on his property for two years.
Janette Reever, manager of animal fighting response for the HSUS, said: “It’s unfortunate that we had to return to this property after just three years to rescue more dogs from the same chains and pens. This individual may not have learned his lesson the first time, but we hope dogfighters will realize that they are not beyond the law. We are grateful to Kalamazoo County for its vigilance in this case.”
Steve Lawrence, director of Kalamazoo County Animal Services and Enforcement, said: “We want dogfighters to get the message that we are serious about this crime, whether it’s their first offense or their third. We are dedicated to eradicating dogfighting from our community, and we thank the Humane Society of the United States for their help with that goal.”
Kalamazoo County Animal Services and Enforcement will care for the dogs pending the final disposition of this case. Kalamazoo Humane Society and Dr. Pamela Graves, a member of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, assisted on the scene.
The HSUS provided expertise in identifying and documenting evidence, and will coordinate potential placement of the dogs in the future. It is the HSUS’ policy that dogs seized from animal fighting operations be treated as individuals and evaluated for potential placement with HSUS Dogfighting Rescue Coalition placement partners.
Michigan has the strongest animal fighting law in the U.S. A package of bills passed in 2012—just after this suspect’s first dogfighting arrest—strengthened Michigan’s animal fighting law to include racketeering, add animal fighting to the list of crimes for which property may be seized and forfeited, and allow for a building, vehicle, or place hosting animal fighting to be declared a nuisance.
The Michigan legislature is now considering HB 4765 to allow the adoption of dogs seized from fighting cases. The bill has passed the House Criminal Justice Committee and is now on the House floor.
Dogfighting is a felony in all 50 states. The HSUS offers rewards of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person involved in illegal animal fighting. The HSUS asks anyone with information about animal fighting criminals to call 877-TIP-HSUS. Tipsters' identities are protected.
Rescue groups interested in becoming members of the HSUS’ Dogfighting Rescue Coalition should visit humanesociety.org/drc.
Image credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills/AP Images for the HSUS