OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106
APRIL 2, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THREE MEN SENTENCED FOR DOG FIGHTING
HUNDREDS OF DOGS SEIZED IN MULTI-STATE
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that three more defendants were sentenced in federal court today for promoting or participating in dog fights.
“Dog fighting is not only criminal, but cruel,” Phillips said. “Our community will not tolerate such inhumanity, and we will aggressively prosecute those who abuse and mistreat animals for the sake of this blood sport.”
Cris E. Bottcher, 49, of Gilman City, Mo., Kevin P. Tasler, 52, of Jefferson, Iowa, and Ryan J. Tasler, 43, of Woodward, Iowa, were sentenced in separate hearings before U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith. Bottcher was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison without parole. Kevin Tasler was sentenced to three years of probation, including six months of home detention and 100 hours of community service. Ryan Tasler was sentenced to two years of probation, including 50 hours of community service.
This case was part of a multi-state investigation that resulted in additional defendants being charged in separate cases in three other districts, as well as the federal seizure of hundreds of dogs during a series of coordinated raids on July 8, 2009.
Bottcher, Kevin Tasler and Ryan Tasler each pleaded guilty to their roles in a conspiracy to transport animals across state lines for an animal fighting venture. In addition to the conspiracy, Bottcher also pleaded guilty to sponsoring or exhibiting an animal in an animal fighting venture.
Bottcher admitted that he hosted a series of dog fights at his farm property. Bottcher also admitted that he bet money on the fights and that he euthanized dogs that had been wounded or underperformed in dog fights. At one of the dog fights, Bottcher used a .22 caliber rifle to shoot and kill two dogs, then disposed of the bodies by placing them in plastic containers.
Co-defendant Rick P. Hihath, 56, of St. Joseph, was sentenced on Feb. 22, 2010, to 16 months in federal prison without parole. Following his prison term, Hihath must serve three years of supervised release, during which he is prohibited from owning or possessing any dogs, and must serve 100 hours of community service. Hihath will surrender to begin serving his prison sentence on April 5, 2010.
Hihath pleaded guilty on Oct. 14, 2009, to his role in a conspiracy to transport animals across state lines for an animal fighting venture. In addition to the conspiracy, Hihath also pleaded guilty to sponsoring or exhibiting an animal in an animal fighting venture. Hihath was the promoter and sponsor of the match fights and roll fights involving pit bull fighting dogs transported from Iowa and Nebraska to Missouri.
Co-defendants Jill D. Makstaller, 33, and her husband, Andrew D. Makstaller, 34, of Perry, Iowa, and Julio Reyes, 30, of Tecumseh, Neb., have pleaded guilty to their roles in the dog-fighting conspiracy and await sentencing.
The government is seeking to take legal ownership of Bottcher’s 11 pit bulls, Ryan Tasler’s five pit bulls, Kevin Tasler’s two pit bulls, Hihath’s 12 dogs (seven pit bull terriers and five American bulldogs), and the Makstallers’ 23 pit bulls, all of which are in the care and custody of the Humane Society. Under federal law, the government can seek the forfeiture of any animals engaged in an animal fighting venture. Additionally, the government is seeking a court order requiring the defendants to reimburse the Humane Society for all costs incurred for care of the animals while the animals are in the custody of the Humane Society.
In a separate case that resulted from the same multi-state investigation, Jack Ruppel, 36, of Eldon, was sentenced on March 26, 2010, to 16 months in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Ruppel to forfeit to the government all of the animals, money, weapons, animal fighting paraphernalia, property and assets seized by law enforcement officials during their investigation. Ruppel pleaded guilty on Sept. 4, 2009, to his role in a conspiracy to transport animals across state lines for an animal fighting venture and to use the mail to promote and advertise the venture. Ruppel also pleaded guilty to selling an animal for participation in an animal fighting venture.
Beginning sometime before 2008, Ruppel, who operated Ozark Hillbillies Kennel, became involved in breeding, raising, training and selling dogs for participation in animal fighting ventures. Through his dog kennel operation, Ruppel bred, trained, conditioned and developed pit bull terriers both for participation in animal fighting ventures and to represent himself in animal fighting ventures and dog fighting competitions.
Ruppel specifically admitted that he attended or participated in 10 dog fights between July 19, 2008, and April 18, 2009, including one dog fight at his residence, and that he wagered money on some dog fights. Ruppel admitted that he killed some of his dogs who would not fight, or had not fought well enough to meet expectations.
The government is also seeking to take legal ownership of Ruppel’s 46 dogs (45 pit bull terriers and one mastiff).
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Pansing Brown. It was investigated by the Office of Inspector General-Investigations, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at