More than 100 dogs forfeited in three separate federal civil actions involving fighting operations
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Georgia
Seized animals are evaluated for adoption
SAVANNAH, GA: Recent civil actions in federal court have rescued more than 100 dogs from animal fighting operations in multiple locations in the Southern District of Georgia.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia filed three civil forfeiture complaints between September and December 2022 seeking possession of 110 dogs allegedly involved in illegal dog fighting ventures, said Jill E. Steinberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. The U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) worked with local law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General (USDA-OIG) to seize the dogs, resulting in a final order of default in each of the complaints.
“Dog fighting is unacceptable and has no place in this District,” said U.S. Attorney Steinberg. “In addition, animal fighting ventures often entail other forms of illegal activity; this office will continue to work with its law enforcement partners at all levels to investigate and prosecute those who seek to profit off the abuse of helpless animals.”
The complaints include:
Civil Action No.: 5:22-CV-056
In March 2021, the USMS seized 23 dogs from the Ware County Animal Shelter after local animal control officers removed them from 3310 North Street in Waycross, Ga. The dogs were suspected of being involved in dog fighting activities.
Local animal control officers observed that the dogs’ conditions were inconsistent with those of pets, with housing and equipment indicative of a facility for fight training. After USMS took custody of the dogs, an evaluation by a veterinary contractor showed scarring on their faces and bodies, bite marks, and pressure sores, and some tested positive for hookworm. The 23 dogs were forfeited via court order on March 6, 2023.
Civil Action No.: 2:22-CV-00115
In June 2021, USMS seized 13 dogs from the Long County Animal Shelter after local law enforcement officers removed them from 362 Narcy Stafford Road in Glennville, Ga. These dogs were suspected of being involved in dog fighting activities.
Local law enforcement officers observed the dogs were kept in housing conditions consistent with an animal-fighting operation, including access to veterinary medicines and training equipment. An evaluation confirmed the condition of the animals was consistent with dog fighting, with fractured teeth, scarring and torn ears. Many of the dogs also were diagnosed with heartworm, hookworm, and/or giardia. These 13 dogs were forfeited via court order on Jan. 23, 2023.
Civil Action No.: 3:22-CV-177
In May 2022, USMS seized 74 dogs that were suspected of being involved in dog fighting activities, with 47 of the dogs seized from 138 Tucker School Road in Wrightsville, Ga., and 27 of the dogs seized from 236 James Grove Church Road in Wrightsville, Ga.
Federal agents observed that the dogs were housed in a manner consistent with fighting dogs, with training equipment, veterinary medicines, and pedigrees on site. The dogs had missing teeth and extensive scarring. These 74 dogs were forfeited via court order on April 6, 2023.
After taking the 110 dogs into custody, the USMS contracted with various veterinary service providers for care and rehabilitation of the dogs in preparation for sending the adoptable dogs to local animal shelters for adoption. Where relevant, the U.S. Attorney’s Office may pursue criminal action related to the seizures.
“The United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, Investigations, actively investigates allegations of animal abuse,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Salina Walker for USDA-OIG. “This agency has made animal fighting a high priority in order to demonstrate that these blatant acts of cruelty to animals will not be tolerated. We would like to acknowledge the agents and supporting law enforcement agencies for their relentless efforts in pursing individuals engaged in these activities. We would also like to thank the United States Attorney’s Office for aggressively prosecuting perpetrators of animal fighting.”
Under the federal Animal Welfare Act, it is a felony to fight dogs or to possess, train, sell, buy, deliver, receive, or transport them for that purpose, and violation of the law carries a statutory penalty of up to five years in prison. The statute further authorizes the seizure and forfeiture of animals involved in dog fighting and empowers the government to recover the costs for care of the animals from the dogs’ owners.
The cases were investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General and Special Agent Doug Bridges, with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service and local law enforcement agencies. Assistant U.S. Attorney Shannon Heath Statkus, U.S. Department of Justice Environmental and Natural Resources Division Senior Trial Attorney Mary Hollingsworth and Attorney Lucy Chiu pursued the forfeiture of the dogs on behalf of the United States, with assistance from Southern District of Georgia Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica K. Rock, Animal Crimes Prosecutor for the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia.
Barry L. Paschal, Public Affairs Officer: 912-652-4422
Updated April 18, 2023