Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106

MARCH 26, 2010



            JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that an Eldon, Mo., man was sentenced in federal court today for his role in a dog-fighting conspiracy and selling dogs for fighting purposes.

            Jack Ruppel, 36, of Eldon, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey this afternoon 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.

            This case was part of a multi-state investigation that resulted in additional defendants being charged in separate cases in three other districts and the federal seizure of hundreds of dogs during a series of coordinated raids on July 8, 2009.

            On Sept. 4, 2009, Ruppel pleaded guilty to his role in a conspiracy to buy, sell, possess, train or transport animals for participating in animal fighting ventures and to use the mail to promote and advertise the venture between January 2008 and June 2009. 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 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.

            Ruppel sold a female pit bull terrier along with a fighting pit bull terrier (identified as “Nickle”) to an undercover law enforcement officer for a total sales price of $5,000. Ruppel also sold a fighting pit bull terrier (identified as “Winchester”) to an undercover law enforcement officer for $400. Ruppel also sold and delivered a treadmill to the officer for $700, believing and intending that the treadmill would be used to train pit bull terriers for participation in animal fighting ventures. Ruppel also delivered a mixture or substance identified as an anti-inflammatory steroid, dextromethasone, intending it to be administered to pit bull terriers to treat injuries sustained from participating dog fighting activities.

            On July 8, 2009, search warrants were executed at Ruppel’s residence. Agents seized a number of pit bull terriers that had been bred, conditioned and kept for purposes of participating in animal fighting ventures. Agents also seized numerous items and paraphernalia associated with animal fighting ventures and dog fighting, including a breeding stand; dog fighting literature, magazines, and pictures; numerous firearms; breeding pedigree logs and documentation regarding fighting dogs; a treadmill used to run and otherwise condition dogs for fighting purposes; scales used to weigh fighting dogs; and pulling harnesses, chains, and weights that are affixed to dogs for pulling to build muscles, enhance joints, improve endurance, and aid in overall conditioning of fighting dogs.

            In a separate case that resulted from the same multi-state investigation, Rick P. Hihath, 56, of St. Joseph, was sentenced 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. Co-defendants Cris E. Bottcher, 49, of Gilman City, Mo., Kevin P. Tasler, 52, of Jefferson, Iowa, Ryan J. Tasler, 43, of Woodward, Iowa, Jill D. Makstaller, 32, and her husband, Andrew D. Makstaller, 34, of Perry, Iowa, and Julio Reyes, 30, of Tecumseh, Neb., have also pleaded guilty and await sentencing.

            This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Lynn. It was investigated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Office of Inspector General 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