Monday, April 6, 2009

Athens Authorities Investigate "Dognapper"

By: Mary Davies

The Athens County dog warden along with the Athens Sheriffs department are investigating the theft of a pit bull from the night drop-off kennels of the Athens County Dog Shelter on March 1.

Security cameras witnessed the dog being stolen at 11:35 am by a white male, about 5 feet 11 inches, driving a dark green four-door Volkswagen Jetta. The dog, a male pit bull with white and brindle patches, was a lost pet of an Athens County resident.

The dog was stolen from the night drop off kennels, an outdoor area where residents can bring stray dogs during non-business hours.

Assistant Dog Warden Max Bishop explains how the pit bull was stolen from the Athens County Dog Shelter.

Both Deputy John Deak and Assistant Dog Warden Max Bishop feel that the theft was not related to dog fighting, a sport that is uncommon in Athens County. However, other areas of Ohio have housed large scale dog fighting rings in recent years.

In 2007, 22 law enforcement agencies concluded a year-long investigation with raids on seven kennels in Dayton, Trotwood and Cincinnati, suspected of breeding fighting dogs. More than 20 people were convicted of crimes involving dog fighting, a felony in the state of Ohio, and over 60 dogs were seized. The dogs were later euthanized because they had been bred to fight.

The New York Daily News published a story in June 2007 saying that, “dog fighting is a multi-million-dollar industry that is part of an underground subculture that holds its events in secret locations. It is extremely difficult for authorities to prove who has dogs for fighting purposes.”

The most publicized incident of dog fighting in recent past also occurred in 2007 when NFL quarterback Michael Vick was arrested, and later convicted, for illegal dog fighting activities on his property in Surry County, Virginia. The six-year long dog fighting enterprise, known as “Bad Newz Kennels”, was financed by Vick, who also participated in the fights and executions of dogs. After agreeing to a plea bargain, Vick was sentenced to 23 months in jail.

Nearly half of the dogs rescued from Vick’s property were sent to the Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah. Eight other rescue groups across the country received dogs and prepared them for adoption into loving homes.

While the stolen pit bull here in Athens was most likely not subjected to the horrors of dog fighting, it is always a possible explanation when a pit bull is taken. Both the Athens County dog warden and the Athens Sheriffs department have been following leads provided by Athens County residents and expect that the case will be solved later this week.

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